Late payments are a hassle for any business trying to manage its cash flow. But for small firms or freelancers, it’s vital that you receive swift payment for the work you’ve carried out.
Sending an invoice via email is the most efficient way of billing a client—and clear, professional communication can help you get paid faster. So, how do you politely ask a client to pay an invoice? Read on to find out.
What is an invoice email?
An invoice email is a type of email that a business or freelancer sends to a client, asking them to pay the agreed fee for goods or services provided. The email itself doesn’t serve as an invoice—the actual document should always be attached.
However, instead of just sending the invoice to your client, the email adds a personal greeting and a brief message reminding them of your work. This is much more friendly than a blank email with an invoice attached.
Securing your finances
As a freelancer or small business, generating invoices is a vital part of your business process. Alongside using an accounting software program to stay on top of everything from purchasing transactions to cash management, issuing invoices is an integral step towards financial stability.
So sending an invoice email is an obvious piece of the puzzle. When you send a polite email with your invoice, your client will appreciate your professionalism and clear communication. It’s all part of building a strong working relationship between you and the customer, which helps you get more work from them in the future.
Sending an invoice email won’t guarantee you’ll get paid on time, but it makes it much more likely!
What should you include (and avoid)?
Of course, the reason for sending an invoice email is that you want to get paid. That said, you don’t want the client to feel like you’re only interested in their money—you need to treat them with respect and show that you value their custom.
Balance this with the need to be direct and add a sense of urgency—you don’t want your message to be ignored when the client is dealing with too many emails. So ensure that the invoice due date is prominently displayed and keep the message brief and to the point.
It’s also essential to be professional and keep the language simple by avoiding abbreviations or jargon. It’s good practice to thank the client for their custom and give them the opportunity to contact you with any questions, too.
Here’s a checklist of what to include:
- Your business details
- Client’s full name and contact details
- Invoice number
- Due date
- Amount due
- Itemized list of services, if applicable
Make sure your invoice also contains all the necessary information, including the invoice ID, business details, list of services provided, payment amount, and payment methods.
For larger or more complex projects, you might want to include a longer cover letter with your invoice. This enables you to include more details about the work you carried out, as well as explaining your rates.
Tips for creating an effective invoice email
We’ve covered what to include, but here are some tips for ensuring your invoice email is polite, professional, and impossible to ignore.
Be clear from the start
The subject line is critical—33% of email recipients open an email based on this alone. Remember that your client will likely receive hundreds of messages each day, so if you can make it as easy as possible for them to spot your email, you should receive your payment faster.
Use an unambiguous subject line that tells the client exactly what’s in the email. If you call it “XYZ Project”, they might not even realize that it’s an invoice, in which case there’s no urgency. However, “XYZ Project Invoice” still isn’t clear enough.
Include the invoice number and payment deadline in the subject line. For example: “Invoice [invoice number] for [your business name] due [invoice due date].” That way, the client immediately knows why you’re contacting them and the action they need to take.
As we said, your clients are busy people. If they do business with multiple companies or hire many freelancers, they may not instantly recall who you are and what you did for them. That’s why it’s important to identify yourself, not just through the subject line and email signature but also in the message.
Although you want to keep the message brief, your invoice email should clearly state your company name and remind the client of the work you completed and when. Reiterate that you have attached an invoice and the due date.
Personalize your email
If you send invoices regularly or similar invoices to multiple clients, it’s worth using a template for your email. Just remember to personalize each message with the client’s name and other relevant information and adjust the formality of the message to suit.
You don’t want the client to feel that they’ve received a generic letter. However, you don’t need to include any unrelated chat unless you know the client particularly well.
Explain the charges
Your message should briefly outline why you’re charging the amount on the invoice and whether your fee is per project or based on the time worked. It’s a good idea to itemize the services you provided, so that there are no disputes that could cause delays.
You can also mention the accepted payment options, and tell the client how to label the payment so you know who it’s from.
Attach the invoice
How many times have you meticulously crafted an invoice email and then clicked “send” without attaching the invoice? Mistakes happen. But this looks unprofessional when you have to send the inevitable “Oops!” follow-up. What’s more, if you send two separate emails to your client, they’ll likely be lost in a crowded inbox.
Attach your invoice as a file (PDFs are universally readable), instead of pasting it into the body of the email. The client can easily download and save it or print it out. Alternatively, you could link to an invoice generated through a digital service.
We all know that emails can go astray, so it’s worth asking your client to confirm when they have received your message—or let you know when they’ve made the payment. This will save you having to chase it.
Once you’ve been paid (whether or not it was on time), it’s good practice to send a quick thank-you email.
Keep a record of invoices
You should keep a record of all your paid and outstanding invoices so that you know exactly what’s happening with your cash flow and when to chase clients.
Up-to-date invoices are also required when it comes to tax season, whether you’re working out your own taxes or using software for self assessment or self-employment tax returns.
What if the invoice is past due?
Unfortunately, there will be times when the client doesn’t pay your invoice by the due date. Maybe they have a good reason—but you deserve to be paid on time for your work. Although it might seem awkward, you’ll need to send the client a follow-up email.
This email needs to be polite but firm. You should always keep your client communications professional, in the interest of maintaining the ongoing relationship. Don’t make any threats at this stage; just give them another chance to pay.
Make sure you include the invoice number, a brief description of the completed work or project, and the original due date. This will help your client identify the original email and speed up the process.
You can always follow up with them by phone, as your emails may have gone to the wrong place. If none of this works, you may need to send a formal letter and seek legal advice.
Invoice Email Templates to Use
Here’s a simple version:
Subject line: Invoice [number] for [your business], due on [date]
I hope you’re well.
Please see attached my invoice [number] for [details of project] completed on [date]. Payment of [amount] is due by [date], and you can pay via [payment methods].
Please confirm that you’ve received this email.
Do get in touch if you have any questions. Thank you for being a valued client!
[Your name and email signature]
If you need to chase the payment, you might use this:
Subject line: Follow-up: Invoice [number] for [your business]
Just following up on my previous email with invoice [number], due on [date]. I’ve attached the invoice again in case you missed the email.
If you have already paid, thank you! If not, please let me know when I can expect the payment, and if there’s anything I can do to help get this paid.
[Your name and email signature]
Crafting a professional invoice email is crucial if you want to build a good relationship with your client—and get paid on time.
Invoice emails should be brief and friendly, and include all the information required for making payment—with the due date in the subject line to instill a sense of urgency. That way, your client will have no excuse for a delay.