Service-oriented businesses frequently struggle to receive timely payments since buyers don't receive something tangible that requires up-front payment. If a client doesn't respond to your first bill, you'll need to send a follow-up request for payment. For many clients, a simple reminder is all it takes, but in some cases, you may have to get tough.
Give Specific Details
Your request for payment should either include an invoice or specifically outline the services you've rendered and their specific cost. When the services you've offered are clearly outlined, some clients are more inclined to pay because they see that they have gotten something in return for their money. For example, a lawyer should outline the specific duties that were performed, the time the tasks took, and the agreed-to price or rate.
Give an Easy Out
It can be tempting to send a strongly worded request for payment, but everyone forgets about a bill sometimes. Give your client an easy out, rather than lambasting him for his delinquency. You might, for example, say, "I know you're busy, and the last invoice may have gotten buried under the mountain of work you have." This helps your client save face, and reassures him that your relationship can continue unharmed if he pays -- a particularly important reassurance if you're a professional upon whom the client has grown to depend.
When a client hasn't paid over an extended period, it may be a signal that the client will continue to avoid payment. This usually means that you should stop work until you receive payment. To convey this to the client in a professional, non-threatening manner, be direct but friendly. Try saying, "I've enjoyed working with you, and would like to help you finish your home improvement project. But I can't work without payment, so I regret that I won't be able to continue with the project until we get up-to-date with your payments."
Your letter should provide a clear deadline for payment. You might say, "Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns, but if I don't hear from you, I'll anticipate receiving payment by the 15th." Then follow up with a more strongly worded letter. This follow-up letter is the one in which you should mention the buyer's contract and give a firm deadline for payment. Note the specific action you'll take if payment is not received. For example, "I hope we'll continue to work together. If I do not receive payment by the 15th, though, I'll have no choice but to notify the credit bureaus that you have an unpaid balance, and I will consider all lawful remedies available to me to receive due compensation."