6 secrets to getting prompt payment

Small Business Guides

3 min read

As long as businesses have been sending invoices, people have been paying them late. Here's how to speed them up.

Tips to get your invoices paid faster

About half of small business invoices are paid late, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can slash days or even weeks off your wait. It all comes down to how you invoice. Successful businesses swear by these techniques.

1. Invoice straight away

Your client can’t pay until you've invoiced them, so send your bill fast. You want to be in the next pay run.

Clients are also more open to paying when they've just received the goods or services that you delivered. Cash in on the goodwill. There's no reason to delay. You don't even have to get back to the office. You can send invoices from your phone.

2. Send clean invoices

Make sure your invoice has all the right information, including a description of the work or product, the date it was delivered, and any client requirements (such as a purchase order number). Some clients have very specific requirements so ask what they need to see on the invoice. If they have to come back to you for more information, you could miss the next pay run. Make the due date clear, too.

3. Ask for prompt payment

Clients used to get weeks to pay invoices, but that's changing. More than a third of businesses now request payment within a week. Consider doing the same. Your client may want to negotiate for more time – and you should try to be flexible – but starting off at seven days will help set an expectation of prompt payment.

4. Make on-time payment worth its while

Many businesses charge fees for late payment. If you'd like to try that policy, make sure it's clear on your invoice. Include a line saying something like: “Late fees are assessed after the due date, at the rate of 1.5 percent per month.”

A more positive approach is to offer a discount for prompt payment. The lure of saving money is a powerful motivator, even if it’s just a few percent discount. You can present it like this on your invoice:

Total due: $4,022
Save 5% if paid by 7 December: $3,821

5. Be easy to pay

Customers will pay faster if they can use their preferred method to hand over the money. Offer them a variety of options. And be aware that most customers like to pay using credit card or an automated clearing house (like PayPal). Our research shows you'll get paid 10 days sooner if you offer these options. Learn more about online payment services.

6. Chase payments

Your job's not done when the invoice goes out the door. You'll need to follow up with the client to make sure it's being processed. Online invoicing makes this a lot simpler.

When you send online invoices, you can see when it's been opened and when it's been paid. If the due date is approaching and it hasn't been paid, send a reminder. You can set your software up so that the reminder email is sent automatically. If the invoice goes past due, it's time to make a phone call.

Prompt payment can be yours

On-time payment is not just your client's responsibility. There are steps you, the invoicer, can take to speed things along. Use these tips to increase your chances of receiving prompt payment, and improve cash flow in your business.