When you have an unpaid invoice, it can be difficult to know how to handle it especially if you are a small or micro business. Profitable business relationships are built on personal relationships so it can feel tricky to pursue what is owed without damaging the relationship.

But business is business and you are doing nothing wrong in expecting prompt payment from your customers and by chasing your money if they fail to pay as agreed. So what is the process for chasing up an unpaid invoice?

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Taking the decision to stop supplying a client can be one of the hardest decisions any company has to take. With every piece of business so hard won it can be difficult to take a firm line with your credit control and potentially prejudice further income.

But when a customer persistently refuses to pay in full and on time, sometimes you are left with little option but to act.

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Credit Notes are essentially a negative invoice used to rectify mistakes or credit amounts raised in your sales invoice. They may be used to credit all or part of an invoice depending on the circumstances and serve as an accounting record for both parties to counter the invoicing error.

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Excuses, excuses… one of the most frustrating aspects of chasing unpaid invoices is dealing with the reasons customers give for paying late. When you have worked in the debt collection industry for as long as we have you can be sure we have heard some imaginative answers, along with some that are so old they were probably being used in Roman times.

The key thing to remember when faced with late payment excuses is this - your company is owed the money and you have every right to seek payment. Even when the explanations provided by the client appear to be genuine, if an agreed payment deadline has expired, you are entitled to be paid on time and in full and you have every right to pursue the payment.

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Not being paid on time is one of the biggest worries facing small business owners. Trying to recover outstanding debts can feel like a very lonely process if you are not aware of the help available.

One important thing to remember is this - as a creditor, the law is on your side. Since 1998, UK businesses have been legally entitled to charge interest on overdue payments owed by another company.

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In today’s economic climate, business customers and clients are increasingly asking for - and in many cases expecting - credit from their suppliers.

There are obviously many benefits to offering credit. It shows a willingness to be flexible which fosters stronger business relationships, and it helps to secure or keep important contracts. Used properly, extending credit for goods and services can give your business a competitive advantage and boost income.

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In the B2B world, practically every enterprise will extend credit to a client or customer at some point or another.

For vendors and resellers, credit facilities are a familiar part of payment terms. But even service providers will regularly be in the habit of extending credit to clients - remember, time is money, and any work you do before the first payment date can be considered as credit.

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Consider the following scenario. You are a small, up and coming web design company contracted to create a brand new site for a consumer-facing business. They want the works, attention grabbing graphic design, cutting edge multimedia content, intuitive and interactive navigation, and quality text content. Your small team spends weeks painstakingly programming the source code and curating the content to the client’s specifications. Finally, the site is ready to go live. You are rightly very proud of what you have created.

At this point, the client suddenly goes quiet. Won’t answer the phone, won’t return emails. The payment period on your invoice lapses. You offer to negotiate, still nothing. What do you do?

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For thousands of small to medium sized businesses, cash flow is probably the single most important aspect of financial management. And yet when it comes to planning and forecasting, it often receives scant attention. Indeed, many businesses unfortunately only realise how crucial cash flow is when problems occur.

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Most businesses have experienced the worry and inconvenience of a client that always pays late. Short of ditching the client (and we are perfectly comfortable with advocating that as a tactic), there’s no rapid solution to the problem. But you can improve your chances of getting paid if you subtly change your credit control processes.

In this article we will explore a few easy ways to help you manage those 'tricky' clients and the excuses they use to delay payment beyong agreed credit terms.

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