What is an Outstanding Invoice? Causes, Solutions, and Prevention

DAVID FAČKO

14 min

·

September 28, 2023

Managing invoices is vital for business credibility. If you’re a freelancer, run a SME, or handle finances, you’ll face outstanding invoices. This term can be unsettling, especially if awaiting payment.

So, what is an outstanding invoice, and why does it arise? How can we tackle it? Outstanding invoices, while prevalent, aren’t unbeatable. Let’s dive-in to discover now.

What is an Outstanding Invoice?

An outstanding invoice is, at its core, an unpaid bill that’s overdue. It’s a glaring red flag in cash flow, showcasing a client who hasn’t held up their end of the deal. Beyond just terminology, this situation is what accountants label as “accounts receivable,” representing money that’s owed to a business.

Imagine a cafe delivering a catering order for a big event, and weeks after serving those delicious pastries and coffees, the event organizer hasn’t processed the payment. Such lags are more than just inconveniences, they highlight lapses in commitment and can strain business relationships. The cafe, after all, upheld their part; it’s now time for the client to do the same. 

What is the difference between an outstanding invoice and a past due invoice?

However, some outstanding invoices aren’t always past due invoices. Outstanding invoices, while prevalent, aren’t unbeatable. Let’s took at the quick differences:

Difference

Outstanding Invoice

Past Due Invoices

Meaning

Any unpaid invoice, as per accounting terms.

Unpaid invoice that remains unsettled after its due date.

Status

Can be either within its payment terms or late.

Always late and beyond the agreed payment terms.

Duration

From the moment the invoice is issued until it’s paid or overdue.

Starts from the day after the invoice’s due date until it’s paid.

Example

Invoice sent, payment due in 30 days

Invoice unpaid on the 31st day and beyond.

Inclusions

Includes past-due invoices.

Doesn’t include all outstanding invoices, just the overdue ones

Impact on Company

Positive when received on time.

Negative due to payment delays.

Penalties

No penalties if paid on or before the due date.

Penalties apply after missing the due date.

Payment Terms Relevance

Clear payment terms mentioned in the sales invoice.

Terms already breached since payment was missed.

Causes of Outstanding Invoices

  1. Incomplete or Incorrect Information: One common reason behind outstanding invoices is the inclusion of incomplete or incorrect details. It could be as minor as a misspelled name or as significant as the wrong billing amount. In businesses where precision is key, such as consulting firms or legal services, these small errors can be a big deal.
  2. Technical Issues: Especially in the digital age, a technical glitch can easily delay payment. For example, in e-commerce platforms, a payment gateway issue can result in an outstanding invoice. Even a minor server hiccup can deter a client from paying on time.
  3. Forgetfulness or Negligence: Let’s face it; humans are prone to forgetfulness. Some clients may simply forget to pay their invoice by the due date. In other cases, some businesses, unfortunately, intentionally avoid payment.
  4. Cash Flow Problems: For many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), cash flow can be a significant issue. Some clients might be waiting on their own invoices to be paid before they can settle yours, causing a chain reaction of outstanding invoices.

Solutions to Outstanding Invoices

  1. Send Follow-Up Emails and Reminders: Communication is key in business. A simple yet professional reminder can nudge the client to make the payment.
  2. Legal Action: If polite reminders don’t do the trick, you may need to consider more stringent measures. Small claims court is an option for recovering your money, though it should be considered a last resort.
  3. Payment Plans: For clients who are experiencing genuine financial difficulties, setting up a payment plan can be a win-win situation. It allows you to recover your money over time while maintaining a good relationship with the client.
  4. Invoice Factoring: Another solution is invoice factoring, a financial transaction where a business sells its accounts receivable to a third party at a discount. This can be an immediate way to generate some cash flow, although you’ll receive less than the full invoice amount.
  5. Include The Late Payment Dues: If one has not paid the invoice within the promised time frame, include the penalty or late payment fee. Make sure to add it with bold letters or highlight it, so the other party easily sees and remembers. This is one of the simplest solutions which is used by the majority.  
  6. Automated Invoicing Solutions: Investing in an invoicing software like Billdu can save you not only time but also the headache of manually following up on unpaid bills. Such software often comes with features like automatic reminders and even late fees, making the payment process easier for both parties.

To learn more about unapid invoice solutions, read our next article.

Solutions of outstanding Invoices

Prevention of Outstanding Invoices

While solutions are essential, prevention is always better than cure. Here are some preventative measures to avoid the outstanding invoice problem:

  1. Clear Payment Terms: From the initial stage, make sure your payment terms are clear and agreed upon. Whether it’s Net 30 or due upon receipt, both parties should understand what is expected to avoid any discrepancies later.
  2. Regular Communication: Frequent touchpoints with your client can help prevent outstanding invoices. Regular communication not only fosters good relationships but also provides opportunities to remind clients of upcoming or overdue payments subtly.
  3. Early Payment Incentives: Offering a discount for early payments can motivate clients to settle their invoices promptly. For example, a 1.2% discount if the invoice is paid within 10 days can be an excellent incentive for faster payment.
  4. Thoroughly Vet Clients: Especially for large projects or long-term contracts, take the time to check your potential client’s creditworthiness. Many services offer background checks and credit reports for businesses.
  5. Use Comprehensive Invoicing Software: We need to let the technology ease our work with its comprehensive solutions! Let’s know about it in detail! 

How to Track Outstanding Invoices with Invoicing Software?

Invoicing software streamlines the management of bills. With features like a centralized dashboard, users can get an overview of all invoices, outstanding and past due. Invoicing software with features for automatic reminders, due dates, and late fees can make your invoicing process foolproof. Let’s check out some of the features that come in handy! 

Feature

Description & Benefit

Dashboard Overview

View invoice statuses in one place. Identify pending or overdue invoices effortlessly.

Automated Alerts

Receive notifications about invoices nearing their due date. Stay proactive and never miss out.

Filter & Sort

Organize invoices by date, client, or amount due. Prioritize and streamline follow-ups.

Detailed Reports

Generate insights into outstanding amounts for improved cash flow management.

Email Integration

Automate reminders to clients with unpaid bills. Reduce manual tracking and save time.

Mobile Access

Use mobile apps to track invoices on-the-go. Convenient access anytime, anywhere.


However, keep in mind that though there are many invoicing software, most could be outdated. It is important to keep the ‘trend as your friend’ in mind to develop a strong and memorable brand. This can be achieved with the invoice software solutions like Billdu, who is one of the leaders in invoicing and they are well-worth with the top propositions among the industry peers.

Feature

Offered Propositions

Invoice Generator

– Reinvention of simple invoicing
– Quick, professional, and intuitive invoice generation.

Invoices Templates

– Customizable invoice templates with branding.
– Send professional invoices rapidly online or via mobile apps.

Get Paid Faster with Online Payments

– Incorporate a Pay button for rapid settlements.
– Multiple payment methods: credit/debit card and PayPal.

Track Business Expenses and Cash Flow

– Simplified expense management with image snapping.
– Categorize and automate recurring expenses.
– Integral expense tracking within the invoice maker.

Manage Your Team Online

– Assign users with specific roles and access rights
– Collaborate with owners, employees, accountants, and other professionals.
– Real-time invoice sharing.

Charts & Reports Online

– Comprehensive business performance visualizations.
– Contrast income and outcome for profit clarity.
– Track unpaid invoices easily.
– Expedited invoice payments.

Beyond Invoice Maker

– Management tools for proforma invoices, estimates, delivery notes, and purchase orders.
– Integrated expense tracker and client communication platform
– Comprehensive invoicing capabilities.

Invite your Accountant

– Simpler than complicated accounting software.
– Real-time sharing of invoices and expenses.
– Reduced paperwork and errors, saving time and money.

Where do outstanding invoices occur?

  1. Retail: In the retail industry, especially during peak seasons like holidays, outstanding invoices can pile up due to high sales volume. Automated invoicing solutions can help retailers keep track of numerous transactions and ensure timely payments.
  2. Consulting: Consultants often bill by the hour, making it crucial to specify the rate and total billable hours accurately to avoid outstanding invoices. A clear contract and regular updates can make the payment process smoother.
  3. Healthcare: In healthcare, late payments can severely impact the ability to provide services. Preventative measures like clear payment terms and regular communication can be especially critical in this sector.

Effective Communication: Beyond the Written Word

While written reminders are standard, sometimes a phone call or a face-to-face meeting can make all the difference. Personal interaction can often convey the urgency and importance of settling an outstanding invoice, which emails may not always effectively communicate.

Script for Effective Phone Reminders: If you’re unsure how to approach a client over the phone, here’s a script that strikes the right balance between professionalism and courtesy.

“Hello [Client’s Name], this is [Your Name] from [Your Company]. I hope you’re doing well. I just wanted to touch base with you regarding Invoice #333 that was due on [Date]. We haven’t received payment yet, and I wanted to ensure that everything is alright from your end. Is there a timeline we can expect for payment?”

Just a gentle call could give them a reminder, and help you to take actions and have proof if things go sideways with the troubling client.

To discover tips on composing a late payment email, dive into this article.

The Psychological Factors Behind Outstanding Invoices

Grasping the psychology behind late payments can equip you with the skills and strategies that are needed to address the issue effectively. Sometimes the problem isn’t merely forgetfulness or cash flow but could be based on psychological barriers like procrastination or avoidance.

Overcoming Psychological Barriers: One way to overcome these barriers is through ‘nudging.’ This behavioral science concept involves subtly guiding choices through indirect suggestions and reinforcements. For example, indicating a social norm like “95% of our clients pay within the first week” can nudge a client towards timely payment.

Effective Communication

How fintech is Changing the Game in Handling Unpaid Invoices?

In this digital era, financial technology, commonly known as fintech, is drastically altering the way we deal with money, and that includes how we manage outstanding invoices as well.

You must have heard of machine learning predicting weather or Netflix choices, even your eCommerce recommendations and now the same tech is helping businesses figure out who’s likely to pay up and who’s not. Also, it will be helpful for mid-range business and even freelancers. Let’s dive into a few groundbreaking fintech tools that could be game-changers for your business:

Get Cash Now with Invoice Financing: Picture this, your invoice is out there, unpaid and you need cash, like, tomorrow. What do you do? Invoice financing platforms are here to save the day, giving you the cash you need, based on those pending payments. It’s like a magic trick for your cash flow now. However, this has loopholes as well.

Know Your Clients with AI Risk Assessment: How well do you know the people you’re doing business with? An AI risk tool takes the guesswork out of it. It’ll scrutinize your client’s past payment records and even their credit score. It’s like having a private investigator for your invoices!

The Future is Here with Blockchain Smart Contracts: If you’re tired of hounding clients to fulfill their end of the bargain, smart contracts might just be your new best friend. When certain conditions are met, these contracts automatically trigger payments. Imagine a world where you don’t have to nag anyone to get paid, this is soon to be a new reality! Adapt before others.

If you seek insights into the advantages of utilizing blockchain in payment processing, read our article.

Quick Key Takeaways So Far:

  1. Proactive Prevention: Implementing transparent payment terms and maintaining open lines of communication can substantially reduce the likelihood of invoices becoming outstanding.
  2. Technological Leverage: The use of advanced invoicing software and fintech solutions can significantly streamline invoice management processes.
  3. Root-Cause Analysis: Understanding the reasons behind delayed payments can provide critical insights, allowing you to tailor your approach to different clients.
  4. Diverse Recovery Strategies: There are multiple avenues available for recovering outstanding payments, from legal proceedings to invoice factoring. Selection should be based on what is most suitable for your specific business needs.

By taking these steps, companies or individuals can higher the chances of getting paid in time, and also build a more reliable, more robust relationship with your clients in the meantime. But wait, there’s more! Let’s now flip the coin and get a glimpse from the other side of the equation when they fail to pay!

The Legal Perspective: When All Else Fails

When diplomatic and financial solutions don’t yield results, it might be time to consider taking legal action. However, it’s crucial to understand the legalities involved to make an informed decision. (However this might be different according to jurisdiction)

The Small Claims Court: For relatively small amounts, the Small Claims Court can be an efficient avenue. The process is designed to be simple, quick, and cost-effective. Before you proceed, ensure that you have all documentation in order, including contracts, emails, and of course, the unpaid invoices.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms like arbitration and mediation offer another route. These options are generally quicker and less confrontational than a full-fledged court case but require both parties to agree to the process.

Contractual Provisions: Always include a clause in your contracts that outline the steps that will be taken in the event of non-payment. This not only sets clear expectations but can also serve as your legal basis for taking further action.

Perspective of outstanding invoices

Global Considerations: Dealing with Outstanding Invoices Internationally

Managing outstanding invoices becomes even more complicated when international transactions are involved. Currency exchange, legal jurisdictions, and cultural nuances can all affect the invoice payment process.

Cross-Border Legal Challenges: Each country has its own set of laws governing business transactions. Understanding these laws is crucial when dealing with international clients. Legal action might not always be feasible due to jurisdictional issues, making prevention and early intervention even more crucial.

Cultural Sensitivity in Invoice Management: Managing outstanding invoices isn’t just a financial endeavor; but also a cross-cultural one. Different cultures have unique norms when it comes to payment timeliness and negotiations. Being aware of these nuances can significantly enhance the efficacy and sensitivity of your communication strategies with international clients.

Future Trends: Keeping an Eye on the Horizon

Ongoing Technological innovations are constantly redefining how companies, businesses, especially small to mid-sized enterprises, manage their outstanding invoices. Some of them we have already discussed but not in futuristic sense, here are some emerging trends that are worthy of attention:

Internet of Things (IoT): A Game-Changer in Automation: The Internet of Things holds significant promise in reducing human error and boosting efficiency. Imagine a world where IoT sensors in your supply chain automatically initiate invoicing procedures once goods are received. This not only speeds up the process but also ensures accuracy.

Blockchain Technology: The Next Level of Transparency: We’ve already touched upon how blockchain can automate payment through smart contracts. But it’s worth noting that the decentralized nature of blockchain technology also introduces an unprecedented level of transparency, making dispute resolutions far more straightforward.

Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics: The Future of Risk Assessment: Machine learning isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a tool that can dramatically improve your invoicing process. By utilizing advanced algorithms, businesses can predict a client’s payment behavior, thereby enabling proactive measures to secure timely payments.

Furthermore, machine learning algorithms can identify high-risk clients, aiding your decision-making process on whether to engage in specific business relationships.

Conclusion

Invoicing is the foundation upon which your business’s financial structure stands. Think of it as the roots of a tree, absorbing the essential nutrients to ensure the entire tree thrives. Without a sturdy and efficient invoicing system, just as a tree would struggle without deep roots, your business can’t reach its full potential. Invoice services provided by Billdu can be the nourishing soil, fostering those robust roots, ensuring they run deep and strong.  

To propel your company’s growth, carve a niche brand, and establish a distinctive market presence, invoice tools from Billdu are indispensable. With a hassle-free 30-day trial, no credit card required, it promises to strengthen, simplify, and streamline your processes and perfect for small businesses. Dive into the Billdu experience and watch your business flourish.

Say goodbye to Outstanding Invoices using Billdu!

Experience hassle-free invoice management with Billdu and bid farewell to outstanding invoices. Take control of your finances today and start getting paid faster! Try Billdu now.

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Pro invoice maker for small businesses
DAVID FAČKO

SEO Specialist at Billdu

David Fačko is an SEO specialist at Billdu, one of the best-rated invoicing software for freelancers in the world.

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