Tag Archives: small business

How to deal with unpaid invoices

If you’ve ever had to chase unpaid invoices, this blog is for you…

An image accompanying advice for small business owners about pursuing unpaid invoices
Advice for small business owners about pursuing unpaid invoices

Any small business owner will probably have a few stories about unpaid invoices. To a sole trader or entrepreneur, the lack of payment for work carried out in good faith represents a uniquely frustrating issue. It can also have a disproportionately large impact on profitability, affecting everything from overdraft charges to the person or company’s ability to pay salaries and dividends. This situation is compounded by the effort required to claw back owed monies, often from companies who are desperate to stall and procrastinate until the last possible moment.

This is the situation G75 Media recently found itself in. We’re no strangers to unpaid invoices – of the 96 invoices we filed one year, 21 were paid late (though all were eventually settled). Every late payment had to be laboriously chased up, while three overdue invoices from one particularly troublesome client led to debt recovery proceedings. We’d worked with this client on a weekly basis since May 2014, but our working relationship ended as a direct result of these payment issues.

What can you do to protect yourself against unpaid invoices?

Ultimately, even the most organised of sole traders and small businesses may find themselves out of pocket if a client isn’t able or willing to settle on time. However, these steps should help to minimise the risk of clients making a conscious decision not to pay what they owe:

  1. Make your payment terms clear at the start of any working relationship. Inform a new client in writing that your invoices will require settlement within a specific time period. Ideally, you should request client confirmation that they approve these terms – a one-sentence email from your main contact is perfectly sufficient.
  2. Submit invoices on a regular schedule. G75 Media invoices every client on the last working day of each month. Each invoice contains an itemised list of work carried out that month, leaving no ambiguity about what has (and hasn’t) been done.
  3. Include bank details on the invoice. Clients can’t stall by claiming ignorance about payment methods if each invoice lists your bank’s sort code and account number. Publish details of your payment terms and add a sentence like “unpaid invoices may be handed over to a debt collection agency” for clarity.
  4. Don’t accept cheques. Some firms in more traditional industries still prefer to pay by cheque, which provides an ideal excuse if payment isn’t received – “it must have got lost in the post”. Cheques can also bounce, unlike a BACS transfer.
  5. Keep a detailed spreadsheet with notes of every submitted invoice number, the date it was submitted, and who it was sent to. This allows you to see at a glance whether any invoices from previous months are still outstanding. G75 Media’s policy is to begin chasing up invoices on the last working day of the month after submission.
  6. Don’t pursue unpaid invoices by phone. Instead, forward your original invoice-bearing email to the client with a note asking them to ensure settlement within an acceptable time period. A single email thread is far tidier than multiple ones, especially if messages subsequently end up flying back and forth between different people/departments at the client’s side.
  7. Remain calm. If clients are happy to default on an invoice due date, they’re not going to be swayed by the knowledge you can’t pay yourself a dividend. Emotional appeals will cut no ice, and nor will (understandable) frustration. Remain calm, factual, polite and unapologetic in requesting what’s rightfully yours.
  8. Set a deadline. Instead of tossing and turning in bed at night, set a point at which you will delegate matters to a specialist (see point 9 below). G75 Media gives companies one month’s grace to resolve outstanding invoices, which are occasionally caused by an account manager forgetting to forward them on and thereby missing that month’s payment cycle.
  9. Instruct a debt recovery firm to issue a Letter Before Action. You might need to use specialist firms if the client is based in a different part of the UK, or overseas. The company G75 Media uses has had very positive results with LBAs, which are emailed and posted to the client. At this point, you may have to withdraw from any further correspondence.
  10. If the LBA doesn’t work, initiate full debt recovery proceedings. This will cost a significant percentage of your original invoice, and many debt collection firms won’t be interested in three-figure sums. Even so, it’s better to get 75 per cent of something than 100 per cent of nothing. This is the point where you step back entirely, and let events run their course.

Because we’ve always taken a proactive approach to unpaid invoices, G75 Media has endured very few bad debts in our 16-year history. One or two firms went bust before they paid us (including the failed publishing house Prior & Partners and the endlessly rebranding commercial property developer then known as Fresh Start Living), while a couple of entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to simply vanish and block all attempts at contact. However, it’s been years since we last submitted an invoice which was subsequently written off as a bad debt.

Today, G75 Media is discerning about the companies we work for, conducting Companies House checks and researching each prospective client. We submit a legally binding, solicitor-approved contract for services to new clients before work commences, insisting they agree to various terms (including payment schedules) before work commences. And we don’t continue working with companies who have more than one outstanding invoice – our resources are too precious to waste on non-payers!

We would urge anyone with a small business to follow the advice outlined above. Due diligence and a detailed paper trail won’t always protect you from defaults, but it should minimise the number of unpaid invoices appearing on your year-end balance sheet…

Ten things I wish I’d known

I left Scotland on Monday. Not in a going-on-holiday sense, but in a moving-away-forever sense. After 34 years living in the central belt, I am now a resident of England for the first time in my adult life. G75 Media remains a Scottish company (headquartered in a gorgeous Georgian office in Glasgow), but I’m no longer there with it.

My extended family’s departure from Scotland has been caused by a combination of political, professional and personal factors. And while we’re all in a better place now, I really wish I’d known this would happen. I would have been a less anxious person over recent years if I’d spent more time savouring the present, and less time worrying about the future. Does that sound familiar?

Don’t look back in anger

Looking back, I wish I’d known a lot of things when I was younger – especially things about running a business, which was never something I intended to do until freelance work kept landing in my lap. For anyone thinking about making the frightening yet exhilarating step of becoming an entrepreneur (or for anyone who already has), here are ten pieces of advice the me of 2021 would pass onto the me of 2005 if he could. Feel free to add your own suggestions below…

  1. Setting up a limited company beats being a sole trader. It took me two years to register G75 Media in 2007, and I wish I’d done it sooner. A limited company is more professional, provides greater legal indemnity against prosecution, and simplifies mortgage applications.
  2. Choose your accountant with care. I picked a local guy who promptly retired and left the business to that’ll-do junior staff. I then switched to a remote accountancy service, who invented a director’s loan account to save me some tax one year. It took five years to repay.
  3. Pick a dependable web hosting firm. If you want to switch web hosting company, your email account could be offline for days as the server repropagates. No small business can survive that, so choose an established UK-based firm with a 99.9 per cent SLA and rapid servers.
  4. Build networks. I have diligently applied for thousands of jobs over the last 15 years. Yet most new work today comes from people I’ve worked with in the past, LinkedIn connections or word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s not what you know…
  5. …Except it is. I’ve met so many people trying to bluff their way through roles they didn’t really understand. They always got found out in the end. Your business should also be your hobby or specialist subject. If it’s not, learn it inside out before sending out any invoices.
  6. Say no occasionally. Constantly saying yes saw me working myself into the ground trying to meet deadlines, or doing work I didn’t enjoy. As a lifelong vegetarian, I still wish I’d turned down that 2011 assignment to write about an animal by-products processing factory…
  7. Hold back before being negative. I was impetuous in my twenties, but I learned to wait overnight before reacting. Reviewing something with fresh eyes gives you a chance to make a message more powerful and effective. Plus, you might change your mind the next day.
  8. Never descend into bickering on social media. Some people thrive on arguments, while the professionally outraged revel in self-righteous indignation. Plus, you never know who might read your responses later on, when topicality has passed and the context seems different.
  9. Keep detailed records. I worked from a drawerless desk for three years, losing paperwork I needed and tax receipts I should have kept for six years. Box files were my saviour, and they’ll be yours as well. File everything unless and until you’re sure it’s not relevant.
  10. Don’t spend too much time worrying about the future. This one comes from the heart. I had a really poor 2013, but 2014 was lucrative. My income halved during the first lockdown, yet I ended 2020 with record turnover. Focus on the here and now, not what might be one day.

Finally, and I felt this was too important to include in a bullet-point list, give yourself some credit. I was quite harsh on myself in the early years of G75 Media, constantly feeling I could be more professional or working harder. I gradually abandoned the elusive pursuit of perfection, focusing instead on keeping detailed records and ensuring I didn’t send out anything bearing my name until I’d proofread it twice. Providing you act professionally at all times, maintaining a calendar or Trello board of deadlines and appointments, clients can’t ask more of you. And they won’t. They’re also struggling to remain professional in an age of home working and incessant multitasking. Being good at your job makes their lives easier, and they’ll be grateful for your competence and diligence.

Ten years of copywriting excellence

Ten years ago today, G75 Media Ltd was officially incorporated under the Companies Act 1985, becoming Scotland’s newest media company. And without wishing to lapse into cliché, the intervening decade has been quite a journey…


G75 Media was founded by Neil Cumins with a three-figure budget. It was based in the spare room of a house in East Kilbride, where an antiquated PC perched on a second-hand dressing table. There was no website, no income and no budget for advertising, and work had to be fitted around Neil’s day job as a property journalist.


Little did anyone know on that chilly November day that the global economy was about to enter the most protracted recession for a century. Setting up a new media company in the midst of the Northern Rock bailout (and an unexpected decline in British house prices) was clearly not a ideal for a property-based copywriting agency. Throughout our first five years, clients regularly went out of business and new custom was often frustratingly hard to acquire.


Nevertheless, G75 Media has survived – and even thrived. We’ve worked with clients on four continents. We’ve become experts in industries as diverse as optometry, tourism, computer networks and mental health blogging. And Neil’s contacts throughout the housing and automotive industries have ensured a steady flow of motoring journalism and property writing, for local and national media clients.


While it’s tempting to make predictions about the future, the last ten years has demonstrated how events can change a media company’s direction. G75 Media was named after a postcode in our home town of East Kilbride, and intended to serve local businesses, yet most of our copywriting clients are based in England. While our plans to offer services to ex-pats in the United Arab Emirates didn’t bear fruit, we regularly work with high-profile companies in America and Australia. And we certainly didn’t expect our white label copywriting services to be as sought after as they have been, with constant demand for technology blogs and brochure/website content.


Here’s to ten years of copywriting excellence. And if you’d like to join us for the next leg of our journey, why not get in touch to see how we can help with journalism or content production?