Micro-entrepreneurs: how to obtain payment for unpaid invoices?

Unpaid invoices have a direct impact on the cash flow of auto-entrepreneurs. How can you recover the sums owed? Here are 4 tips to help you manage these situations and get your invoices paid.

Specify terms of payment

General Sales Conditions (GSC) are a way for micro-entrepreneurs to personalize their contracts and protect themselves from bad payers. In the case of activities involving the provision of services and/or the sale of products, it is compulsory to draw up CGVs as soon as the company is set up, in accordance with the French Commercial Code.

In addition to the contractor's full contact details, the general terms and conditions of sale must include the following:

  • the purpose and conditions of the sale,
  • the characteristics of the goods or services offered,
  • the price and how it is calculated,
  • the payment date,
  • payment terms,
  • details of late payment penalties and the withdrawal period.

Other optional clauses may be useful, such as payment terms and the payment of a deposit on signature of the quotation, or a discount clause for early payment.

Defining late penalties

The law requires self-employed entrepreneurs to state the rate of late payment penalties on their invoices, along with the payment deadline. However, this rate is subject to restrictions, since it cannot be less than three times the legal interest rate.

Late payment is defined as non-payment by the day following the due date. Penalties can then be demanded without the need for a reminder. The payment date shown on the invoice must not exceed 45 days end of month or 60 days net from the date of issue.

Request a deposit

A deposit is an advance on the total amount of an order. Its rate generally varies from 15% to 30% of the invoiced amount.

The deposit represents a financial commitment on the part of the customer. If the order is cancelled, the amount paid will not be refunded, allowing the micro-entrepreneur to build up his cash flow. As a general rule, it is not advisable to accept full payment at the end of an assignment, especially for long-term assignments or when the amount due is high.

Staying organized

Effective management of unpaid bills also requires good organization.

To prevent disputes with non-paying customers, we recommend :

  • keep accounts up to date (regular monitoring of customer payments and reminders),
  • classify administrative documents by customer for easier retrieval,
  • carefully monitor the status of each invoice,
  • keep all e-mail exchanges with customers.

Despite this advice, unpaid invoices cannot always be avoided. Whatever the nature of the relationship with the customer, the collection process should start with an amicable approach, giving priority to contact by e-mail or telephone. In the absence of a response or payment, the business owner can send a registered letter specifying the issues involved.

If, despite these reminders, the customer still doesn't pay, it's possible to send a letter of formal notice before initiating legal collection proceedings. If the amount of the unpaid invoice is less than 4,000 euros, it is preferable to opt for a simplified collection procedure via a bailiff.