You could be a new startup or a Fortune 500, mega-huge business, but you’ll never outgrow managing your cash. Sure, you might have more of it as your business grows but businesses that manage their cash properly will always have a leg up on businesses that do not. As the old cliché goes, it takes money to make money and you don’t want to be caught without money to invest in the next big job.
But what does that look like? How do you manage your cash if you’re a home based business that may not have a whole lot of cash to manage?
1. Get a Deposit
Most business owners have a horror story or two of doing work for a client without first taking a deposit only to see them walk away. Once that happens to you, you’ll understand the importance of the down payment.
But it serves another purpose too. The down payment gives you the cash to invest into supplies for the job, paying outsourced labor, and reimbursing you for your time should the client try to default on the deal.
Write into your contract that the deposit is non-refundable—whether it’s a special order you place on behalf of a customer for a hard-to-find product or a service you’re offering—there’s no going back once you receive the deposit.
Some people who run product-based businesses ask for a deposit equal to the wholesale cost of the item or at the very least, the cost of any restocking fee they would have to pay.
2. Get Rid of Excess Inventory
If you hold inventory, know when it’s time to cut your losses. Hopefully you won’t make too many purchasing mistakes but the longer you hold the inventory, the less it’s worth. The shelf life depends on the type of item but before it’s value falls well below the wholesale cost, unload it. Sometimes it’s better to take the loss but have the cash to invest in other, hotter selling products.
3. Quick Payment Discounts
The bigger the client, the larger the potential for them to pay slow. Slow payers are painful to your cash flow but you can’t risk making them mad by demanding payment by a certain time. Instead, offer them a discount for paying within a certain amount of time.
For smaller clients that are continual slow payees but maybe not large enough where losing them will substantially eat into your profits, institute late pay penalties. Just keep in mind that you may lose the customer when you turn the relationship into a negative.
4. Have Multiple Ways to Pay
Gone are the days when you could only accept cash and avoid credit card processing fees. You can get paid faster by accepting credit card payments, mobile pay, and PayPal.
5. Set milestones
Some projects tend to drag on. You want to get it done and get paid but the client or customer is dragging their feet. Set due dates and milestones to keep the project moving. If they miss these milestones, there could be extra charges or a renegotiation of the contract.
6. Use Change Orders
Along the same lines, if the customer continually changes their mind, that extends the project and may leave you on the hook for restocking fees or re-hiring subcontractors. Use a change order and charge the customer for any costs you incur. Require those costs be paid at the time of the signed change order.
7. Ask Them to Purchase the Supplies
If cash flow is big problem and they don’t want to pay a deposit, ask them to purchase the needed supplies and materials on their own. You might lose any markup that you placed on the materials but it beats losing the client altogether.
Another strategy is to offer this up front and adjust your labor costs to make up for any loss of profit from the materials.
8. Don’t Spend So Much
It seems so simple but how often have you purchased something you don’t need. If your computer software works fine and you don’t even know what’s in the newest upgrade, don’t buy it. Same with your phone or other office equipment.
If that non-so-attractive desk still works, keep using it, and just because your competitor has something for their business doesn’t mean you should too. At the beginning only purchase what you need to do a fantastic job. All the bells and whistles can come after the cash starts rolling in.
Along the same lines, buy used or reconditioned equipment. You can find reconditioned electronics complete with a warranty for a substantial discount.
If you don’t have cash, it’s hard to expand. Managing your cash flow is not only getting people to pay on time but also keeping careful track of all investments. If you can produce cash by selling old products or assets at a loss, taking a loss might be a gain.
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