- The detrimental effect of fluctuating income on a small business
- Why freelancers need to invoice quickly and accurately
- Building up a strong cash position to avoid cash flow issues
- How to avoid your business shutting down
- Collecting payments for unpaid invoices
- Why waiting for payments is killing your business
- Being responsible with credit
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[00:00:00] Brian: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the six Figure Creative Podcast. I'm your host, Brian Hood, and if this is your first time listening to the show, first of all, welcome. Thank you so much for checking out this show. You are in the right place right now. If you are a creative freelancer, you're trying to earn more money from your creative skills, and you wanna do it without selling your soul, that sounds like you. You're the right spot. For my returning listeners, for returning viewers on YouTube, if you're on YouTube, leave me a comment.
[00:00:20] Brian: Just say hi. I love saying hi to you people on YouTube. Welcome back. I have been on a rabbit hole binge these past few days Between episodes. we're up to, and now, if you haven't been following along, we're up to two episodes a week now. We've changed things up for the foreseeable future.
[00:00:31] Brian: We'll go back to the once a week cadence eventually, but I've been down at Rabbit Hole researching mocking birds. And the reason I've been researching Mockingbird is because every day, for like the past years at this house that I live in now, While I'm cooking breakfast, there is a mocking bird that I've named Tom because he is a little peeping Tom sitting on this tree right outside my kitchen window, just staring at me every morning.
[00:00:49] Brian: 8:00 AM on routine just like I do every morning, and he's just staring at me and we've become friends over the years. I talk to him, he probably talks to me. I don't know how this works, but it is what it is. And, Thomas stuck [00:01:00] it out. I don't really like, even through like miserable cold days through the winter, he's just still, every day he shows up.
[00:01:04] Brian: He's not flying south for the winter. So maybe something's wrong with him, I don't know. But he's been hanging around my neighborhood for, two plus years and we've had our ups and downs. Mockingbird can be kind of aggressive birds if you don't know that already. They're very territorial year, Tom found a mate.
[00:01:15] Brian: I saw him doing a little mating dance. Mockingbird, if you're watching me now, they kind of do this like back and forth, rotating mating dance. And he found his mate, which we call her Barbara, and uh, they have been building a nest on the corner right by my garage. And this little like pine tree we have outside, it's almost like a little Christmas tree, fern tree or something.
[00:01:32] Brian: And so I'm just learning a lot about like how long does it take them to build a nest? About four days. How long does it take to incubate the eggs? About 14 days and right now Barbara is spinning all day, sitting in her nest, incubating the eggs that she's laid and in, seven to 14 days, I don't know when they laid the eggs.
[00:01:48] Brian: Seven to 14 days. We'll have some new little uh, Mockingbird babies right outside of our, garage, which is awesome. I also learned that they will build multiple nests. And they will choose which one they actually wanna live in. And they will, abandon a nest, I think, [00:02:00] even with eggs in it if they feel threatened.
[00:02:01] Brian: So I've also been like swinging wide of that tree and not trying to go near it and like just giving them their space cuz I don't want Tom and Barbara to have to abandon their little eggs that they've already laid. So that's the little weird rabbit hole binge that I've gone down in these past few days and, uh, I'm happy for Tom.
[00:02:15] Brian: So congrats to Tom and Barbara. I'll update the podcast whenever those little babies are born. So, Anyways. Mockingbird and bird watching is not the topic of the show today. Today's episode is about cash flow management kind of, the promise I make you for this episode is if you follow what I talk about in this episode, you will not run out of money.
[00:02:31] Brian: In most cases, the whole goal of good cash flow management is just never running outta money. As a freelancer, and there's a quote that I love and it is, businesses don't fail, they simply run outta money.
[00:02:40] Brian: There's a study or some sort of thing that's cited by Business Insider, but they say 82% of small businesses fail because of cash flow issues. That just means they run outta money. And just because you run outta money doesn't really even mean that your business is bad. cash flow management is something that even the biggest businesses and the most successful businesses with plenty of clients, plenty of income can [00:03:00] still struggle with.
[00:03:00] Brian: So if you're not careful, this can still take you out even as you get more and more advanced. And I've learned over the years as I've earned more and more money, the cash flow management is even more important. There's a thing, there's a term that I love. It's just called being cash poor. it just means like your money's tied up in other areas and you have no cash.
[00:03:15] Brian: Doesn't mean you're poor, it just means you're cash poor. And cash poor is typically a result of poor cash flow management. And today's episode, I wanna kind of talk through those things. So obviously if you haven't listened to the budgeting episode on the back to basic series that we're on right now, go back to episode 253.
[00:03:29] Brian: Which was just the previous episode. If you live on any podcast app, just scroll down to like the next episode down. Or if you're on YouTube, just go to our backlog and look for episode 2 53. But that's the budgeting episode. It really does coincide with what we're gonna talk about today, and I'll probably reference back to it a couple of times, but the concept cash flow.
[00:03:44] Brian: Let me explain this for anyone who is not really sure what cash flow management or cash flow is, first of all, cash flow is money comes into your business. That's cash in. Money goes out of your business, it flows out. that is cash flow. It's the movement of those two things and it is a very fluid thing.
[00:03:58] Brian: that's the reason that if, when you listen to the last [00:04:00] week's episode where I talked about how you might have had a great month income-wise, but you check your bank account and it's just empty or really low and you're like, where did all that money go? A lot of it flowed out that you probably weren't keeping track of.
[00:04:09] Brian: So listen to last week's episode, but cash flow management is about timing both of those things properly.
[00:04:15] Brian: And if you're good at cash flow management, you always have more flowing in than out. And if you're bad at cash flow management, something can take you out very quick because more money be flowing out and then you are in debt, or you're shutting down and you're running back to your day job because that's the safer place, or it feels like the safer place.
[00:04:30] Brian: So let's quickly talk about what messes things up for us as freelancers when it comes to managing cash flow. There's like a few common things I wanted to cover, and then I wanna talk about how to put yourself in the best position possible cash flow-wise, so that you're always happy, healthy, and in a place of abundance, which allows you to be more creative, which allows you to, to make better decisions, not from a place of scarcity.
[00:04:48] Brian: Again, very similar to what I talked to in the last week's episode. so now let's talk about what messes things up for freelancers when it comes to cash flow. The first thing is just inconsistent income. This one's obvious. I don't really have to talk on this.
[00:04:58] Brian: Some of the other things we'll talk about in this [00:05:00] series, and then obviously things we've talked about through the last 253 episodes of this podcast, talks a lot about how to get more consistent clients, consistent income, making sure your pricing and your packaging is better so that you have more consistency in your day-to-day, month-to-month income.
[00:05:13] Brian: But despite that, As a freelancer, unless you have a really solid business model or you're under recurring revenue, arrangement with your clientele, you're going to have potentially wild swings in your income. And I remember back January, 2015, I made $20,000 as a freelancer. February, 2015, I made $1,200 as a freelancer.
[00:05:30] Brian: So that is a massive swing and in ups and downs when it comes to freelancing income 2015 was a great year for me, so it was just, even though I had a good business, even though I had a great year, I still had wild swings in my income. And if you don't manage your money properly, wild swings in income can take you out and it can be really, really stressful.
[00:05:47] Brian: And that's because though our income is inconsistent, Our bills are consistent. So when you have those months that are really down, but you have those bills that don't change, they're still there. That's the thing that can take you out and force you to either close up [00:06:00] shop or force you to take Jurassic measures or go into debt or do something that's gonna even hurt you more further down the line.
[00:06:06] Brian: So that's the first thing that messes this up cash flow wise, is this the inconsistent income. That's the reality of freelancing. The second thing is inconsistent invoicing. I have freelancers to work for me right now. That I have to reach out to them to send me invoices. This is a very common thing, and if you're listening right now and that feels like you, I'm not attacking you.
[00:06:22] Brian: I'm just telling you the fact that, I'm having to chase down freelancers means that there are other freelancers listening to the show right now who, when money is due, they're not proactively reaching out and sending invoices to their clients so that they can get paid. And that service debt is things that you've likely already done.
[00:06:38] Brian: Like these freelancers have already worked for me, they've already done the services, and then they, haven't invoiced me for me to pay them, even though I pay on time. Every time I pay, as soon as I get an invoice, I always pay when it's due. I'm a great person to do services for as a freelancer, but cause I, I want to treat my freelancers the way that I want freelancers to be treated and the way that I preach on this podcast about freelancers to be treated.
[00:06:58] Brian: But that doesn't mean [00:07:00] that the freelancers treat themselves the right way. So for every invoice you fail to send out, that's money you fail to get into your bank account, to put you in a better cash flow position. Cuz think about it, you have expenses just to say today and you didn't invoice today. So that money came out cuz you have those bills no matter what, but you didn't have that money in because you are inconsistent with your invoicing.
[00:07:18] Brian: we'll talk about that later in a second. The next thing is late payments from clients. Again, we'll talk about that, but when clients delay things, And a lot of people are very soft with their clients, and they just say, yeah, no problem. And then those clients pay days, weeks, months later, if ever.
[00:07:32] Brian: That hurts your cash flow as well. The next thing that can hurt your cash flow, that messes up your entire cash flow management is scope creep without being compensated for it. So when clients keep asking for more and more and more from you, it keeps, keeps putting off the end of the project, especially for those of you who invoice after the project's done.
[00:07:47] Brian: And now you are, having to wait longer and longer, and you're working more and more. Even unpaid, to get that money. that's something else that can mess up your cash flow. And then the final is expenses. This is another reality. Freelancing is [00:08:00] although we would love to account for everything in our lives when it comes to running a business, the truth is.
[00:08:05] Brian: All of us mess this up. Sometimes the first year as a freelancer, you don't realize that tax bill's coming or you don't realize that this license renewal is coming up or that you don't realize that I have to pay a CPA to do my taxes or insert anything here. It's just like any of those unexpected expenses that we don't know what we don't know, so we don't plan for those things, and that means that's money out of the bank that we didn't plan for, which hurts our cash flow position.
[00:08:26] Brian: A healthy cash flow position just means you have a lot of money in the bank, you have plenty of months of runway, et cetera, et cetera.
[00:08:31] Brian: So let's now talk about the things you can actually do, to put yourself in the best possible cash flow, position. And these are really tangible things and things that a lot of freelancers don't do for whatever reason.
[00:08:40] Brian: And maybe it's just because you don't know to do this. So I'm hoping that this episode is like a very easy, quick win for so many people listening to the show that are not doing some of these things that you can just go do and all of a sudden money's in your account and you feel happy, healthy, we're profitable.
[00:08:54] Brian: So let's talk about it. All right. First thing is go back to episode 253 of our podcast. the last episode [00:09:00] and that is just having massive buffers. I talked about it. In that episode, I'm gonna talk about it in this episode. Some of the things we'll talk about in a second will help with this, but the more buffer, the more cash you just have sitting in the bank, preferably six months of expenses, the less you're ever gonna experience cash flow issues.
[00:09:14] Brian: This is the cheat code to being in a strong cash flow position as a business is just having tons of money in the bank. Those who have cash rarely have stress. at least not business stress, not monetary stress. You might have other stress in your life, Those monetary issues are solved by having plenty of cash in the bank.
[00:09:29] Brian: So if you have a big wad of cash just sitting in your bank for a rainy day, that six months of emergency fund and your business account and six months and your personal account for your personal expenses, then you shouldn't have cash flow issues. that means that the rest of this is kind of irrelevant cuz you'll, you'll never be in a bad cash flow position.
[00:09:44] Brian: That doesn't mean it's irrelevant actually, cuz you still could be doing better. But that's the first thing is just make sure you have massive buffers. The next thing is, Make sure you have great payment terms. So when you're working with a client, the way I prefer to do things and the thing that I tell most people to do when you can, I know this isn't applicable to [00:10:00] everyone, but take a 20 to 50% deposit upfront.
[00:10:03] Brian: Everyone's different. But the way I did it, back when I was producing bands and had them in the studio with me was 40% deposit upfront, just to put the dates in my calendar, and I was booked up two to six months in advance. So just to lock in the dates in my calendar.
[00:10:14] Brian: It was a 40% non-refundable deposit, so I was getting paid months in advance for a work I hadn't done yet, which can be dangerous. We need to talk about that in a second. And then the remainder was due on the first scheduled day of recording in my studio. So there was no chance of them screwing me over or not paying me.
[00:10:29] Brian: I didn't have to chase them down for invoices. Later on. I just got paid up front for everything that I did. If you can do this, you'll always be paid upfront, which means you're getting paid 14 days, 30 days, 60 days. Sooner than the average freelancer who builds after the project's done. This is an easy, quick win in some niches.
[00:10:46] Brian: again, not every niche can do this, but in a lot of niches, especially when you're working closer to solo business owners or smaller businesses or hobbyists or people that are in like a passion led industry like mine, when I was doing recording studios services or music production services, I [00:11:00] was working with bands and artists who were typically.
[00:11:03] Brian: independent bands. So they weren't working with labels. Labels were harder to work with that way they typically would not pay in advance, although there were a couple that I kind of strong-armed into doing that with me at the time. But most labels would pay you after the project's done. So I, again, I realize that this is not possible in every niche us to point number two.
[00:11:17] Brian: Or tip number two, we could this be tips? I guess, I don't know. We might get a tips episode, tips sound so cheap. Tip number two is consistently send out invoices. So when you are being paid after the project's done, like a case in label projects with a recording studio, or if you're working with larger businesses, they typically like want net 30, net 60, net 90 terms on their invoices, which makes you the, debt collector.
[00:11:37] Brian: In that case, whenever you send out consistent invoices, you're at least getting paid the soonest possible time that you can. Meaning they're not waiting for you. Like my freelancers that work for me right now. They're not waiting for you to send the invoice off. again, I could pay several freelancers right now, but they haven't sent the invoices in.
[00:11:52] Brian: So if they were more consistent, they would get paid sooner, which puts them in a better cash flow position. And again, cash flow position is like a very business jargon term. [00:12:00] So if you hear me say that, I just mean a good cash flow position just means you have money in the bank and money in the bank means you're in a good position.
[00:12:06] Brian: So going back to sending out invoices consistently, a lot of freelancers, the reason they don't send these out consistently, like right when it should be sent out, is because there's some amount of friction there in the way that's holding them back from doing the work.
[00:12:18] Brian: So typically, I know this is the case for one of my freelancers that under me is they have to, uh, hours for certain things that they've done, and then they have to calculate it in sum of the invoice. An easier solution for that would be to just have a flat retainer, something like that, or have easier tracking system to where you just know where to go to get your hours, and you can quickly calculate that or use an invoicing solution that's where you log your hours, and then it'll just autobill on time every month. Some of you just have really complex invoicing systems that you hate using.
[00:12:45] Brian: you go in and you log in and you have to finagle this thing to look right and feel right and pull the products out and pricing and like send it out. It's There's so many good invoicing solutions that are out there now. There's no reason not to switch to something that's simpler for you to use, but whatever the friction is that's holding you back from sending out invoices consistently, [00:13:00] it has to be resolved because this is hurting your cash flow because it's work you've already done that you haven't been paid for yet because you simply haven't sent an invoice out yet.
[00:13:06] Brian: There's no excuse for that.
[00:13:08] Brian: The next tip for being in a better cash flow position is just getting your outstanding invoices paid. These are for those of you who are sending out invoices consistently, but clients are not paying you on time. You are not a debt collector. And for every unpaid invoice, especially ones that are passed due, that is debt, for services. You've already done that you have not been paid for yet, and now you have to chase them down like a debt collector. that's the reason that. I refused to do any work that wasn't already paid for in my recording studio.
[00:13:36] Brian: I wanted everything paid in advanced and I told them, this is true, it was so that we can now just focus on being creative in the studio and we don't have to talk about or worry about or stress over money ever again. We get the payment done and now we are in creativity mode.
[00:13:48] Brian: It was better for the client. Honestly, in my, opinion, it was better for me for sure, but I never had to be a debt collector in that case. So if you find yourself in a position where you're sending out invoices to clients, they're not paying. A lot of freelancers are [00:14:00] scared to have any sort of conflict to collect the money that they are owed.
[00:14:03] Brian: And in these cases it's hurting your cash flow position cuz you might have thousands of dollars of unpaid invoices and you're waiting for those to just magically come in. And you're not sending out reminders, you don't have automated reminders. You're not putting ' 'em on autobill or anything, you're just waiting, well, you still have bills to pay and.
[00:14:19] Brian: Those clients who fail to pay you on time are hurting your business now. It is your duty to step up, reach out. You can be polite, you can be firm if you have to, but you need to get paid for those unpaid invoices, and this is obvious, the ones that are past due. That's the ones I'm really speaking to here.
[00:14:33] Brian: Now, this is an extreme measure, but if you find yourself in a situation where your clients habitually pay late, it is in your best interests to put a late fee in the agreement. When you start working with a client or when you send out invoices, there need to collect on that late fee.
[00:14:48] Brian: When clients are late on their payments. The reason for this, again, is to have a consequence for not paying on time. If there's no consequence for it, why wouldn't they pay late? puts them in a better cash flow position. That's why the, big labels wanted a net 60, net [00:15:00] 90 days once the project was done to pay you and wouldn't send you any money until that point, all these unpaid invoices that they don't have to pay yet as a big company, is money that's sitting in their accounts or utilized enough for other areas in their business. So now they have all these service providers and freelancers and other businesses that are giving them essentially free credit with no interest paid.
[00:15:19] Brian: So again, if you have people that are habitually behind on payment, you have to put a late fee in place. And I'm just saying this is in extreme cases, you don't want to step on toes, you don't wanna ruin relationships, you don't want to make them feel horrible. But at the same time, there has to be a consequence for missing deadlines on a due date, on an invoice.
[00:15:34] Brian: this is for the betterment of your business so that you are not forced to go get a day job and give up on your dream.
[00:15:40] Brian: The next tip for good cash flow management is having multiple streams of income. this can be dangerous, by the way like, A lot of times multiple streams of income. I don't mean like start another business or launch another service, cuz that can be a huge distraction and really take you away from the core thing that you're great at.
[00:15:54] Brian: But what I mean is multiple streams of income could be from diversifying your client base. something called I dunno [00:16:00] if this is the right term, but like a whale. is in a lot of gaming communities, those free to play gaming apps where. It's free to play, but to get to the next level or to get this bonus, it's like little micropayments and those micropayments get bigger and bigger.
[00:16:11] Brian: Those companies most of their income, it's the 80 20 principle. Their income comes from like a small percentage of people that they call whales that pay a huge amount of money and that subsidizes it for all the people who were actually playing it for free.
[00:16:23] Brian: There's a thing in a freelance business where you might have whale clients, you might have one or two clients who are the majority of your income, that means that you are, you're lacking diversification in your income. So when I say diversifying your income streams and having multiple streams of income, it could be that you have, if you have retainer clients, you have 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 retainer clients paying you every month so that if one client leaves, you're not in a bad cash flow position.
[00:16:44] Brian: It could be that you have, 15, 20, 30 projects a month instead of that one big client where if that one big client falls through, you're in a bad position. Now you can mitigate things. Again, I'm not saying that if you're like at a high end service provider and you're doing really big projects for clients and to take time, I'm not [00:17:00] saying you need to give that up and go to small, like nickel and dime projects to diversify.
[00:17:03] Brian: That's not what I'm saying. You can still put things into place to make that work where you're getting non-refundable deposits upfront so that you're covered. At least your bills and some extra in case that whole project falls through. There's still things you can do, but for the most case, the more diverse your income streams, meaning from multiple clients, from multiple places, the safe you are as a business because you're in a better cash flow position because one client dropping off isn't gonna kill you.
[00:17:24] Brian: And in my opinion, recurring revenue or recurring income is the golden ticket here. If you have clients paying you every single month, You are in a much better place for consistent income. Going back to one of the earlier points I made There's a book called The Automatic Customer that really talks about this, and I got two more tips for you. This, second to last one here is cutting the fat. We all have some sort of unnecessary expenses. for some of you, it's a gear obsession. For some of you, it's software subscriptions you're paying for, you know, you don't use or should just be letting go.
[00:17:51] Brian: For some of you, it's maybe office space that you don't need to have some big expense that you're just it's for vanity's sake, cuz you feel better and more professional. There's [00:18:00] usually some decent amount of fat. I haven't done this in a while, so you need to go back and do this myself.
[00:18:03] Brian: But if you go into your business and really deep dive into the expenses that you have, there's likely a lot of fat that can be trimmed. In order to, decrease your expenses, which again, going back to budgeting, that helps that, but it also helps increase your cash flow and can help you save up that reserve fund that I was talking about earlier where if your reserve fund for your business is six months, meaning you can not have income for six months and still survive and still pay all your bills, you'll be in a much better place mentally. So that's second to last tip is cutting the fat. and the final tip I have here. When it comes to increasing your cash flow or being in a better cash flow position, is having responsible use of credit cards and credit lines or lines of credit. This one's dangerous.
[00:18:40] Brian: I almost didn't put this in here, but it has to be said. I have a quarter million dollar line of credit that I can tap into. probably more than that when I add up all the different credit cards and other lines of credit that I have. there's a, tip I heard from somebody, it was in the real estate space years ago, and they said the best time to get a loan or a line of credit is when you don't need it.
[00:18:56] Brian: So years ago, I just opened up lines of credit, credit cards, [00:19:00] things that I, I was getting like flyer miles and bonuses for that sort of stuff, just to have it. I'll have a whole episode on debt and credit cards and things like that. It's very anti Dave Ramsey, but there's some benefit to it.
[00:19:09] Brian: But I have a few rules for this. Like have all of my, every single line of credit on autopay, every single credit card on autopay. So if there's any money taken out for credit cards, obviously every single month it gets paid off lines of credit. If I have it out for some reason, those are on autopay, so I'm not forgetting it or whatever.
[00:19:25] Brian: the reason lines of credit can help your cash flow position. At the very least, it allows you to put your monthly bills on these credit cards, which you get flyer miles, which if you listen to this podcast a long time, you know how many trips we take. We flew first class home from Bali last year, or business class home from Bali last year.
[00:19:41] Brian: And it was wonderful and it was all paid with flyer miles from our credit cards. the reason this can help your cash flow is because let's just say you have $10,000 expenses this month. And let's just say you had $10,000 of income. not a great business yet, but let's just say that's the case right now.
[00:19:53] Brian: So you would have essentially $0 in your account at the end of the month. With credit cards, you could put the $10,000 [00:20:00] of expenses on your credit card, have the $10,000 in your account. And then usually your payment's not due until 20 to 30 days after the end of the month. So now you have a big buffer of that money sitting there for potential other expenses in your emergency fund or whatever.
[00:20:14] Brian: And then you just paid off in full at the end of that next month where you now have more income coming in And it's hard to visualize this right now. I'm doing a terrible job of this, but just having a debt buffer to just give you an extra month or two of cash flow, it's a wonderful thing. And it's also a very dangerous thing because what can happen is if your business starts to spiral and you can't pay your credit cards in full or your line of credit in full at the end of the month, now you have interest payments on unpaid balance, and all these interest payments add to your expenses.
[00:20:40] Brian: And that means next month is even harder to pay it all off. so you can really quickly go down, a really bad downward spiral, especially in an environment right now where interest rates keep going up and up. So if you had a lot of debt, On a line of credit or on a credit card, even worse, and you weren't paying that off in full every month.
[00:20:55] Brian: Those interest payments are huge or they can be huge depending on how much you have on there. so this last one is very [00:21:00] much like a use at your own risk used with great caution, but it has to be said that using line of credit strategically is a great cash flow move.
[00:21:07] Brian: I could not say that. So that's all I have for this episode When it comes to cash flow, only thing I have to ask of you listening right now is If you can email me podcast six figure creative.com, that's the number six podcast, six figure creative. And you can send me two things. One is whether or not you like the series of back to the basics.
[00:21:24] Brian: I'm still trying to figure out if I wanna continue this or not. I'm gonna review the numbers, so the download numbers look like on this podcast to see if people are still interested. So far looks good, but we're still early in this series. And number two, other than no ideas, I've already gotten some really good ideas of things that I've added to the planned episodes.
[00:21:37] Brian: From feedback that I've gotten from listeners. So if you wanna continue adding to that, just email me. It goes directly to my phone. I look at it, I use to respond, although I don't always, cuz I'm in the middle of hiring right now. So there's like hundreds of applicants coming in for this job and I'm just, that part I can't promise on the reply, but I definitely see every email.
[00:21:51] Brian: And then if it's a good idea, I will add it to my, episode list. So that's podcast six figure creative.com. That is it for this week. Until next time, thank you so much for listening to the [00:22:00] six Figure Creative Podcast.
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