Without a steady cash flow, your business dies. This means that you need to be focused on your cash flow situation at all times: you need to know how much cash you have and how much is coming in. If you can see that you're likely to have problems, the time to take action is - NOW.
This constant awareness of your finances is especially vital for creatives. Writers, artists and designers are in a unique situation. Not only are we creators, we're also marketers and salespeople. Combining these two functions is so difficult that at times it feels as if it’s impossible. However, it can be done.
Whether you're starting your own business, or have been in business for a while, here are some ways to keep the cash flowing when business is slow -
=> Start your business with six months’ worth of expenses
If you're going fulltime in your own business, you need a cushion. It's best to have at least six months’ worth of expense money to keep you going. Then, when you've been in business for a year, always keep at least three months’ worth of expense money in your account. Do whatever it takes to get that three months’ cushion.
=> No cash? Moonlight until things improve
Business works in cycles. It's always either feast or famine. You either have more work than you can handle, or not enough. If you're going through a famine cycle - and these can last for several months - moonlight. There's a reason actors and actresses work as bartenders and taxi drivers. :-)
=> Consider working part-time for someone else
Just because business is slow at the moment, it doesn’t mean that your business idea is terrible. To ease the situation, take a part-time job. Although you'll be busier than you'd like to be, the fact that you have money coming in regularly lets you relax, so that you can enjoy working in your business again.
=> Get an anchor client or product
You need an anchor client. This is a client who brings in a quarter of your earnings - you may need three or four clients to achieve this. These are regular clients, the bedrock on which your business is based. They pay your expenses, and keep you in business.
If you’re a writer or designer, you may also have an anchor product. This may be a book which brings in royalties every six months, or artwork you've sold under license for which you receive royalties.
It's worth working sixteen-hour days for a few months to create an anchor product. Once you've created it, the anchor product works for you.
=> Follow up on slow/ no payers
You can't afford to let people owe you money indefinitely. This means that you’re providing interest-free loans. Worse, if someone owes you substantial money, you're an unsecured creditor. If they go down, they'll take you with them.
Chase up slow payers. Send a friendly reminder email or fax once a week - every week, until they pay.
=> Don't pile up debt
Try not to go into debt. It's not worth it. It's better to work part-time for someone else, or to cut back on expenses, rather than go into debt. You don’t know how long the slow period will last, and saddling yourself with debt is a dead-end solution.
It IS possible to run your own business, and be relaxed about it, knowing that you can survive the bad times. If you need to go and work part-time, don’t look on this as failure - it's a win. You're doing what you need to do, to keep your business viable until the sun shines and the good times roll. You can do it.
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