The shopping season is in full force. Some retailers opened on Thanksgiving night to get more customers and revenue into the till while other vendors have stretched the black Friday deals into a weekend long event including small business Saturday and cyber Monday.
I know that my email box has been filling up with coupon codes, ads and bonuses over the last few days and as each new advertisement hits my inbox, I get excited, click on the news and wait to see if there is a deal on something I must have. Maybe there’s a new gadget, a new backdrop, a new action set, a new camera bag… that I’ve been lusting after for months, waiting to buy, and now feels like just the right opportunity.
However much I may want the shiny new object… the key is to know is my business numbers. I need to understand what is a need for my business and what is a want. I need to look at my cash flow and understand how the decisions to spend money today will affect my account now and in the near future. The last thing you want is a black Friday deal making your business see red.
So how do you look at your cash flow?
1. Start with figuring out how much you have – that means check your bank statement. A positive balance on the account, does not mean that all that money is available for spending as upcoming expenses may be due.
2. Let expand on where the cash is coming from. Write out a list of where your income comes from. It is best to write this out using a program like Excel or use Google Docs. Here’s a template to get you started (click File> Make a Copy).
- Photographers: Sitting fees, Prints, Albums, Cards, Other Products
- Dress Designer: Deposit, Alterations, Accessories
3. Look at how much is due – we need to look at the expenses and divide them into two categories: fixed costs (also known as overhead expenses) and variable costs (also known as cost of goods).
- Variable costs are the expenses associated when a client hires you to perform your service. Such costs for a photographer may be a second-shooter, outsourcing of album design, packaging, printing and lab costs. For a dress designer the cloth for the garment, getting cloth professionally dyed, bead work and jewels.
- Fixed costs are the expenses that happen regardless of the number of clients or gigs that are booked. These are the costs of running a business. For example paying rent, phone bill, web hosting, advertising, office supplies, any employees and your salary.
4. You now can look and see where you were last month, but it’s important to know where your business is going. Take the month sample and expand it out for the year. Fixed costs should be easy to estimate as they don’t fluctuated much from month to month. As for income and variable costs, plug in any booked clients and estimate your numbers using your past experience.
5. You may notice that the ending balance will vary greatly and that if you do purchase items that are not a need for the business and are not planned/budgeted for the cash flow can easily dip into the red. In the sample template the ending balance in December is positive but dips negative in January and quickly compounds.
So, be mindful of your finances and be honest with yourself before running out for those Black Friday deals.