Have you ever felt like money is going out of your business quicker than you can bring it in? It might be because you’ve got a whole load of money leaks in your business that are adding up to one big money drain, without you even realising. You are wasting and losing money in your business all over the place and you need to stop! Now!
It’s really easy to have tiny amounts of money leaking out of your business but when you add them all up they can amount to a serious chunk of cash being frittered away on stuff you don’t want or use. Maybe you’re sitting on untapped cash in the form of work you have to bill or overdue invoices you haven’t chased? Maybe you just need a spring clean on your subscriptions? Either way, now would be a great time to stop the leaks and get money flowing into your business so you can benefit from it. Let’s have a look at 7 ways you are losing money in your business, today!
I decided to tackle my money leaks one day and I found I had lots of little subscriptions going out of my bank – most of them were for things I don’t use any
more, things I don’t need had totally forgotten I was still paying for. Some were for tiny amounts but I’d been paying them for YEARS – that soon adds up!
There were services I’d signed up for because I really loved them at the time but I hadn’t used them properly for ages. I decided I needed to go through and make a decision on each subscription about “am I going to give it more focus and make it work better, or am I going to let it go?”
It’s not just subscriptions for services, think about software or magazines. The kind of subscriptions that I have are social media scheduling software, backup software, little tools I tried out and forgot to cancel. It could be those things where you sign up to get your credit report every month, do you actually need it now?
Before you know it, you will have freed up, maybe quite a lot of money, every month just because you’ve taken the time to go through and cancel.
Money Leak Challenge 1
Do an audit – go through your bank details, go through your emails, look for subscriptions that are coming out every month, every year, every quarter. Give yourself a good hour to do this, you might not even be able to cancel them all in the hour, depending on how difficult they make it, but you can certainly identify them all in an hour. Then you make a list and say ‘OK I’m going to spend another hour later in the week and cancel all of these’. Make a note of how much money you’ll be saving by stopping those unwanted subscriptions.
2. FREE TRIALS
How often have you seen a free trial for some software or a service and have taken it up, just to forget to cancel before the deadline and got charged? Yep, me too!
Usually the companies in question get you to put your credit or debit card details in in order to get your free trial. Now they’re not silly! They do this, so that ideally you will just keep going (maybe they’re being a bit naughty and think you’ll forget to cancel it and it will just roll on and keep going). Even one payment from you is a big amount for them when they multiply it across everyone who forgets to cancel.
My advice is always to mark it in your diary, not just on the day but 2 days before, in big red letters. Put it on your calendar, on your phone, set a reminder and make it beep and be in your face when it is time to cancel.
Because there’s a really good chance that in 30 days’ time or 28 days’ time you’ll have forgotten that you even signed up to this!
I’ve been caught out with this before, with Amazon Prime and I know a lot of people who also did this. Now, for me it turned out to be a good thing because once I LOOKED at what I was getting for my money, I ended up renewing Amazon Prime on purpose because I get such a lot of value out of it.
Money Leak Challenge 2
When you sign up for a free trial and put in your card details, try to schedule in an hour sometime between now and the deadline. ONE HOUR of your life, to properly try out the service – you were impressed enough to sign up so at least give yourself a chance to see if it might really help you. What was it that got you excited about the free trial in the first place? What is it about it that you think will help your business? Give it your attention, try it out and if it’s not for you CANCEL it there and then!
3. OVERDUE INVOICES
I have a question for you. Do you issue invoices in your business? If so, when you’ve issued an invoice, how good are people at paying you? At any one time in your business, how much money is outstanding? How much money is overdue? How much money is owing to you?
If you don’t know, you need to start knowing NOW because knowledge is power.
Cash is the lifeblood of your business. Without cash your business fails. All the time you’ve got money outstanding, you are subsidising somebody else’s business. All the time you’ve got money outstanding, that’s money that you could be using to pay you, to pay your suppliers, to pay your tax bill. Money owing to you is money that you need in. And you’re losing out on the interest you WOULD have had on that money in your bank. Gah!
Money Leak Challenge 3
Start Before You Invoice!
The best way to deal with invoices is to start BEFORE you issue them. That is, when you sign up with a client, you put really clear terms in place.
Train Your Clients
Clients will respect you for handling this in a professional way. Make the terms really clear when somebody signs up with you.
When you issue your invoice, say something like ‘we expect payment within X days and if you are late paying, we will chase you because this money is important to us as a small business. We are strict on our payment terms and all outstanding work will stop immediately, we cannot carry on with projects for you if you don’t pay.’
This might sound harsh but who do you think’s going to get paid first? You want to be at the top of the queue and the people who shout the loudest get paid first. You know how it feels if you’ve got someone chasing you for payment and they’re relentless and persistent (and preferably polite at the same time). But they’re going to get paid before the people who aren’t bothering you. That’s how our minds work, that’s human behaviour.
Stick To Your Word
On the day the invoice goes out re-iterate your payment terms in a nice polite way and give them a date on which you expect the invoice to be paid.
On the day that it’s due you send them a reminder to say you are hoping to get payment today from them, please let us know if there is a problem. (forwarned is forarmed)
Once it goes 2 or 3 days over, they get another email saying ‘ooh its outstanding and overdue, let us know what the problem is. Get in touch if you’re struggling to pay, but let’s talk about it because we expect that money in and we won’t be doing any more work on your account until that invoice is settled’.
Once it gets to a week they get a slightly sterner email saying ‘come on guys, we need paying’ and then after that you need to call.
If you can’t call, because you’re worried about compromising the relationship, then hire a virtual assistant.
Virtual assistants are brilliant at this because all of the emotion gets taken out of the situation. You are emotionally involved with your clients but a virtual assistant is outside of that loop there is no emotional charge with that, there is no baggage, they just go in, explain the situation and they will be able to get a factual response.
Watch your business change and watch the way that clients deal with you change. That kind of behaviour earns you respect from the right clients and will weed out the bad-fit clients. Yay!
4. UNBILLED INVOICES
Let’s look at how you issue your invoices because unbilled invoices might as well be no invoices at all – they are just in your head. The longer you leave it, the longer it takes for that money to be in your bank. You’re missing out on interest payments AND you’re potentially leaving yourself short, meaning you might incur overdraft charges or penalties. No good!
The old fashioned way, when everybody did this by mail, was that you sent out your invoices at the end of the month after you had completed the work. Then the client got it, and they paid anywhere between 30 and however many days afterwards. So it could be 2 or 3 months after you’d actually finished the work that you got the money in your hand. That is not a healthy way to run your business!
These days you could email out an invoice and have it with somebody in a second. If you do what I suggested above and set your terms before you start working with somebody, then you can make it really clear that you will invoice as soon as you’ve finished a project.
If you wait to invoice at the end of the month after you’ve carried out the work, it means you’ve completed your side of the bargain and you’re waiting to issue the invoice. Whereas if you issued the invoice on the day that you finished the job and it was signed off, and then you did this several times a week, then your invoices due are not all lumped together at the end of some random month in the future.This is great for cashflow.
Your business will be so much healthier. While we’re talking about this, why are you giving people 30 days payment terms, if you are? You don’t have to give 30 days’ payment, you can give 14, you can give 7. When I started giving 7 days payment terms it made a massive difference to my business when I was a marketing consultant. Because all of a sudden I could set that email series and system up much earlier, I could get my virtual assistant doing credit control calls much earlier and things that might have taken 3 or 4 months even to get paid, started to get paid, they were still late! But they started to get paid within the month rather than 2 or 3 months down the line. That had a huge impact on my cash flow. I wasn’t subsidising peoples businesses – I wasn’t bank rolling them.
Money Leak Challenge 4
Look at how and when you invoice and WHY you invoice the way you do. Can you charge a deposit up front? Can you get clients to pre-pay? Can you reduce your credit time you give to customers?
Let’s start running your business properly, let’s start running your business in a way that works for you. Let’s start getting some money up front at the time of booking. Let’s change the way we do this, so that you have a profitable business that doesn’t make you worry and wake up at 4am in a cold sweat about how you’re going to pay the bills! I’ve been there, it’s not nice. Change it, make it work for you!
4. FINES AND PENALTIES
How many times have you run over a tax deadline? Or missed an early bird booking rate? Or paid extra because you had to pay for ‘Express’ delivery as you’d forgotten to order something?
A really common example is tax deadlines, where if you’re late filing your tax return, you will get hit with a fine. And that is completely unnecessary, yet I see it happening every year with women in my network. The trouble is, they find tax baffling and scary, so they put it off until the last minute then find there is information they still need to find, which takes them over the deadline. Gah!
Book A TAX DAY (Eeek!)
With tax, there is no excuse. You just have to bite the bullet and deal with it early. Schedule some time in your diary – a TAX DAY – to do your return (ideally 6 months before it’s due, you’ll thank yourself later) then reward yourself with something lovely once you’ve got it done.
Have A System
And during the year why not put a system in place that will help you when you do tackle your tax return? Do a weekly invoice/receipt file-away, keep a mileage book in your car, have a spreadsheet with sales listed if your shopping cart software doesn’t already do that. That way, all you’re doing is taking information that’s already up-to-date and just filling in some boxes. Easy!
If you know you’re going to book tickets for an event, or buy a product or programme, look out for the Early Bird deals. Businesses offer these at a really reduced rate because they help with their cashflow AND give them an indication of interest. You can often get over 50% off the list price by buying on Early Bird.
Money Leak Challenge 5
When is your tax return due? If it’s months away in the future, book a TAX DAY into your diary NOW for some time over the next couple of weeks.
Whether it’s school trips, air fares, plane tickets or coaching programmes, if you KNOW you’re going to buy it anyway, look for the early bird rate.
6. DISCOUNTS AND CASH BACK
So, first of all let’s look at discounts from other people. Are you taking advantage of any bulk buying discounts for your home or business? Are you leaking money because you’re buying the same thing in small quantities over the year, instead of buying in bulk and making a saving? Now how might that work? Could it work with you for stock? For stationery? Could it work for fuel?
Here’s an example that I use in my life rather than my business. We have oil heating in our house and in our village we bulk buy our oil with other people in the village. So instead of us buying 1,000 litres and everybody else, the other 130 people in the village buying 1,000 litres separately from different suppliers we all go in together and say ‘we’d like 100,000 litres please, what’s the best price?’ that works brilliantly because we get a really good price, the oil suppliers are over the moon because they get a really big discount, it makes them work a little bit harder but it helps them to bulk buy from their suppliers as well, so it goes right back down the chain. But that’s a really good example of how you can group together with other people and bulk buy in a way that you couldn’t do yourself.
Could you be getting cash back by going through one of these big cashback sites and buying things online that way? I’ve had cash back on mobile phone contracts, stationery, office equipment, all sorts of things where I still bought from my usual suppliers, I just went via a link on a cashback site to get there.
Discounting In YOUR Business
Are you leaking money in your business by giving too many discounts? I have included this one because I know loads of ladies who do, mainly because they are not confident in their pricing.
Now I’ll give you an example of a lovely lady I know. She’s a coach, and she had somebody come up to her a while ago and ask her how much it was for her coaching sessions. She told the guy how much it was but in the space of one breath she carried on talking and she discounted it not once, but TWICE!
It went something like this…”Well, it’s this much, but because you’re in this group I’ll knock some off, and actually because you’re buying it now I’ve got this offer on, so it’s only THIS much”. She discounted it twice in one breath before the guy had even had a chance to register the price, let alone come back with anything.
He might have quite happily paid the first price, she’ll never know.
I’m not surprised. We’ve got mind monkeys in our brains telling us that nobody will ever pay that, that it’s too expensive and quite often we’ve got friends and family reinforcing that message.
Let me share a secret: If you make it really clear what the value is to that person, and if you’re showing them why it’s a really good fit for them, you don’t need to discount.
Money Leak Challenge 6
1. Look for areas where you can bulk buy and save money
2. Look for cashback sites that will let you buy your usual stuff from your usual suppliers, but will reward you with cash back in the process
3. Figure out who your SUPER customers are. Who really values what you do? Who loves what you sell? Who keeps coming back and spending more? Who’s a perfect fit for your business? These are the people who are saying you’re undercharging and you need to be charging more – do it!
Stop discounting for no reason. Find the people who understand that you’re worth what you charge and market to them, attract more of them and stop trying to please everybody by putting silly discounts in place for people who don’t value you anyway.
7. ROGUE PAYMENTS
So what’s number 7? Well, it’s those rogue money leaks that just kind of appear. Here’s an example that happened to me recently: I get my milk delivered from an organic dairy and I saw on their Facebook page that they were selling asparagus. The following Saturday I got some asparagus on my doorstep with my milk; I thought ‘that’s nice, giving me a sample to try!’ Then it happened again the next week. Now, I don’t really look at my weekly milk invoice because I kind of know what goes out and it’s fine, but then last week I got some MORE asparagus. Don’t get me wrong I like asparagus but not every week! I was like ‘ah not more asparagus, they keep giving us this free asparagus, they must be really struggling to sell it’ UNTIL I looked on my invoice and found they’ve charged me for it!
The thing is, I’d let this go for three weeks in a row because it hadn’t occurred to me to look on my invoice. Over the course of 4 weeks that’s was £10 I accidentally spent on asparagus! I could have used that £10 for all sorts of things.
It’s these little rogue money leaks that sneak in and add up.
Bank charges, little extras people sneak onto the end of invoices. service charges… You often just go along with them because you’re busy or because you are scared to question them. I wonder how much money has leaked out of your bank account over the last few years because of these rogue little payments?
Money Leak Challenge 7
Look through your bank account today. If you’re not in the habit of going through your statements regularly and making sure you know what every payment is, now is the time to start, because every £2 or £3 or $10 dollars here and there could add up to a holiday deposit or a car payment, or a trip to the spa!
The Biggest Enemies Of Money Leaks Are Time And Knowledge
Your secret weapon against money leaks is making time to do something about it; Making time to look at your bank statements, making time to cancel the subscriptions, making time to evaluate those products before the free trial ends so you can make a decision based on knowledge. It’s making time to look at your outstanding invoices and see what’s missing, see what’s still outstanding in your business. It’s making time to hire a VA, it’s making time to invoice weekly or daily rather than every month. It’s making time. It’s making time.
It’s time to stop those money leaks. And while you’re dealing with them, why not keep a little record of how much you’re saving as you go? I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much money you can save and hang onto just by giving yourself the time to deal with it.
I’d love to know if you’ve dealt with money leaks in your life or business? What’s your biggest saving? Have you got any more advice to add to my list? Share them in the comments!
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Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.