“Can I just send you $1,000 now, and start paying ahead for next time?”
Our coaching relationship was ending in a few months, but she’d already decided to renew. She’d come a long way from where she started, and she had no intention of stopping now.
I’m no longer surprised when clients choose to continue. Their growth is real, and they are a stubborn, strong-willed, committed bunch.
But paying ahead? That was new.
And it threw me just a bit. :)
So I told her she was messing up my system – only half joking.
“Now, Wendy, you’re the first person I’ve ever heard complain because I was paying ahead,” she said – and laughed.
It was pretty funny.
But I wasn’t complaining. I was just thinking about how this would effect the procedures I have in place around payment.
When you start a business, you’re going to be paid for what you do. (You are being paid, right?)
And when you get paid, you need a system in place to manage that process.
Because so many of my clients are heart-centered creatives, it’s not unusual to find that they have almost no plan at all for how this happens. Or if they do, it’s pretty loose.
But without clear procedures that tell your money what to do, you can get yourself in trouble. I myself lost thousands of dollars when I started out, all because of fuzzy financial systems.
But you’re not pouring your heart and soul into this only to let money wash away through messy management. Right? Of course not.
But where do you start? And what do you really need?
Essentially, you need systems for how you ask for, collect, process, manage, spend and save the money that moves through your business.
Below, I’ve listed things to think about under each of those areas. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of this; just use this as a guide as you move towards better and clearer financial management.
- Do you have a way of asking for someone’s business, a sales process? What steps do you follow when you make an offer? If you’re not asking for the business, you’re probably leaving money on the table.
- Once someone says yes to working with you, how do they get started? Are there procedures set up to run automatically? Or do you have to get things going?
- What payment options do you have in place? Do you require payment in advance? Or when the work is done? Do you require payment in full, or do you offer payment plans? What about packages? (Packages can totally transform your business.)
- How easy is it for people to pay you? What payment methods can you accept? Can people pay you with more than one credit card if needed?
- What policies do you have in place to address problem areas like late cancels or no shows? What about those who don’t follow through with promised payment, drop out of your program, or break their contract?
- Do you ever turn an account over to collections? if so, do you have a procedure in place that informs your client and gives them adequate opportunity to pay their bill?
- How clearly do you explain policies to your customers up front?
- If someone pays with cash, do you have a safe place to keep that cash, and a way to document that payment?
- Do you have proper signed permission in place that allows you to process cards or electronic payments?
- How are you protecting the financial privacy and safety of your customers?
- Do you have a merchant account set up for business? Do you have the ability to set up recurring billing for payment plans?
- Do you have a separate business account for checking and savings? If so, are you careful about keeping personal and business monies separate?
- Do you offer a guarantee to your clients? If so, do you have a system in place for honoring that guarantee?
- Do you have a CPA who understands small business, and can help you with taxes?
- Do you have a bookkeeper who helps you track revenues, and business expenses?
- Do they understand you and your business? Are they patient as you learn to “know your numbers”?
- How are you handling accounts receivable?
- If you’re in the U.S., are you paying your quarterly taxes?
- Are you keeping business receipts? What about tracking your mileage?
- Do you have a business budget, and if so, do you follow it?
- Are you paying yourself a regular salary? (Make this an early habit – even if it’s small!)
- Are you setting aside money for taxes?
- Are you setting aside money for the inevitable ups and downs that come in any business?
- Can you pay your own salary even when revenues dip a little?
I am not a financial expert – far from it. Those who know me will laugh that I’m even writing an article like this.
But I’ve been in business long enough to learn – usually the hard way – that every single one of these questions needs an answer.
How about you? Do you have these systems in place? Or could your money use a little help?