Managing the finances of a creative agency can be a challenging task, especially with the variety of costs and currencies often involved in running such a business. A cash flow forecast is an essential tool that can help you gain predictability and control over your financial situation.
A cash flow forecast is a projection of the money that will come in and go out of your agency's bank account over the next few months. This tool can help you anticipate your cash needs, plan for the future, and make informed decisions about the growth and development of your business.
To create a reliable cash flow forecast, you need to consider several components.
The first is projected sales, which involves analyzing historical sales data and factoring in future marketing efforts, industry trends, and seasonality. This will give you a forward-looking view of your potential revenue.
Another important component is projected expenses, which include fixed monthly costs such as staff salaries, subscriptions, insurance, and rent. It's important to have a firm grip on your cost base and understand what's going through your profit and loss in the future.
To project outgoing payments, you should review invoice payment terms and check with suppliers, service providers, and the bank to understand when payments will leave your account.
For staff salaries, you need to ensure they are paid on time every month, as they are the biggest and most important expense, but also the least flexible. It’s important to factor in the numerous payroll payments you make in any given month, like net pay to staff, PAYE and NI to HMRC, and pension contributions.
Projecting incoming payments involves assessing how likely your clients are to pay on time. For retainer clients, this is usually straightforward, but for one-off pieces of work, you need to consider work in progress and historical client data. You also need to account for delays in payment and late fees. You can have far greater clarity over how long it takes a particular client to pay with a credit control process that scores customers.
The reliability and accuracy of your forecast comes down to communication and good software. Everyone involved needs to understand the importance of their input and work together to ensure the numbers are correct. The accuracy of your forecast depends on numbers flowing between teams and other stakeholders effortlessly, whether they’re an outsourced finance team or internal marketing department.
Finally, it's crucial to update your cash flow forecast regularly - even weekly - to reflect the latest data. A forecast that looked promising two months ago may not hold true today, so it's essential to be proactive and plan accordingly. Luckily, once it’s in place updating it doesn’t take very long, and for your own peace of mind it’s good practice to review it weekly.
By creating a reliable cash flow forecast, you can take control of your agency's finances, make informed decisions about the growth and development of your business, and protect its long-term success.