Cash flow is king when you’re contracting, self-employed or running a successful small business. Here’s where you’ll find information on how to get it right.
Forecasting when money will come in and out will help you plan for the future. Being able to predict peaks and troughs helps you avoid financial difficulties.
It’s also a vital business planning tool. Use cash flow forecasts to plan for expansion and growth without overstretching your resources.
A cash flow forecast is in essence a cashbook that projects you or your business’s income and outgoings for any given period in the future, eg week, month, quarter or financial year.
For each period, it lists:
It’s typically presented as a spreadsheet, but many contractors, sole traders and small businesses use accounting software and work with their accountants or bookkeepers to ensure greater accuracy.
A cash flow forecast is only as valuable as the information and detail put into it.
These will help you more accurately predict future ebbs and flows.
This needs careful thought. You’ll have to make an informed judgement call on how much income you think you’ll generate.
Include three variations of your predicted income:
You’ll be better prepared for different scenarios — and if you’re seeking capital, you can show investors and bank managers you’re not just planning for the best-case scenario.
It includes other sources of money, eg cash injections from bank loans, interest on savings and income from investments.
Use your past financial data to help predict your future income.
Include any expected bumps or hits to your income, eg periods of growth and investment, marketing drives, or holiday periods.
Those new to business won’t have long-term existing sales data to go on — but you can still make informed predictions using benchmarking data and expert advice.
Annual enterprise survey(external link) — Stats NZ
Industry benchmark figures(external link) — Inland Revenue
If you’re new to contracting, you may have trouble getting a feel for what rates to charge. You can find tips on how to do this on this website.
Longer forecasts will help plan strategic activities — and highlight if you need to step up sales or get more funding.
The more detail, the better.
Drill into as many bills and expenses as possible, including everything from petty cash to winter heating bills.
If you’ve been in business for some time, look back over your past outgoings.
If you’re new to business or working as a sole trader or contractor, add up all the potentials costs of getting started and your ongoing costs.
Speak to your accountant to make sure your list of outgoings is as definitive as possible.
Cash flow is an indicator of your business’s financial health. Forecasting your cash flow helps you have better conversations with your bank or advisor.
Cash flow forecasts are an important tool for all stages of contracting, being a sole trader or in business.
You can use forecasts to: