Managing Cash Flow as a Contractor: Tips and Tricks
There is no question that one of the hardest industries for managing cash flow is the contracting business. Whether you are a construction business or an independent contractor of another kind, there are common mistakes that you may be making that hamper your cash flow. Check out these tips and tricks if you are a contractor who wants to maximize your cash flow and keep your business running smoothly.
Importance of Budgeting
One of the first tips provided by a South Jersey accountant is to create a workable, manageable budget and stick to it in order to protect cash flow. With the right budget, you can see where your money is going, identify areas where you can reduce spending as well as areas where income may be increased. Independent contractor accounting services recommend that contractors create a budget for the next 18 to 24 months with a fluid cash flow model for the next six to a year.
By monitoring cash flow for those months, you will be able to identify periods when cash is limited, whether it is because business is slower due to inclement weather or there is a lull between projects. Not only will you be able to identify slower months, it will also allow you to identify months when cash is flowing more freely and allow you to adjust spending so you are able to hold onto some of that cash for the leaner months.
Contracting is often described as “feast or famine” where you have periods of the year when business is booming and others when there is little work coming in. For example, if you are a roofing contractor, you may have several months in the winter when there is little to no work. During the spring and summer, there may be days of zero rest. When you create your budget, you want to look at about six months of expenses and income. Total the amounts and divide by six to get a monthly average. Whenever your income exceeds what you budgeted, put the difference into savings. When you hit those lean times, you can use savings to carry you through if necessary.
Cash Flow by Project
Another tip offered by small business accounting services is to monitor cash flow by project. To do this, you will need to determine the time frame for the project that includes when each aspect of it will be completed, when you must disburse payments and when you have to bill the owner. This will help you accelerate receipts and realize a better cash flow from each project. Keep in mind for this method to work, you will need timely collection and billing processes, methods for disbursing payments and accurate scheduling. You can also ask for upfront deposits for long-term projects in order to keep your cash flow stable, small business accounting services recommend.
Avoid Low Revenue Projects and Underbidding
Too often, contractors are guilty of taking projects that will yield low revenue, especially when business is slow. In competitive markets, it is also tempting to underbid just to get the job. A South Jersey accountant advises against those options as they can include a significant amount of risk. Every bid issued should reflect your expertise, past performance and safety record as well as the technology you have invested in, your ability to meet deadlines and other qualifications that will encourage customers to choose you over another company.
When it comes to taxes, you want to pay what you owe, but there is no reason to pay more than what you must pay. Tax codes have many deductions and some are designed specifically with contractors in mind. This is where independent contractor accounting services can be very beneficial as they can identify many tax savings that the average person is unaware exist. Look at any fixed assets you plan to purchase in the future to see if it might be more beneficial to purchase in this tax year to recover some of the costs in tax deductions. In this industry, many owners overlook fuel credit for use off-highway, research and development for improving a process or the deduction for creating energy-efficient buildings by installing upgraded HVAC, lighting and other features, according to a South Jersey accountant.
Living Better with Technology
Have you been putting off technological advancements because your cash flow is tight? You may think this is helping, but it could actually be having a negative impact on your budget. There are many types of software today that can actually save you time which, in turn, saves you money. This means that outlaying funds for updated technology can actually improve your cash flow rather than reduce it. Independent contractor accounting service experts also say that technology can reduce human error and help your company run more efficiently.
Although it may not seem to have an impact on cash flow, TMD Accounting, a South Jersey accountant explains that putting a plan in place for when you are no longer the owner is critical to the success of your business. It is one of the most important steps to creating a financially sound company. Not only will it make you rest easy that your company will continue after you have retired or passed on, it will indicate to employees that you intend to stay in business. This can help with employee retention while also helping promote investment in the future of your business.
Need Help Managing Your Cash Flow?
If you are struggling to manage the cash flow in your contracting business, contact TMD Accounting today to see how our friendly team can help. You can reach us by calling 1-856-228-2205 or filling out the easy online form. With 40 years’ experience, we live by our motto: “where numbers matter and people count.”