11 Ways to Manage Your Money as an Entrepreneur

One of the biggest challenges that we faced in our early years as entrepreneurs was getting used to the idea of uncertain and irregular cash flow.

Before we started Content Bistro, both Prerna and I were working in the corporate world and were used to steady incomes at the end of the month.

Everything had a set pattern to it when it came to finances, we knew how much to allocate for tax, household expenses, entertainment, fuel, shopping needs etc. We knew how much time it would take for us to save for the next vacation.

All of this changed when we turned Entrepreneurs.

In the first few months of us starting out as entrepreneurs we often had to dig into savings to pay rent and manage household expenses. We even sold our second car to help us sustain financially for a few months.

The uncertain flow of funds was quite difficult to get used to.

Hours and hours of hard work and learning new skills helped us finish the first year with enough to start depending on our business for all our financial needs and also to start putting something back into the business to build and grow it.

Five years down the line we have a completely different mindset when it comes to our finances.

The uncertain cash flow remains but we make this uncertainty work for us and feed our goals.

Here’s how we changed our mindset to grow our business and meet our life goals with an uncertain flow of money

1.  Starting without Startup Capital

Every business needs to invest reasonable sums of money to get things started.

RIGHT?

WRONG!

We didn’t have even a thousand dollars to invest in our business the year we started. We believed that even though we didn’t have money to invest,  we could invest our time to build our business. And that’s what we did.

We learned to do most of the business-related tasks ourselves and the willingness to do things the “DIY” way helped the ship sailing. In fact, in the first year, our business expenses were just a few hundred dollars.

So, you can start and even sustain a business without having to pump a lot of money into it.

2. Create and Replenish Your Cash Flow

Cash flow is critical even for a service-based business like ours where expenses are relatively less.

It’s the lifeblood of any business.

We keep a few thousand dollars aside at the start of the year in a separate bank account and that is where we make all our business and even household expenses from.

This “saved-up fund” has enough to cover us for 3 months so even when we have lean months as all businesses have… we don’t have to worry about making payments or to cut down on expenses.

We replenish it from time to time so that the “fund” always has 2-3 months worth of “essentials spend” money.

3. Use Credit Cards to Your Advantage

We don’t do debt BUT we make 90% of our business expenses on credit cards.

HOWEVER…

The last time we paid interest charges on our cards was way back in 2007 :).

Irrespective of the pay by the date we pay all our cards in full on the 30th to keep finances simple and start the new month with a clean slate.

We follow a simple Earn First. Spend Later rule.

So, if we plan to take a business-related training to help us learn a skill in June we will save for it by May and only then charge it to the card. Same goes for personal expenses.

For instance, we are traveling to Hong Kong in July, and since it’s going to be a relatively big expense we broke it down into three phases, we saved and bought the tickets in March, we are booking hotels and tickets to Disneyland and other attractions this month and in June we will get the foreign currency for our travel.

10 ways to manage cash flow as Entrepreneurs when you don’t always have a steady income.

Even though we saved for all these things we still charge them to our card since the rewards in the form of miles/cashback really add up at the end of the year. Also, making these purchases online helps you get some great deals and save quite a bit.

4. Set Aggressive Goals

We link our earning goals with life goals. So, since we were saving for this trip we planned product launches, specials and new offerings to feed the travel.

Aggressive goals also help us stay out of debt since we save first and then pay for any business or personal expenses.

Prerna linked her goal of upgrading to a new Mac to closing X number of sales for the special that we ran in February.

10 ways to manage cash flow as Entrepreneurs when you don’t always have a steady income.

5. Focus on Your Lifestyle

There was a time in year 3 of our business when money was flowing in blessedly and we succumbed to the temptation of thinking we needed to upgrade on everything.

We started to splurge on bigger and better hotels while traveling, eating at fine dining restaurants, buying clothes we didn’t really need.

Then came a couple of lean months as they always do and we were in for a rude shock.

Reality bites, anyone? 😉

We had saved almost the same amount that we did in the previous year even though our income had doubled.

THIS wake-up call encouraged us to go back to the basics and defined what really mattered to us and tailored our lifestyle accordingly.

We learned that your lifestyle should reflect who you are and not necessarily how much you earn.

6. Do Not Mix Personal and Business Spends

We keep separate budgets for our business and personal expenses and also track the spending down meticulously.

We try not to make unplanned spending in both areas in the same month. For instance, around the holiday season, we try and keep a check on any unplanned business expenses since it’s already an expensive month on the household front.

7. Always Focus on Growing Your Business

Business is changing rapidly these days with changes in technology and as a business owner, one needs to grow/upskill to stay relevant in the market.

We budget a certain amount only for learning new skills every few months and constantly keep up-leveling to stay relevant and also tap newer sources of income.

8. Track and Manage your Funds in Great Detail

What you don’t spend, you save.

We track all our expenses in detail and are not shy of reaching out whenever we need to cancel a subscription or service even for a couple of months if it’s not getting utilized.

We focus on our Net Income and there are only two ways to maximize that. Again… Earn More OR Spend Less.

9. Rethink Payment Terms

Like a lot of fellow entrepreneurs,  we’ve also burnt our fingers by working without an advance and at the end not getting paid.

After the first year, we decided to work only on a 50% advance basis and soon that became 100% advance.

Surprisingly, of the 150 odd clients that we’ve worked with only a few have had apprehensions with paying completely in advance.

Once they spoke to some of our former clients and references the decision became much easier for them.

There’s a big benefit in rethinking payment terms since it makes a huge difference to the cash flow.

10. Start With a Clean Slate Every Month

At the end of the month, we look at the money left after all our expenses and divide the money into different categories like savings, funds for travel, gadgets, medical, biz development etc.

This helps us start the new month afresh and also gives us the drive to meet our target for that month and keep moving towards our year-end goals.

11. Being Frugal is not Cheap

That’s right! We believe in being frugal with our business and our lives.

BUT…

We do splurge on certain aspects of our lives {essential oils, travel, books & journals, food} and business {learning new skills, tools} but keeping costs low always helps the bottom line.

10 ways to manage cash flow as Entrepreneurs when you don’t always have a steady income.

There you go.

These are the 11 simple yet effective ways we’ve learnt to meet our life and business goals with an uncertain income. Do you struggle with this or do you have it nailed? Share with us… how do you make the ebb and flow of an entrepreneurial income work for YOU?