Everything You Need to Know about Invoice Factoring
You've probably heard about invoice factoring, but like many business owners you may not be entirely sure how it works or whether it could help your own business. In this article we'll try to answer all your questions about what invoice factoring is, how it works, and whether it could help you grow your business.The following definition of invoice factoring may sound too good to be true, but let's look anyway! “Invoice factoring is a viable alternative to bank financing and other traditional types of financing, but it's not a debt, and there are no strings attached."" For anyone who's approached traditional lending sources for financing and been refused or left hanging for weeks or months, yes, this probably does sound too good to be true, but it's actually not! Invoice factoring can provide the working capital you need to help your business grow and prosper, so read on then decide for yourself.
How Invoice Factoring Works
With invoice factoring you no longer need to wait 60, 90, or even 120 days to receive payment from your customers, because invoice factoring converts these invoices into immediate cash in-hand. It's up to you to determine which invoices, and how many invoices, you wish to factor, following this simple process –
- Once you've been accepted for invoice factoring by your factoring company, you can begin submitting your unpaid invoices. These invoices must be for products that have been delivered or work that's been completed. The process to follow is to fax or email a copy of the invoice directly to the factor, while at the same time invoicing your customer as usual.- Within 24 hours you'll receive a cash advance from your factoring company. Your invoices will be verified by the factor and you'll receive a cash advance of up to 95% of the invoice, which will be paid directly into your bank account.- Now that you've received this cash advance, you continue on with your work while the factoring company works to collect on the invoice on your behalf. Your factor will be highly experienced in collecting on invoices, thus allowing you to do what you do best, which is to continue providing excellent customer service and focusing on other important aspects of growing your business.- It's entirely up to you how many invoices you factor and how many clients you choose for the factoring process. You may decide to factor all your invoices, or it may be that you have one client that's always late in paying and you'd prefer the factoring company to only collect on that one invoice. It's your decision!
The Benefits of Invoice Factoring
The major benefit of invoice factoring is that, as the business owner, you're controlling your cash flow. Of course, there are other advantages of using a factoring company which can help your business grow and prosper.
No. 1: Your Factoring Company Will Provide Background and Credit Verification
It's very important to the viability of your business that you work with reliable customers in fact, it's the only way to turn your sales into revenues and to develop a solid payment history. But, we all know just how expensive it can be to run background and credit checks, and this simple exercise can dig deep into your working capital.
No problem! These checks will be provided to you by your invoice factoring company at no additional charge to you, which will provide reassurance that you are in fact working with quality customers. It also means that any issues that may arise can be addressed before they negatively affect your company.
No. 2: Your Factoring Company Can Assist with Credit Building and Repair
Perhaps your business credit is not ideal, but the good news is that you could still qualify for an invoice factoring program. The benefit of invoice factoring for a business with less-than-perfect credit is that, not only will you have available cash to meet your daily operating costs, you'll also be able to rebuild your credit rating by paying down current debt. Factoring companies are also well-equipped to assist start-ups, so if you're just getting your business up-and-running, invoice factoring is the perfect way to maintain regular cash flow.
No. 3: Invoice Factoring Opens Your Business to Great Money-Saving Opportunities
With invoice factoring, your business can utilize this rejuvenated cash flow to not only save money by offering competitive rates, but you'll now be able to negotiate early pay discounts and other incentives with your suppliers. And, depending on how many invoices you decide to factor, you could eventually qualify for a reduction in rates by receiving a volume discount.
No. 4: Invoice Factoring Provides Steady Cash Flow
In order for any business to grow and prosper it's vitally important to have a steady cash flow. And that's the beauty of invoice factoring: instead of late-paying customers controlling cash flow, the business owner regains control of the working capital. Perhaps you're simply tired of waiting for invoices to be paid, or maybe you're in an industry with seasonal fluctuations; whatever the reason you're struggling with cash flow, invoice factoring can help you regulate and take control of your business once again.
No. 5: Invoice Factoring Allows You to Dream Big Again!
Having a steady business is one thing, but having a growing business is what every business owner dreams of. Now that you've been accepted for invoice factoring and you have a steady cash flow, there are many ways you can use this cash to grow your business.
- You can increase your marketing efforts and get your name out there;
- You can negotiate bigger and better contracts with bigger clients;
- You can invest in technology upgrades;
- You can employ experienced personnel, or provide training programs for existing staff;
- You can upgrade or replace outdated equipment; and
- You can relocate your business or invest in expansion.
No. 6: Invoice Factoring Is Not a Debt to Your Business
It's very important to note that invoice factoring is not a debt, so there will be no more debt added to your balance sheet. In fact, it's exactly the opposite, because invoice factoring provides cash in-hand, so you can pay off old debts. The money is already yours, so there's no money to pay back or interest to add on. All invoice factoring does is get money that's owed to you into your bank account - faster.
I've Never Heard of Invoice Factoring
Many businesses know very little, or nothing at all, about invoice factoring, which is strange because invoice factoring is certainly not new. Perhaps it's because we typically think of bank loans and other traditional types of lending when looking to grow our business; however, factoring goes right back to the Roman Empire. Back then, businessmen, particularly farmers, used factors to grow their business, and in more modern times factoring was used to finance transactions in the clothing and textile industry, helping businesses accept larger purchase orders and pay for raw materials. Today, invoice factoring is used by almost every industry you can think of, like –- Construction
- Staffing, HR
- Media and Marketing.
Understanding the Language of Invoice Factoring
Invoice factoring does appear to have its own language, so let's clarify some of the terminology –
- Your customers are known as Account Debtors.
- The report showing the total amount of unpaid receivables in addition to the amount of time they've remained unpaid is known as an Accounts Receivable Ageing Report.
- The two terms Invoice Factoring and Accounts Receivable Factoring can be used interchangeably because they mean the same thing.
- The percentage of the invoice charged by the factor as a fee for advancing funds is known as the Discount Rate.
- When your factor conducts background research to assess potential customers this is known as Due Diligence.
- The cash that's advanced to the business, typically within 24 hours and usually ranging between 80% and 95% of the total invoice amount, is known as the Factoring Advance Rate.
- The third party who connects a business with the right factoring company, to meet their business goals and needs is known as a Factoring Broker.
- The right to maintain possession of property until such time as a debt has been discharged is known as a Lien.
- It can occur that a customer fails to pay their invoice on time, or they may never pay their invoice. Non-Recourse Funding is where the factor assumes full responsibility for funds lost. Because the factoring company accepts this responsibility, non-recourse funding is therefore more expensive.- With Recourse Funding, your business will be required to buy back the receivables if your client fails to pay within the agreed-upon terms.
- The amount of money withheld by the factor until full payment has been received from your customer is known as the Reserve.
- Staffing companies may choose to enter a one-time agreement in order to factor a single invoice. This is known as Spot Factoring.
How Does Invoice Factoring Affect Your Customers?
It's important to point out here that your factoring company is not a collection agency and that factoring is not a bad thing. The aim of your factoring company is to maintain a good working relationship with both you and your customers, which means that your customers will receive great customer service. Both you and your factoring company have one common goal, and that is to ensure the payment process of your invoices is as seamless as possible. See below for how factoring typically works –
- You've decided to start factoring, so the first step is for your Account Manager to verify with your debtors that they are indeed your customers and to inform them of a change of address for remittances.
- Your customers must pay their invoices anyway, so a change of remittance address should not affect them in any way.
- Your account manager is a professional when it comes to collecting on invoices, so they will simply advise your clients that they will be managing your invoices in future and taking over your accounts receivable.
- And that's all there is to it! Nothing should change between you and your customers. They'll still receive an invoice from you; but their payment will now be sent to a new Post Office box. Your Account Manager will always be on hand to resolve any issues that may arise.
How Do I Choose the Right Invoice Factoring Company for My Business?
When you start looking for factoring companies you'll discover that there are many different companies out there, but they're certainly not all the same.
When making comparisons we suggest you consider the following points –
1: Factoring Fees
It's true that factoring fees can be more expensive than traditional bank loans, but sometimes the decision businesses are faced with is to simply have access to some working capital or have no working capital at all. What should you be aware of? You need to know the overall factoring cost, in addition to any smaller (or hidden) fees your factor may charge. These fees might include –
- Account Setup Fees
- Application Costs
- Credit Reports
- Costs to Research Liens
- Money Transfer Fees, or
- Last-Minute Funding.
Choose a factor that you believe you can trust and one that you feel completely comfortable with; because you're also looking for great customer service. Remember also that factors may charge for different things, and there may be hidden fees.
2: You Need Flexibility, so Carefully Check Your Proposed Contract
It's very important that you carefully read the fine print of your contract, prior to signing on the dotted line. It would be so disappointing to sign a factoring contract only to realize that you didn't completely understand the terms and now you're locked into a contract that's not clear on how the factoring company charges or how many invoices you can factor per month - or even worse - that you're now legally bound to this factoring company for the long term. Yes, long-term factoring contracts do exist, but be prepared to pay a lot of money if you try and break the contract. Make sure you know exactly how long you're signing up for, which of your clients are eligible for factoring, and how much per month you can factor.
3: With Invoice Factoring, Communication Is Key
Great customer service is very important with any business, and the most important part of great customer service is good and easy communication. And now we're talking about dealing with a company that's handling your money, so you can see how important good communication is! The last thing you need from a factoring company who's handling your money is being forced to wait for days for someone to respond to your phone call or email communication. Any factoring company you talk to is going to say their communication and customer service is really great - but be very cautious. How well did your potential factoring company respond to your initial queries? Then ask yourself: is that how you'd want them to deal with your customers? Remember there are plenty of factoring companies out there, so if the answer to these questions is not an unequivocal ‘yes', then find someone else.
4: Look for a Factoring Company That Has Industry Expertise
Yes, there are factoring companies out there that cover general factoring, but ideally, you'll choose someone who specializes in your own industry; someone who has a good working knowledge of the type of business you're running. Once you start looking for the right factoring company for your business you'll see that there are many factoring companies that specialize in specific industries, which means they already know a lot about your business model. And, if they have a lot of expertise, they'll probably be able to offer specific programs that relate to your industry, like fuel cards, or back-office support. These little extras can be just what you need when deciding whether or not to factor your invoices.