Take the Guesswork Out of Your Cashflow

If you are an independent creative, you may struggle with cash flow or have trouble discussing money with clients. I know I certainly did. But one day the lightbulb went on in my head, and it all made sense. I have put together some tactics that really helped me and I hope that they will help you as well.

Lightbulb went on

1. Change from a “bill by the hour” structure to a retainer.
When you bill by the hour and work project by project, you never really know where you next dollar is coming from. This makes it hard to plan and forecast your annual budgets.  A retainer structure will not work for everyone, so you will have to be the judge if this solution is right for you.

If you have clients that treat you as their in-house graphic design team, this is an opportunity to change to a retainer.  It will ultimately still be based on hours, but it will be managed in a better way. The structure would be based on “x” design creative up to a certain number of hours per month.

A retainer is also a great way to build your business into a more sustainable income generator. Moving a client from a single project to a continuous stream of work is a different business model that will take some thought and planning. For example, if a client has hired you to do photography for a specific project, would they also be interested in hiring you on retainer to provide them with new photo content every month for their social channels or to keep their website homepage fresh and new.

2. Tier your programs.

If you are someone who hates to talk about money, and you have trouble telling someone what you are really worth, then this could be the perfect solution for you. Tiered programs take the negotiation out of the quoting process.

This also allows you to be very clear about what is involved with expected results. When a client refuses to tell you their budget, this is the perfect solution because it puts the decision in the client’s court.

An example structure for Social Media Management:
Bronze – $1500: Includes Posting + Reporting (Content provided by client)
Silver – $2400: Includes Content Generation + Posting + Reporting
Gold – $4800: Includes Influencer Collabs + Content Generation + Posting + Reporting

The client now can decide where their budget lands, and what they can expect from a chosen package. More often than not, the client will NOT pick the smallest package because they don’t want to come across as being cheap! You just made your life easier with less stress.


3. Invoice in phases.
If you do have to work by the project rather than by retainer, invoice in phases so that you have money coming in throughout a project. Depending on the size of the project, will depend on the number of phases you will need to create.

For a smaller project you could do a simple phase structure:
50% Deposit before Creative begins
25% at the halfway point of the project
25% at the end of the project

This way even if you have to “chase” a client for final payment it is only 25% rather than all of it. If a potential client is unwilling to pay within this structure, consider that a red-flag and proceed at your own risk!


Implementing even one of these three tactics can have a huge impact on your business and implementing all three is life changing.  Less guesswork and better cash-flow means you can spend your time on what you actually love to do.