It's time to get paid!
Creative agencies, regardless of size, are squeezed from both sides to increase top line revenue and improve bottom line margins. All of this while still meeting or exceeding client expectations and delivering on time and within budget. Whew…I’m exhausted just thinking about it and you live and breathe it every day.
Increasing process efficiencies for timesheets, expense management, and invoicing – even by a small increment can positively impact the bottom line. Following are five tips to help you manage expenses and receipts more effectively; giving you better control over billing and a more efficient revenue flow.
1. Track All Time
Similar to the previous blog post, Addressing the Timesheet Cliché In Marketing Agencies, I’ll reiterate the importance of accurate and complete timesheets from everyone in your agency. You can’t get paid faster on work you aren’t getting paid on – lost time is lost revenue.
Make time entry easy for your staff and they will do it (and maybe even thank you for it). Even when you keep it simple, timesheets must be precise in project details.
It may take a cultural shift, but it’s worth it to ensure you have reliable time records that you can bill and get paid on.
2. Timely Expense Reports
Time is money, so the longer expenses sit in your staff’s hands and unbilled, the less money you make on it. Create a process (and by process I do NOT mean a spreadsheet) for staff to create and manage expense reports.
Again - the simpler, the better. Create a foolproof process for your staff to complete all expense reports. Whether it’s weekly, bi-weekly or monthly – create a process and follow it.
Advanced Tip: Evaluate the process at least annually to ensure it is working, and consider any modifications for improvement.
3. Reconcile BEFORE Billing
Every agency is different and some choose to bill based on actuals or estimated expenses. However, it’s imperative to reconcile expenses based on who incurred them and how they were paid. Auditing systems or expense approval workflows should include approvers (manager level) and validation of receipts. Finding errors before billing will save time and keep you from going back to your client with the “Oops, we made a mistake” conversation.
4. Bill Actuals, Not Estimates …and Quickl
Work done – Client happy –
Don’t wait –generate the invoice and send instantly. Quicker billing usually translates into getting paid faster and a healthier cash flow. Ensure expenses reconcile against jobs and are billed automatically - with the applicable markup. Doing this legwork upfront saves time in the long run and provides a more pleasant billing experience for all. (If that’s possible)
5. For Goodness Sake, Use A Tool
It’s 2015 and if your agency is still using spreadsheets to manually track time, calculate expenses or bill clients – you’re working too hard and making a simple process, complicated. Work smarter by automating processes using an agency management tool. This will allow you to track time accurately, capture and reconcile expenses and invoice clients more quickly –enabling you to get paid faster.
Now repeat after me – “I love technology.” Technology is a beautiful thing and automating processes frees up your creative resources to do what they do best – be creative! Increasing efficiencies makes your people more productive and your agency more profitable.
Hopefully these 5 tips provided some insight or at least a reminder on how to get paid faster. Time entry, expense management and invoicing shouldn’t get in the way of doing what your agency was born to do – create and innovate.