Late payments threaten to derail the freelance industry

UK freelancers are increasingly struggling with late invoice payments, with around half admitting they have considered quitting life as a freelancer because of worries over continued late payment, and 46% stressing about having enough cash to live on.

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Our latest research here at Ormsby Street, also reveals that one in ten freelancers have faced difficulties paying their mortgage or rent because of late invoice payment, and many have turned to family (37%) or even payday loans companies (36%) to cover a shortfall brought about by late payment.

While a fortunate 19% of respondents say most of their invoices are always paid on time, a freelancer’s invoices are paid on average 18 and a half days after their due date. At any one time, a freelancer in the UK is owed on average £5,431.03 in late payments and 79% of freelancers say that cash-flow is the number one concern for their business.

“Every freelancer knows that late invoice payment is one of the biggest frustrations, impacting cash-flow and causing much stress, from paying the mortgage to having enough money to live on,” said Martin Campbell, Managing Director, Ormsby Street. “For a freelancer to be owed more than £5,000 is clearly unacceptable and threatens the emerging freelance economy in the UK, which brings flexibility and work / life balance to so many.” 

The Office for National Statistics revealed in 2015 that 4.55 million Britons are now their own boss and research by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) found three in five businesses agree that it would be difficult to operate without hiring freelancers. The Ormsby Street survey of 1,002 freelancers and sole-traders, revealed that 40% of respondents have taken out a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in the last year to chase a bad debt, and more than half say that late invoice payment is getting worse not better.

It remains a problem for many freelancers when it comes to chasing clients over late payment, partly because they do not have the time to spare, but also because of fears this might impact future work with that company.  57% of respondents say they worry that if they chase for payment that client might not use their services again, while two-thirds say they feel uncomfortable and awkward chasing clients for late payment.

“Why should a freelancer waste their own billable hours chasing payment for work that has been successfully completed and is already due for payment,” continued Martin Campbell. “If customers are not willing to pay within the agreed terms then it’s time for freelancers to become more informed over whom they work with, and either ask for payment upfront or even choose to not work with company.”

Special Freelancer rate!

With 49% of freelancers having had to turn down a contract because of concerns over a client’s ability / willingness to pay on time, we’re offering access to CreditHQ for the special freelancer rate of £12.50 for the standard subscription; allowing freelancers to obtain financial insight into every company they trade with. Sign up here to take advantage of this offer

“Freelancing has grown in popularity because of the choice and flexibility it gives people over their career, but its success relies on the prompt payment of invoices, which is not happening enough,” concluded Martin Campbell. “Credit-checking potential customers and partners is straightforward to do and should be done by a freelancer every time they work with someone, to protect themselves against late payment.”

About the research

An online survey of 1,003 freelancers and sole-traders was undertaken by TLF Research in March and April 2016.

CreditHQ, the credit-checking tool built by Ormsby Street, collates credit and trade information from Companies House, Experian and Dun & Bradstreet and presents that information in simple-to-understand credit and payment indicators, so a freelancer can assess which businesses are likely to pay them on time, or after 30 or more days.

Formed in 2014 to take over the operation of the financial data proposition of BCSG, Ormsby Street is developing the next generation of financial data services for small businesses. Its team of high-performing product innovators and software engineers are quietly taking sophisticated financial information and turning it into a next-generation digital tool to help businesses make good decisions about customers, suppliers and themselves.

We’ve been nominated for a Benzinga Award!

Ormsby Street have been chosen as a finalist for this year’s Benzinga Awards – in the ‘leveling the playing field’ category

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The Benzinga Awards (BZ), is a competition to showcase the companies with the most impressive technology, who are paving the future in financial services and capital markets.

Last year’s winners include HedgecoVest who were the overall winner, with Estimize taking first place for best startup.

If you’d like to join in the celebrations in New York on May 24th, click here for full information and details of how to grab your ticket.

Good luck to all the other finalists!

An Egg-cellent offer this Easter week!

The long weekend might be over, but we’re extending our Easter special offer – Access CreditHQ FREE for one month!

Now we’ve hit the second quarter of the year, it’s a great chance to reflect on the first few months of the year and review the businesses with whom you’re trading.

Are your suppliers paying you on time? Might it be time to increase or reduce the amount of credit you’re extending to a particular business? Has your business’ credit and payment score improved and you’d like to show potential customers this?

CreditHQ can help improve your cash-flow and credit management, and ensure you’re working with the companies that are best for your business. If you know you want to work with a particular business but know in advance that they’re not likely to pay you until 45 days, you can plan accordingly and make sure you’ve got enough cash in the meantime for other purposes.

So this Easter, we’re offering you access to CreditHQ’s Standard subscription free of charge for one month! Simply enter the code EASTERHQ16 in the voucher code box*.

You’ll need to enter your card details, but don’t worry –  we won’t charge you a penny for 30 days (and if you find you’re not using CreditHQ, simply cancel anytime within the first month to avoid the £25 monthly subscription fee).

So hop to www.credithq.co.uk and start checking out the best businesses you should be working with!

*voucher code valid until 30 April.

Play our Business Match game this Valentine’s Day!

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, do you know who’s your perfect match when it comes to running your business?

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Could Paws for Thought be your perfect business match?

Check out our new Business Match game and sign up to CreditHQ this February for only £15 per month PLUS, we’re giving all new Standard subscribers a box of chocolates plus entering all new subscribers into a draw to win a meal for two at the fabulous Resident of Paradise Row in east London (or if you can’t make it to the big smoke, we’ll give you the equivalent in vouchers for a great national restaurant).

So head over to www.credithq.co.uk/businessmatch  to take advantage of this great offer and make sure you’ve found the perfect business to trade with. And good luck!

3 lessons I’ve learnt from 20 years in Small Business

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It would be easy to think – amid today’s hype about digital products and Software as a Service’s disruption of so many industries by startups – that the business world has changed a lot over the 20 years that have elapsed since I penned my first proposal in response to the tentative phone call: “We’ve heard about the world wide web and we think we need one, can you help?” With so much ink spilled over what’s changed over those two decades, I’m surprised at how often I’m reminded of how much has stayed the same. Over my time as a small business leader, there have been three lessons which I learned early, but then had to learn again and again. I set them out here to remind you too.

Lesson 1: The customer isn’t buying your product or service. In startup circles it’s very fashionable to talk about how the customer is paying to solve a problem, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. There are so many ways a customer could solve a given problem, that when they choose to do so by buying your solution, it’s crucial to understand why. It’s almost certain that your product or service wasn’t the only option, so what made them buy from you? Was it the safety and security they get from your reputation, or was it the reputation for innovation that they get from buying “the next big thing”? Are they really buying the product? Or are they trialling it for one of their departments should the rest of the organisation go a different way? Getting to the heart of why customers buy from you is absolutely essential for effective selling.

Lesson 2: You’re not selling your product or service. Depending on how you pitch and deliver your product, you might be selling the promise of repeating the experience that another customer had, or you might be selling something that you are confident you can deliver but that’s not 100 per cent rock solid yet. Or maybe you’re selling the value that you built on the foundations provided by someone else. Whichever it is, your business success depends on understanding how your view matches (or doesn’t match) your customers’, and how your business really works.

Lesson 3: Business relationships are complicated. It’s easy as a small business to work simply: we provide a service, you buy a service, the service gets delivered, the bill gets paid. If you’re selling buns in a market, you might just have a business which is that simple (though it’s not as simple as it sounds!), but if you’re selling to businesses, then it’s more likely that your customer needs your product for a number of reasons, and has various individuals with different political outlooks and different objectives. Your own team will also have various strengths, weaknesses and disagreements about how best to deliver, though various factors can change, like the economy, circumstances and requirements from your relationships. On top of this, your customer’s finance department may seem to be working to some sort of 19th century timetable, where they have until next harvest to pay your bill!

So how do you learn the lessons?

Clear brands, product descriptions and contracts are hard work to create, but worth every penny because your customers can understand you better.

Clear internal procedures and industry standard roles help your team to move fast and do the right thing even when the unexpected happens (come on – you know it will!).

Finally, trust that everything’s going to be OK, and then make sure that it is – monitor your customers’ credit scores and payment performances and don’t accept any excuses for late payment!

by Martin Campbell

New CreditHQ partnership with The Formations Company, aims to address the growing problem of late payment to small businesses

Small business founders registering their business with The Formations Company, will now be offered access to CreditHQ when they form their new companies, allowing them to check the financial health of the suppliers and customers they invoice, and know whether those trading partners are likely to pay on time.

“Late invoice payment is one of the biggest reasons for the cash-flow issues that many small businesses are facing in 2015,” said Martin Campbell, Managing Director, Ormsby Street. “But most small businesses don’t think to check on the financial health of a customer or supplier. Making CreditHQ available to customers of The Formations Company not only provides an easy way to check this but will also recommend whether a company is likely to pay on time or not.”

The Formations Company is the most cost-effective way for a new business to form and has helped more than 100,000 UK small businesses form since its launch in 2009. It offers a range of extra services from a free consultation with an accountant or web developer to £25 free credit for business cards and stationary. The addition of CreditHQ to this suite of services looks to protect small businesses from late invoice payment and the cash-flow issues that can bring.

CreditHQ uses data from seven million company records to check credit status and general financial health, and uses a traffic light system to advise small businesses whether a company is likely to pay them on time. It also provides regular updates on credit ratings, so a small business will be kept abreast of any changes in a customer’s ability to pay. 

“Forming a business can be bewildering, so we want to provide our customers with the very best services and tools to help them as they start their business journey,” said Piers Chead, CEO, The Formations Company. “CreditHQ absolutely falls into that category. Late payment of invoices is a major issue for SMEs, so a free tool that enables them to check the financial health of potential clients before beginning work with them will be invaluable.”

For more information, or if you’re ready to set up your limited company: https://www.theformationscompany.com/

At Amazon, it’s all about cash flow – and what they can get away with…

Amazon is well known for rapid growth but relatively low profit – its founder Jeff Bezos famously asking shareholders to sacrifice this year’s profits in order to invest in long-term customer loyalty and product opportunities that will create bigger profits next year and for years to come.

But the real story behind Amazon’s ongoing growth is shown not so much by its profits, which dipped in 2012 after a few years of growth and have yet to return to 2010 levels, but by its cash flow.

Every small business knows that “cash is king” but it’s somewhat of a surprise to see larger companies paying quite so much attention to it as amazon clearly do.

Amazon’s Cash Flow vs Profit – (C) HBR Blog

Amazon’s strategy hasn’t been about profit, it’s been about growth, and the reason that amazon has been able to grow so dramatically into many different areas in recent years is that they have the operating cash flow to do it.  I’d recommend the HBR article for the details, but long story short?  Amazon, just like a small business, have held profits low by reinvesting much of their free cash in growth – and have boosted the availability of that free cash.

With such a strong position in the minds of customers, Amazon are using their ability to shift a high volume of product to negotiate very long payment terms with their suppliers.  As a growing profitable company, their credit is good of course, so in return for access to volume (and many other benefits) suppliers are putting up with very long payment terms – quite simply it’s worth it.

Can your business start the virtuous circle that Amazon have found?  Good cash flow fuelling growth, fuelling good credit, fuelling good cash flow? Or are you extending credit where credit’s not really due?

It might be time to take a leaf out of Amazon’s book.

Or at least some reading from the excellent HBR.BLOG