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All companies and businesses struggle with cash flow at some point. Whether it's a home-based web business or a national company, there are times when there is no cash on hand — everything is tied up in investments, pending payments, and salaries. If you want to improve your small business cash flow, here are five things you should consider doing:

1. Investigate loan options. Sometimes, you'll just need a loan to help you get through a financially difficult time. Consult a lender network to see if you are eligible for a small business loan. A good loan will help you to cover the holes in your budget and will ensure that you can purchase equipment, materials or stock to tide you over through peak season. There just isn't always going to be enough cash on hand for those large orders, but you need to make those orders if you want to capitalize on the best times of the year for sales.

If necessary, you should look into your best loan options. You may not like to operate using loans, but the truth is that a loan can help you to expand your business, and you'll have cash on hand should you need it. You never know when you'll need a bit of a helping hand in terms of increased cash flow, and you should know your loan options. Also, join the loan referral program to earn incentives.

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2. Offer incentives for early payments. Many clients will jump at a chance to receive a 10 per cent or 20 per cent discount if they pay for their order early, as it will save them a lot of money — while providing you with much needed liquidity. You may not be able to afford such huge discounts for early payments, but it's definitely worth offering an incentive of some sort to customers that pay early. Offer lines of credit for reliable customers, or give them as large a discount as you can. If you do, they will be much more likely to pay early in the future.

3. Pay bills when they're due. You may be tempted to pay bills immediately, as it will get them out of the way. However, you may end up needing the money that you'd spend to pay the bill, so it's recommended to wait until you actually need to pay the bill to do so. It may be a bit discomfiting to wait until the last day or two to pay bills, but it will ensure that you do have cash on hand should another expense arise. Electronic banking will make it much easier for you to pay bills within the last few days of their being due, and you won't need to go to the bank at all if you set your account to automatically transfer the money on the day that it needs to be paid.

4. Plan for seasonal changes. For some companies, Christmas, summer vacation, and holidays are the slowest time of the year, while those are peak season for other companies. If you want to ensure that you always have cash on hand, plan for the seasons that will be great for sales — as well as for the low seasons. If you know that certain months of the year are a bit tight when it comes to sales and income, put aside money each month to tide you over during the low season.

5. Invoice promptly. Many clients prefer to wait 30 to 60 days after receiving an invoice to make payments, which means that you're already going to have to wait to get paid. It's important that you send out invoices promptly to your clients, as that will shorten the period between making the sale and receiving the needed income. Always collect on receivables, and make sure that your accounting department is tracking all invoices and pending payments that are due. Make sure to follow up with customers that are having a hard time paying for the invoices. If they haven't paid, it may be simply because they forgot to do so!

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