When a crisis hits your location, whether it's a natural disaster affecting your county or state or a nationwide emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping cash flow moving is a major concern. Whether you're looking to keep your individual cash resources up or have a small business you're trying to keep afloat, there are many ways you can be proactive and stay financially solvent.
Keeping Cash Flowing During a Crisis
A major concern during a large-scale crisis is how will you be able to pay your bills if the economy is severely affected. The most important thing to remember in these situations is to stay positive, be creative and take immediate action.
Seek Out Federal Government Funding
While this doesn't happen with every crisis, often the government will offer loans and sometimes even grants to help victims to cover their expenses. These usually involve an application process and may be directed to specific individuals or businesses. Contact your local bank and financial advisor about loan programs. For example, during COVID-19 the federal Small Business Administration offered loans for small businesses which are administered by banks. Other sources of potential government funding are FEMA which can provide individual disaster assistance and the USA.gov website which has a page with resources for victims of a disaster.
Research Local and Specialty Loan Programs
Many states offer low-cost loan programs for certain types of disaster situations for small businesses. Sometimes these can be at 0% interest. Check with your state's office of economic development or your state governor's office for information on what might be available. Another great resource for local loan and grant programs is your area's Small Business Development Center and SCORE, which also offers free consulting services. If you are a member of specific group, such as women business owners, there are also often loan programs tailored to your needs.
Ask for Deferred Payments
Another way to keep cash flowing is to look at all of your regular bills is to talk to each company to see if they would be willing to allow you to defer payment for a time until the crisis has passed. If you rent your retail or business space, a landlord might be willing to extend your payment period knowing that you are in a difficult time along with many other people. Likewise, a creditor might be willing to reduce part of a bill. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic many banks such as Bank of America offered deferrals on auto loans and credit cards which could be applicable if you have these in your business name. Some car insurance companies like Allstate, Liberty Mutual and Geico credited customers for their bills as well. While a company may say no, it does not hurt to take the time to email or call and ask for a deferral, thereby leaving more money in your pocket for immediate needs.
Seek Out Discounts
Another option when asking for deferred payments is to see if a business is willing to give you a discounted rate. During the COVID-19 crisis many subscription services for businesses gave discounts to customers, such as one month free, in order to keep them as customers. Examples could be software services, online bookeeping services, or anything that you pay a regular weekly, monthly or annual fee for to use for your business. Contact any company that you have a recurring bill with and explain your circumstances and ask them if there's any possibility of getting a discount. Some companies may offer you a discount if you tell them you can't continue to afford their service and need to cancel.
Pay Bills When They're Due and Not Before
If you have a habit of paying bills as soon as you receive them, you might want to consider waiting as long as possible to pay them, without incurring any fees. For example, if you have 30 days to pay a bill without incurring late fees, waiting until the due date keeps that money in your bank and accessible to you for 30 days, which won't happen if you pay it right away.
Review Your Budget
If you don't have a budget already, now is the time to make one. Make a list of everything you spend money on for your business. You want to check off items that are absolute "must haves" and then look at the remaining items to either do away with them entirely or see if you can cut back. Your goal is to bring your regular required expenditures down as much as possible, freeing up cash for other expenses or just to stretch it out to cover expenses over a longer term. You can also look at line items in your budget to see what could possibly be reduced or combined. In some instances, you might have employees interested in working a reduced schedule if they can keep their benefits, thus saving on payroll and allowing them a reduced workload.
Look Over Your Accounts Receivable
If you run a business and have invoices that are outstanding, contact your customers and explain your situation to see if there's any possibility they could pay right away. Obviously during a crisis it will be a difficult time for you and other businesses that may owe you money, so this may be a harder tactic to employ, unless the accounts that are due are in areas not affected by the turmoil. Another tactic small businesses can use is to invoice immediately rather than waiting to do them, such as at the end of the month. Again you may have limited success with this tactic if these businesses are in the same boat as you. Be tactful and understanding since they are affected as well and follow any guidelines set up by the government if this is during a time of crisis.
Sell Stock On Hand
If you have an inventory of products on hand that are not selling through your regular channels, think up creative ways to move them to bring in some cash. This could be discounting them more than usual and offering a sale to the public or other businesses. You could also look into advertising for sale online if you have not done so already. Setting up an ecommerce website can be done relatively cheaply using WordPress and WooCommerce or you can use a solution like Shopify or even eBay to sell your products. If you don't have the ability to create a site and are low on funds, you may be able to find website designers and developers willing to work on a barter system or to accept a payment plan.
Offer Gift Certificates for Your Service
Businesses that are forced to shut down temporarily can still bring cash in by selling gift certificates for future services. If you don't have a website, you can offer gift certificate sales over the phone and email the buyer a confirmation. If you have a website, there are a few ways to sell gift certificates:
- If you have a WordPress site, you can use You can set gift certificates up easily on your website using the WooCommerce plugin combined with a plugin like YITH WooCommerce Gift Cards or PW WooCommerce Gift Cards.
- Wix sites have an app called Wix Stores that you can use to sell gift cards by creating them as a product (rather than as a gift certificate).
- Squarespace sites can add gift cards to their online stores if you have a premium ecommerce plan.
- If you use Square for your ecommerce payments, they have an eGift card setup you can use.
- You can sell gift cards through your Facebook account using a partnership with Square and Kabbage.
Use an Online Crowdfunding Service
Services like GoFundMe can be used to raise money, though your mileage will vary. The most effective campaigns are ones with a heavy social media plan, so you'll need to do your best to share and promote it everywhere you can. Another option is to set up a Patreon account, asking people to fund your business or service. While Patreon is often used by artists and creative entrepreneurs, you can use it for any type of business or service, just be creative! Some Patreon users offer their funders special perks that other people don't receive, which can induce more people to fund you.
Look for Part-Time Work
This isn't an option for many businesses, but if you're a "solopreneur" running their own business, picking up a part-time job temporarily can help bring in more cash during a crisis time. There are jobs that offer flexibility with night-time and weekend schedules such as food delivery or retail positions. Or you can look for jobs where you can set your own schedule, such as driving for a rideshare service like Lyft or Uber. Another option is to advertise your availability locally on Facebook to your friends and to your neighbors using the Nextdoor app. There may be people who are willing to pay for services like simple yard care, snow removal or even going out and getting groceries for them. Getting a part-time job isn't an ideal option when you already run a business full-time but it is one that some small business owners can do if they have the physical ability to take on extra work.
Look at Your Services Creatively
If you work in a business that cannot operate during a disaster, look for ways that you can alter your regular service offerings. For example, restaurants that were forced to shut down dine-in options during the COVID-19 epidemic pivoted to offering takeout and delivery services. Yoga and fitness instructors who cannot teach in person moved their classes to an online format using Zoom software. Morgan Weber pivoted her pet sitting and dog walking business into a homemade dog treat delivery business, providing her customers with a service that fit her business theme while practicing social distancing. She also developed booklets to sell online and download for clients on fun things they could do with their dog during the quarantine. If you need help to come up with ideas, don't be afraid to reach out to friends, families and past customers and ask them what you can do to help them. Necessity is often the mother of invention!
Keep Your Finances Moving Forward During A Crisis
Living through a natural disaster or pandemic can be deeply stressful and all areas of our lives can be challenged. Taking a proactive approach to keep your finances moving in a positive direction can help you weather a difficult period by ensuring you have the funds to pay for necessities like food, shelter and healthcare. By creating a plan and moving through it step by step, you can lay the groundwork for a better recovery in the future.