While a budget is a tool to plan how much money you will spend and make, a cashflow helps you manage when you have money coming in and out. It can help you predict if or when you may run out of money so you can plan to negotiate delayed payment terms to vendors (the people you pay), or ask for a loan from the bank or generous family member or friend.
There are five parts of a cash flow to keep in mind:
1. Opening balance
An opening balance is the money you have on-hand when you start the project. If you haven’t spent or received any money related to your project yet, your opening balance is going to be zero. If you have money leftover from another project, that money may be included in your opening balance. However, if you are producing from your personal bank account and have money in that account, those are your personal funds and should not be included in your cashflow. We are only concerned with the money directly related to the project.
This is the length of time that your project will take place over, from the very beginning of your process to after the final cheques have been received or sent out. You can use the timeline that fits your needs. Some cashflows run monthly, but if your project takes place over a short period of time, a weekly schedule may be more helpful. Be sure to note the weeks when significant events are happening – like rehearsals, performances or important delivery dates. This will help when entering the money coming in and going out.
3. Money coming in
In this section, you want to input all the money you expect to make on the dates when you expect to receive it. You can check your funding contracts to find a payment schedule listed. You may want to adjust the date by a few days to allow for payment. For example, if the payment schedule says that you'll receive $10,000 upon signature of agreement and you sign the agreement on Jun 1, enter $10,000 cash in on Jun 7th to allow for the time it will take for the cheque or payment to be delivered to you. If you’re expecting money to come from box office sales, enter what you expect those sales to be during pre-sales and throughout the run of the show. The total money coming in over time should equal the total budget for the period.
4. Money going out
This is the most complicated part and hardest to predict. This is where you will enter the expenses you expect to pay when you need to pay them. For example, if your opening night is June 1 and you need to put down $1000 deposit on the venue two weeks before the show, you would enter an outflow of $1,000 on May 15th. For small productions, unions may require that you pay them a bond fee in advance (to guarantee that you will pay the actors) and that can be a huge cash drain. Be mindful of contracts you’re signing with your crew and cast and see when they would require payments. Some producers or companies may choose to use a credit card to purchase supplies to allow some flexibility in their cashflow, but be mindful that you may need to pay off a portion of the bill ahead of time if you are reaching your credit card limit and that there is some risk in spending money before it is in your bank account. Make sure that the total of your expenses matches the total costs you’re budgeting for.
5. Ending balance
This line is calculated by adding the opening balance, plus money coming in, less money going out. Your ending balance at the end of the week (or whatever time period you're using) becomes the opening balance of the next week. For example, the ending balance of week one will be the opening balance of week two, and so on. In your first draft of your cash flow, you may find that your ending balance at certain times is negative. If this is the case, look at your costs and if there is a way to move those costs to later in your timeline when you have more money coming in, or look at the possiblities of getting a loan to cover your expenses for that time period. Often, the producer is the last person to be paid, so you might opt to delay your payment until all the final revenue for the project comes in.
Using your cash flow
It's likely that your projected cashflow and actual cashflow will be different. You should track your expenses in your cashflow as you make them, and at some point, update your cashflow based on the expenses and revenues you've had during the project so far. Preparing a cash flow may appear daunting at first, but with more practice and exposure, you'll find it an invaluable tool in your producer's toolkit.
- Download this Excel template to help you create your own Cash Flow: Cash Flow Template* (Preview below)