While landing a big deal might sound amazing for your business, if you don’t have the funds available to support production, you’ll stretch yourself too thin. It’s not uncommon for companies to have large sums of accounts receivable invoices that aren’t accessible. The business must meet its obligations and collect the money from the business before that revenue is actually recognized. Fortunately, there are options for businesses to access some of the money that’s wrapped up in unpaid invoices—and invoice factoring is one of these options. Learn more about invoice factoring below. What is invoice factoring? Invoice factoring is a process that enables businesses to get immediate cash by selling their outstanding invoices. When a business issues an invoice to a customer, it may take up to 90 days for the customer to pay. With invoice factoring, a factoring business can purchase the invoice, pay the business for it, and then collect the payment from the customer. This way, the business gets the funds it needs without having to wait for the customer to pay, and only pays a small fee to the factoring company for the service. How does invoice factoring work? Let's delve into the nuts and bolts of how invoice factoring actually functions in the business world. Invoice generation - The first step of invoice factoring starts with your business generating and issuing invoices after delivering products or services to your customers. Selling the invoice: - Next, instead of waiting for your customer to fulfill the invoice payment, you sell your invoice to a factoring company. Factoring company pays - The factoring company reviews the invoice and if approved, pays you a significant percentage (typically 70% to 90%) of the invoice value immediately. Customer payment - The factoring company then takes over the collection process. Your customer is informed about the new payment arrangement, and they will pay the invoice directly to the factoring company. Receiving the remaining balance - Once the customer pays the invoice in full to the factoring company, you'll receive the remaining balance of the invoice, minus the factoring fee. It's essential to note that the process can vary between different factoring companies. Always make sure to understand the terms and conditions before engaging in invoice factoring. Factoring example Let's consider a practical example to better understand the concept of invoice factoring: Suppose you run a wholesale business, and you have issued an invoice of $10,000 to a supermarket. The payment terms are net 90 days, but you need the funds immediately to restock your inventory. Instead of waiting for the supermarket to pay the invoice, you decide to use a factoring company. You approach a factoring company and sell them your invoice. The factoring company reviews the invoice and agrees to buy it. They pay you 80% of the invoice amount up front, which is $8,000. This allows you to restock your inventory and continue operating your business smoothly. Once the supermarket pays the invoice, the factoring company receives the full $10,000. The factoring company then sends you the remaining 20% of the invoice ($2,000), but deducts a 3% factoring fee. So, you receive $1,700 ($2,000 - 3% of $10,000). In the end, you received $9,700 of the $10,000 invoice and paid $300 for the factoring service, which enabled you to keep your business running without any cash flow problems during the 90 days you would have otherwise been waiting for payment. How much does factoring invoices cost? An important consideration when deciding whether a factoring loan is a good choice is the lender fee. While some factoring companies will charge small fees to buy your invoice (around 3%) others can take out larger amounts, ranging from 10% to 15%. In high-risk cases or when you’re working with predatory firms, they might take out 30% of the total invoice as their processing fee. As a business owner, you need to decide how much you can afford for invoice factoring. At what point will the fees related to the invoice purchase cut too deeply into your profit margins? By seeking the funds immediately instead of waiting for the invoice to get paid, you could end up losing more profits and limiting your growth. Is factoring invoices a good idea? Like all financial decisions, there are pros and cons of opting for invoice factoring. Some of the benefits or drawbacks might weigh heavier on your business, depending on your current situation. Pros Lenders are less concerned about your credit score and company history. This could be a viable option if your business has poor credit or is just starting out. Instead, the lender focuses on the invoice itself and its likelihood of getting paid. Your invoice will get paid quickly. You will receive the cash in seven to 10 days in most cases, giving you a boost to your cash flow to cover operating expenses. You can return to the lender frequently, as you don’t have to worry about requalifying after your invoice gets paid. If you have another invoice that you want to be cashed, you can approach the factoring company a few days later. You don’t need collateral. Your assets aren’t at risk because the lender doesn’t care as much about your company—they’re only focused on the invoice. Cons The fees can be expensive and will eat away at your profit margins. In the worst-case scenario, you could lose money on the invoice because of the fees. Invoice factoring is typically for B2B companies. If your business works primarily with individuals, you may have a harder time getting funded. Your customer relationship might be at risk. The factoring company will deal with the invoice collection process after they buy it from you. If the company is aggressive and unethical, your customers might not want to work with you again as a result. Your customers could derail your financing. If your customers have a history of late payments or poor credit, then the factoring business might not want to cover your invoice. While the lender doesn’t care about your finances, they’re deeply concerned about your client’s standing. The option to use an invoice factoring company depends on the business you use. There are ethical companies that are happy to work with businesses of all industries and predatory factoring agencies that charge high fees and go after invoices aggressively. Do your research before making your choice. How to qualify for invoice factoring. To qualify for invoice factoring, certain criteria must be met by businesses. Volume of invoices - Factoring companies typically require a certain minimum amount of invoices. This may be a specific number or a total value. Creditworthy customers - Since the factoring company will collect payment directly from your customers, they must be creditworthy. The factoring company will likely investigate your customers' credit history as part of their decision-making process. B2B operations - Your business typically needs to be a B2B (business-to-business) operation. Factoring companies prefer businesses that issue invoices to other businesses, rather than B2C (business-to-consumer) businesses. Unencumbered invoices - The invoices you want to factor must be free of any legal claims or encumbrances. This means that they cannot be pledged as collateral for another loan. Industry - Some factoring companies only work with specific industries, while others are more flexible. It's important to verify that your business operates in an industry that the factoring company services. Time in business - Some factoring companies require that your business has been operational for a certain length of time, although this is not always the case. Remember, different factoring companies may have slightly different requirements, so it's essential to research and confirm the criteria for each prospective factoring company. How to evaluate factoring companies. Evaluating factoring companies involves several steps to ensure that you're choosing the right partner for your business. Here are some key aspects to consider: Recourse vs. non-recourse factoring - Factoring can be either recourse or non-recourse. With recourse factoring, if your customer doesn't pay the invoice, you are responsible for repaying the amount to the factoring company. Non-recourse factoring means the factoring company assumes the risk if the customer fails to pay. While non-recourse factoring may seem more attractive, it usually comes with higher fees due to the increased risk for the factoring company. Spot factoring and single-invoice factoring - Some factoring companies offer spot factoring or single-invoice factoring, allowing you to factor just one invoice at a time. This can be a great option if you need cash flow help only occasionally. However, keep in mind that the fees for spot factoring can be higher than if you commit to factoring a certain volume of invoices. Factoring fees and advance rate - Understand the fees associated with the factoring service. They can range from 1% to 5% of the invoice value, depending on the factoring company and the risk involved. Also, look at the advance rate, which is the percentage of the invoice amount that you receive upfront. A higher advance rate can mean more immediate cash for your business. Contract terms - Look closely at the contract terms. Some factoring companies require long-term contracts or a minimum volume of invoices, while others offer more flexibility. Reputation and customer service - Research the factoring company’s reputation. Read reviews, check their Better Business Bureau rating, and ask for references. Additionally, consider their customer service. You want a factoring company that will respond promptly and professionally to your inquiries. Industry experience - It's beneficial if the factoring company has experience in your industry. They will be more familiar with industry practices and any specific challenges that might come up. By taking these factors into account, you can better evaluate factoring companies and choose the one that best fits your business's needs. Invoice factoring vs. invoice financing. It's easy to confuse invoice factoring with invoice financing as both methods involve using unpaid invoices to improve cash flow. However, there are key differences to understand. Invoice factoring As detailed above, invoice factoring involves a business selling its invoices to a factoring company at a discount. The factoring company then takes responsibility for collecting the invoice payments from the customers, freeing up the business from the time and effort of chasing these payments. The business receives immediate funds, which can be vital for maintaining smooth operational activities, especially for B2B companies. Invoice financing On the other hand, invoice financing is essentially a loan where the unpaid invoices serve as collateral. With invoice financing, the business retains control and responsibility for collecting the debts from its customers. The lender provides an advance of a portion of the invoice value (usually between 80% and 90%), and the business repays this advance plus fees once the customer has paid the invoice. While both methods provide quick access to cash, they differ in terms of responsibility and risk. With invoice factoring, you relinquish control of your customer relationships to the factoring company, but you also rid yourself of the risk of non-payment. In contrast, with invoice financing, you retain control of your customer relationships, but you also hold the risk of non-payment as you're responsible for repayment of the advance regardless of whether your customer pays their invoice. As with all financial decisions, it's crucial for businesses to understand these differences and evaluate which option aligns best with their needs and circumstances. If you're interested in exploring more financial solutions, learn about applying for accounts receivable financing with Lendio.