Invoice factoring

Quick facts

Invoice factoring is a type of invoice finance, i.e. a way of borrowing money using your unpaid invoices. Factoring (like invoice discounting) is usually used to finance all of your invoices (i.e. your entire sales ledger). The key difference is that with factoring the lender will take over your credit control process and deal with your customers directly it is ‘disclosed’ to your customers.

Both invoice factoring and invoice discounting are types of invoice finance. The key difference is that with factoring the finance provider takes control of your sales ledger, collects your debts and communicates with your customers. Your customers pay your finance provider directly – they will therefore know about the finance facility. With discounting, by contrast, you retain control of your sales ledger, collect payments as normal and maintain communication with your customers.

If you’re a smaller business with a reliable turnover – but you don’t have in-house credit control or a track record of customers paying on time – factoring may be a more suitable option, because you won’t need to chase invoices yourself (unlike discounting). 

If you prefer the confidentiality of invoice discounting, you might want to consider confidential invoice factoring, which works on the same principle as normal factoring. The only difference is how the lender (i.e. the factoring provider or factor) introduces themselves to your customers. With normal factoring, the provider uses their own name, whereas with confidential factoring the provider acts as your own accounting department, using your company name when communicating with customers. In other words, confidential factoring offers the cash advance and credit control aspects of a normal factoring facility, together with the confidentiality of invoice discounting.

There are also other types of confidential invoice finance.

As with all types of invoice financing, invoice factoring lets you sell unpaid invoices to a lender in return for a cash advance – a percentage of each invoice’s value. Once your customer has paid an invoice, the lender pays you the remaining balance minus their fee. In other words, if you’ve issued invoices to your customers and these haven’t yet been paid, invoice finance unlocks this money early. It’s like a secured business loan, but instead of using a physical asset like a building as security, invoice finance uses your accounts receivable.

Unlike commercial overdrafts and loans, factoring uses only the invoices you raise as security. If you’re a small business with seasonal fluctuations in cash flow, a factoring facility, which is usually whole turnover (i.e. you have to factor your entire sales ledger), might not be the most cost-efficient way for you to raise working capital. You might instead look at selective invoice finance – where you can choose to finance specific invoices. There are two main types of selective invoice finance: spot factoring and selective invoice discounting.

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