If you want to build a practice making over $100k annually you will want to do it offering services clients love. When they see real value in what you are doing for them, they will be excited to pay you for it, and they will pay more.
Let’s face it. If you are doing bookkeeping, or audits, reviews, and compilations it’s not sexy. Not only that, but clients don’t see value in it. They see it as a necessary evil, and they see it that way because they have to spend money on it while they don’t see any benefit.
An audit can cost easily $20,000 – $40,000 and all they get for that is an opinion letter that is being required of them by a bank or The Securities Exchange Commission.
When a company is only paying for bookkeeping to be done so they can file a tax return then again there is no perceived benefit, other than fulfilling a requirement. Then they have to pay someone to file the tax return on top of that. A year of bookkeeping can easily cost a company $20,000, then another $1,500 – $3,000 for tax prep. This of course depends on size and complexity.
I will not take on a company as a consulting client if I know that their only intention is to use the bookkeeping to get a tax return filed. I don’t want that client, and they aren’t going to be happy paying my rates.
So how to you grow your practice into $100K plus per year? You offer services clients love. That brings us to the REAL question. What services do clients love and how can you offer them?
Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do with an Audit Engagement to help the client. In fact attempting to do so would likely ruin your independence.
CPA’s, Bookkeepers and virtual CFO’s have a perfect opportunity to offer services that will delight clients.
Let’s start with the CPA. Most CPAs don’t have a problem making over $100K per year. In this case it’s more about how you can retain more clients. I’ve written about this before. Right now it’s tax season. You are looking at client’s books on a daily basis and reviewing their financial statements to make sure you can file a reliable tax return. This places you in a perfect position to go one extra step and give your clients an analysis of their business in addition to that tax payment voucher that normally accompanies their bill. Imagine the client’s surprise when the get something that helps them understand their business better from the perspective of their most trusted advisor?
Virtual CFO’s are engaged specifically in an area that meets this question head on. The CFO’ role is to lay out yard sticks, measure performance, and track variances from projected to actual performance. This kind of insight is exactly the sort of service that clients will and do love because there is a direct benefit. The virtual CFO is finally giving the client something that uses the financial information in a way that directly benefits the client by helping them understand the financial side of their business and how this information can be used to meet their goals and grow their business.
Virtual or outsourced CFO’s can bring the whole picture together for companies who aren’t big enough to have their own full time CFO, but who can still benefit from these services by taking what the bookkeeper has done and turning that information into a powerful tool that clients can use to better manage their business.
Imagine your client is able to wake up every day and go to work knowing exactly what they need to do? We’ve all had days like this, and we strive to have them more and more often as time goes on. You don’t have to think about anything because you’re so clear on what needs to be done. By making sure that the bookkeeping is reliable and then setting up projections based on that, this is what you can offer your clients and they will love you for it as well as pay a premium for the services.
What can the bookkeeper do?
Bookkeeping is defined as simply and broadly as entering financial transactions. That’s where the opportunity lies. Most business owners expect their bookkeepers to enter and reconcile, maybe run a profit and loss and a balance sheet. Not much more is expected and they see it as something they have to pay for to get a return done. So how does a bookkeeper turn that around to show a client real value for that they are getting paid?
I once had a bookkeeper working on a client’s books who sent me a QuickBooks file. I ran the balance sheet and in 2 seconds I had a big problem with it. There were accounts with negative balances that shouldn’t have negative balances. That bookkeeper ultimately left me referring to my “difficult” bookkeeping service. It’s true I am difficult. I want an accurate balance sheet. Most bookkeepers (I think, I hope) know better that this. So if you want to offer services that your clients will love, go beyond what they normally expect from you.
Once you finish reconciling and you run the P&L and Balance Sheet, STOP. Review them yourself. Ask if the numbers make sense. Analyze the information. Run a comparative Profit and Loss. Study it. Start to understand the trends.
Now instead of simply e-mailing a profit and loss and balance sheet you can send them along with some educated comments about what you see (see the very end for an important piece of information about what else you can do here) – what they are about to look at. You’re the bookkeeping professional – they might be surprised to find out how much insight you have about what is going on in their business.
If you want to know what services clients love, so you can offer them and make $100K plus per year the answers are right there inside of you. You just have to search fearlessly within yourself. Think about what any business owner wants. What do they want from you? They want information. They want the benefit of your knowledge. Almost without exception when a client asks me about helping them find a new CPA to do their taxes and I ask them why, the answer is that they aren’t getting any guidance.
Clients don’t simply want us entering financial transactions and telling them that either there’s a problem or everything’s OK. They want the information that lies in between without having to get their own accounting degree.
A bookkeeper can save their boss or client time by giving them insights about the financial position of the company based on their unique experience and perspective. When you start doing this for them they will get ideas about what more you can do for them and they will ask you about it. Then the ultimate compliment comes when they ask you to think about what else might be useful to them. It may be a helpful report or some project that they never would have thought of until you started doing some extra things for them and they realized just how much you are capable of doing. You can do a lot!
There’s one more thing. It’s really important too. When you do these extra things for your client, don’t just give it to them. Ask them if you can schedule an hour to go over it with them. Spend the hour showing them and explaining what you see. Help them. Make sure they understand. Finally ask them if they have any questions. They might be feeling like they don’t want to look “stupid” by asking their questions. Reassure them that you want them asking questions so you can better understand how to help them even more. Then listen. Every time your client talks it’s an opportunity to find out what other services you can offer them. Handled this way you’ll be billing your clients over $100K per year and they will love you for it!
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