So you have decided to become a bookkeeper, you’ve got the qualification and now you need to kick start the income coming in by winning over your first clients. Here are some of the tips that are commonly included in our Start Your Own Bookkeeping Business course.
- New clients come from relationships – Tell your family and friends what you do and ask them to refer you. Most business owners pick a bookkeeper that someone close to them has suggested they use. Get to know the accountants in your area and also ask for referrals from them, on top of this, get to know the business owners in your area as you never know when they might need help!
- Answer your phone – I could not count the number of times that I have answered the phone to a frustrated client saying that no one picks up! One of the first staff I employed in my business was a receptionist so that the phone would be answered every time. Having an active email or Facebook account is also handy in maintaining and gaining clients as it makes you more accessible.
- Listen first – Get used to the fact that people generally only get motivated to call once they are sufficiently stressed or out of time! They will want to talk about their problems or looming deadlines so it is best to let them talk, in this situation use active listening to keep them talking as long as it takes to gain a good picture of their situation. When talking to a new bookkeeping client I would ask if they had a previous bookkeeper and what was good and bad about that relationship.
- Be in control – Whilst is it good to have an idea on how the client wants their bookkeeping managed, you must remember that you are the professional and need to show your knowledge and strengths during your first conversations. People want to trust and lean on their bookkeeper for information so be strong but flexible.
- Tell them how good you are – You have gathered information about the client as they talked (I generally write down key points as they talk), following this you are going to repeat back all of their worries and tell them that you are qualified and able to sort their issues (no lies of course, if you can’t do the job then say so and walk away). In regards to previous bookkeepers, if the client was let down previously with late lodgments or growing invoices then tell them in what way your business is organised and managed to ensure these things won’t happen (then make sure you don’t let them down in these areas!).
- No prices on the phone – Avoid giving prices over the phone if possible. “Every business is different, I can give you a firm quote once we have met”. Get rid of hourly rates then you won’t be tempted to give a price out as you will need to know the full scope of the job to give a price. Price for experience is a benefit for both yourself and the client…. let’s say a new bookkeeper charges $50 per hour and it takes them 4 hours to enter data and reconcile the bank, leading to a total of $200. In the same situation an experienced bookkeeper may charge $70 per hour, but it would only take him/her 2 hours to enter data and reconcile the bank, totaling $140. Who would you choose?
- First meeting with the client – This is always free, no obligation. You are both meeting to see if you get along and also to see if you can determine the scope of work required and prices together. The client can come to you or you can visit their office, talk over a drink or coffee about what tasks they want you to take care of, often your suggestions will be helpful as their processes may be a little behind. You can offer better collaboration within the business via paperless transactions and access for staff via cloud software. Make sure that you get onto the data file and do a quick review, unreal/old debtors or creditors could be distorting the figures. Check that previous lodgments of Super and BAS equal what was showing in the Balance Sheet for the end of that quarter. Check the bank reconciles to see if it has any un-presented/old unreconciled items showing. Checking these things is so that you know what you are getting into and whilst looking this will give you an idea about the business and allow you to quote more accurately.
- Send a proposal for your services – This document will list the tasks that you will complete and an overall price for these tasks. I generally would not quote for any fix-up work as no one wants to pay for that. Instead show a clear start date on the proposal, anything before that will have to be fixed during the tax return or quoted separately after you have won the main ongoing job. If the proposal is accepted, when you start enter a journal to correct your opening balances and show the balancing line in an account called “Previous Bookkeeping Errors”. Then move on and work from the date you were contracted to work.
I hope this has been beneficial to you and good luck with your future bookkeeping empire!
Happy Global Bookkeeping week is coming up (19th November to 23rd November 2018), raise a glass for all of those clever bookkeepers out there and make sure to post on social media to let everyone know how important we all are to Australian businesses!
Until next month,