Bookkeeper Marketing: How to Use a Blog to Attract More Clients

Bookkeeper Marketing: How to Use a Blog to Attract More ClientsHave you considered writing a blog or sharing helpful information as part of your bookkeeper marketing plan to attract better quality clients?

Blogging is one method of marketing your services called, “content marketing.” The idea is to attract people who care about what you have to say and sharing valuable nuggets of info… with no strings attached. It’s how you build relationships based on giving, instead of selling.

For blogging to work as a marketing method, it’s not a one-and-you’re-done approach to attracting more clients. It takes some effort consistently. It also means a shift from focusing on what you’ll get (more clients) to giving [helpful info]. You need to trust that the rewards will follow. That’s a tall order for some people.

How I Discovered Blogging

I learned the power of blogging pretty much by accident. I started a blog to attract more bookkeeping clients online. I had been sharing tips for how small business owners could use QuickBooks more effectively, but got unexpected results. I started attracting more and more bookkeepers!

In hindsight, this makes total sense, but more about that in a minute.

When these bookkeepers saw that I was running my business virtually, they started asking me to show them how they could start a freelance bookkeeping business working through the Internet too. So as a way to draw them away from my business blog (I saw them as competitors, after all), I started The Freelance Bookkeeper blog!

As a result, I’ve built two sides to my business, primarily because of my blogs: (1) attracting bookkeeping and consulting clients and (2) training and coaching for freelance bookkeepers.

I did NOT know a lot about how to do blogging “right”. But I learned through experience. Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned that you can use, if you want to blog as part of your marketing strategy.

Share info your best clients care about

The blogs that don’t work, or don’t work the way the owner intends, are those that share information the blogger cares about, but the intended audience does not. 

As mentioned above, my QuickBooks mechanics blogging attracted more bookkeepers than small business owners. Why? Well, who’s more passionate about getting bookkeeping? Bookkeepers or business owners?

Exactly.

My results started to shift when I began sharing tips on how business owners can maximize their cash flow using QuickBooks. Business owners are more passionate about cash flow. This approach helped me attract more clients for years after I posted the info.

SIDE NOTE: That blog has been inactive for quite a long time now, but I STILL get inquiries from small business owners who want me to help them with learning how to use QuickBooks to maximize their cash flow!

Bottom line: Write about what YOUR BEST CLIENTS are interested in most.

Go ahead and be opinionated

Part of the benefit you get from running a blog is that people who follow you will start to view you as an expert. And you ARE! Go ahead and share your opinion on business topics. You can share ideas of what you think clients (in general) could do to improve their business’s bottom line, or avoid risky practices that could get them into hot water.

One way to set yourself apart from most other bookkeepers is to show you really care about your clients’ success, and not just making sure the books balance. Sharing your opinions on business matters will demonstrate that, and attract potential clients who share your views.

Share stories

When we share our own experiences, case studies, or results we’ve achieved for clients past and present (of course, not disclosing anything that should be kept confidential), we start to build a connection with our readers. They’ll feel like they know us and understand what we do. That’s the stuff strong business relationships are built on.

This is an area I could do better in my own writing (there’s always more to improve!) Sharing personal stories is far more interesting than sharing dry facts and figures. Bookkeeping and financial information, by nature, are rather dry. When we can add a personal touch with stories and experiences, it really makes what we have to say more interesting to readers.

Tell them what to do next

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is this: you can be writing fantastic blog posts that people love. You can build up a large following of readers. But if you don’t give them a “call to action” for what they should do as a result of what you’ve shared, you will not get the results you’re after.

When setting out to write a blog post, think about what you want your readers to do as a result of your article. Do you want them to join your email list so they can be notified when you post another article? Do you want them to contact you for a free consultation? Think about what you could offer as a next step to build the relationship, and help them feel like they want to work with you.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you’ll see that I usually offer one of my training programs as the next logical step to continue growing your freelance bookkeeping business. That’s done by design.

Get your blog in front of people

The #1 reason most bloggers don’t get the results they want is because they aren’t getting enough readers. That’s because no one is finding their blog.

You can’t rely on search engines alone to send you a ton of readers in a short amount of time. You MUST promote your blog in order to gain a following. That’s where social media is a big help. In my own experience, I use Twitter, Facebook and G+, but by far, the best results come from LinkedIn.

Post a status update on your LinkedIn profile about your latest blog post, and add a link to it. You can also start a discussion in groups  where your Ideal Clients gather and ask a question related to your blog post. You will likely start a discussion within the LinkedIn group, but also get group members to click through to your blog and start following you.

Will a blog attract more clients for you? Plan it. Work it. Then watch for results over time. It’s the only way to know for sure. For me, blogging has been one of the best things I’ve ever done to grow my business. So give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for additional low-cost and effective ways to market your bookkeeping business, take a look at The Freelance Bookkeeper Marketing System training course, where you learn how to develop your own 30-Day Marketing plan that gets results, specifically for freelance bookkeepers.

.

Tagged As: , ,

Virtual Bookkeeping: When A Client is Resistant to Working Virtually

refuseDo you offer virtual bookkeeping services, but find that some prospective clients are resistant to working with you long distance via the Internet?

Or maybe you’ve been running a traditional bookkeeping business for years and now want to expand your practice and provide bookkeeping services via the Internet, leveraging cloud technology. Are you concerned about how your existing clients will react?

The benefits for working virtually to us, as independent bookkeepers, are quite clear: more efficient, flexible scheduling, cost reduction and increased client capacity, to name a few. There are also advantages to our clients. They too will save time and money while gaining convenience when we perform their bookkeeping on a virtual basis.

So why do some clients still resist working online with a bookkeeper? There are several reasons, but by leveraging research, we can rather easily avoid struggling with these clients and still reach our goal successfully.

The Innovation Adoption Lifecycle

It’s human nature for most people to be cautious early on about something new and unfamiliar. It’s the way we’re built. In fact, this behavior has been studied and applied to whenever there is new innovation that affects the way we do things.

This behavior was originally studied in relation to innovations in agriculture prior to the 1950s, but also holds true when it comes to the adoption of new technology. It’s a classic “bell curve” with distinct demographic and psychological groups.

innovation-adoption-lifecycle

  • Innovators (2.5%) –more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented
  • Early Adopters (13.5%) – younger, more educated, tend to be community leaders, less prosperous
  • Early Majority (34%) – more conservative but open to new ideas, active and influencers in community
  • Late Majority (34%) – older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active
  • Laggards (16%) – very conservative, have less capital, oldest and least educated

By using what the research reveals, we can totally side-step the “battle” surrounding taking your bookkeeping business online and filling your practice with happy and easy-to-work-with clients.

How to Use the Curve

Start with you. Where are you on the curve?

The first step in building your base of virtual clients is to recognize where you are yourself when it comes to accepting online technology. Why? Because like attracts like.

In that last statement lies the key to easily growing an online bookkeeping business. Truth be told, not all business owners are ready to make the move to online bookkeeping yet. So don’t frustrate yourself trying to convince them! Understand with compassion that it takes time for them to adjust and adapt. Heck, it takes at least some time for most of us to adjust and adapt, depending on where you land on the curve!

The golden nugget here is that you will work with and attract the clients who are near where you are on the curve. If they are more than one segment slower than you, it will be a struggle. Don’t attempt to coerce those business owners to make the move. It’s a waste of time because they’re not ready yet.

Win-Win or No Match

When speaking with new or existing clients, as you explain the way that you work using online technology, it will be easy to recognize which adoption group they fall into by the way they react to what you’re doing, and whether they are already there, intrigued or repelled.

You are looking for clients who are ahead or near you on the curve and WANT to make the move. That is the only way to build a business based on win-win relationships – matching what they want with what you want. It’s a requirement in my book.

If existing clients do not want to make the move (because they are much slower adopters than you on the bell curve), then you have a mismatch. It’s probably time to target them for elimination. Otherwise, they will slow down your progress.

Focus only on the clients who are with you or faster than you on the innovation curve. When you do, you’ll end up with clients who will be easier to serve because you’ll be in sync. This in turn makes it easier for your best clients to brag about you and make referrals to their like-minded colleagues. Good stuff!

When the Answer is No

How can you gracefully refuse potential clients who are not a good match, or let go of existing clients who don’t fit?

The best way I’ve found to do this is by cultivating a network of freelance bookkeepers to whom I can refer these clients. Of course, that means you have to be willing to reach out and make friends with your “competition.” When you do, ask them about the type of clients they prefer to serve so you can match the clients you don’t want with the colleague who is a better fit. With this simple strategy, you’ll also infuse power into your referral marketing. These colleagues will be more inclined to “give back” and send you any clients who they aren’t yet ready to serve with online services. Just another win-win strategy for your toolbox.

So the next time you speak with a potential or existing client about your virtual bookkeeping services, view it as an opportunity to refine your win-win relationships. It’s really the no-lose way to go virtual.

If you’re ready to convert your bookkeeping services to online methods, and want a step-by-step system, then you may be interested in my 30-day, self-paced program called the Insider’s Guide to Your Own Virtual Bookkeeping Business.

What do you think about the Innovation Adoption Lifecycle? If you’d like to dig deeper into this topic, let me know. I find it fascinating. But then again, I am kind of a geek like that. ;-)

In fact, I think I fall somewhere between an early adopter and early majority. What about you?

.

Tagged As: , , , ,

How to Get Better Quality Clients

How to Get Better Quality ClientsFiguring out how to get better quality clients is a BIG issue for most freelance bookkeepers, especially when first getting their practice off the ground.

Why is that?

One reason is that in the beginning, we are simply looking for someone (anyone!) to pay us to handle their books. We need cash flow, so any client is a good client. Right?

But after you’ve been working with these random clients, your insight starts to get a bit sharper. You realize that not all clients are created equal. You also learn that the work they need you to do, and how they run their business is not as “cookie cutter” typical as you thought (especially if you’ve only had academic training doing bookkeeping work). That can shake your confidence in a way you may have never faced before.

To make matters worse, the client may undervalue the work you are doing for them and not realize what’s involved to get their books clean and up to date. They may have hired you and need the work done in an unreasonably short amount of time, and expect “little extras” for no additional charge.

When these types of circumstances arise, we are in for some big lessons… ones that some of us need to learn again and again. The key lesson is this: Not all clients are good clients, and we should not automatically accept everyone who needs help with their bookkeeping.

How do we avoid falling into this trap of accepting any and all clients that come our way?

How to Know the Good from the “Bad”

There are a few ways I’ve found that work quite well. One of the best is to create what’s called an Ideal Client Profile that clearly describes the type of clients you’d like to fill your practice with, in a perfect world. This includes…

  • The services they want
  • The type of business they have
  • Their general demographics (age, sex, income, geographical location, etc.)
  • Their general personality traits (good communicator, positive personality, etc.)

Of course, you figure out who’s a good fit for you by knowing the type of bookkeeping business you want to run. This is usually based on your previous experiences and what you enjoy doing most.

Having a clear picture of who your target client is helps you filter out potential clients who aren’t a good fit. It sets you up to only accept win-win working situations, right from the start.

Another way to help qualify prospective clients (even if you haven’t yet figured out your Ideal Client description) is to know the questions that reveal the traits of the clients who will most likely be difficult to work with. After you’ve worked with a few “bad” clients, you start to see common themes emerge. The “qualities” that I’ve seen most often are…

  • They are behind on a tight deadline and want you to rescue them
  • They are very price sensitive
  • They tend to minimize the work that needs to be done as “easy” or “quick”
  • They don’t want to give you specifics about their financial situation
  • They don’t want to set up an appointment, but want to speak with you immediately
  • They want to set an appointment during non-business hours

All of these can be red flags that they are a potentially difficult or demanding client to work with. Even if they seem really “nice,” beware when these factors are involved. I speak from experience.

The easiest way to protect yourself and turn away problem clients before you ever start working with them is to set up an interview and ask questions. Your goal is to discover who they are, what they want, and what they will really be like to work with. The interview doesn’t need to be an interrogation, but your list of questions should be open-ended (not yes-or-no answers) to elicit responses that will help you know whether you even WANT to work with them, and whether your skills are a good match for their needs.

Bottom line: You’re looking for win-win, two-way relationships. (You knew that was coming, didn’t you. :-))

How to Use This Right Now

At the very least, brainstorm a simple list of questions to ask your prospective clients BEFORE you start working with them. Some simple, open-ended questions to start with are…

  • Am I your first bookkeeper and why do you feel you need a (new) bookkeeper?
  • What are you doing now to get your bookkeeping done?
  • What is the most important result(s) you hope to achieve by hiring me as your bookkeeper?

Really listen and ask for clarification as needed. Takes notes and get a sense of whether you can work well together, and listen to how they communicate. This will go a long way toward protecting you from getting into a nasty, unprofitable and frustrating situation that will slow down your growth.

If you’d like a deeper dive into other powerful ways you can upgrade your client base, including how to effectively handle your existing “bad” clients, join us this month in the TFB Premium training for How to Upgrade the Quality of Your Clients for More Fun & Profits

If you’ve found yourself working with clients who drain your joy or make you feel like you’re slaving for peanuts, what advice would you share to avoid falling into that trap ever again? Speak your mind and leave a comment below. 

.

Tagged As: , , ,

7 Ways to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Bookkeeping Business

woman_jumping_linkedinLinkedIn is a powerful tool in the freelance bookkeeper’s marketing toolbox. Whether you work clients locally or via the Internet, having an online presence is a must.

While having a professional website is a key component to successfully marketing your services, it’s even more important to actively be networking with potential clients and building strategic alliances. This is much like in-person networking. Without question, the most effective way to attract new clients is with person-to-person connections.

Enter social media.

Social media should not entirely replace meeting people face-to-face in networking situations (I know that’s disappointing news for introverts). Connecting with potential clients and strategic alliances online vastly extends your reach and can be extremely effective. It definitely has been in my own experience.

I am not, however, a huge fan of social media in general (call me anti-social) and do not spend hours a day using it. It can be a huge time waster if you aren’t focused on leveraging your time! But you can definitely use it effectively for marketing your bookkeeping services… if you are willing to invest a relatively small amount of time consistently doing what works.

There are many social media channels to choose from (and some bookkeepers who love social media use them all!), such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+ and LinkedIn. But as I’m sure you already know from the title of this post, my favorite by far is LinkedIn.

Based on my own experience, here are 7 ways to use LinkedIn to get exposure for your bookkeeping services and build relationships that pay off:

1. Make it your home on the web (especially if you don’t have a website yet)

All bookkeepers should have a LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t matter if you already have a professional website for your business or you’re just getting started without a website yet. Make sure you fill in relevant background, including the information that potential clients would want to know about you to decide if you are the right bookkeeper for them.

Include a headshot photo that gives a professional impression. Do NOT hide behind a company logo. Use keywords in your title that says concisely what you do and will speak to the people you want to attract. Include past experience and education that also support your credibility and any specialties you have that clients would see as a benefit.

2. Connect with existing clients and professional contacts

Once you have your profile set up, get to work connecting with your existing clients and business contacts. Reach out to everyone you know. By connecting with people already in your circle of influence, you will be able to expand your reach of potential referral partners and clients naturally. You never know who your existing contacts know that may become your next best client!

3. Follow up quickly with new connections

When you meet people in person, it’s important to follow up with them quickly. A great way to “continue the conversation” is by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Look up their profile and request to connect. Easy peasy.

4. Research potential clients

When potential new client inquiries come in, you can quickly learn more about your prospect by looking them up on LinkedIn, and also checking to see if they have a business page. It’s a great way to (1) get a sense about whether you WANT this new client, and (2) tailor your sales message to better fit their needs and ask relevant questions that will build meaningful rapport.

5. Keep up on industry news and participate with colleagues

Joining LinkedIn groups is a great way to stay on top of the fast changing technology in the accounting world. You’ll find many informative discussions and industry blog articles posted in groups. You can also leverage groups to get the support you need whenever you run into a sticky situation with client work or even internal business operations. Proactively tapping into the vast knowledge and experience of your colleagues is just smart business, especially when you work alone all day.

6. Find your niche

I hear from a lot of freelance bookkeepers who recognize the power of specializing, but flounder to figure out which industry or service offering is a good fit for their skills. Again, LinkedIn groups are a great way to explore different industries and “listen in” on what business owners are talking about. Look for ways you can assist them to solve their financial struggles. Once you find a few groups that are active, consider participating in discussions and offering helpful tips, ideas and advice. You may find at least some new connection requests and even new clients!

Important Note: DO NOT post blatant self-promoting replies or discussions. That is just bad manners and will hurt your reputation. No direct self-promotion is needed. Simply offer helpful advice or tips. Let your profile do the promoting for you.

7. Stand out as a leader and expert

One way you can start attracting a lot more attention on LinkedIn is to offer helpful information that will attract your best type of clients. How? By posting brief status updates and posts. Share a tax savings tip. Answer a common question clients ask. Offer a solution to a typical problem you see clients struggle with. These short, helpful tidbits will likely spark discussions, attract new connections and ultimately build your reputation as a bookkeeper with a difference – a proactive go-to person who can get them the results they’re after.

The purpose of LinkedIn is to build professional relationships online and move your career forward. For us as freelance bookkeeping business owners, it is a powerful way to get in front of high quality clients and build a reputation as an expert on a true win-win basis.

It is not something you do once and get flooded with new client inquiries, but rather an ongoing method to spread the word about who you are, the problems you solve, and the value you bring to clients. Send that message on a consistent basis, and the new client inquiries will take care of themselves. Some of the most powerful connections and referrals have come to me through LinkedIn, and I’m certainly not using it to the full (yet)! Use these 7 methods, and you will get results.

Are you using LinkedIn? Have you found it valuable to your marketing and relationship building efforts?

.

 

Tagged As: , ,

Bookkeepers and Taxes: TFB Spotlight on Wayne Davies, EA

tfb-star-spotlightDo bookkeepers and taxes go together? If you don’t offer tax services, how can you still benefit by the flurry of activity this time of year?

Tax season is a busy time for bookkeepers, especially when working with new clients who need our help to get their books caught up to date so they can get them to their tax preparer. Your existing clients may be asking questions about what they can deduct, or what expenses should be included on their books too.  That’s why I’ve invited my colleague and friend,  Wayne Davies, who is an Enrolled Agent and true tax expert in all 50 states to step into the TFB Spotlight and help us out.

Wayne recently published his book on Kindle, and it’s a keeper! It’s a handy reference you can use to work with your clients and make them glad to have you as their bookkeeper, even if you don’t do any kind of tax work. Your clients will truly value your help when it saves them on their tax bill. Using information like this proactively with your clients is a great way to stand out as different and keep them for life!

Wayne Davies, EAHere’s the recent interview I conducted with Wayne so he could share with us his journey, his book and some VERY valuable insight into how we, as bookkeepers, can collaborate with tax professionals for true win-win relationships!

It’s a meaty interview, so grab a cup of coffee and enjoy! (In a hurry and want to read the interview offline? You can download a PDF version by Clicking Here)

Please give us a brief history of how you came to write your book, Small Business Tax Deductions Revealed: 29 Tax-Saving Tips You Wish You Knew (for Self-Employed People Only)

 WD:     My book was first released in 2004 under a different name – “The Small Business Tax Reduction Toolkit.” I wrote it because the most common question I get from clients is this: “What can I do to pay less tax?” So one day I decided to sit down and write a book for self-employed people that contained plain English explanations of legal tax reduction strategies.

Rather than pursue the traditional publishing route, I self-published it as an ebook and sold it through my website (www.YouSaveOnTaxes.com). Ebooks were really starting to take off back then, and I didn’t really know anything about how to sell an ebook, so I got some help from Jim Edwards to learn how to market it and use it to promote my tax business.  This ebook has done well for me over the past 10+ years.  And it has helped many small business owners learn how they can legally reduce their taxes.

In January 2015 I decided to convert the ebook to the Kindle format and sell it on Amazon. I also changed the title to “Small Business Tax Deductions Revealed: 29 Tax-Saving Tips You Wish You Knew“. It’s the same ebook, but now you can read it on your Kindle!

GF:       Yes, I re-read it once it hit Kindle, and was delighted to see that you have updated it completely. It got me excited again about using some of the tips you share in common, easy-to-understand language with my clients as part of the consulting I provide them.

Taxes are often something self-employed people think about only at tax time, when it hurts the most. Based on your own experience, what are some of the most costly mistakes these business owners are making?

WD:     Only thinking about taxes at tax return time is a huge mistake. Unfortunately, however, it’s also a very common one. People who do this are leaving a lot of money on the table for at least two reasons.

1.  If you wait until the tax return is due to gather your records, you will likely complete the recordkeeping process in a hurried rush. You’ll be stressed out by the upcoming deadline, and the old saying will become true right before your very frazzled eyes – “Haste makes waste.” In your haste to throw together some numbers at the last minute, you will probably miss some deductions and end up paying more tax than necessary.

There is a much better way! Tax recordkeeping, or bookkeeping, or accounting, or whatever you want to call it, should be done throughout the year. One of the easiest ways to reduce taxes is to keep good records. And it becomes increasingly difficult to keep good records if you are doing the whole year all at once right before doing the tax return.

Instead, you should have a bookkeeping system in place whereby income and expense transactions are tracked regularly during the year — every week or every month. Then you can keep your finger on the pulse of your business and know what is happening while it is happening. You should be reviewing financial statements at least monthly.

Waiting till the end of the year to see where you stand is a terrible way to run a business, and this is one reason why small businesses remain small. And it is also one of the reasons why self-employed people overpay their taxes by millions of dollars every year – they are missing out on deductions simply because they don’t have a good bookkeeping system in place.

2.  Something else to realize is that some of the best small business tax reduction strategies cannot be implemented right before the tax return is due. Some tax deductions take a little bit of planning – such as setting up a retirement plan that allows you to contribute more than an IRA does. There are retirement plans specifically designed for self-employed people, but you can’t wait until April 15 to do the paperwork.

Another great tax strategy is to incorporate a sole proprietorship. I’ve had clients lower their taxes by forming a corporation. But again, if you wanted to incorporate your business for 2014, you can’t wait until April 2015 to do that and make it retroactive.

Now for some sole proprietors, incorporating may not be a good idea; it may be that remaining a sole proprietorship is fine. For many self-employed people, this is a perfectly legal way to pay less tax, but either way, there is some paperwork involved and you have to be proactive about setting things up the right way and at the right time.

GF:       These are some great points we can share with those clients who drag their feet in giving us the info we need to keep their books up to date, as well as helping them see WHY it is so important!

Specifically, what has been the #1 challenge you’ve had in helping your business clients save on taxes? Do you have any war stories you can share?

WD:     The biggest challenge I have faced is simply getting clients to implement good tax reduction strategies. Let’s go back to this idea of forming a corporation. We call this “Choice of Entity.” And I highly recommend that every small business owner takes a close look at this question: What type of entity should my business be – sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC?

Now, if you research this and discover that incorporating is a good thing for you, do it! Don’t put it off. Take action and do it. There is no better time than the present to dramatically improve your tax situation.

I’ve worked with many wonderful clients. And I truly enjoy working with them. I’ve helped many small business owners and self-employed people go through this choice of entity decision. Those that take the time to do it never regret it.  Some end up with thousands of dollars in tax savings for many years to come.

But occasionally I get a client like Tony, the typical small business owner who is just “too busy” running his business to deal with any extra paperwork. Tony came to me and I offered to take him through a choice of entity analysis. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure. Whatever you say.”

So I did the analysis and called him with the results. Tony could save over $3,600 per year by converting from a Sole Proprietorship to a Corporation.  He liked the sound of that, and so he made an appointment to get started with the paperwork.

But making the appointment is all Tony ever did.  On the day of the appointment, Tony cancelled. Something came up.

A month later, he called to reschedule. And on the day of that second appointment, Tony cancelled. Something came up.

And on three more occasions, Tony made an appointment to get his corporation started, and each time, he either cancelled or didn’t show up.

I still do his tax return each year, and each year I remind him of the simple fact that he overpaid his taxes by approximately $3,600 (again). Over the past five years, Tony has paid nearly $18,000 more than necessary, just because he’s not focused enough to follow through on a simple one-time change in his business choice of entity.

GF:       That’s a great example to show how valuable the help of a professional is to our clients, and as in the case of Tony, if his bookkeeper had been there to encourage him to MAKE the time to get the paperwork done, he might be saving a bundle. So that leads to my next question…

 What role do you see bookkeepers playing in helping self-employed business owners save on taxes?

WD:     As I mentioned earlier, having a good set of books is huge. Without it, clients will overpay taxes just because of overlooked deductions that are probably there, but didn’t get recorded properly.

Self-employed people are good at whatever their business does (whether it’s providing a service or selling a product), but they are notorious for being naive about some of the best small business deductions allowed by the tax code. A good bookkeeper should know what’s deductible and what’s not. The idea is to advise the client and take care of it for them, so they can concentrate on doing what they do best – operate their business and making a profit.

GF:       I couldn’t agree more, Wayne! This is a HUGE reason why bookkeepers who do not prepare taxes would do well to grab a copy of your book so they can be educated on how to really help clients save on taxes. This makes bookkeepers invaluable to their clients…. and can even serve as a segue to lucrative business consulting services.

In your experience, how are most of these businesses getting their bookkeeping done? Are they doing the books themselves, or do they have a hired bookkeeper?

WD:     Both. I have clients who do their own bookkeeping and I have clients who outsource it. And I must admit that I’m always a bit baffled by those who do their own bookkeeping. I always wonder, “Is it really worth doing it yourself?” The most common reason I hear for a small business owner doing his own books is, “I can’t afford to hire a bookkeeping.”

My response is, “How can you afford not to outsource it?” If they just took the time they are spending on bookkeeping and spent it on marketing, they likely could increased sales more than enough to offset the expense of hiring a bookkeeper!

GF:       Right on, brother! And as you just illustrated, not only will they more than justify the cost by more profitability using their time, but also the savings a bookkeeper provides for taxes and late payments and so many other ways still adds to the bottom line for the client, rather than costing them. Our services are just a smart investment!

Where do you think freelance bookkeepers are really dropping the ball when it comes to helping clients save on taxes? 

WD:     A good bookkeeper should have a working knowledge of the most common small business tax deductions. A good bookkeeper should also have a good working relationship with a tax professional that she can consult with on tax questions that come up from time to time.

If a bookkeeper isn’t sure about what is deductible and what’s not, she should find out the answer to the question by discussing the issue with a qualified tax pro, or be honest with the client and let them know that this is something that requires further research. If the bookkeeper can’t get the answer, encourage the client to consult with their own tax pro to get a definitive answer.

GF:       This is why we’re friends, Wayne! What you are saying is what I’ve been preaching for years. Bookkeepers should know the basics of what’s deductible (at least), but also proactively reaching out to their clients’ tax professionals so that they can work as a team to support the client.

When we do that, not only are the clients thrilled to have us supporting their interests, but we also get noticed by the tax pro and build a valuable strategic alliance who can refer clients who need a good bookkeeper. It’s the perfect complementing partnership! In fact, that’s the whole reason I put together the CPA Referral Marketing training course. I do this myself and have had fantastic results… and it’s really quite easy to do.

Do you recommend that bookkeepers venture into recommending some of the tips in your book, or should they defer to the client’s tax professional?

WD:     I don’t have a problem with a bookkeeper recommending the tax strategies mentioned in my book. But I think the bookkeeper should also say, “Don’t forget to run this by your own tax person.”

Of course, it’s also good to remember that many small business owners don’t have a tax person, which is unfortunate. It’s not uncommon for self-employed people to do their own tax returns. And this fact presents the bookkeeper with an opportunity to help the client by urging the client to seek professional help with their tax return.

Successful business owners rarely do their own tax returns. They outsource it. Just like with bookkeeping, the temptation is there to “do it yourself” and save some money. But at what cost?

So I think the best thing a bookkeeper can do to help clients save on taxes is to encourage them to find a good tax professional to prepare the returns and provide year-round tax planning.

GF:       I couldn’t agree more!

How do you feel about bookkeepers who also provide tax services themselves? Do you think there’s any problem for the bookkeeper to do both?

WD:     I have no problem with a bookkeeper providing tax services – as long as the bookkeeper has the proper tax training and the credentials to demonstrate competency in the field of tax preparation.

Have you found freelance bookkeepers to be a good source of referrals for your tax practice?

WD:     No.  Believe it or not, when you referred Bill to me, that was the first time that a bookkeeper has referred a potential tax client to me. So over the years I’ve not taken time to develop relationships with bookkeepers (except for you!). But I am still so grateful that you thought of me.

GF:       Sadly, I think most bookkeepers only focus on receiving referrals from tax professionals and don’t understand how powerful it can be for building relationships to send referrals first. I’ll have to make sure I send you more referrals, whenever they come my way, Wayne! :-)

In a perfect world, what are the key qualities that you’d want to see in a freelance bookkeeper that would really make them a pleasure to work with on a regular basis?

WD:     Two qualities stand out:

1) Technical knowledge.  I’m stating the obvious, but a good bookkeeper should have good bookkeeping skills. Be good at what you do, and be constantly striving to get better at it.

2) Reliability. A good bookkeeper should be a person you can depend on. Just like any professional that you work with – you want them to be a person who keeps their word. If I say I’m going to have a tax return done by the 15th, I better get it done by the 15th!

If a bookkeeper says he’s going to get a project done by the 15th, he should do whatever it takes to get it done by the 15th. You want someone you can trust to do what they say they’re going to do by the date they say they’re going to do it. Nothing destroys trust more than failing to keep commitments.

GF:       You’re spot on with that! No one is perfect, but I definitely agree that we really want to try to deliver what we promise if we want to be seen as professional by everyone we work with.

For freelance bookkeepers who are just getting their business up and running, what advice can you offer for building strategic relationships with Enrolled Agents?

WD:     Many EA’s offer more than just taxes. Some EA’s offer a full line of accounting, payroll and tax services. Some EA’s offer bookkeeping services. So I would first find out what services any particular EA offers. If you find an EA who happens to offer bookkeeping services, don’t necessarily rule them out as a referral partner. Be upfront with them and find out if they are ever in a situation when they are “overbooked” (pardon the pun) and could use some help with their bookkeeping load.

Of course, the ideal EA to work with is one who does not do bookkeeping and has clients who need bookkeeping services. It only takes a few of these EAs to send you a steady stream of quality clients. This is the best type of EA to work with, and once you find one, treat him or her well!

GF:       Yes! And don’t forget to thank them in some way for sending referrals. Appreciation means a lot.

What specific “insider” tips, tricks or techniques can you share with us that would help any freelance bookkeeper win the respect and trust of tax professionals?

WD:     Well, I’ll be the first to admit that what I’m about to say will hardly sound like an “insider” trick. But here it is: Be honest. Honesty is just as important as technical expertise or years of experience. EAs are required to comply with a rigorous set of ethical standards and we are expected to live up to those standards set by the IRS.

To put it simply: No funny money. No “looking the other way” when you know that the client is doing something unethical or illegal.

GF:       Yep! Bookkeepers need to remember that the client’s actions can jeopardize our own business if we’re doing their books and they’re doing something illegal. You are not necessarily held harmless if they get into trouble! So I couldn’t agree more.

Do you have any last advice that would help bookkeepers get a better understanding about what you face as a tax professional so that we can make your life easier and build true win-win relationships?

WD:     Be respectful of how stressful tax season can be for tax professionals.

It’s really hard to describe how crazy things can get in the office of a tax preparer during tax season. It’s kinda like surfing a huge wave. At first, the wave doesn’t look that big. And you think, “No problem. I can handle this.” And so you hop on your surfboard and start riding this little wave.

Before long, however, the wave starts to get bigger and bigger. In fact, before you know it, it’s the biggest wave you’ve ever seen in your life! You have no idea how you’re going to make it to shore alive. The longer you ride this wave, the better you get at handling it, but it is still an incredibly challenging wave and you often wonder, “Why in the world did I get on this thing? Maybe I should jump!” But something inside you says, “Stick with it. You can do this. And in the end, it will be worth it.” So you stay on the wave, using all your strength, ability, perseverance and focus.

The wave continues to grow, but just as it reaches its maximum size, it crashes on the beach and you somehow manage to land on the soft sand with a boatload of seaweed in your hair. You’re exhausted and spent, but actually feeling pretty good. It’s April 15 and the ride is over.

Your surfboard is sitting next to you, a bit mangled but repairable, and you head to the nearest hammock to take a nice long nap. Tax season is over and you lived to tell about it. :-)

GF:       LOL! Wow, Wayne! That is the best description ever for what it’s like to “ride the wave” of tax season when you prepare taxes professionally. I did it myself for over 20 years, but finally decided to turn in the surfboard a few years ago.

small-business-tax-deductions-revealedThank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences and advice with us. It is extremely helpful and I’m sure my readers will appreciate it as well.

If you’re a freelance bookkeeper, then you really NEED to pick up a copy of Wayne’s Kindle book so you have it handy and can help your clients (and yourself) save on taxes. From where I sit, this is a must-have reference for every bookkeeper’s toolbox.

Click Here to go to Amazon and get your copy.

.

Tagged As: , ,

  • March 2015
    S M T W T F S
    « Feb    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031