Having trouble finding your niche? Learn from a fellow freelance bookkeeper as she steps into the TFB Spotlight. She’s an inspiring example of a fellow bookkeeper who started off as a general independent bookkeeper in a very casual way, as many of us do, and in the process found her specialty, grabbed hold of it and took massive action to ramp up her business, with very lucrative results.
Not too long ago I interviewed Gita in person at the Scaling New Heights conference, which is a professional conference specifically for accounting professionals who provide QuickBooks-centric services. I’ve known Gita for quite a few years now, and this was a conversation where we explored her roots and how she came to be the top QuickBooks expert in the field of Real Estate.
TFB: How did you come to specialize in QuickBooks?
GF: Long story. I am an accountant from India. I came to the States and started working, but got into a car accident while I was pregnant. So the doctors couldn’t treat me. Sitting for hours was a challenge. This problem lasted for almost 5 years. I had to make a decision and had to generate some revenue. So I came up with the plan for my bookkeeping service.
My first client challenged me to teach him QuickBooks. My plans took a turn and I fell in love with QuickBooks all over again, but in a teaching capacity with consulting. So I never really made a business plan (shhh. Don’t tell everybody). One thing led to another. My success is because of my clients and the challenges they gave me.
I had some clients that challenged me in the real estate industry and the property management side of things. I was hungry for knowledge.
TFB: So the progression was that you needed to find a way to make some money. You had a background in accounting and thought you’d start a bookkeeping business. You got your first client. How did you get your first client?
GF: I went to the local newspaper where they used to list new businesses. (This was 13 years ago) I sent letters, using the old traditional method. I got 3 clients from that. Then I got so busy, I stopped doing it. That was how I started building my business.
TFB: That’s certainly one way to do it. But it’s interesting to see that you didn’t start off with a specialty. You just started to do bookkeeping. Got a client who needed help with QuickBooks. So you went and learned how to use QuickBooks. You became a specialist in QuickBooks. And then as you got more clients, you got some who wanted help with the property management specifically using QuickBooks. So your specialty emerged from your experience with your clients.
GF: Exactly. As it turned out, new business owners and property managers didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so they wanted a class for $99. So I said, okay, sure. I wanted to learn more about the industry. Just reading books doesn’t cut it. You need real, day-to-day experience with the clients to really understand how they run their business. Their organization system and procedures are different. When you put it all together, then you’re ready to take on the challenge of a niche. I really found my niche because of my clients; I can’t thank them enough.
TFB: And my best guess is your clients are so thankful to you because you understand their business and their needs. So immediately they are drawn to you and trust you.
GF: True. Whatever industry you start with, there is going to be additional segmentation. So I started in property management, but that was just a first step. I am a property management expert, and we do real estate accounting and technology consulting. We don’t do taxes. Getting into this market and loving it with a passion opened doors.
When I used to go to networking events with the Chamber of Commerce, everyone used to ask me, “What is your niche?” I didn’t know what they meant. I thought, “How do I find a niche?” The easiest way is to look in your client database and the specific services you’re providing them. I did that and saw that real estate is where I was really making money. So I wrote a 50-page training book for that industry. It has now grown to be multiple books with hundreds of pages. But it started really small.
TFB: And this started by training clients from a sincere place to really help them.
GF: True. I wanted to give them all I had and wanted to know they were treated right.
TFB: Has having this specialty helped you to work with clients that are beyond your local area, even all over the country?
GF: Yes, definitely. We are now international. In fact, I’ll be going to Mexico the end of this week, everything paid! This comes from always looking for a new challenge to solve for clients. I keep learning when clients need something I don’t know about yet, and I have the motivation to do the research and find the answers to stay one step ahead of the client.
TFB: That’s an excellent way to do it. Instead of theorizing what clients will need and spending time on that, without a proven client need, you are going after what the clients are actually asking for, and making money in the process. Smart! You’re funding your learning and going deeper into the specialty at the same time.
GF: Yes, exactly. And it’s what I really love. You have to find out what you really enjoy and spend your time doing that.
TFB: So Gita, tell us about your book. You’ve become such a specialist that you’ve written a book, which supports your specialty even further.
GF: We started with one book for landlords in 2006. My clients suggested I put the book on my website. But I didn’t have a website at that time. So I learned about it and put up a website and started to get sales out of state. That opened my eyes! I realized I didn’t need only local clients.
TFB: That’s right. With the Internet, you can get clients everywhere.
GF: After putting out the book for landlords on the website, I got a lot of calls from property managers asking how I could help them. They liked the book, but needed one for their specific situation. They wanted me to write something for property managers.
The way I handle it when a client wants services that I’m not an expert in yet, I give them a limited amount of free services with the condition that they allow me to learn as part of the engagement letter for consulting, and we also give them the resulting book for free. We do this for 5-10 clients while developing the book. That way we really learn about the business, they ask us questions and we include it in the book.
After that second book was out, then we started getting calls from Condo Associations asking for a book. So we wrote a third book. We also wrote an ebook for real estate agents and one for landlords who have third party managers. Now we have 7 books, including one for commercial property management.
TFB: So really, from just focusing on that one specialty in the beginning, it’s grown to an empire! Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
GF: I’m now working on a book for vacation rental property using multiple currency, as well as another book for real estate brokers. And finally one for REOs, BPOs and Receivership.
TFB: Fantastic! Thanks for spending the time, Gita. It’s a wonderful success story for just how much having a specialty can expand and grow your business, even very casually.
If you’re working with real estate clients and want to benefit from Gita’s expert advice and instruction, take a look at all the instructional publications she has available to find the one that works with your situation. And Gita is even giving us an exclusive discount through September 17 of 30% off! Code: september30
I highly recommend that you take a look at what she has done to really maximize her credibility and create an additional income stream at the same time by specializing her services and providing very specific information to those who need her help most. It is a true win-win model to take as an example, no matter what your specialty.