From Corporate Job to Bookkeeping Business: TFB Spotlight on Roderick Robeson

tfb-star-spotlightIf you're a professional bookkeeper or accountant who has been thinking about starting your bookkeeping business for a long time, but have been hesitating to make the leap, this TFB Spotlight is for you!

Roderick Robeson, who is a CPA, had a very typical beginning working in corporate America for years. He had an entrepreneurial dad, but it took a long time for him to realize that starting his own accounting and bookkeeping firm was the right fit for him. It was a gradual realization.

In this interview you'll hear what it was that made him finally make the (scary) move from the security of a regular paycheck to being his own boss and quickly growing a very successful bookkeeping and tax practice. HINT: He started his business only a couple years ago and already has nearly 100 clients, is making six figures and did very little marketing.

Learn his secrets in this real-world interview from someone who is very deliberately taking action and reaping the rewards of building a true business.

Would you rather listen on the go? Right Click Here to Download the Audio  (41 mins)

Guest Bio:

Roderick Robeson is a Certified Public Accountant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of small business, accounting and finance experience. He owns and operates Roderick Robeson CPA, LLC, which is a virtual accounting firm serving small businesses internationally.

Roderick has a passion for teaching, and due to his unique teaching style, he was selected to teach business courses at one of China's largest and most prestigious universities, SiChuan University.

In his spare time, Roderick enjoys getting away from the computer and reading, traveling, kayaking and fishing. He calls Austin, Texas home.

The best way to contact Roderick is via email or via his website: http://rorcpa.com/

What was your best takeaway from Roderick's story?

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How Will You Grow Your Bookkeeping Business in 2018?

Have you started working your plan to grow your bookkeeping business for the new year? What does it include?

January is one of the busiest times of year for bookkeepers, since small business owners who have been neglecting their bookkeeping all year begin to realize they need to get their records in order because taxes will be due soon. Or maybe it's part of their 2018 business plan to take better care of their financial management (and stop trying to cut corners when it comes to maintaining their finances).

Point is, if your biggest goal is to bring in new clients to grow your bookkeeping business, this is a great time of year to ramp up your marketing and networking activities.

Or maybe you have enough clients and get new referrals regularly and would rather focus on updating your skills and start embracing the latest in online technology. You're wasting too much time in non- or low-billable activities doing the books at your clients' offices, or want to become more eco-friendly and stop being tied to paper documentation.

Or maybe you are knee-deep in technology but still feel like you're spinning your wheels trying to fit all the pieces together. Your plans to grow your bookkeeping business are more about doing more with less. Streamlining your workflow is your priority this year so you can finally stop working so hard.

Do any of these resonate with you in where you want to take your practice?

I really wanted to know, plus had a practical reason to ask this question. So I did.

The Votes Are In

In December I ran a survey for the topics that you felt would help you most in 2018. We focused on the three key areas that bookkeepers ask me to help them with most: (1) technology, (2) marketing and getting new clients, and (3) streamlining internal systems and workflow. I was curious to find out which was the most in demand now.

Survey says…

Pretty much all three. But a clear trend is emerging. In fact, I run a survey like this every year to come up with the training plan for my TFB Premium membership program. Two years ago was the first time that systems and workflow beat marketing for the #1 spot. But this year technology takes the prize!

Here's how these areas ranked, in order:

  1. Technology
  2. Systems & workflow
  3. Marketing

We will be providing classes surrounding all of these topics in 2018, but clearly we are looking for ways to rise above the noise and future-proof our bookkeeping practices as automation and technology keep surging forward. The scene of our world is changing and we need to adapt.

My mission with The Freelance Bookkeeper is to gather a community of confident, competent, consultative bookkeepers who want to make a difference. I believe that when you grow your bookkeeping business, you can provide important benefits to not only yourself and your family, but also to your clients and everyone we collectively touch. So all of the training programs and resources this year will be to support your success as we navigate the changes together.

In view of this, we've now posted the new 2018 lesson schedule for the TFB Premium program (see below), as well as planning upcoming free webinars that support these three key areas of growth. We're also working on several projects that will zero in on leveraging technology AND honing your consultative and advisory skills to produce the best results for both you and your clients for the long term. So stay tuned this year. We are in for an exciting ride!

The TFB Premium Lesson Topic Schedule for 2018

January: The 6-Figure Bookkeeper – Is it Really Possible?

February: Simple Online Client Attraction for Busy Bookkeepers & Accountants 

March: Your Win-Win Client Assessment – How to Avoid Getting Stuck with the Wrong Clients

April: The No-Risk Way to Specialize Your Bookkeeping Practice

May: Bookkeeping Automation for Virtual Bookkeepers

June: Virtual Service Delivery Systems: How to Assemble Your Own Streamlined Workflow

July: How to Add Coaching & Consulting to Your Bookkeeping Business in 3 Simple Steps

August: CyberSecurity – What Every Freelance Bookkeeper Needs to Know

September: Your Online Presence – What You Need to Succeed

October: Bookkeeper Blogging & Content Marketing for a Regular Stream of New Client Leads

November: How to Set Up Your Client Referral System for More Consistent Inquiries

December: How to Migrate from Hourly to Flat Fee Packages Without Losing Your Shirt

If you've been thinking about joining us for one or more months this year, we'd be glad to have you with us!

Learn more about The Freelance Bookkeeper Premium program here

Additionally, if there are topics you don't see here that you'd like to learn more about or have me post here on the blog, go ahead and let me know using the Suggestion Box at the bottom right of this page.

So, what are your big plans for 2018 to grow your bookkeeping business?

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Virtual Bookkeeper Insights from The Road

Have you ever dreamed of having the freedom to travel anywhere in the world, and have your business support your mobile lifestyle? Well, it can be done if you're a virtual bookkeeper.

It's been awhile since my last blog post. Did you miss me?

Part of the reason for my absence from the blog has been because I was traveling for an extended time in Indonesia… literally on the other side of the planet.

Do I have a team of bookkeepers to carry on the work in my business for me while I am globetrotting? Nope. I do have a virtual assistant who helps me with my online training programs for TFB and the customer service Help Desk. But my bookkeeping business is all me.

So since I've been running my business 100% virtually from my home office for over 14 years, I thought it was about time to test out what it would feel like to truly run it all from the road for more than a week. My overseas trip was a month long and gave me that opportunity. It was the ultimate virtual bookkeeper test.

Here's what happened with my ‘digital nomad‘ experiment in Southeast Asia…

The Good

Since I know that my concentration is greatly affected by my environment, I prepared a work itinerary so I would not lose track of important dates for critically important tasks that would impact my clients financially (such as the A/P and A/R functions). I also used automation to pre-schedule as much as possible before I left. In my plan I built in some extra time, just in case Internet connectivity was not what I was hoping.

All that pre-planning turned out to be a lifesaver!

Since I knew that I would be heavily reliant on public WiFi for much of my trip, I also used a privacy and security program called Avast SecureLine VPN, which I have been very pleased with so far.

Something that gave me peace of mind was being able to answer questions that came up for my clients while I was away, and they felt no difference in my level of service. A few of them even forgot that I was traveling. (I notified all my clients about my travel plans, just in case something came up while I was in flight. Though of course, Internet was available on most of my flights too.)

The fact that I was still running my business and in touch with my clients, when away from the computer I was free to completely enjoy my new environment and travel activities. It was also nice to have no drop in revenue, which I would otherwise experience as a freelancer on vacation.

The Bad

While I knew that my Internet connections might not always be optimal, it had been 14 years since I'd traveled to Indonesia. So I assumed that connections would be generally much better than they were years ago. Sadly, that was not always the case, even while I was in the big city of Jakarta at a four-star hotel!

Sometimes my WiFi connection was useless for anything more than email. This slowed me down a few days and I had to reschedule my work time for when I would be in a different location. But as mentioned above, fortunately, when the most important work of the month needed to be completed, I had a strong, secure connection.

What I'd Do Differently

In hindsight, I probably should have got an international hotspot so I wouldn't have been as dependent on public WiFi as I was, and wouldn't have to worry about burning through my limited cell phone international roaming and data allotment.

I also would've scheduled more free time on my trip itinerary, since my activities schedule was much more time-consuming than I had expected. So available time to work was less than I thought it would be. (The traffic in Jakarta is outrageous!) Because of this, a few times I needed to be at the computer very early in the morning to get all the essential tasks done.

Conclusion

As a long-time freelance virtual bookkeeper, I'm very grateful that I was in a position to take a month-long trip and still be able to run my business successfully from the road. But I also learned that I don't think I'd want to be a full-time digital nomad backpacking around the world and attempting to keep up with my clients' books at the same time.

While I loved the time difference (I was literally half-a-day ahead), I missed being able to work at my desktop computer with dual monitors and quiet surroundings. I did feel more distracted. And if I was traveling longer term, it would've made online meetings with my clients more difficult.

So my conclusion is that the technology available to us today means we truly can work anytime anywhere. We just need to find the level of virtual that works best for us individually. Even so, having that level of flexibility feels like a gift.

If you ever do bookkeeping work virtually while traveling, what tips can you share from your experience?

By the way, I'm just about ready to release the completely updated version of my popular training program for professional bookkeepers who want to start a virtual bookkeeping business. It's called the Virtual Bookkeepers Guide. So you'll be hearing more about that very soon. So stay tuned if 2018 is the year you want to finally start your bookkeeping business, or you're ready to take your existing practice online or… on the road!

 

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Full Circle Client Experience: TFB Spotlight on Steffanie Anderson

Key to the path of becoming a ‘trusted advisor' type bookkeeper who provides consultative services and commands premium level fees is providing a truly valuable client experience. But how?

A great first step is by putting yourself in your clients' shoes. For some of us in the accounting profession, that is a major challenge. But not so for Steffanie Anderson of Business Cents, Inc. of Spokane, Washington. Along with her husband, she first started in business beginning in 1988, owning several different ventures over the years. She often hired QuickBooks ProAdvisors to consult with her companies to better use the software and get results. Now, she runs a her own thriving ‘Firm of the Future‘ bookkeeping and consulting firm.

Learn how she went full circle from being a ProAdvisor client with 50 employees, to starting her own bookkeeping business from a home-based office in a new city during the Great Recession when her husband lost his job and they had two kids in college.

This interview is littered with valuable insights that you can put to work for you right away in growing your own practice.

Would you rather listen on the go? Right Click Here to Download the Audio  (32 mins)

Business Cents, Inc. has been named Firm of the Future in the US for 2017, and is now in the running for Global Firm of the Future. You can vote for them here, and meet Steffanie and her team at QuickBooks Connect on November 15-17 when the winners are announced.

You can contact Steffanie directly on her website, or connect with her on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

LinkedIn

What is your favorite part of Steffanie's story? What did you learn that you can use for your own bookkeeping business success? Please share your questions, comments and experiences in the comments below.

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Where Successful Freelance Bookkeepers Get Stuck

In the beginning, when trying to become a successful freelance bookkeeper, it might seem like the hardest part is getting those first few clients. Once you get two or three, you’ll be on your way.

And for many, getting past that initial startup period, you think it's smooth sailing from there since you’ve got what you wanted. Some paying clients and steady monthly work. It's simply a matter of growing from here. Often we’ll get our next few clients via referral, and if we’re eager to grow quickly, we’ll develop a few marketing strategies to bring in more clients on a regular basis.

But once you’ve got some momentum, there’s a shift that happens. Instead of having the profitable bookkeeping business we envisioned, working as your own boss, and making good money, we get stuck. This next hurdle can be far more difficult to get past.

The Success Problem That Can Kill You

Suddenly one day a sales tax filing deadline unexpectedly creeps up on you, and you have to work a few extra hours over the weekend to get caught up. Or your holdout client who’s been clinging to QuickBooks Pro 2007 finally agrees to embrace the cloud and move to QBO. He wants to know how quickly you can complete the conversion so they can be up and running ASAP.

While this is great news, you’re currently in the middle of completing a massive new client cleanup project that you promised would be done early next week. Then immediately after that you've onboarding and training scheduled. You wonder how to possibly fit all this work in and still make it to your daughter’s big dance recital on Friday. And of course, you're  way behind in updating your own books (has it really been 8 months?!). Oh, and it completely slipped your mind that the mortgage payment was due last week. Yikes!

If you’re not already there, you’re headed into the pit of working far too many hours, making less money than you should, and feeling exhausted, frustrated and a stranger to your family.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Once we’ve hit overload, we realize that we have more client work than one person can get done during normal working hours. We're already working way too many hours. So it must be time to hire employees, or at least contract virtual staff. But that can actually make matters worse if you’re time is already overstretched.

Hiring help involves a steep learning curve that includes creating job descriptions and defining responsibilities, searching for and screening potential candidates, training, and what most of us have no experience with… people management. It's also a big financial commitment.

But you dive in anyway. It's the price of “success” after all, right?

But now you need to work even more hours than before (with even less productivity since you’re constantly interrupted with questions or pleas for help from your team). Your overhead has skyrocketed and your cash flow is crunched. What really stings is you're paying yourself even less money than before you hired “help”!

Staying stuck in this rut brings with it huge amounts of stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress that is left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”

This is not a sustainable way to run your business or your life.

Finding a Way Out

While this path is a typical one, the way to get off of this insidious treadmill is not as clear cut. Certainly, though, it is a time to pull yourself out of the weeds of the actual day-to-day work and step back to work ON your business. We need a fresh perspective.

Some questions to consider that may lead to successfully stopping the insanity are:

  • Do you need defined, effective systems to improve productivity and consistency?
  • Would adding automation improve efficiency and save time?
  • Do you need to overhaul your pricing structure?
  • Do you have the right kind of clients and would you benefit from specializing services?
  • What are your business goals beyond simply making a living and paying the bills?
  • Do you have an ultimate vision for your business and your lifestyle?

We all need to consider questions like these on a regular basis. In fact, building a habit to do so can make a big difference in the direction of your business. I’ve seen it in my own bookkeeping practice. Though I must admit, after many years in business, it seems I slide back into this overwork cycle whenever my practice starts to grow with new opportunities.

In fact, learning how to find and maintain a work-life balance is a particular challenge when you love what you do. And of course most of us want to (or need to) increase our profit levels as well.

That’s why I’m so excited to have Steve Pipe, a Chartered Accountant and author from the UK who is one of the most highly regarded accountant advisors to our profession in the world as my special guest on a brand new (free) webinar I’m hosting: “The 3 Keys to Profits & Work-Life Balance” coming up on Tuesday, October 24th at 12:00 noon Eastern Time.

Steve has learned how to navigate these overwork pitfalls himself and not only successfully achieve work-life balance and higher profits, but he’s taught hundreds if not thousands of accountants how to do it in the UK. I met him this past summer while I was at a conference in Birmingham, England where he was one of the speakers. I knew he had a powerful message that can make a big difference in the lives (and sanity) of so many bookkeepers here in the USA. So I asked him to join me for this special 90-minute interactive session. Please come join us and see how to break the crazy out-of-balance cycle!

Have you faced these challenges yet? What have you done to get past them successfully? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

 

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