Is Technology Replacing Bookkeepers?

technology_replacing_bookkeepersIf you’ve seen what’s been going on in the accounting technology space, 100% automated data entry is nearly a reality. It’s almost scary! In fact, wondering whether technology is replacing bookkeepers, one of the members in our private TFB Premium discussion group asked…

 “If I were to start a new business in bookkeeping today, should I avoid the word bookkeeper in the business name and use consulting or advisor?”

Bookkeeping software has had the ability to pull transactions from bank and credit card accounts electronically for quite a few years, but usually there is at least some “massaging” needed to make sure the transactions were coded properly. But that is changing. The technology is getting a lot smarter!

It might seem like the whole profession of bookkeepers is being replaced by technology!

Online bookkeeping software like QuickBooks Online and FreshBooks do a good job at “guessing” at the accounts most transactions should be tied to when they come in through the integrated bank feeds. These programs “learn” based on vendors and coding patterns. Of course, when there are paper checks that have not been entered into the accounting systems that clear the bank, you used to be stuck with going back to the client to find out what the payment was for to properly book it. But with smart technology, such as used in third party tools like LedgerSync, even that can now be automated.

Additionally, other online programs work with the bookkeeping software to do much of the bookkeeping even from paper documents, such as is done with Shoeboxed and Hubdoc. These programs can take scanned receipts and other paperwork or digital documents, convert them to electronic format and extract the relevant data, then automatically enter it into the bookkeeping records. Some give you the option to review the input for accuracy, but when used wisely, what used to take hours of work, now literally takes a few minutes!

So where does this leave us? Is the need for bookkeepers going away?

While I do believe that as these technologies are accepted and embraced, even by mom-and-pop type businesses, bookkeepers who want to simply keep doing what they’ve been doing for years will be phased out. Automation will simply be faster and far more economical for the small business owners. However, the need for bookkeepers who are willing to step into the role of data manager and trusted advisor for their clients will actually be in higher demand than they are now (and there is already a very high demand for tech savvy, proactive bookkeepers!)

The role of bookkeepers is definitely changing, and I predict we’ll see acceleration of automation over the next couple years to paperless, web-based bookkeeping as the norm rather than the exception.

If you’re wondering how you can market your services to take advantage of this exciting trend AND learn how to provide your clients what they want most, then you’ll want to join us on the FREE webinar training I’m hosting this Tuesday, December 9th with Mike Michalowicz, Author of Profit First AND join us in this month’s TFB Premium training lesson for “How to Add High-Value Consulting Services to Your Freelance Bookkeeping Business”

Have you started providing consulting services, even informally to your bookkeeping clients yet?

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Free Training to Help You Get More Clients

Would you like to get more clients for your bookkeeping business?

Here’s a time-sensitive announcement that has me giddy with excitement! (Seriously!)

profit-first-bookAs you may know, I’m a big fan of the business (and life) changing principles laid out in the new book Profit First for how we can instantly make our business more profitable.

Well, I’ve been able to connect personally with the author, Mike Michalowicz, and he has graciously agreed to do a LIVE webinar with me about how we can attract more high quality clients using a few simple but totally different ways to market our services.

Mike is a fantastic speaker and teacher, so you don’t want to miss this! Mark your calendar now!

“Profit First for Bookkeepers”

How Different is Better to Market & Grow Your Bookkeeping Business

DATE: Tuesday, December 9th

TIME: 1:00 PM Eastern / NY Time
(that’s 12:00 PM Central, 11:00 AM Mountain, and 10:00 AM Pacific)

This live webinar will show you new, effective ways to attract more quality clients AND set yourself apart from every other bookkeeper around!

Get all the details right here:

http://thefreelancebookkeeper.com/profit-first-webinar

If you haven’t heard of Mike Michalowicz or Profit First (he’s also the author of the books The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur), he’s someone you want to be listening to.

And I don’t say that lightly!

I’m pretty picky about who I pay attention to and recommend when it comes to business advice. In my experience, much of what the so-called business gurus say is really smoke and mirrors. They like to make big promises and use lots of inspirational words, but real substance is sorely missing when you dig down below the surface and try to actually use what they tell you.

Mike is different. He’s the real deal.

Yeah, he’s a great speaker. But he’s a REAL entrepreneur who has built (and sold) multi-million dollar businesses (from scratch), yet he never forgets what it’s like to be in the trenches and is amazingly humble.

He’s done a lot of things right… but also is quick to tell you about all the BIG mistakes he’s made too, that caused him to crash and burn.

Mike is now running his third million dollar venture, and is seriously dedicated to helping small businesses like ours succeed. What I’ve learned from him so far is ROCK SOLID advice and very actionable. (I’m already seeing a big impact in my own business because of it!)

That’s why I highly recommend that you MAKE time to join us on this webinar because it will definitely put you in the perfect position to make 2015 your BEST year yet — whether you’ve been a freelance bookkeeper for years, or you’re just getting started.

Please join Mike Michalowicz and me for this VERY special free one-time-only webinar!

Reserve Your Spot on the Webinar Here

I guarantee that this will be worth your time!

And YES, there will be a replay available for a limited time, just in case you can’t make it to the live webinar. But you must register to be notified and gain access to the replay.

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10 Tips for Becoming a Highly Successful Freelance Bookkeeper

successful freelance bookkeeperIs it easy to become a successful freelance bookkeeper?

Let’s be honest. Starting your own freelance bookkeeping business is NOT the same as getting a job as a bookkeeper to make money. Truth is, there are a good number of freelance bookkeepers who don’t make it. The reason is usually not because they don’t have competency as a bookkeeper (though there is a percentage who do fail because they don’t have professional level bookkeeping knowledge). The bigger reason why many struggle to make the money or create the flexible lifestyle they want most is because they have not mastered the essentials of running a successful bookkeeping BUSINESS.

Here are 10 tips for how you can fast-track your success as a freelance bookkeeper and dramatically increase your odds of building the successful freelance lifestyle business you really want.

1. Goals“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

It’s a famous line from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it’s true. Many bookkeepers start there business with only the goal of “making some money,” often to pick up the slack from a lay-off or some other reason why working outside of the home is not an option. But without a clear vision and planned destination for your business, you are creating a job for yourself. And it could turn out to be worse than working for any employer!

Tip: Take time to envision how you WANT your ideal freelance bookkeeping business to be – your income leve, the hours you want to work, and any other specific benefits or results it will give you. Commit them to paper and use them as your compass as you grow your practice.

2. Independence“You don’t get harmoney when everybody sings the same note” – Doug Floyd

Employees are given instructions and told what to do. When you are a freelance bookkeeper you have the freedom to make your own decisions and choices. Get into the habit of using your freedom as a FREElancer to make your own choices and build your business to be uniquely your own.

3. Communication“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Bookkeepers who succeed and get a constant stream of new referrals have great communication skills! Especially if you’re working on a virtual basis (via the Internet and phone) you need to become a proactive communicator for smooth and timely interaction with your clients. This skill alone is a linchpin to smooth bookkeeping workflow.

4. leadership“Lead or be led” – unknown

Professionals lead, employees are led. If we expect to be treated and paid as professionals by our clients, we need to act like them! Being proactive by definition means… “causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” Guide your clients in compliance issues and help them learn how what you do benefits them, and you will have clients for life.

5. Insight - “The best vision is insight” – Malcolm Forbes

Much of what we do is historical in nature. But the information is invaluable for providing valuable information about where your clients’ businesses are headed financially. Sharing this knowledge with them, can open new opportunities for add-on consulting services. Insight into the meaning in the numbers can also save you from continuig to work for clients who can’t afford to pay you! Do the books, but pay attention to what the numbers are telling you and your client.

6. Being a Giver - “A man reaps what he sows” – The Bible (Galatians 6:7)

Running a successful freelance bookkeeping business creates the opportunity to benefit everyone you touch. If you are willing to contribute toward the success of others without always expecting something in return, you set the wheels of an abundant mindset in motion and position yourself as an attractive expert. This will spark the inclination of others to send you referrals and give back to you in ways you can’t even imagine.

7. Failure“There is no failure. Only feedback.” – Robert Allen

Fear of failure holds many of us back from getting started or making needed changes to reach our goals. As a business owner you will make mistakes. That’s okay! Learn from the results you get so you can move closer to what you want — better clients, higher fees, improved service offerings. The cure for failure is taking action. Consider yourself a scientist experimenting to see what will work best for you in your business, and then take action to get the test results. Make adjustments until you get what you want.

The only way you can fail in your freelance bookkeeping business is to not take action to get what you want.

8. Technology“Learning and innovation go hand in hand” – William Pollard

While bookkeeping principles don’t change, technology is advancing at a break-neck pace! It can be overwhelming. But as freelance bookkeepers we need to stay abreast of new developments that can improve how we work with our clients and improve our profitability or that of our clients. Plan to invest in training on an annual basis to stay up on the technology that will benefit your business most, especially if you are or plan to work virtually with your clients.

9. Systems - “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing” – W. Edwards Deming

A successful freelance bookkeeping practice is built on systems. As described by Michael E. Gerber in the business classic The E-Myth Revisited, systems should run the business and people run the systems. As a freelancer, you may be relying on your skills to perform your work. But when you can document each step you take to create a specific, repeatable and consistent system, not only will you find that you can produce your work more quickly and consistently, you set yourself up for expansion by being able to replace yourself, either through hiring help as your business grows, or by being able to ultimately sell your business. Systems turn what you do into a valuable asset and not just a job you do.

If you’d like a kick-start the development of your own systems, policies and best practices quickly, you’ll want to join us this month in TFB Premium where we go in depth on “Profitable Bookkeeping Policies and Best Practices”

10. Marketing - “Marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers” – Seth Godin

Believe it or not, the most important activity in your business is NOT bookkeeping. Yes, your clients may be paying you to get the bookkeeping done. But it is the communication that will connect you with the clients who want your services. As mentioned in #3 above, communication is vital to your success in working with your clients, and it all begins with their first contact with you. That is your marketing. Whether it is done through word of mouth or advertising or a myriad of other ways. You must market your services in order to get clients and be successful.

Make marketing a regular part of your weekly plans and you will easily have as many clients as you want! If you’d like to learn EXACTLY how to market your services in a way that attracts strangers and turns them in to friends who want to hire you, join me on my brand new training, The Freelance Bookkeeper Marketing System. You’ll learn the step-by-step process for getting a steady stream of new clients started in 30 days or less.

Is it worth honing all these skills to build your own freelance bookkeeping business? It all comes back to #1 – your goals. If you just want to make some extra money, getting a part-time job may be the easier route. But if you want the freedom and rewards that come with building something solid and scalable with your own custom-made business, then jump in with both feet and join us in serving the small businesses that need our help. The rewards can be far more than simply a paycheck.

What results are you looking for in your own bookkeeping business?

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TFB Spotlight on Gita Faust

tfb-star-spotlightHaving 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.

Enter Gita Faust of Fast Trac Consulting

gita-faustNot 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.

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 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

http://fasttracconsulting.com/books/

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.

 

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How to Immediately Attract Better Clients and More Profit

better-clients

The #2 most frequently asked question is, “How do I find better clients who are willing to pay my rates?” (#1 is “How do I get clients?”)

Not all clients are created equal. Just because a potential client says he wants your help with his bookkeeping, doesn’t make him a good client. If you’ve been a freelance bookkeeper for a year or more, you probably already know this… at least in your gut.

Focus on Results

Yes, having an Ideal Client Profile clearly defined will help you to more easily identify the clients you should accept, as well as the ones to turn away so you don’t get burned. But some freelance bookkeepers struggle to define who they WANT as clients specifically… and don’t know when to say “No.”

If that’s your situation, do not despair. You are not doomed to play the client crap shoot game whenever you’re trying to decide if you want to accept that next potential client or not.

A shortcut for filtering out the duds is to focus on the RESULT the potential client wants to achieve by working with you.

HINT: To do this effectively, you MUST get out of your own way and really listen to the client!

Often, potential clients approach us because they are in trouble…

  • They need to file taxes, but haven’t done any record keeping for the last year (or more)
  • They need a loan and updated financial reports are required (their books are outdated or a mess)
  • They want relief from their cash flow problems and know they need to handle their books better
  • They want relief from the administrative burden or improved efficiency for doing their own books

All of these situations involve pain, and the client is looking for a solution. The pain is what motivates them to come to us. The type of solution they want and for how long is what will help you determine the potential quality of a bookkeeping client.

While you can’t read the client’s mind, you can see if he is looking for a “quick fix” emergency result, or if he is committed to improving his business long term. The quick-fix clients are the ones who generally are more demanding, want low rates, and are more likely to be slow payers. These are the ones to turn away.

The clients who want to solve a problem long term will usually be better quality clients. They are more committed to the process and are willing to invest in the success of their business. These will be the most profitable and easier clients to work with. They are generally willing to pay professional rates too.

So, how do you attract these long-term results focused clients?

Offer the results they are looking for!

When you offer “bookkeeping services” only, that’s good enough for the quick-fix crowd. But when you offer solutions to cash flow problems, or more efficient and profitable business management, you are playing a bigger role and providing higher value services. Clients who recognize that value will be attracted to you. The short-sighted tight wads will think you’re “too expensive.”

How to Do It

So how do you make the transition immediately from typical bookkeeper to results-based services that attract high quality clients? One way is to offer a free 30-minute consultation or business health assessment.

Of course, if you’ve never offered this type of service, you may feel intimidated and not sure how you can properly evaluate a client’s business or deliver on the promised results. No need to fear. Just by asking quesetions and listening you can often discern their major issues. If you take a look at their existing financial records, you will quickly see some of their key challenges as well.

Trust your analytical skills, and don’t hesitate to make any easy-to-implement recommendations as “free tips” during the call. Proactively help clients where it hurts, and you’ll quickly earn their trust and prove your worth to their business.

profit-first-bookBut you’re probably wondering if there’s a process for KNOWING exactly HOW to help clients. While each business is unique, all of your clients want to make money (just like we do)! A great way to help clients (existing and new) is to focus on profit. To do that, you can use the assessment methods clearly laid out in my new favorite book, Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.

This quick and fun-to-read book literally turns the typical bookkeeping mindset about profit on its head! It shows you and your clients how to turn a profit immediately! (No kidding!) Implementing its practical methods for your clients is a perfect way to provide real value AND immediately upgrade the quality of your freelance bookkeeping services at the same time. Of course, that may require you to upgrade your rates as well (aka, charge more!)

I’m extremely excited about the concepts and methods laid out in this new book because it shows us HOW to provide high-value bookkeeping AND consulting services to our clients. In fact, I spoke with Mike personally, and he has generously agreed to allow me to not only give the Profit First system to my own bookkeeping clients for free, but to you, my fellow freelance bookkeepers, as well!

Click Here to download the first 5 chapters of Profit First for free (no opt-in required)

Of course, offering results-focused services is just one way to position yourself as a premium quality bookkeeper. If you’d like a deeper dive into the “secret sauce” that will transform your bookkeeping practice from a glorified job to a highly profitable and exciting business that manifests your BIG goals quicker than expected, join us this month in the TFB Premium trainings where our topic is, “How to Differentiate Yourself as a Premium Quality Bookkeeper.”

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