5 Steps to Get High Quality Clients

The poll I took a few weeks back clearly shows that the biggest roadblock for most freelance bookkeepers is “finding new or high quality clients”

When first starting out, the hurdle for new freelance bookkeepers is usually finding ANY clients. But once they get their feet wet and realize that not all bookkeeping clients are created equal, they tend to ask this question:

“How can I find ‘good' clients?

Finding high quality bookkeeping clients is not just a “newbie” problem though. As we've seen in the poll, even seasoned freelance bookkeepers seem to be on the lookout for quality clients.

So, how can you save yourself a ton of headaches and find the cream of the crop? Here are 5 factors that will put you on the right path…

1. Know what kind of clients YOU want to serve

The definition of a “high-quality client” is not black or white. One bookkeeper's Ideal Client may be a PITA client for another freelance bookkeeper! How do you know what to look for before accepting a new client?

Know thyself first! Ask these questions of YOURSELF, and commit your answers to writing:

  • What are the type of people (personality types) you've enjoyed working with in the past?
  • What type of services do you like doing the most?
  • What type of businesses or industries do you feel confident working with?

Every new client will NOT be right for you! Choose those who will be easy for you to work with and to whom you can confidently provided needed help.

2. Be the kind of bookkeeper THEY are looking for

High-quality clients are attracted to high-quality professionals. Make sure you have evidence that you're a qualified, professional-grade bookkeeper.

  • Answer the phone professionally and use a professional voice mail greeting when you're not available
  • Get a website that looks professional (or at least have a completed LinkedIn profile – including a respectable and recent photo of yourself)
  • Use a business email address (your own business name .com, if at all possible)
  • Having a certification of some kind and/or professional credential is also helpful

3. Show up where they might look for you

Despite popular belief among bookkeepers, clients have a hard time finding us. And THEY complain about the same problem – finding high-quality bookkeepers!

Make it easy for them to find you! That means you need to be where they will go looking.

Generally, people first seek professional service providers through personal references. That means they ask their friends and colleagues for a recommendation. When that doesn't work, then they will start looking online. So at a minimum, you should be listed online in…

  • Local business directories (many are free)
  • Google Places (if you meet clients at your office address)
  • On LinkedIn with a completed profile (ranks high in Google)

4. Reach out and make connections

Referrals, as mentioned, are the first way high quality clients try to find bookkeepers. You get referrals because of who knows you. Speed up the referral process by making it a habit to take the initiative in building meaningful and authentic connections with those who can make referrals to you. Yes, that mean good, old fashioned networking.

Whether you network online, offline or both (I recommend both), referrals are based on trusted person-to-person relationships. Building relationships takes time, so you won't usually get referrals immediately. So don't expect them.

Seek simply to make friends first. Referrals will come AFTER you have built up trust, and people get to know and like you.

Here's a networking formula that gets powerful results if you make it a habit:

  1. Look for something you have in common with the business people you meet.
  2. Get to know each other professionally and individually
  3. Freely share helpful tips or ideas
  4. Stay in touch and look for ways to work together

If you just do this on a regular basis, over time, you will get more referrals than you can handle. Seriously!

5. Use procedures that will scare off low quality clients

As already stated in #1 above – not all clients are right for you. A great way to protect yourself from working for a “bad” client who doesn't value your work or pay on time is to use these two simple procedures with every new client – no exceptions:

  1. Always REQUIRE a retainer of at least 30% up front for each project or your first month's fee. DO NOT do any work until you have received the retainer!
  2. Always REQUIRE a written contract / engagement letter that specifically lays out both yours and your client's responsibilities, payment & fee expectations, working arrangements and terms of termination. DO NOT do any work until you have documented agreement to your contract.

Low quality clients will usually refuse to comply with either or both of these requirements. And if they accept these standard procedures, if a problem arises later, it will be much easier to resolve early and preserve a mutually beneficial professional relationship.

When you are willing to raise the bar on whom you will accept as clients, it's easy to find you online,  and you take the initiative to build genuine referral relationships, you will definitely acquire high quality clients that will make it all worth while.

By the way, if you'd like the opportunity to discuss topics like these with your fellow freelance bookkeepers on a monthly basis,  brainstorm ideas, or get my personal answers to your bookkeeping business questions live, check out The Freelance Bookkeeper Premium membership.

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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15 Responses to “5 Steps to Get High Quality Clients”

  • Michael Cook on January 21, 2013

    Excellent Gabrielle.
    You’ve just expertly summarized the entire freelance bookkeeping start-up and business growth process.
    The above article contains years of experiential-knowledge and business ‘know how’.
    This is a lot of good stuff for us in the freelance/self-employed bookkeeping business.
    Hey, imagine, if Gabrielle gives away so mush useful nuggets for free; imagine how much you’ll receive in the Premium Membership program. I do!

    • Gabrielle on January 22, 2013

      Thanks for your enthusiastic endorsement, Michael. 🙂

      Yes, these are certainly lessons learned from experience over the years. Often they are lessons that I continue to learn. I’m glad if it helps others save some time and get to the “good stuff” quicker.

  • Michael Cook on January 21, 2013

    Yes,
    High quality clients is what it is all about:
    The only way to headache proof your business.

    • Gabrielle on January 22, 2013

      High quality clients = win-win working relationships. Although I must say, I don’t see clients as the source of all business headaches. I’m pretty good at creating a few all by myself! 😉

  • Sarah on January 21, 2013

    I have found the best referrals are from existing clients, or at least people I know professionally. These people can vouch for my work and I usually don’t have to deal with hassles such as price haggling.

    • Gabrielle on January 22, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Sarah. And I must agree! Existing clients who are happy will be your greatest (and most effective) advertising. It’s based on the experience and relationship with you. Now, if that same kind of positive relationship can be extended to others, that is when we really kick the referrals into overdrive.

  • Michael Cook on January 21, 2013

    Sarah,
    You’re 100% right.
    They come already sold.

  • Yeshwant Mehta on January 22, 2013

    Excellent article, congrats Gabrielle. Very helpful to new start up bookkeeper, please keep publishing more articles on growing more and more clients. Thanks

  • Kgosi Johnson on February 3, 2013

    As I have obtained some bookkeeping clients, I have learned one thing. Regardless of the area the client is in, if a client is impossible to get ahold of and communication is not effective watch out! I even met someone at a networking event who was excited to meet me and wanted my services. Since that day I have not been able to get ahold of the person by phone, email or text. When I met the individual and showed interest in my services, how should I have handled the situation?

    • Gabrielle on February 16, 2013

      Hi Kgosi,

      You are, of course, correct about communication. It is extremely important in ALL relationships. If someone shows interest in your services, and you have made every effort to follow up (congrats on being diligent, btw, that’s where most drop the ball), but the person is unreachable, you are correct. That is a big red flag that even if they engage your services, you will have trouble working together. As long as that person already has your contact information (from your initial meeting) then don’t worry about it. Let them take the responsibility to contact you (or return your efforts at contacting them). Move on. There are PLENTY of small business owners who need your services and will be easier to communicate with. Maintain an abundance mindset and you will naturally attract more clients. Hope that helps.

  • Iswari Thapa on March 5, 2013

    Dear Gabrielle.

    I am a CPA from Kathmandu, Nepal.

    I tried many times to get some new clients for the booking or accounting outsourcing project from Kathmandu but alas I did not success yet.

    My marketing strategic was that the companies who look for accountant for their company I used to contact them and introduce my self and my audit company. I contacted around 100 companies but even 1% response I could not get.

    Your suggestion will highly be recognized if you have some tips for me

    Regds

    Iswari Thapa
    iswari1532@gmail.com

    • Gabrielle on March 5, 2013

      Namaste, Iswari!

      As a CPA you may have a bit of a disadvantage, since your fellow colleagues may expect your rates to be higher than that of a bookkeeper (justifiably so), as well as them being concerned that you are their “competition.” Many in our industry tend to be of a scarcity mindset (when, in reality, there is a HUGE need for our services!)

      If you are approaching colleagues for subcontracted (outsourced) work in your own country, you will likely do better, since you are familiar with the culture. Your approach needs to be one of complementing what they have to offer, not competing. Also, it is important to FIRST seek to build a genuinely helpful relationship – not one of selling your services. People do business with those they know, like and TRUST.

      Hence, if you are seeking to do outsourced work from Katmandu to the USA, the trust issue (not the pricing issue) will be your obstacle. My best suggestion on that front would be to participate in forums where you can share helpful information and build up a reputation of truly helping, caring and expertise. I suspect in time you will start attracting high quality clients (pull marketing as opposed to push marketing).

      Hope that helps.

      • Kgosi Johnson on March 5, 2013

        I do my best to steer clear of CPA’s territory. However, in my area I have noticed CPA’s trying to tap into the bookkeeper market. How do I handle that situation?

        • Gabrielle on March 8, 2013

          Kgosi,

          In short, you look for ways to work WITH them, not in competition with them. This is the same idea of building complementary relationships with fellow bookkeepers. As I always say: Think win-win and you can’t go wrong. 🙂

  • […] Your Ideal Client checklist will protect you from accepting “unqualified” clients whose main focus is getting your services at the cheapest price possible. […]

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