Bookkeeping, the task that most business owners hate, find painful, boring and time consuming. In my experience, they try saving money getting it done by trying to manage it themselves, usually unsuccessfully, or they think their sisters, brothers, mothers, aunties or teenage children can do it rather than hiring a professional bookkeeper! I believe that the reason for this is business owners see bookkeeping as processing receipts “data entry”. Where is the value in that?
This is becoming even more of a challenge for the bookkeeping industry with the likes of Cloud Apps and Automation (AI – Artificial Intelligence). The industry is changing and you will need to change the way you run your business, the way you provide and deliver your services. I believe this is an awesome time for Bookkeepers and gives you a great platform to really provide value compared to the past. As professionals, we know bookkeeping is so much more than posting receipts but we also know it is one necessary task a business needs to do or invest in getting done along with other processes for managing cash flow and gaining insight into how the business is performing financially . It is up to you to sell your real value to your potential customers and show them Bookkeeping is so much more than data entry. Show them the value of paying for a Professional Bookkeeper especially now with the introduction and massive growth of cloud technology!!
I know when I started out with my bookkeeping business I really struggled with this value selling stuff. Over the past 15 years, I invested a lot of time and a few quid on reading books, mentoring, courses etc. in learning the way to communicate my value and put a price to it. Putting a price to it is still a difficult exercise to get my head around and I have not yet decided whether “value pricing” is for me rather than packaging or menu pricing. That may be for another post another time! In this post, I am going to share a few of the tips I learned along the way to help add value or at least give the client insight into the value I provide, which has helped me on this journey. Ultimately it is up to you to sell “YOUR” value, but I hope you find these to be useful tips to get started with.
1. Know who your clients are and what they want – Having a professional bookkeeper can improve efficiency (because we are trained and know how to process the work much quicker and accurately). There is much more to bookkeeping than just processing receipts. We reconcile bank accounts, reconcile sales and purchase ledgers, prepare VAT returns and review the numbers and reports for month/year ends and offer processes and procedures to complete the bookkeeping and much more. Clients always try to get the best price when hiring a bookkeeper. The issue with this mentality is hourly or fixed rate pricing is easy to compare against what your competitors have quoted making it more difficult for your proposal to be chosen. You must demonstrate why you are better than the rest, what services you provide that makes you more unique than the others. Many business owners may struggle with giving up control, you need to listen to what they are looking for, where their pain points are with managing their accounts month to month. Here are some ideas to help you get to know your clients better and how you can help them:
- Ask questions to find out what their current processes are and how they are managing them now, time involved and people needed to complete the task
- Evaluate what the clients want help with, how do they see your service working for them
- Listen out for those pain points in their business, particularly around managing the bookkeeping
- Find out what their time is worth to them and what their business goals are
- Create a plan on how you can provide a value added solution based on what you have learned
I know we all work at a different pace and charging by the hour is not how I would advise you manage your bookkeeping services. However, this is a great way to give clarity to the business owner about how much their time is worth and how it is wasted processing their own bookkeeping.
You need to explain how you are going to give them back their time to spend on growing and selling their services/products while you keep track of their finances and report to them how they are doing regularly so they can plan for future growth and achieve those business goals.
2. Review your processes – As we have already established you are a bookkeeper NOT a data entry clerk!! Processing supplier invoices is necessary to do your job. However, it is NOT what defines you as a Professional Bookkeeper. There are so many bookkeepers out there that I would describe as data entry clerks. They collect the paperwork once a week/month and they process what is in the box/bag/dropbox or however they receive the work. They complete a basic bookkeeping service, which probably covers reconciling the bank and hopefully reconciling the purchase and sales ledgers, prepare a VAT return quarterly and then perhaps once and while provide an income statement. Finally, they invoice the client to suggest completion of the job for that month. This repeats every month. BORING!!! Where is the VALUE??? I was guilty of this for a period of time in my practice, mainly because we grew quite quickly and had a lot of clients to service and there was only so much we could charge and do for our fixed fees. Data entry took up so much of that time there wasn’t much left in the budget to deliver anything else. So it is no wonder the client thinks their sisters, brothers, mothers, aunties or teenage children could do it! In reality, they probably could. There are other ways to deliver your service with real appreciation and recognition of value. Try the following ideas if you are not already providing these services:
- Keep the accounts up to date regularly and accurately. Possibly more than just once a month rather weekly, be proactive with your clients rather than working a month behind
- Automate the data entry (explained further down in post)
- Provide and Analyse the Financial Reports rather than just a basic report style – Profit & Loss, Debtors, Creditors, Balance Sheet so they can see exactly where they are spending money and what they are worth and discuss with them monthly or quarterly,
- Offer Credit Control – Chase their debtors (this can be automated saving you time. Idea for this listed further down in post)
- Keep track of the trends for them, notice any increase in spending and suggest ways to keep their costs down.
- Cashflow forecasting is another great service to offer as this is really important and valuable information for them.
3. NETWORKING – Get yourself out there and network. Not only will this help raise your profile and help you gain more clients but it can be super valuable to your clients too. It will benefit them not just you. You will meet all sorts of businesses through networking such as Marketing and Advertising agencies, Utility Providers, Printers, IT Accountants, Social Media gurus, Personal Trainers, Bankers, and much more. All these businesses can help you and your clients grow, sell and save money. Equally, you will meet business owners looking for services and you will get opportunities to recommend your clients. When I go networking I am always looking at how I can help the businesses I come in contact with. Putting them in touch with the people they are looking for or need. It is never about me where networking is concerned it is about what I can do to help someone else. My mother taught me “what goes around comes around” and I believe this is true and it hasn’t failed me yet. I have grown both my businesses through networking, whether online through social media or face to face networking.
4. INVEST IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – Never stop learning and developing your skill set. I am not talking about more bookkeeping courses. I am talking about investing in your business skills. For example, I am currently enrolled in a webinar course by Amy Porterfield. I have paid for a few mentors at different stages in my business to get me through that part of my journey. I am currently looking for another Mentor to help me through my next phase. I have taken courses in selling, marketing, social media, SEO, learn to create courses and loads more. I’m always investing in my growth and development. By doing this it is not only helping me grow my own business and hopefully turning me into an awesome business woman but most importantly I am learning skills I can pass on to my clients to help them grow their businesses, that is providing value. You have to invest in yourself before you can expect anyone else to invest in you!! I now run my own courses and mentoring services because I invested in my skills I feel I’m ready to give back and offer my experience and training through my own systems.
5. Embrace Cloud Technology – There is no reason to fear cloud technology. It is NOT taking away your future running a bookkeeping practice. However, it is going to change the way manage your bookkeeping practice. Working in “The Cloud” is the way of the future. Desktop software will be a thing of the past probably sooner than we think. I started my journey working in the cloud in 2011. For me, my introduction to cloud software was with Xero and it was a real turning point for my business. I have also worked with SAGE, Kashflow, and Quickbooks all great cloud software but for me, Xero was the clear winner and adopting Xero into my business opened up a whole new way of working with my clients. Working with cloud software helped me to:
- Collaborate with my clients much easier as there were no files being transferred back and forth, back ups of their accounts that took forever to load.
- I saved money on licenses for new clients coming onboard.
- I saved money by not having to pay for support each year and also having to higher more staff because automation cut down our workload
- I saved money by not having to upgrade every time a new version was released.
- I was able to offer so much more of my value added services because I cut back on the number of hours spent sorting and processing the data entry by introducing Receipt Bank which integrates with Xero www.receipt-bank.com.
- I improved my client’s cash flow by automating the credit control through Xero and other apps such as Chaser
- I increased my client base because my recovery rates were higher by automating my services. This enabled me to get bookkeeping done quicker leaving more time in my schedule to take on more clients without having to add costs such as more staff
- Xero’s Add-On community has improved my client’s productivity by streamlining their processes and providing them with detailed reporting software, budgeting and cashflow forecasting, consolidations, online payment options, integrations with Stock management, website platforms and so much more
These are just 5 ways I think you could add value to your bookkeeping clients, there are heaps more. Your aim is for your clients to walk away believing they CAN NOT afford NOT to work with you.
Thanks for reading! Hope you found something useful in this post. Please comment below.