So you have set up as a bookkeeping business and you are now out there looking for clients. Someone is interested and wants to chat to you about your services so what should you do?
It can seem really daunting when you are just starting out, and to be honest, even after being in the business for years I still get, butterflies meeting new clients for the first time. You want to do a great job and you want them to like you.
The first thing to do is research before the meeting. Make sure you learn about the client and their business and see if anyone you know has any tips on working in the sector if this is new to you.
It is so easy these days to look people up on Linkedin or other social media before you meet them to get a feel for what they are like. Also, if it's a limited company, I would look them up on Companies House just to see if their accounts are filed up to date, who their accountant is, and to double-check the details of who I am speaking to matches who are in control of the company.
Make sure you are absolutely clear about what services you can offer and if it matches what the client expects. Most business owners don't know the difference between a bookkeeper, an accountant and a tax advisor. Are you able to offer the services they require? Might it be best to chat to an accountant and see if you can work together supporting the client if that is what is needed? Does the client have an accountant already and do they just need help with the data entry and day-to-day bookkeeping and data entry.
I always try and build a good rapport with my client's accountants as by working well together your job can be easier and your client gets the best possible results!
Do they already have a bookkeeper who is passing on the reigns of an established system to you, will there be a changeover period, or are you setting up a new bookkeeping system for them from scratch? Make sure you know what sort of package they use (cloud or desktop) and do they expect you to be on-site or working remotely or a combination of the both. Are you familiar with their software or will you need some training to get to grips with Xero if you are used to Sage or vice versa? (That is where my help can be invaluable to you!)
Try and get an idea of the volumes of data involved. Ask the client how many lines are on their bank account statement monthly, how many invoices do they raise and how complex are the invoices? How many supplier payments do they make monthly or does the company pay expenses to employees that need managing?
Most of my bookkeeping clients raise their own sales invoices and some enter and pay their own supplier invoices so I just do the bank reconciliations monthly and double-check their data entry. Other clients don't want to go near or touch their own accounting package and just want to pass the whole job on. Being clear about what kind of client this will be can be key. (Take a look at my previous post about what sort of bookkeeper are you looking for?)
Some clients may want an 'all in' price for doing their bookkeeping, but I have always found this to be really hard to estimate if they have not used a bookkeeper before or don't have any idea how big a job their bookkeeping is to do properly. In these cases, I would offer to take on the bookkeeping for a trial period of 3 to 6 months so you can gauge how long the job will take going forward. I'd charge my hourly rate for the trial period then, if pushed, move to a fixed monthly fee going forward once you have worked out if this is the right job for you.
Since we were forced to work from home during the pandemic, I moved from doing half my bookkeeping on-site to doing it all remotely. Some clients scan in and upload the paperwork to a shared area using Microsoft software, some upload everything to Hubdoc for Xero, and another puts all the paperwork in a box and delivers it to my house.
The worst sort of client is the one who gives you everything late or has loads of paperwork missing, you want to avoid those from the start, so be sure to set your expectations for what you require, when you need it by, and how they'll get it too you from the start to avoid your clients getting into bad habits.
Once you have all your questions answered and you have decided that this new client is the right fit for you, at the very least set out the terms of your relationship in a letter of engagement with them. Message me if you need a template, and preferably follow Kerry's advice on what you need regarding terms and privacy policies in her guest post.
This will get easier the more experience you have and you will learn who are your perfect clients and who to walk away from. Remember you do not have to take them on if something does not feel right with them. If you meet someone whose accounts are late to be filed and they seem disorganised and always in a mess then they are not the right client for you and you will thank yourself in the long run for turning them down.
The first time I said no to a client who wanted me to be their bookkeeper was a really hard decision, but was exactly the right thing to do at the time.
If anything I've written here resonates with you, call me on 01604 420057 and let's see how we can help you.