With plenty of work and not enough preparers, it would seem finding new clients would be as simple as hanging out your proverbial shingle, but that’s not the case for most practitioners in a recent Insightful Accountant survey.
The plethora of tax returns that need to be prepared is not the problem, however finding quality clients that are the best fit for your firm and bring profitable work in the door is.
What makes finding a high quality, profitable client different than just finding any client? The answer largely depends on the characteristics of your practice. For example, what do you specialize in or do the most of?
If you specialize in high-net-worth 1040 clients, going out and seeking a large C Corp might make the prospecting process feel harder than it needs to be. Focusing on duplicating your ideal client will make your prospecting process a lot easier and more efficient.
You can read this TPN article for more details on defining your ideal client.
I believe a fair amount of burnout, overwhelm, and stress is self-created by us, as practitioners agreeing to work with clients that are not a good fit for us from a business and/or personality perspective. If we have so much work to do, we’re completely burnt out, we should not be chomping at the bit to take on more work, instead we would be carefully sifting through prospects to look for the ones that are truly a beneficial add to our portfolio.
To that end, it is your job to help train your clients. Common complaints amongst practitioners are the failure on the client’s part to adhere to deadlines and get their documents in on time. But why are you making yourself responsible for that? Re-work your engagement letters before this tax season to incentivize and disincentivize (i.e., punish, okay, I said it), the behavior you do and don’t want. Stop allowing your clients to bring you documents two days before, 10 days before, even two weeks before a deadline.
There is no way without significant stress to both you and your team that a return given to you two weeks before a deadline is going to be prepped, reviewed, signed by the client, e-filed and properly documented with all the right payments, vouchers, estimates and instructions going out the door.
Your engagement letter should read that all documents are required to be in your office no less than 30 days prior to any filing deadline to guarantee timely filing. That gives passthrough entity owners enough time to provide K-1s after they are filed. Charge clients who provide their documents late and/or don’t prioritize those returns until after the deadline.
Setting that 30-day rule also makes it easier for you to set up automatic reminders ahead of due dates. The clients who are a headache will either
- Weed themselves out after being charged extra fees
- Weed themselves out after the IRS charges them a late filing penalty because they didn’t give you information timely
- They will hang around, but you won’t be under pressure to get their work done when they don’t give it to you on time.
This makes more space for you to go back to finding clients that are your ideal fit. The benefits to owning your workflow and setting clear expectations of “who” you want to work with and “how” you are going to work, is that those defined boundaries help you better attract the people that fit into them. Client fit is a lot more critical than many of us realize when it comes to ease in our work.
Before taking anything and everything that comes your way this tax season because of the fear of “finding clients is hard”, reassess your position to one of authority. People need our services, you are only looking for the ones that are specifically looking to receive those services from you and all of the reasons why you are the unique, best fit.