Last minute clients — How to create capacity

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It happens every year. No matter how much you try to prepare, communicate, get organized or swear you’re not going to take the procrastinators, it is hard to say no to new client leads. The reality is that lead generation for tax preparers happens mostly during, drum roll please, tax season.

Inevitably we must at least entertain some of those last-minute phone calls. But what boundaries do you set and how do you handle last minute work in a busy schedule?

To better set yourself up for success, streamline and automate your onboarding process. The last thing you need, or want to be doing when a potential client calls at the last minute is start going back and forth about whether or not they sent their 1099 or their drivers license for the e-file authorization.

Set up electronic organizers and checklists in advance. When you get last minute calls you already have the templates ready to go out to allow last-minute clients to start immediately working on organizing their documents.

Software that helps with document collection will also reduce your workload (and stress). TaxDome is a great example of a software that will let you send organizer templates and clients can upload documents directly to each section of the organizer making things efficient for the preparer.

Even though the lead generation is nice, you still need to have boundaries. You should have a final deadline even for current clients of when you will stop accepting documents before a deadline. For example, all documents for a return must be provided no less than two weeks, or 30 days, or whatever time frame feels right, before a deadline or an extension will automatically be filed on client’s behalf.

These deadlines need to apply to new work as well. If a prospect contacts you too close to this cut off, it doesn’t mean you can’t serve them, but serve yourself and tell them you’ll need to file an extension and address their work after a busy season.

Build time in your schedule to expect the “unexpected” that we all expect. You know which of your current clients are going to pass off documents last minute and profusely apologize and beg you not to extend their return.

Make sure you and your team adequately manage your time and block off space to handle our beloved procrastinators. Block off a few spaces a week of at least two hours where you’re not taking meetings or have other work already pre-planned. These “buffer blocks” will provide you with the last minute time you’ll need to address these “unexpected” items. 

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Christine Gervais is a licensed CPA, using her skills to help businesses grow and achieve their fullest potential. Christine has a Master’s degree in accounting from Southern New Hampshire University in addition to holding her CPA license for over a decade. Notably, Christine is a nationally recognized speaker providing education to other CPAs on how to best serve clients as well as instruction on a wide variety of topics for business owners on how to maximize success. Christine prides herself on the value she can bring to clients with her extensive tax knowledge and providing strategic, forward-thinking financial strategies to help clients grow. When not behind her desk, you can find Christine spending quality time with her daughter and stepson or tending to the family’s excessively loved farm animals.