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accountants and bookkeepers

5 steps that can help you fix the fundamentals of your firm’s billing

Client engagement and relationships require careful management to ensure there’s no ‘scope creep’. This is where the volume of work undertaken on a job is more than what was initially expected. Our advice is to state the rules of engagement from the start to keep everything professional, billable and transparent.

Here are five measures you can use to determine if your relationship with your clients will support your future success:

  1. Understand the scope of the work
  2. Always bill for your time and advice
  3. Ensure you’re compliant with industry regulations
  4. Empower staff
  5. Be transparent with clients

1. Understand the scope of the work

When running an accounting business, you need to bill for every piece of work, no matter how small, says Shaye Thyer, Head of Accounting at Intuit QuickBooks, at the 2022 Get Connected event hosted by Intuit QuickBooks.

It is essential that you know the work the client wants completed and clearly communicate your billing schedule and the way you charge for the work you do. Producing estimates and quotations also helps clients understand the investment in the job. This reduces the risk of clients asking you to complete tasks, which require research and effort for no fee. 

2. Always bill for your time and advice

As your relationship with your client grows, often your rapport will become more informal. When this happens, it’s common for clients to ask if you have a ‘spare five minutes’ to look at something or hear a thought bubble.

If you are not careful that spare five minutes can add up to hours of extra work each week. This time is often not billed, but you’re imparting valuable advice that could add significant benefit to your client’s business.

“It is okay to say, ‘I can absolutely help you with that, and I'll have an engagement letter over to you shortly to get us started’,” Thyer says. “Because there is a lot of value in those thoughts, backed up by university and postgraduate qualifications, on top of keeping up with legislation and your experience.”

If a client asks you to answer a quick question, answer in the affirmative, but make it clear that you will be billing for your time.

3. Ensure you’re compliant with industry regulations

 Make sure the documentation that supports any engagement clearly states the scope of work, the investment required in the work and any applicable terms of the agreement. This is important not only to support a trusted relationship with your clients, but also to ensure that as an accountant or bookkeeper, you’re compliant with the relevant compliance obligations for Terms of Engagement in your practice.

 “In our engagement letters we verify our client’s identity, set out our privacy policy and articulate any other lawful requirements,” Thyer says.

 The right accounting software definitely makes the process a lot easier, she adds.

 “Engagement documents need to be simple and free of jargon. There is a real art in communicating with clients. I love seeing an engagement letter that’s written in plain English, that captures the essence of everything we need to disclose to be compliant, and is able to be clearly understood by our clients.”

 Great documentation is the best way to ensure clients understand their obligations and also their accountants’ obligations. That’s the best way to establish a great foundation for the relationship.

Take the stress out of managing your firm

4. Empower staff 

It’s easy to get into the habit as an accountant or bookkeeper to work autonomously and come together as a team only sporadically.

Changing processes so everyone works together and responsibilities are shared, supports better and more informed decision making. It also produces high quality work.

“Empowering your team is an incredible process, particularly for middle tier team members,” Thyer says.

Sharing responsibilities within the workplace and embracing the knowledge within your accounting firm will only benefit the client.

Your clients also benefit from the product updates accounting software programs like Intuit QuickBooks continually makes into its systems for users’ benefits.

5. Be transparent with clients

Thyer’s final piece of advice is to ensure there is clear communication between all parties.

“You build trust with clients when you have a transparent relationship with them,” she says. “Get the admin out of the way at the outset and tick the compliance boxes. This allows you to spend time doing the work that helps their business thrive.”

The right digital tools help underscore this dynamic. For instance, automated engagement and payment management tool Ignition improves transparency and communication and integrates with QuickBooks Online Accountant enabling seamless workflow.

So, communicating clearly with your clients and being transparent about billing and work helps create a great long-term relationship that delivers value to everyone.

What’s next? 

Clear communication should be an essential part of your business when it comes to client engagement. Take the opportunity to review the five lessons outlined in this blog. If you’re not taking these steps already, it could be time for a strategic review of the way you engage with clients.

Contact us today to find out more about how Intuit QuickBooks can transform your practice and support your clients to be the best they can be.


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