Understanding Your Clients Needs
When speaking with or taking on a new client, it’s important to ask the right questions so that you can be sure that you are the right person for the job, and if not, be ready to refer within your own network.
Asking targeted questions also enables you to develop an understanding of the person you will be working with. Knowing this, you are able to foreshadow (and then plan for and avoid) potential future issues, and focus on the client’s problem areas.
Which software are you using? Is it cloud-based software
Knowing the software your client is using, if any, is the first step to understanding if and how you can help. Asking this question also allows you to identify your client’s “information gaps”, and gives you an opportunity to show how else you may be able to help them get their bookkeeping processes into shape, and give them information that might encourage them to automate.
What type of business do you run? Are you a consultant? Do you bill time?
Understanding how a new client operates their business is important, whether they bill in cycles, or according to milestones gives you an idea of the size of the business you will be dealing with.
Are you required to lodge a BAS?
Asking this question will give you an understanding of the kind of revenue you will be dealing with. If the client is hesitant or doesn’t understand the question, you can explain the requirements around BAS.
Are you under the $75,000 limit for lodging a BAS?
Where there is confusion about BAS requirements, these questions can help you identify this, and ascertain whether or not your client has been operating in accordance with requirements, or could potentially need help registering for GST.
Have you ever had an accountant or BAS agent work for you? Do you work with one now?
This question can give you an idea of the complexity of your client’s tax needs, and help you to better approximate the time it will take you to complete the work you are taking on.
It also gives you an understanding about the potential “team” that you can work with, particularly if they relate to BAS Services or Tax.
If they don’t have an Accountant you can introduce them to the one in your Referral Network.
Are your tax returns behind? Do you need Rescue Bookkeeping.
This will also help you estimate your own billable hours. You can also find out if you will need to communicate with the ATO to avoid potential action against your client.
Is the ATO sending you any charges, like general interest charges?
If your client is behind, find out how far, and let them know their options for dealing with the ATO. Put a plan in place to avoid additional charges.
What is your ABN?
Your client’s ABN could be under their name or their business name and getting their ABN will help you clearly identify who you will be billing, as well as whether they are registered for GST.
Do you have all of your receipts?
Your client may have hardcopy receipts, credit card transaction history, email receipts or a combination. You need your client to
- locate all relevant receipts (excluding those under $82.50),
- differentiate between business and personal expenses if dealing with credit card records, and
- plan for how to have them delivered to you for data entry into their accounting software.
You can get an understanding of the amount of time you will need to spend entering data, where it has to be performed manually.
Where are you located?
With online accounting software like Xero, QuickBooks and MYOB Essentials most bookkeeping tasks can now be performed remotely from anywhere.
In some cases however, completing the work remotely may not be the best way for your your client. If this is the case, you may be able to find a colleague within your referral network to help.
Start a Bookkeeping Business
When you start a bookkeeping business it is very important to create a business plan that is based on your own market research.
In your bookkeeping business plan you will identify what an “ideal client” looks like. This might depend on how much you want to charge and what kind of work you want to focus on.
If the bookkeeping prospect you speak to doesn’t fit the criteria of an “Ideal Client” you might be better off referring them to someone who can do a better job at a better rate so you can focus on getting your ideal client.
Bookkeepers who try to do anything for anyone find that they are stretched for time, spend time learning how to do things they don’t know and provide bad customer service.