Being your own boss, working your own hours, hand-picking your clients and your rates, taking actual vacations and spending more time with your family… this is the dream, right?
For many bookkeepers and accountants, working remotely is a reality that has breathed energy back into the passion they feel for their work and their life. It takes hard work and dedication to sustain your own remote bookkeeping practice, but countless remote or virtual bookkeepers and accountants agree that the rewards are well worth the effort.
Although the path to establishing a remote practice is full of challenges, the steps are fairly simple. Four main keys contribute to you taking the leap from working for your corporate job to working for yourself. Your understanding of these keys begins here.
At CFO Bookkeeper, we use “VIP” to refer to “Valuable Expert, Instructor, Participant.” When you’re a VIP CFO bookkeeper, this means you are exercising what we consider the secret formula that allows you to find great clients (instead of you chasing them down), grow as an expert in your niche, and earn higher fees (allowing you to get paid more for the high-level services you provide).
Investing time and money every month into expanding your “VIP” could increase your revenue, especially if you commit to doing something to work on these three areas for one hour a day. This also includes strengthening your weaknesses and looking closely at the value you currently provide -- and how you could grow as an expert in your field.
Valuable Expert: Becoming a valuable expert can mean expanding your accounting and tax knowledge in your niche, or adding CFO-level services, tools, and skills to serve clients in any industry. You’ll really want to delve into the pain points of business owners (saving money, reducing tax burden, and increasing bottom line), tax opportunities and planning, and GAAP accounting and solutions. You’ll also want to grow your niche knowledge, if you practice within one. This means keeping up to date on products made and regulation changes within your industry. You’ll also want to stay current on successful brands, along with trending operations, metrics, and benchmarking.
Another key aspect of becoming a Valuable Expert is enhancing your education. You can do this through accumulating CPE credits and attending college or online training. Also, capitalize on opportunities to talk with business owners, read trade journals, listen to podcasts, sign up for industry emails and newsletters, go to industry events, and join networking groups on social media. The possibilities are endless when you really want to dig in and expand your knowledge.
Instructor: While continuing your education may seem obvious, many people overlook the importance of the “Instructor” aspect of “VIP.” This instruction aspect begins with teaching your prospects and clients. You’ll want to make sure you’re not just offering them services and checking off boxes, but actually teaching them how their accounting and tax should be done correctly, as well as advising them on solutions they can implement to grow their company.
Also, think outside the box in ways you can instruct your peers and others in your industry. You can write blogs, be a podcast guest, teach online webinars to a targeted business owner audience, speak at live events, submit articles to industry publications, put on your own events, or produce your own podcast.
Really, the more you get yourself out there, the better you’ll be able to attract the attention of your prospects, advance your credibility in their eyes, and boost your SEO by showing search engines that you produce fresh, relevant, and quality content (bringing you “warm” leads or people who are likely willing to hire your services).
Make sure you start small so you don’t get overwhelmed at the idea of opening up and showing off your knowledge. Invest a little time every day and eventually you’ll start to see peers and clients looking to you as a viable leader.
Participant: The final part of the “VIP” system is participating in your niche or community. You can dive in and help answer questions, offer support, and help others grow their knowledge, bringing potentially warm prospects to you. Join an online network or community or join industry groups as a volunteer. You can even volunteer as a mentor to business owners in the industry, placing yourself front-and-center as someone who can advise and help others advance their careers.
Another essential aspect of expanding and maintaining your VIP is through the practice of “soft skills.” These are the more client-facing skills that help you not only provide more comprehensive value, but also help you grow as a professional. Major soft skills involve time management, effective communication, writing, reliability and responsiveness towards clients, organization, project management, and your ability to own and address your problems and mistakes. Also, your outward presentation greatly impacts how others view you and how willing they are to hire you. You’ll want to make sure you look the part and dress appropriately, along with ensuring that your LInkedIn is solid, with a well-thought out profile summary. Another good idea is to create at least a simple, one-page website that showcases your offerings to clients.
Soft skills are often even more important than the letters behind your name or certifications you have. You can possess the highest level of training and credentials, but if you can’t conduct yourself as a professional and connect with clients on an empathetic level, you won’t get as far and won’t be able to offer world-class service that will attract prospects. If you’re weak in any of these areas, take a course, read a book, and stay mindful of yourself as you work on strengthening these skills.
For us numbers people, one of the hardest things can be getting out in front of a CEO and talking yourself up enough to land a new client. Many bookkeepers and accountants tend to be a little introverted, making it a challenge to “sell yourself” and get people to take notice.
The good news is that if you know how to deliver value and PROVE that value to your prospective clients, you don’t have to do any “selling.”
We suggest something we like to call the FETCH system -- a system that can bring clients to you, instead of you chasing them down.
FETCH is an acronym that stands for:
When emailing people, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to just rattle off your services. You want to talk about the value or benefits you can offer them, explaining how you can ease their pain points, such as how you can save them money in the long run by helping them with tax planning or minimizing their tax burden. You can talk about the importance of compliance, especially in certain niches, and how your services can mitigate expensive penalties and give them peace of mind.
Just research your niche and targeted demographic, allowing you to better understand their concerns and where they come from. You essentially want to help them be the hero of their own company, seamlessly moving forward with growth without being burdened with the weight of confusing financials, and you are their guide. That’s basic marketing, and a skill you are capable of if you just take the time to understand your prospects before reaching out.
If you follow this system closely and make sure you don’t chase clients down, you will start to attract great clients that are more than happy to pay you for your level of service. The best way to stay in the driver’s seat during client acquisition is to adapt an “alpha” mindset.
This alpha mindset is one key to keep yourself from being over-salesy or having to track people down, appearing desperate. More or less, this mindset means that you know you are a leader and expert in your field, and confident that you can provide high-level services. You don’t need to “beg” clients to sign; if they aren’t interested, no big deal. You can just walk away and find a more compatible client.
Another aspect of this alpha mindset is that you fully lead your client through the process, not the other way around. You take the reins, from the first call to onboarding and beyond. You will clearly state what you deliver, how you work, and whether they are a fit for your services. No doing “al a carte” services (you know better than to cut corners or leave things out), no “helping out” with a discount, and no letting them price your services. You are in charge. Keeping this mindset firm will help you weed out the weak clients and focus on acquiring the great ones.
Attracting and maintaining great clients (who are more than happy to pay you for your valuable services) has nothing to do with what clients think they need and everything to do with what we know they WANT.
You see, what a client thinks they need is often not what they actually want. They might say, “All I need is a bookkeeper to help process my daily transactions and help me keep my books up to date.” What they actually want is an accounting professional capable of CFO-level services who not only handles the day-to-day reporting, but also makes the company’s entire financial structure run like clockwork, from operations to preparing a permanent audit trail to capital raise. They need an accounting professional who can really own the whole process -- even if they don’t know it yet. And when you know that you can offer that level of service, it will be all the easier to confidently reach out to clients and sign them.
Some key aspects of world-class accounting and bookkeeping that business owners are looking for (and the tools and skills you need to provide this value) include:
To ensure you have world-class reporting locked down, you’ll want to lay out full financials, including a balance sheet, P&L, and statement of cash flows. You’ll also want to set up a rolling cash forecast, KPIs, benchmarks, budget versus actual, and more, all built out on fully tied-out and accurate accounting data.
The last key you need to launch your own remote bookkeeping or accounting practice is to become an active part of a network of experts. In line with the “Participant” aspect of your VIP, joining and becoming active in a community full of accounting professionals helps you gain support, ask and answer questions, and outsource work if needed when you run into a problem you don’t understand or a service you don’t have time to handle.
Ideally, you’d find a community with an active founder who is a proven expert and who participates daily through mentoring and coaching. An effective community may also offer marketing support, tax support, and new tools you can use, depending on whether or not the community accompanies a training program.
Through this model of learning and instructing, you have the opportunity to to help others as you grow. The best communities have members representing all states and types of accounting professionals, from CPAs to EAs to tax experts. You can brainstorm or collaborate with your peers, get your name out there as an expert in your industry, and watch your confidence in the remote bookkeeping or accounting world escalate.
The road to working 100 percent remotely as a bookkeeper or accountant will be paved with challenges, but these four keys can set you up for success. If you’re interested in expanding your VIP, learning the tools and processes necessary to provide world-class value to your clients, and would like the benefits of becoming part of a supportive community that will significantly boost your expertise, CFO Bookkeeper’s training program and network could be right for you. Give us a call today to talk about this opportunity.