Top 5 Mistakes Bookkeepers Make When Building Their Firm

5 Reasons Why Your Remote Bookkeeping Firm Isn’t as Successful as You’d Hoped

Even though working remotely as your own boss is the dream of many bookkeepers and accountants, it’s too easy to find yourself struggling to make ends meet, hunting down payment from clients, and settling for any client who throws work at you. Getting started and then maintaining momentum is tough, making you feel like you have to pay your dues before you can establish a solid practice. You may have even been trying to run a remote bookkeeping or accounting firm for some time now, without pulling the income you know you deserve, and can’t figure out what’s going wrong. 

The good news is that you don’t have to necessarily “pay your dues.” You just have to know which mistakes to avoid. Once you know what not to do, you can jump in and build (or expand) your practice more quickly.

1. You treat your remote practice like a “side gig.”

Whether you’re busy moonlighting as a virtual bookkeeper in the evenings after your daytime corporate job or have made the plunge and are just trying to stay afloat, you may feel like you need to take any job you can to get ahead. You might believe you can’t afford to be picky -- you just need the experience. You need to get your name out there. 

That mindset is counterproductive and more reflective of a part-time freelancer than a business person with a mission. Continuing with that perspective could seriously stunt your growth as a remote accounting professional.

The mindset shift between “remote business owner” and “side gig hustler” may seem small, but it can mean all the difference between making peanuts versus five or six figures. A striving freelancer may undervalue themselves and take whatever job comes their way, allowing the client to name their fees. A thriving remote business owner is more focused on their company as a whole, and has the confidence to ask for fees that reflect the high level of services provided.

One step you can take right now is to stop viewing yourself as your own boss and not your clients’ “employee.” View yourself as a business owner, which will increase your confidence in communicating with clients and the value you provide. The more confidence you gain in your service offering, the more trust and respect your clients will have in your expertise. 

2. Viewing education as a cost and not an investment. 

Staying informed and sharp through investment in education is essential. Even if it seems hard at the beginning to find funds for courses and programs, dedicating yourself to ongoing study and knowledge puts you ahead of the competition as you grow your firm into a full-fledged successful business. 

However, not all courses and programs are created equal. We strongly suggest you carefully research trainings and programs before investing to make sure you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. Many courses tend to be solely based on information, without many useful tools or community and mentoring support. For the biggest ROI on any education, it’s useful to find programs with continually updated materials and tools, mentoring options, and a strong community to help you grow.

If you'd like to learn more about how to evaluate available programs out there, we suggest you check out our free PDF.

Also, continue to boost your expertise through weekly, if not daily, absorption of all podcasts, trade journals, blogs, peer groups, and websites related to your niche. The more you know, the more value you can offer.

3. Not committing yourself to learning and applying new materials.

Even if you are investing in education and trying to learn from industry materials and resources, you may not be digging in deep enough or pushing yourself hard enough to find your own answers while trying to implement your new knowledge.

At CFO Bookkeeper, we have spoken with countless accounting professionals who are just looking for a magic bullet to serve clients, without investing money and the time it takes to internalize new knowledge. Without this important piece, you simply can’t move ahead.

Two of the biggest factors that weigh on accounting professionals’ minds are the cost of the program and how quickly one can get through the materials. The better questions to ask of a program developer would be “What should I expect to see in ROI? And how quickly will I see that ROI if I invest in your program?” 

The answers to these questions give you a benchmark for success. Knowing the success many students reach within an average amount of time might show you just how much time and effort you need to dedicate. Make sure you ask the instructor of the program how much they encourage students to study getting into the nitty-gritty of what’s involved. Once you start studying, challenge yourself to practice your new skills almost immediately. If you have questions or run into snags, try your best to troubleshoot the answer on your own, preparing you to ask better questions and truly internalize new knowledge. 

4. Having an endless stream of excuses. 

The truth is that starting a remote bookkeeping or accounting business, maintaining its success, turning a profit, and continuing to expand your knowledge and skills requires hard work and long hours. It requires substantial investing in business tools, software, education, and marketing. 

Many people don’t feel like they have room in the budget beyond basic office supplies and a business license. However, unless you’re willing to invest and grow, you won’t expand. 

Worried about education investment? Many people make room in the budget for travel, clothes, and entertainment. The time may be now to pivot your priorities and start saving for training programs.

Don’t feel like you have enough time to run a business and put in the hours of studying required to remain an expert? If you’re too busy to juggle all of this, you may need to sit back and take a good look at whether you should be operating your own business. The most successful business owners know it takes substantial time and effort to make a company thrive, and they are dedicated and driven to see those investments to fruition. 

One other common excuse is that people believe they need to complete a degree or license before serving clients. The great news is that as long as you’re learning, you can still build your business and serve clients as you get your skillset solid on-the-go.

5. Afraid to reach out, find clients, and prove your value.

Many accounting professionals are either introverts and don’t feel comfortable getting out in front of new potential clients, or they simply don’t like marketing or “selling” themselves.

You may have skated by on referrals up until this point or depended on a loyal handful of clients following you from your corporate job. However, many accounting professionals trying to work for themselves reach a point where those word-of-mouth clients just aren’t quite putting enough food on the table or you’re tired of clients telling you what they need (“just” taxes or recordkeeping) instead of the full-service offering you know they benefit most from. 

Now is the time to dig into marketing yourself and find clients who not only respect and value your expertise, but also who are willing to pay you top fees. Even if you loathe marketing or don’t understand it, taking baby steps will get you further than you might imagine. 

Dedicate yourself to looking for potential clients for just 30 minutes a day. Scan LinkedIn, for example, for companies in your preferred niche (or general interest area, if you don’t have a niche). Obtain their emails and present them with an email describing what you could do to remove the burden of worrying about their financials and help them improve their bottom line. Focus on the value and benefits you bring them, not just on the services you can provide. Anyone can provide those services -- but not everyone can soothe their headaches that cause them pain day after day. 

Once you land a call with them, make sure to show them concrete ways you could serve them, from explaining a perpetual data room that could keep them always audit-ready to providing a rolling cash forecast to ensure they remain cash flow positive.

By proving your value and staying ahead of their “pain points,” you can stand out head-and-shoulders above your competitors, making you the clear choice when potential clients are considering hiring a bookkeeper or accountant.

We make marketing simple with our four-part proven client acquisition system. For more info on that tool and many others included in CFO Bookkeeper, reach out to us today.

When you’re in the middle of trying to start or grow a remote bookkeeping or accounting practice, it can feel like you’ll never move forward when you hit a speedbump. By analyzing your situation and learning from these main mistakes most unsuccessful virtual accounting professionals make, you can boost your expertise and your business quickly. To gain vital tools and resources to quickly become a CFO-level virtual bookkeeper or accountant, reach out to us today.


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