The Accounting Pro’s Busy Season Survival Guide

Follow these tips and strategies to help you manage your workload, stay organized, and maintain balance during the busiest time of the year.

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Every accounting professional knows that no matter how diligently you plan ahead, the busy season can still be an exhausting and stressful time. You’re likely working long hours, missing your friends and family, and trying to meet deadlines that seem to be coming at lightning speed.

In this survival guide for accountants during the busy season, discover tips to help you stay focused and navigate the upcoming months with ease.

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    When Is Accounting Busy Season?

    Busy season can vary depending on the type of work you do, but for most bookkeepers, accountants, and tax preparers, the busiest season of the year generally takes place between January and April 15th in the United States.

    That’s the standard tax filing season, where tax accountants work long hours preparing and filing client tax returns and handling tax planning for the coming year. But during the first quarter of the year, accounting professionals are also hard at work closing the prior year’s books, issuing W-2s and 1099s, and preparing payroll reports.

    It’s audit busy season for public accounting firms, too. Auditors are spending long hours at the office planning audits, testing client financial records, and providing opinions on calendar year-end financial statements.

    Whatever busy season looks like for you—or if working 60+ hours per week is your default state year round—this guide will help you work more efficiently and productively year-round, so you to accomplish more in less time.

    Improve Your Workflow

    Standardized and streamlined workflows are essential to any successful accounting practice—whether it’s during busy season or throughout the rest of the year. Not only does it help to ensure that your workload is handled efficiently, but it also helps maintain your client’s trust by providing reliable and consistent results.

    Having a standardized workflow can help reduce time spent on mundane tasks and prevent costly errors that often lead to wasting time redoing work.

    Begin by creating detailed task lists and estimating how long each task will take. Then schedule all of those tasks and deadlines into your workflow management system. This will help you stay on track and meet all deadlines without overlooking any important tasks during the busy season rush.

    Resources for Managing Your Workload During Busy Season

    Want detailed advice for improving your workflows? Check out the following articles.

    Work With the Right Clients

    If you want to maximize your profits (and who doesn’t?), prioritize finding and working with your ideal clients. These clients understand the value of your services, are willing to pay for them and provide you with a positive experience overall. Working with the right individuals and small business owners can help reduce stress during busy season, allowing you to focus on more important tasks.

    On the other hand, working with people who don’t understand your value or are challenging to work with can be costly, cause you to waste too much time, and just generally make your work life pretty miserable.

    If you have these kinds of customers in your practice, it’s time to let them go to free up resources for the right clients.

    Resources for Right-Sizing Your Client List

    For detailed information on how to build relationships with the right clients and fire the wrong ones, check out these resources:

    Empower Clients to Handle More

    Teaching clients how to handle front-end accounting tasks is integral to providing excellent customer service. Why? Because it saves time for both the client and accountant during busy season and it helps build stronger relationships between you and your client.

    An excellent way to achieve this is with Collaborative Accounting™, a technology-enabled accounting model anchored in a shared workflow between accounting professionals and their clients.

    Working in this way, business owners focus on day-to-day front-end tasks they’re best equipped to do (like estimates and invoicing), in an easy-to-use software platform. This gives you the room to apply your expertise to more complex tasks and higher-value advisory work.

    You can make it easier for your customers to self-serve in several ways, such as by automating repetitive tasks, setting up automated reminders, and offering online education and support resources. After all, customers who know how to quickly answer their own questions or make changes to their accounts are more likely to feel empowered and in control of their finances.

    Resources for Making Busy Season Stress-Free

    Check out the following articles for detailed advice on how to do this:

    Use Tools That Make Things Easier

    There are a lot of tools and services that can make life easier for accounting firms during busy season. For example, the ability to categorize multiple income streams can come in handy when you need to give your clients a clear picture of where their business stands. And let’s not forget the cash-based filter added to the FreshBooks Balance Sheet report, as it allows for accurate financial reporting for your clients during tax season.

    With this in mind, leveraging available technology is important to free up your capacity to focus on higher-value work. Take the time to research different accounting software options, tools, and services. Read reviews and test out a few before settling on those that meet your needs.

    Resources That Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Workload

    Here are some recommendations to get you started:

    FreshBooks certification for accounting professionals

    Get Support From an Accounting Community

    Running an accounting and bookkeeping business can be a real challenge. Between client demands, new technology, and ever-changing regulations, it’s essential to have support from peers who understand the industry. Finding an accounting community with like-minded professionals is an excellent way to stay on top of trends and get advice during busy season.

    Join an industry-specific forum or LinkedIn group, attend local accounting and bookkeeping events, or simply contact other accountants and business owners in your network. This type of collaboration will not only provide you with valuable insights but can also create meaningful connections that help grow your business and expand your professional circle.

    Resources for Connecting with Other Accountants and Bookkeepers

    Here are a few ideas for where to find those invaluable peer connections:

    Make This Accounting Busy Season the Best One Yet

    The bottom line is that if you want to survive and thrive during busy season, it’s crucial to have systems and processes to help you manage your time and energy. Working with the right people and technologies can make a big difference, as can getting peer support.

    If you’re looking for more ideas on how to streamline your workflows or ways to stay balanced during your tax or audit busy season, be sure to check out the Accounting Partner Program. With Partner benefits like ongoing skills training, exclusive client discounts, and participating in the online Accounting Partner Community, there’s sure to be something that can help make this busy season the best one yet.

    This post was updated in February 2024.

    Janet Berry-Johnson

    Written by Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA and Freelance Contributor

    Posted on February 28, 2023