Do You Need More Clients, or Just Better Ones?

Rather than say goodbye, here's how to help your “bad” clients become your best clients.

Man and woman smiling together while working at table

Have you ever onboarded a new client and had everything seem great…until suddenly it wasn’t? We’ve all been there before–whether this client is hard to reach, difficult to work with, or prone to scope creep, ultimately it can start to affect your bottom line.

Instead of feeling stuck dealing with the stress of a less-than-ideal relationship, there’s always hope to turn things around. While more clients are usually a good thing for an accounting firm, you should be aware of what makes a good client versus a bad one. Read on for tips on how to change your client interactions for the better and what to look for when you’re prospecting high-quality clients.

table of contentsTable of Contents

    What Makes a “Good” Accounting Client?

    It varies for every accounting or bookkeeping firm, but good accounting clients typically make your job easier in some way. Whether it’s by submitting financial statements on time, staying up to date on their payments, being responsive, or just being pleasant to work with, these clients make it easier to work efficiently and get more done.

    The Right Clients Make All the Difference

    Along with helping make it possible to keep things running smoothly day-to-day, the right clients can actually help grow your accounting business in several ways, including by:

    • Referring other business and potential clients to you
    • Giving you positive word-of-mouth advertising
    • Providing valuable feedback and suggestions

    Creating positive client experiences helps build trust and could open the door to expanding your service offering. Get to know them and their businesses inside and out. Show them that you’re invested in their success so they’ll continue working with you and possibly expand into requesting higher-value advisory services.

    Happy customers are also likely to stick with you through good times and bad, which can be a tremendous stabilizing force for your business.

    How Do You Know if a Client Is Right for Your Business?

    First, start by identifying who your firm’s ideal client is. An ideal client is a customer who will find value in your services and who makes sense for you to work with.

    Defining Your Ideal Client

    When defining your ideal client, focus on 2 categories–demographics and psychographics. Some demographics you might consider are:

    • Business size
    • Industry
    • Geographic location
    • Company revenue
    • Number of employees

    And some psychographics you might consider are:

    • Their needs and wants
    • Their pain points
    • Their goals and challenges
    • Their buying habits

    For example, if you’re targeting small businesses, you may not want to work with larger companies with more complex accounting needs. On the other hand, if you’re only looking for high-paying clients, you may not want to work with small businesses that don’t have the budget for your services.

    You should also consider what the right service mix is for your firm. A customer who is only interested in getting help on their tax returns likely wouldn’t be the right fit if you’re looking to specialize in offering advisory services.

    Another way to determine your ideal client is to look at your past customers. What did you enjoy the most (or didn’t enjoy) when working with them? Use this insight to help identify who might be a good fit for your business in the future.

    Improve Your Client Selection Process

    A flawless client selection process starts with a thorough introductory meeting. Asking the right questions during these calls helps determine whether a prospect is a good fit for your business.

    Find out what their needs are and what challenges they’re facing. You’ll have a way better idea of whether you can tailor your services to meet their requirements if you fully understand their needs. You can also assess whether you’re interested in offering the accounting services they need help with.

    Here are examples of questions to ask potential clients:

    • What is your budget for this project?
    • What accounting software do you use?
    • When do you need this project completed?
    • What are your specific needs that we can help with?
    • Do you have other businesses that you need help with?
    • Are you happy with your current accountant/bookkeeper?
    • What are your current accounting and bookkeeping procedures?

    It’s essential to take the time to assess new leads to ensure they’re a good fit for your business. By doing this, you can avoid taking on clients who could be more trouble than they’re worth.

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    How to Turn Challenging Accounting Clients Into Good Ones

    What do you do if you have problematic accounting clients? Working with challenging clients is frustrating and can lead to burnout. It can be costly, too. It can be more time-consuming to work with these clients, which can trickle into the client experience you provide your other customers.

    Turning difficult accounting clients into good ones can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. Before letting go of your difficult accounting clients, here are a few ways you can turn them into good ones.

    Find Out What’s Causing Friction

    There are a variety of reasons why clients might be difficult, such as:

    • They’re not happy with your services
    • They’re not paying their bills
    • They’re neglecting their bookkeeping
    • They’re constantly changing their mind

    If you’re having difficulties with a client, talk to them about it. Set up a meeting or hop on a call to discuss the issue in more detail and better understand their perspective.

    Consider how you can help improve their client experience. Are there any questions they’ve asked repeatedly or areas where they tend to get stuck? By proactively addressing these issues, you can help prevent them from becoming problems.

    Think about if there’s any additional training or tools you could provide to help your clients feel more confident. For example, using cloud accounting is a good way for you to work together so you can reassure clients that you’ll be able to catch any bookkeeping mistakes before they become an issue.

    This is a good opportunity to level-set and ask clients to be honest about whether they’re unhappy with your services. If that’s the case, ask what you can do to improve the situation or make it easier for your client. Once you’ve determined what’s causing friction, you can start to work on fixing the issue.

    Set Boundaries

    Develop clear boundaries by being upfront about your working hours and how soon they can expect to hear back from you. It will help manage their expectations and give you time to focus on other clients. Don’t respond to emails or calls after working hours or on weekends if you’ve told them you’re unavailable at those times.

    It’s important to set boundaries on the type of work you’re willing to do, too. By doing this, you can avoid taking on additional work that you’re unable to complete or that isn’t in your contract.

    Communicate Effectively

    Good communication goes a long way. Establish which communication methods work best for both of you from the beginning, and then stick to them!

    Be clear and concise in your communications. Clients who don’t understand something are more likely to become frustrated and difficult to work with. Remember, you’re trying to build a relationship with this client, not alienate them.

    Improve communication by:

    Setting up regular check-ins: Whether it’s a weekly phone call or a monthly meeting, regular check-ins will help ensure that you and the client are on the same page. It’s also an excellent time to address any concerns they may have.

    Putting together a welcome packet: This should contain all the information clients need to know about working with you–including your fee structure, due dates, policies, and contact information.

    Writing clear and concise emails: Proofread emails before hitting send. It will help ensure that your client understands what you’re saying and doesn’t get frustrated trying to decipher a poorly written message.

    Offer Support

    This could mean providing extra resources, answering questions, or simply being a sounding board to help them overcome their challenges. Your clients will appreciate it and be more likely to see you as a valuable partner in their business–especially if you can help them save money or improve their financial situation.

    Consider refining your services to better meet your clients’ needs by offering new services or packages tailored to their business. If they’re struggling, work with them to find a solution that works for both of you. It could mean being willing to adjust your services to meet the client’s needs and to negotiate on things like price, payment terms, or deadlines.

    Being flexible illustrates that you’re willing to work with your clients and are invested in their success. Doing so can help build trust and improve communication, which goes a long way in building strong relationships.

    How Do I Find More High-Quality Accounting Clients?

    If you’re looking to grow your firm, it might be time to reevaluate your client base and focus on finding better clients for your business. When attracting higher-quality accounting clients, it’s important to remember that quality trumps quantity. You don’t want to simply fill your client roster with any prospects who come your way.

    Instead, you want to focus on finding accounting clients that are the best fit for your firm. So how can you go about doing that?

    Start With Your Current Clients

    Chances are, you already have some excellent accounting clients who are happy with your services. Why not reach out to them and see if they know anyone who could use your help? Word-of-mouth referrals as social proof are one of the best ways to attract new clients, making this a great way to get started.

    Do Your Research

    Take the time to research potential clients before reaching out to them. Find out about their business, their goals, and what type of accounting services they may need. Doing so will help you tailor your pitch specifically to their needs and make them more likely to want to work with you.

    Use Social Media Marketing

    In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to stay active online as a part of your overall marketing strategy. Connect with prospective clients on the platforms they’re most likely to be on (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Instagram in the case of small business owners).

    Join an Accounting Partner Program

    Join an Accounting Partner Program to get access to an online community where you can network with other accountants and bookkeepers. Professionals who work remotely sometimes use these types of discussion boards as a way to find CPAs or bookkeepers in their client’s local area.

    Offer Free Consultations

    Many potential clients are hesitant to commit to working with a new accountant without getting a feel for what it would be like. Offering free consultations lets them “try before they buy” and gives them a chance to get to know you and your work. It will also allow you to gauge whether they would be a good fit for your business.

    If You Have Challenging Clients…

    Don’t worry! It’s not always easy to spot good clients from challenging ones, but remember, even if a client doesn’t seem ideal initially, there’s always room for improvement. With the right approach, you can help improve your existing clients’ experiences and even find more accounting clients that are the right fit for your company. So get out there and start prospecting those high-quality accounting clients!

    Dana Thao

    Written by Dana Thao, Freelance Contributor

    Posted on July 11, 2022