How Laura Leveled Up Advisory Services With Collaborative Accounting™

Laura Blackburn loves to connect deeply with her clients and other accountants. As a proud Collaborative Accounting certification holder and member of the Accounting Partner Program, she has everything she needs to do both.

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Company: Blackburn Advisors

Industry: Bookkeeping

Location: North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA

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Needed accounting software that made it easy to provide advisory services

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Collaborative Accounting enabled by FreshBooks, an all-in-one platform

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Ability to provide tailored advice without getting bogged down

You might say that Laura Blackburn was born to be a bookkeeper.

Before she could even read or write, she was poring over the columns in the big, green ledgers her mother—a bookkeeper—was always working with. But after earning a degree in economics, her career took a left turn.

“I knew I was meant for numbers, but I was drawn to my creative side after college. I became a wedding planner for 10 years before deciding to get into bookkeeping, so I know what it’s like to do accounting as a business and for a business,” she said.

Her business, Blackburn Advisors, specializes in bookkeeping for creative service providers, including professionals in marketing, content creation, and consulting. She does all levels of accounting, from AP to AR to payroll.

We spoke with her about how she uses the platform, why the FreshBooks certification has been a game changer for her business, and the reason she never misses a monthly Accounting Partner Program meeting.

Why did you decide to start your own firm?

I’m an entrepreneur at heart. It makes sense for me because I want to be home with my kids. Starting the firm was a full circle moment for me because my mom was home with us while she ran a bookkeeping business and I feel like I’m meant to do that too.

Who and where are your clients?

I like my clients to be good listeners. I want someone to take the time to have meetings with me and work to understand their accounting.

My clients are mainly creative service providers, in fields like marketing, consulting, and content creation. My ideal client is a woman-owned business, a mompreneur like myself. A lot of my clients are at home with children like I am, and we want to support one another.

My clients are based all over the country. The beauty of using FreshBooks is that we can use all the remote features. I can do everything for them—and with them—from anywhere.

The beauty of using FreshBooks is that we can use all the remote features. I can do everything for them—and with them—from anywhere.

Why is FreshBooks such a good fit for your clients?

I find that creative people really like FreshBooks. The number one thing that’s the draw is the look of it; the platform is not intimidating, and it’s very user-friendly. Everything they need is laid out for them on the left side in language that business owners use. Features like Invoices, Estimates, Expenses, and Projects are at the top for them, and the accounting reports are further down. Using those tools on the left side helps them follow the path.

What problems has FreshBooks solved for your clients?

One example is my marketing consultant client Jackie. She faithfully uses Time Tracking for her hourly projects, so her records are always up to date. She has a team set up in FreshBooks to do it as well so it flows the way it should into Projects. And then she has monthly retainers set up as well.

Her good record-keeping allows her to see her profitability over time. She loves the dashboard that shows her at a glance whether it’s red or green. (Creatives love color!) We try to go over client profitability each quarter as well.

When clients use all of the FreshBooks features consistently, it flows into the accounting process better. For people like Jackie, who code products and services to the right revenue accounts, they can get very accurate profit & loss (P&L) reports.

How has Collaborative Accounting benefited your practice?

It’s been a great way to position myself as an advisor. I felt like I was already providing that advisory role, but I never called it that. I don’t want to be just some vendor you pay or a professional who you ask a question to once a year. I want to partner with my clients and hold their hands as much as they want. The Collaborative Accounting terminology has helped my clients feel like we’re in this together. It’s a partnership. They’re in business for themselves but not by themselves.

Explain a typical Collaborative Accounting workflow with your clients.

We train my clients to use templates to help them understand what it means for their business.

If they know what’s going on in their books, they can make better business decisions. Especially if they’re in there from the invoice stage, they’re not surprised when they see what’s been spent.

My client Jackie, who I mentioned, learned how to use Invoices and Time Tracking, which feeds into her understanding of client profitability.

Although the amount of collaboration differs for each client, I meet with most clients monthly or quarterly. I like to prepare a pretty presentation showing them where their numbers are. I bring up their P&L report and balance sheets, and I make graphs based on the FreshBooks reports to show them how things have changed over time.

We also talk about key performance indicators and then I share the trends and insights that I’m seeing. I try to have fun and keep it lively.

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What features do your clients mainly use?

My clients tend to use Invoices, Time Tracking, Projects, Estimates, and Proposals. And I’m training them to turn their estimates and proposals into invoices to make things quicker for them.

The favorite feature is probably Invoices, especially since business owners can set up recurring or monthly retainers. And they can get paid right in FreshBooks, which they love.

I advise them to use the mobile app for things like receipt capture, tracking mileage, and time tracking. It’s been great for many clients because they’re keeping up on the go rather than sitting down at the end of the week or month and trying to remember who to invoice. Getting invoices out the door regularly helps with cash flow.

Do you notice a difference when working with clients who are handling their day-to-day business admin themselves?

Yes. If they’re doing their own invoices they’re not surprised at the end of the month. It’s a lot better when they’re in FreshBooks every day and know what’s going on in their business. This allows us to have more productive conversations in our monthly meetings. I can share big-picture observations that they don’t see, which helps them make forward-thinking business decisions.

Heather Hudson

Written by Heather Hudson, Freelance Contributor

Posted on April 25, 2024