Megan Justice understands the unique needs of neurodivergent individuals. Here’s how FreshBooks helps her cater to them.
It was never Megan Justice’s plan to become an accountant.
The skilled horseback rider was considering pursuing a riding career with the Lipizzaner Stallions in Las Vegas or becoming a working student for an Olympic dressage trainer. Then she earned a creative writing degree and dreamed of becoming a junior editor in New York. It was while working as an office manager at a small CPA firm that she became an accountant by fire, so to speak.
“One day, the partner plopped a 1040 in front of me and I got my way through it. Then he plopped a harder 1040 in front of me. He just kept on doing this until he put some entity returns in front of me. Then he stopped reviewing my work and just signed the tax returns that I prepared,” recalls the FreshBooks Accounting Partner.
“That’s not the way you’re supposed to become an accountant,” she adds, laughing.
The lesson? Just as not all career paths are linear, no two small businesses are alike and no two entrepreneurs necessarily think the same way. Now, with her accounting firm, Crayon Advisory, Megan brings this same unconventional approach to her work.
We spoke with Megan to learn more about the innovation she believes the accounting industry needs—and why FreshBooks is part of the solution.
Why did you decide to start your own accounting firm?
Megan: Crayon Advisory had been a seed in my brain for close to a decade. But when I finally quit my job and stepped out on my own in 2020, it was for a lot of reasons.
I’m a longtime social activist and I wanted to bring who I am as a person forward and not have to hide it. Also, my employers, for the most part, haven’t been forward-thinking in terms of the future of accounting: How we do the work and the work that clients need. That sort of thought process is a little bit difficult for the accounting industry as a whole to embrace.
I also wanted to focus on what clients actually need and not necessarily tell clients, “This is what you need, and you don’t get anything else.” Eventually, there’s a relationship that blossoms between accountants and clients as to how they work together. I really wanted to nurture that from the start.
How has your background in creative writing affected the way you approach working with your clients?
Megan: I’ve done a lot of work for creative individuals, for advertisers and advertising agencies, graphic designers and writers and film people—and all of that good stuff.
Creatives tend to think a little bit differently. We use different parts of the brain than most accountants use.
I’ve seen a lot of creatives comment that they’ve been really frustrated working with an accountant. Well, I work differently. I work with you, I ask you questions, I let you ask me questions. And I will answer the same question 15,000 times. If it sticks a little bit better each time, then we’re doing great. And even if it doesn’t, it’s going to be okay; we’ll get through this together. I’m just inviting that more collaborative process.
I want the room and the flexibility to say, “Okay, that might work for a lot of people, but what is the actual end result that we’re going for? At the end of the day, we need a balance sheet and a P&L. How are we going to get there with this particular client?”
One of my favorite things about FreshBooks is that it’s relatively easy to go in, and set up processes that are very specific, and can be tweaked a little bit for any individual client that needs something to work a little bit differently.
Everything is very easy for my clients to understand. So instead of paying me to do data entry, they’re paying me to actually do what I’m good at doing.
How does FreshBooks support the individual needs of your clients?
Megan: Clients who don’t do their accounting, a lot of times don’t do it because they’re intimidated by the software. One of the biggest things about accounting software is that if you use it, it works.
I don’t have a neurodivergent medical diagnosis, but I really should, and you can probably hear that with how I talk and how I move around in circles and come back around.
It is really easy for a neurodivergent individual to go into FreshBooks and to be able to find things, thanks to the UI and UX that has gone into it. It’s very intentionally designed and accessible for people of different neuro types to really see what they need and for me, as an accountant, to train them: “Okay, so you’re going in and looking at this part today. And see these squiggles? These are the squiggles you’re looking for when you can’t find it because you can’t remember where to go.”
How do you work with your clients in FreshBooks?
Megan: I approach things from a classical accounting perspective, in that I want that balance sheet tied out, I want it to make sense, I want it nailed to the wall.
I use FreshBooks to pull detailed reports and share them with my clients. The chart of accounts that comes with it is so extensive, I don’t have to create a bunch of accounts that works well for the client. We look at the balance sheet month-to-month and see how the cash goes up and down. My clients like knowing that they’re getting really quite high-quality reports out of the system.
FreshBooks integrates really well with third-party apps. I have several clients who are restaurants and they’re using the Square integration, which works really, really well. I don’t have to do adjustments to adjust gross receipts anymore. All things just go right where they need to be. My clients also like the project management inside of FreshBooks. I have a construction client who absolutely loves the job costing feature. The bang for the buck of that product inside of FreshBooks is way higher than what you get elsewhere.
Estimates and time tracking and getting the bill out the door are all very easy to understand. So my clients aren’t relying on me to do the work, but to be a kind of coach instead. Instead of paying me to do data entry, they’re paying me to actually do what I’m good at doing.
It sounds like you spend some time coaching clients to DIY some of the workflow, so you can take on a more advisory role.
Megan: My model encourages clients to take advantage of tools, like FreshBooks, that make the DIY approach easy for them. Between bank feeds bringing in expenses and the Income Importer bringing in gross receipts…. Teaching clients what they need to do to have a healthy set of books becomes a straightforward process of clicking some buttons.
The harder part is in the review process. Ensuring the balance sheet balances, that the numbers on the balance sheet make sense and that the expenses are recorded consistently. Accountants are not being outshone by the software. The software is letting us shine by keeping our work focused on review and analysis and making the data entry easy for clients to do themselves.
I really foresee a future of accounting where accountants aren’t doing all the work, the clients are doing a lot. Or there’s a middle road where the accountant does a few things, and the clients do a few others.
That sort of thought process is a little bit difficult for the accounting industry as a whole to embrace. But FreshBooks does. The software embraces automation but also recognizes the reality that there’s a lot of stuff that humans need to do, and it makes the path forward for both of those things easier.
Most software providers are not listening to feedback from accountants. That’s where FreshBooks is really different.
Why would you recommend the FreshBooks Accounting Partner program to others?
Megan: A lot of accountants have been gaslit by software providers, particularly on the tax side. It’s because the programmers and the project managers are making a product that they think is needed. But they’re not necessarily listening to the feedback from accountants.
And that’s where FreshBooks is really different. Your team is actively developing the product, so if there are any frustrations that you have, there’s probably a solution that’s coming out down the road. Not only that, but if you have a frustration and you voice it to the team, they will actually listen.
I really encourage fellow accountants to take a look at FreshBooks and jump into the Accounting Partner Program. I really feel like I have a place to go when there’s a hiccup, or for questions when I have them. Your team is super-fast and responsive, even in the evenings and on weekends.
It’s not just software. You care—you care about the actual people using it. And that comes through in everything you do.
about the author
Jessica Wynne Lockhart is an award-winning journalist and fact-checker, who splits her time between Canada and Australia. She has bylines in the Toronto Star, Chatelaine, and The New Zealand Herald. She writes about e-commerce, personal finance, health, and travel. Learn more about her work at jesslockhart.com.