It has been a while since I have written here so I thought I would update you on the business front. I have grown tremendously the last 5 months and now have somewhere around 70 clients. Sometimes it is a 24/7 job just answering calls, emails, texts, or Skype messages and keeping up with admin work so I haven’t had much time to write…it is just one of the perks of running your own business 🙂 This tax season I had some ups and downs, but I definitely learned a lot and was inspired to go in a different direction.
One of the hard things I had to learn this year was how to part ways with some clients. This was a first for me and I never thought I would be in this situation. When I first started, I was all bright eyed and yes a bit naive and green as any newb but I looked at each new client as a wonderful opportunity where we would be BFF”s forever….well some aren’t that wonderful! Some are disrespectful, unappreciative, pushy, unwilling to listen or follow the rules and well just plain rude! So I had to learn to just let go of those that were no longer worth serving. I decided that my ethics and sanity was worth more even if it meant losing their business. I would rather focus my energy on clients that value my time and want to have a good working relationship. The reason I did this on my own in the first place was to help people and to build meaningful relationships so if I am not accomplishing that, for whatever reason, then it’s just not a good fit. And I now understand and accept that…my style is not going to please everyone and I am ok with it.
Another thing I am learning is that I am too cheap! Trying to decide your rates is a difficult and always moving target. I keep pushing it up here and there when I get new clients so it is something I am always testing and adjusting. I want to be affordable yet I still want to be taken seriously. I had a few annoying instances this season where a few people paid me to do their taxes only to then compare to their results in Turbo Tax. Really?! I just feel like I am wasting my time at that point. I mean at least they still paid me but at the same time that also tells me I should raise my prices so that doesn’t happen at all!
I also had to deal with some computer and health issues that set me back some this year. My laptop’s graphics card went out…twice. You can’t get much work done when you just see a black screen! The first time it was replaced with a crappy one so when it went out again it had to go back for another. The good news is that Apple replaced it both times for free. I am holding out for the new MacBook Pros to come out in a few months so these free replacements helped me get through the season even if it meant a few days spent at the Apple Store and no computer for a few weeks. Not having a computer for these few weeks opened my eyes and made me realize I need a backup plan in place. I was fortunate enough to borrow a Dell laptop from my father in law and was able to install a copy of my tax software on it with my latest backup to so I could still work. From now on, I will be sure to have a backup laptop with everything installed ready to go.
And as some of you already know, I was dealing with stomach/gallbladder issues and was sick for about 2 months on and off. It was a horrible pain and sickness so some days I couldn’t work at all. I have been doing better and haven’t gotten sick in over a month so I am hoping whatever it was is gone now. I continue to go see my doctor and get poked and prodded for blood tests every 6 weeks to keep checking on things.
There were also really good moments this tax season. I received a bunch of referrals and met a lot of new people. Some of these small businesses are really exciting and may lead to more accounting work for me. I also love referring others to these small businesses as well so it feels like one large local community. I did taxes for a family lawyer who helps with child support and other family services that could help me with some of my clients. Sometimes some of my divorced clients have problems when the ex claims the dependent when they shouldn’t be so I am happy I now have a contact I can give my clients for that. This lawyer also needs accountants to testify in trials once in a while so I may be getting into some forensic accounting! And I was super proud when one of my largest clients I do books for went through a state audit where everything under the sun was examined and they ended up giving them a 99% rating…didn’t find anything BOOYAH!!
Despite all the good, bad and ugly I still managed to hit the goal I set for myself. I wanted to average $7k a month for January thru April and I hit it! In January, I came up with a goal figure of what I wanted to have and strive for by April 18th and if I made it then I would buy myself a goal present. This present was the Danner hiking boots just like in the movie Wild! I was in love with these boots and wanted them for hiking in Yosemite and Machu Picchu and all the other places I want to travel. I printed out a picture and put them up on my white board where I could look at them everyday. So those nights when I was up working until 2 am and having to wake up at 6 am totally exhausted I just kept looking at those babies to keep me motivated!
And yesterday they arrived OMG
I have never spent $360 on boots ever in my life but these were well deserved!
So what’s next after tax season? Well I still have almost a full time job just doing my bookkeeping, sales tax, and payroll so there is always something due every month and something to work on. I have a couple of very large clients that I work on daily and weekly because I am doing everything for them like paying their bills, paying their employees, sending out their invoices, and making sure their customers are paying on time. Other clients I work on monthly or quarterly where I am just filing their sales tax and reconciling bank and credit card statements, but it keeps me busy. I am also still doing bookkeeping work for another busy local bookkeeper with her own business. She sends me some of her client work to do, I do everything in Quickbooks at home, and send back to her. She pays me the same rate and I don’t have to deal with the clients at all…it is nice I call it my “wholesale” get to stay at home in my PJ’s side 🙂
What about next year? I have had a really good couple of years and I am so thrilled by all that I accomplished in such a short time. This year had me thinking where I want Manion & Associates to go. It was never my intention from the get go to build a large firm with employees and become one of these regular CPA firms. I am not even sure I ever want employees. Yes I am growing and can only handle so much by myself but when I think about the future that is not what I want. My business name portrays otherwise but maybe a business name change will be happening here as well.
What I really want to do and concentrate more on is consulting. What gets me the most excited about my work now is when I meet a business just starting up for the first time and I get to give advice about formation and set up. I love the thrill of starting things and I tend to get bored or complacent after things are already smooth sailing. I need the constant challenge and the first time excitement. I also love the challenge of fixing huge messes…something that was already set up but done wrong!
So what I want to do is hold small business meetups like a seminar style thing where I charge something like $30/person for a few hours of training. With the experiences I have encountered already, I know I want to have a training on how business owners can check that their bookkeeper is doing what they are supposed to do. I have way too many clients where their books were a mess or not done at all and the poor owner had no clue. Sometimes business owners rely too much on the bookkeeper and there are a lot of bad bookkeepers out there. I also want to have a similar training on tax returns and what people should be looking for in their tax preparer. These meetups won’t be teaching accounting and tax but more about the business basics of what should be looked at so they can protect themselves. And of course I want to do a training on business formations and their tax advantages.
The plan is to keep some of the the really good client work I enjoy doing and spend the rest of the time prepping and teaching these meetups. At this time, I don’t want to add more clients and do more of the “grunt” work per se. Any new work that does come my way I can then recommend the good bookkeepers, tax preparers, and lawyers that are already in my little community. So this is the transition I will be trying to make for next year and I am super excited about it!! If you have any thoughts or suggestions for me please give me a holla!