After being in the bookkeeping and tax field for nine years, I still remember how nervous I felt when meeting a client for the first time. If you are a new freelance bookkeeper, fresh out of training, you may feel the same way. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to share with you. I didn’t include a few obvious things, like dressing or grooming appropriately, or getting good quality business cards. These tips are born from practical experience and I hope you find some benefit from them.
1. Be confident. Don’t let your lack of on-the-job experience make you feel unable to handle a particular client’s job. At times you may feel as if you are on a tightrope without a net, but it’s not true. If you have had proper training, it will support you.
2. You know more. Do you ever fear that the client will easily find some “hole” in your knowledge? In reality this rarely happens. Generally, potential clients don’t know enough about bookkeeping/taxes/etc. , to ask those types of questions—if they did they probably wouldn’t need you! Similarly, if an unknown question does arise, don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out. ” Then, be sure you do find out and promptly deliver the answer.
3. Always verify. You may meet clients who act like they know a lot about accounting and taxes. In reality, many of these people know very little, but it may take some time to realize how little they know. I recently had a client who insisted that certain information from a tax form be handled in a certain way. He spoke very authoritatively on the subject, as if he knew exactly how it should be handled. Since it was an unusual and rare tax topic, I had to do a lot of research to verify his statements. Guess what? He was wrong, and I am so glad I did not take his “advice” at face value.
4. You don’t need props. As a new bookkeeper, you may feel the need to bring brand-specific items or special presentation materials with you to meet potential clients. I’m not saying, “Don’t bring them. ” I am saying:
- Your potential client will not base his/her decision upon them.
- Too many props say, “I feel insecure. "
- The client wants your knowledge and your care, not your props.
5. Let them talk. Many clients want to do most of the talking during the first meeting. Try to listen very carefully. Are you familiar with the term empathic listening? It’s a specific method of listening to people and is extremely effective when meeting new clients. Learn how to empathically listen if you don’t yet know how.
6. Don’t take bad clients. You will probably be tempted to take any client, just to get your business off the ground. Resist this urge! If you have a bad feeling about somebody, or if your gut is telling you something about somebody, listen to it. The money bad clients bring is not worth the headache they cause.
7. Remember your aim. Why did you get into this field? To serve people, or only to earn money? When difficult situations arise, remember that a service oriented aim will always serve you better than a money oriented aim.
About the Author:
Jennifer A. Thieme, owner of Solid Rock Accounting Services, is a Certified QuickBooks Advisor and a Registered Tax Preparer. She has been in the bookkeeping and tax field for nine years. She considers the diagnosis and resolution of accounting-related problems her specialty. Her articles have appeard in the Intuit ProConnection Newsletter. Contact her via http://www.jenniferthieme.com with your accounting related questions.