I quite regularly meet highly skilled, great bookkeepers and accountants who tell me that they are too busy – too busy to do this and that, too busy to work on their business.
But, what I often find is that they are busy, busy, busy, but not actually achieving the INCOME or LIFESTYLE that they want and deserve.
In fact, they just might be too busy to prioritise their health, and to enjoy the things that should come through building a thriving practice, which gives us the privilege of our dream on our terms – which is the income and lifestyle.
Now, being too busy is absolutely one of the key excuses that I'll get for "Why I can't."
"This is why, Jeannie, I can't read your book or listen to your audiobook." "I'm too busy for that Jeannie, and it's why I can't join your program yet because I'm too busy with all these clients and this client work."
If you are a busy bookkeeper that can't find one hour in your day to go for a walk and listen to my audiobook (which is only an hour a day for less than a week), then you need this more than anyone. By the end of today's read, what I really want is to have convinced the busy bookkeeper that
just BEING BUSY is not the pathway to the income, lifestyle,
and the thriving practice that you want and deserve.
Start with the end in mind. What is the income and lifestyle that you want?
How many hours do you want to work?
What is the income?
The first thing I want to share with you is just a quick one on MINDSET. I am going to direct you to the podcast on pricing because that explores this a bit more. Basically, the busy bookkeeper versus the thriving strategic bookkeeper mindset is around the employee versus business owner mindset. Now, I was once a busy bookkeeper. When I started my journey in my own bookkeeping practice, If I reflect and I'm honest with myself, I feel like I definitely had an employee mindset at the beginning.
The employee mindset versus the business owner is a little bit like this: When we first go into business for ourselves, often we have been an employee in the past, right? So we start out kind of with this mindset around, "Okay, well I'm going to charge a higher hourly rate than I was being paid as an employee." And often it's significantly higher, maybe it's 50% higher or more, but that's more like you act when you're an employee. Your boss gives you work to do at an hourly rate, and off you go and you do the work.
And there's this idea that, "Okay, the rate's good and the work is there, and therefore that'll all equal income, lifestyle," – it's just not that simple. Just listen to that other podcast, okay? I see bookkeepers and accountants stuck in this mindset for the entirety of their bookkeeping practice journey, scratching their heads as to why it feels more like a job at the end of the day and they don't feel like they're having the IMPACT, and they certainly don't feel super valued. Or, it just doesn't feel like they thought it would feel. And I really believe that this employee mindset versus business owner mindset is a big part of it. So once again, just start by listening to the podcast after this read.
So the next thing I want to raise is if you are the busy bookkeeper, "I'm too busy. It's lucky you've even got me reading this. I'm too busy," I want to ask you, have you got the income and lifestyle that you want and deserve? Don't just say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm busy, of course I've got the income and lifestyle. I'm busy. I'm busy."
Pause for a minute and be honest with yourself, okay?
Have the courage to be honest and know that courage and fear exists together, not separately. Acknowledge that busy, busy, busy, it does not reflect INCOME and LIFESTYLE. And I'm living proof of that. If you've heard my story, you know that
I've had times in my practice where I didn't have to work very much,
and the income is still the same and the lifestyle is there.
So please do ask yourself right now, are you really achieving the income and lifestyle? And not, "Well, I'm going to get it next week or next month or in three months or six months or a year because I'm busy and I know that busy will lead to that."
Right now, if you are too busy to work on your business with me, have you got the income and lifestyle that you want and deserve? Now, if those two end game pieces of the puzzle – income and lifestyle – are not there yet, what do you think is going to get you there? Do you think it's bringing on more clients and getting busier? Because I would suggest that it is definitely not.
A bookkeeper I spoke to the other day said she's too busy to find new clients and therefore is too busy to work with me, listen to any of my podcast, or read my book. And I thought, "Oh my goodness. This is not just about finding new clients. This is about building a thriving practice, and the two are very different!" Finding new clients is simply a piece of the puzzle. It's a piece of the build a thriving practice, delight your clients and then live your dream on your terms. But it is not the thing that is going to give you the income and lifestyle all by itself. So please, please do know that.
In fact, in many cases, what's going to give you the prize is squeezing more juice out of the orange. So it's about what you are doing with the wonderful VIP clients that you've got right now. It's about when you do find a new client, what do you do? Do you do the strategic things? I really want you to be honest with yourself and ask yourself, are you achieving the income and lifestyle that you want and deserve? Because it is rare that I meet the busy, busy, busy bookkeeper who is loving it, right?
Maybe they are making okay MONEY, but if you are that busy,
that doesn't spell LIFESTYLE to me.
So now, let's look at the opportunities that exist to move from busy to thriving strategic bookkeeper. I'll use some examples and some stories, but we'll look at the opportunities that exist if you're a busy bookkeeper, and the little things that you can and could do in order to free up TIME and increase PROFITABILITY.
The first thing I'm going to talk about in terms of opportunities is when you do meet new clients, or just think about your existing clients – let's review three things: the TERMS upon which you are working, your productized SERVICES, and your PRICING SYSTEMS.
I have done a podcast on knowing your terms and backing yourself, so I really recommend you listen to that one. I also want to share with you the kind of minimum charges on jobs, and a couple of stories. So first off, some years ago, I was already doing very well in this space around knowing my terms and having a lot of this stuff nailed, which actually speaks to the fact that once you get all these moving parts in place, you don't just stop and it's perfect and it's finished. You're always learning and expanding your mind and refining and improving so that your practice continues to thrive.
So yeah, it was some years ago and I was thinking about the ONE-OFF JOBS we get. So a catch up job or a rectification job of an accounting file is a one-off job. That catch up job may turn into ongoing bookkeeping, and look, we find most of the time it does, but it may not either. So consider that catch up job a one-off job. Training someone in how to use their software, be it Xero software, MYOB software, QuickBooks Online software, whatever it is, a training job is a one-off job. And then you've got your regular or what I call RECURRING JOBS. So they are where you are doing either bookkeeping – so end-to-end bookkeeping for a business and you take care of that weekly and maybe charge them monthly – or we have another one in-house which is helping DIY bookkeepers.
With DIY bookkeepers, it is a great opportunity to help people that are doing their own bookkeeping. For this job, we're available to them throughout the month by phone and email, and we're making sure their file is in order. We're pointing out if they're not doing the bookkeeping properly themselves, and we're offering up training at additional cost. We're also doing all the heavy lifting like payroll, new starters and terminations and the lodgement of all their taxation lodgements, that kind of thing.
So back to the one-off job – years ago, I realized at the time I was charging out about $395 for a really nice little productized training pack. This was around seven years ago. It might have been up to three hours of training, with up to three months of support by email and phone on the subjects covered way back then. (These days, my minimum charge out is more like a thousand dollars.)
So way back then, I was doing that kind of work and slowly but surely would always increase those fees. So before long, it was $495 and $695, et cetera. But the other kind of one-off jobs that we would get requested, I would think, "Well, that job potentially might only take me 15 minutes." The employee mindset would go: "Oh, I think that job might be 15 minutes. So 15 minutes times my charge out rate. Let's say a charge out rate's $100 an hour, well then I'll charge you $25," right? Oh goodness, that is not a viable term upon which to trade, let alone a viable product type service or outcome billing model.
I realized that for these tiny little jobs, I had a choice to either just don't do them at all, because they were going to make me busy but definitely not going to contribute to me building a thriving practice, delighting my clients, and getting the income and lifestyle that I went into this for. I realized that the little $395 amount that I was charging out training clients at the time was a bit of a sweet spot for the minimum that I should charge anyone. And so I thought, "I'm more than happy to help these business owners that come to me that need a little micro job that might be 15 minutes, but I need to let them know that the fee for service here is $395."
In fact, the smaller the one-off job, let's say you've got a one-off job and it's only going to take you 5, 15 minutes, half an hour – you still need to talk to that prospective client beforehand. There's admin involved in terms of billing and collecting the payment. There will be times where that client, once they become a client, has a question after you finish the job. There may be times when you have to speak to the accountant for some reason after that.
With these one-off jobs versus your recurring jobs, there is a LOT of unknowns in place –
the thriving strategic bookkeeper takes the time to
actually understand this in the scope of running a viable BUSINESS MODEL.
And a viable business model in terms of a bookkeeping practice contains my seven step methodology. In terms of the terms upon which you trade, have you sat down and really thought about that? Because if someone's calling you for a one-off job, for example, and you are using that methodology of, "Well, 15 minutes times my charge out rate," even if you're doubling that, that's what I want you to really consider not doing and consider that that's more the busy bookkeeper employee mindset.
The other thing that I want to mention here about system strategy and terms – it's not about riffing anyone off, okay? In fact, what I noticed is that when I came up with this beautiful productized service, the clients that I was serving were happier than ever. And part of that is when you listen to my podcast around knowing your terms and backing yourself.
When you operate like this,
when you operate as a professional business owner with these professional terms that make a viable business, you actually have the room to service and even over service the client.
I remember quite vividly the first time I did that kind of job. Somebody needed some help on the spot. It was like, "Help me. You've got a great reputation. I know you can do this job. Can you just do it?" And I said, "Yes, I can take care of that for you for $395," and I took care of it, but I was able to slow down and take the time to make sure that the client understood what was happening. "Is there anything else you need?" Et cetera. Even if that job only took me 15 minutes, that client was a raving fan that knew he got the outcome that he wanted and needed, and he knew that I had his back. So this comes back to selling OUTCOMES, not hours. And selling an outcome over an hour is more than just, "I've fixed price billing", because too many busy bookkeepers I meet are using a math equation to calculate that fixed price billing rather than a set of strategic systems and processes, which include the terms upon which you trade.
So now, I want to give you an example so you can reflect on how you are acting in your own practice. So let's say a prospective client comes to you and they are doing their own bookkeeping. And it can also from time to time, be a full service client who wants to transition to DIY bookkeeping, okay? There's nothing wrong with that. In this day and age, there's always a good opportunity with the accounting software for business owners to do it themselves if they want. It's not something I recommend, but we absolutely have DIY bookkeepers who we help and support.
Now, if you are the busy bookkeeper with the math equation as your pricing strategy, when someone like that comes to you, once again, you're probably going to be thinking, "How long is this going to take me weekly, monthly, or quarterly times what I think is a decent hourly rate?" Cue the employee mindset. And then you're going to simply give them a fee structure that reflects time for money. So even if you fix price it, you're still in the employee mindset using a math equation and trading hours for the service, okay? Whereas the thriving strategic bookkeeper has a beautiful PRODUCTIZED SERVICE, and the other thing that he or she does is takes CONTROL.
So when we do the needs analysis, the busy bookkeeper sometimes lets it be very much a combined decision – allows the business owner to take control and tell them what they want. For example, if I get someone come to me and say, "I want you to take my books and do the quarterly," no, that's not what we do. I don't do quarterly work. The thriving strategic bookkeeper has very solid TERMS and is in control, and makes his or her recommendations and is valued by the client.
So in this case, it would be a DIY bookkeeping package that provides the business owner with outcomes, and those outcomes would be: I'm available by phone and email throughout the month, I can even jump on the Zoom with you, I'm going to check your file and make sure that it's on track. I'm going to do the heavy lifting. I won't go into too much of what that is, but a heavy lifting that they just can't do, lodge your compliance, et cetera. And the fee attached to that service for the month is X. Maybe 250, 350, whatever it is. But if you are just calculating the time, let's say the fee attached to that service was $300 a month, that would be your absolute minimum charge out rate for a recurring service. So this is a client that needs no bookkeeping as such – a client that just needs the support to be a DIY bookkeeper.
So oftentimes, you spend a lot less time on that job as such. But to make it a viable productized service in your professional bookkeeping business, you need a minimum charge out RATE. Hopefully, that's getting you thinking about the terms upon which you trade, your productized services, your pricing model, and how it relates to moving from being a busy bookkeeper to being a thriving strategic bookkeeper.
The next thing I want to mention before I wrap up with action steps is that, the busy bookkeeper is often doing this:
A prospective client reaches out and they say, "I need some help." Maybe they've been referred to you, then you have a chat with them about what they need. You then think in your head, "Well, I think this will take this amount of time," and you just quote a fee and the person says, "Yes, that's great" and then you move ahead. And you think, "Gosh, I'm so busy and I'm constantly bringing on these clients."
Then the busy bookkeeper tends to have a mix of this kind of work. So maybe they've got quarterly work, which only takes an hour or so, and they're only charging out the equivalent of their hourly rate, let's call it $100 an hour times the time it takes, even if that's fixed price. So it's a very low charge out rate and they'll be charging out some quarterly work, and then they'll have the ad hoc clients who say, "I'll just call you when I need you."
The kind of work they're doing, it's a real mixed bag, all right? And I'll try and frame this up as what they're NOT doing –
The busy bookkeeper often doesn't start out with understanding for themselves
the kind of clients and work that they WANT. It tends to be they're taking on whatever work that comes in the door, and they're doing whatever they're kind of asked to do.
When you move to being THRIVING and STRATEGIC, you could be taking on
LESS WORK that you normally take on, but getting
BETTER OUTCOMES for your clients and yourself.
The thriving strategic bookkeeper is taking on the right kind of clients and helping them say yes to the right kind of productized service that leads to good, viable profit margins, but also raving fan, happy clients. So what I want you to be very aware of is that increasing your rates and productizing your services will not lead to clients that are less happy – it'll lead to clients that are quite happier.
Many times, prospective clients reach out to me that have been let down by the busy bookkeeper – because the busy bookkeeper has got so busy that he/she started to drop the ball on deadlines and tasks. We never dropped the ball on deadline and task, and part of that is just because we run such a professional business, but the only way we can do that is with lots of strategy and SYSTEMS and processes, and we manage CAPACITY very carefully too.
There is so much more I could share but right now, I really want to wrap this up with action steps. So if you have read through this, you've done really well to make that time. If you would love to move from being a busy bookkeeper to a strategic bookkeeper, let's talk about your next lap around the sun. Step one, take the audiobook challenge. Please listen to my audiobook for an hour a day over less than a week, and then you'll have learned what you need to learn. Please also listen to the podcast that I pointed you to on pricing and knowing your terms.
And then, join my waitlist for The Strategic Bookkeeper Transformation Program. And when the door is open, please do jump in, okay? I've done podcast episode 6 to explain everything you need to know about the transformation program. Ultimately, what I'd love to do is hold your hand for a year. So rather than "We've got to do it all in two seconds," – you are busy, I get that, but let me hold your hand for a year and slowly but surely help you make the transformation from bookkeeper to strategic bookkeeper.
That transformation is going to lead to you being a smiling bookkeeper and so much more, but let's take it one step at a time 😉