How to Help Your Bookkeeping Client Find an Accountant

As a bookkeeper it's hard finding clients. Clients who will work with you year after year. It can take a long time to build up trust. After all, we are dealing with their business and their money. Often we're moving their life savings to and from their accounts each month. If you take on a client who is just getting started, they will often come to you for your advice. It makes sense. Most people work with one or two accountants in their life, if any. Most bookkeepers work with dozens over their career.

This can be tricky. An accountant is a critical position to fill. A really good accountant can be a big factor in your success. A really bad one can cost you a lot of money and steer you in the wrong direction.

In a perfect world, you would develop a trusted circle of professionals before even taking on your first client. You'd have a contact list filled with consultants, accountants, and business attorneys. They would specialize in a wide range of fields, so your clients would have their choice of a handful of highly qualified candidates to fill each role in their company.

Early on, I frantically googled for accountants. This was not a great idea, and didn't result in the best suggestions. The main problem is that this isn't a one size fits all situation. The accountant (or firm) best suited to a 1,000 employee business might not be a good fit for the solo web designer who just incorporated last month. Instead of trying to search for the "best" accountant, try to find the most compatible one. Most compatible with you and your client. You will all be working together. Assuming that you and your client have a certain way of doing things, you need to find an accountant who will fit into that system.

If you find yourself in this position with one of your clients, here are 3 tips to finding the right accountant.

You should work with similar technology.

This doesn't mean they use the same software as you. I don't care about the actual software they use. I just need to know I can give them my client's data and they'll know what to do with it. What I mean is that they share the same philosophy and technical proficiency. This is especially true for accountants you meet in person. If you find them because of a great blog post they wrote about Xero...probably nothing to worry about. If you meet in a coffee shop and they have a flip phone, maybe ask a few questions.

One of my clients and I had setup a great workflow. At the time we were using QuickBooks Desktop. Although they were local, we did all of our work through email and Dropbox. At year end I had a copy of the QB saved to our Dropbox folder...all ready for the accountant. It turns out his accountant was a complete technophobe. He didn't want the QB file. He didn't even want Excel reports. He insisted that I PRINT and drop off paper copies of everything...including the General Ledger. I angrily printed off about 600 pages. More than a full ream of paper, and a full set of ink cartridges. In the end he never did finish up our year end, and we had to find a new accountant.

You should have similar communication styles.

You and your client will figure out the perfect way to stay in touch. Maybe you use email. Or maybe Slack. Once a week you jump onto Skype to stay in touch. Whatever your system looks like, you need your accountant to work within that system.

If you prefer email, make sure they respond to emails in a timely manner. If you prefer a phone call, make sure they're easy to reach on the phone (and are in a compatible time zone).

Personally, I'm the guy who finds every way to avoid phone calls. I'm not proud of it. If I do speak on the phone I like to schedule it. If I email someone and 10 minutes later my phone rings, that drives me nuts. Someone would have just as much right to hate me if I ignored their call and emailed them back instead.

Beyond the technical details, just make sure they're easy to reach. If your client needs an answer to an important question, will it take the accountant 4 days to respond?

You should have similar pricing strategies.

This one is tricky. Basically, you want to make sure the accountant you recommend is in a comparable price tier. If you're focussed on being the low-priced bookkeeper, you don't want the accountant charging your client $400/hr. It's the same if you've priced your bookkeeping at the top end. A "cheap" accountant might not provide the same level of service. Plus, it might make your prices look even higher by comparison, which might put off your client.

I've had a few issues here over the years. The big lesson here is to make sure everyone talks about price as soon as possible. I've had clients come to me very frustrated when they were handed a $3,000 bill from their accountant when they were expecting $1,000. I've also had clients very happy to spend that $3,000, but had been working with overseas bookkeepers charging $3/hour and couldn't deal with my 2-digit hourly rate. There's no simple rule here. Just make sure you always keep your clients needs in mind when helping them decide.

Hopefully these 3 tips will help you find the right accountant for your client. Want a bonus tip?

Always be on the lookout.

You can't always start with that ideal scenario I mentioned earlier, but you should strive for it. Talk with accountants, consultants, and lawyers. Don't forget about other bookkeepers too. You're not going to be able to say yes to every client who contacts you. When you can't, have a few other bookkeepers in mind that you can recommend. You've still managed to help out that potential client, and you've helped out a fellow bookkeeper too.

Eric Matthews

I'm a bookkeeper, husband, dad, music junkie, and general tech geek. When I'm a bookkeeper, I focus on cloud bookkeeping. I write at ThatBookkeeper.com, which helps bookkeepers and business owners move their books online. I work with apps like FreshBooks, Xero, Kashoo, Wave, and QuickBooks Online.

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