In part 1 of this guide we covered the basics. Part 2 introduced finding your first partners. Part 3 looked at your image and how you present that to prospective clients. Part 4 looked at ways to market your business. This part focuses on how to keep your clients.
Getting clients is not too hard as you have already seen. Keeping them is actually very easy too. But you will lose them rapidly if you are not punctual. If they ask you for their VAT return and you do not return the call quickly, they will start to lose faith in your service, and then in you. So it is vital you set out your terms and conditions at the start and stick to them. Your clients will respect you even more if you have a set of terms and conditions. It is the professional thing to do. If you belong to a bookkeeping association, they will not only be able to provide you with guidelines, they will also have a strict code of conduct. Use that to your advantage. State it clearly on your marketing materials.
Things to include are:
- How quickly you will respond to queries (eg. all enquiries will be answered within 2 business days)
- When and how often you expect to receive paperwork
- When and how often you will deliver reports
- The scope of work (eg. bookkeeping, VAT returns [Europe], Sales Tax [USA], debt collecting)
- When you expect to be paid (eg. all accounts must be settled in full within 30 days of invoice date)
- Surcharges for overdue invoices
- A disclaimer stating that your figures can only be as good as the documents provided to you (you are not responsible for other people’s errors, although you will always point them out if you spot them)
- Your business name and address and contact details
This list is not exclusive and you should contact a solicitor to make sure it is water tight and you have not missed anything out. Remember UK law is ‘case law’. That means each case has a possibility of changing the way law is interpreted. If you should ever be taken to a small claims (or larger) court, the judge will always look at things from a ‘fair’ point of view. For example, if your terms and conditions state that you are in no way responsible for anything, the judge will not view your case kindly!
Some countries impose regulations on money laundering (following the terrorist scares of the last decade). In the UK for example it is necessary to register with HMRC if you offer bookkeeping or accounting services to other people. There is a charge involved for this, so please check with your Inland Revenue service. Some bookkeeping associations cover this cost as part of their membership (which can often be cheaper than registering independently).
To ensure you keep everything up to date and you do not miss deadlines, open a spreadsheet and record your client details together with when you expect to receive and deliver paperwork, tax returns etc. Do one for each year. You could open new worksheets in the same spreadsheet, which will give you quick access to previous years.
Make sure you get all your client details including main contact, address, telephone numbers, who is responsible for delivering paperwork to you, who is responsible for paying you.
Add a date for each client to contact them on a regular basis so both you and they can discuss any issues that have come to light. Always do this. That call can really help your relationship. Your clients will know you care about their business. Of course, if your client runs the entire business on their own, then this wont be necessary as you will be in regular contact anyway.
OK. That completes this mini guide. Next we will be publishing a series of marketing articles to really get your business noticed online. It is much easier than you think, so whatever you do, do not spend a fortune on internet marketing or even starting a web site until you have read these articles. I can pretty much guarantee that if you follow them your site will get to page 1 of Google for a very relevant keyword in your target area, and the cost of doing that will be minimal.
If you would like to understand a little more about bookkeeping, subscribe to our free 12 week bookkeeping course.