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Discussion:Your First Year In Business - Share your Experience

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Discussion Forum Index --> Business Growth Community --> Your First Year In Business - Share your Experience


BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
So as I sit here with no clients to speak of I am wondering what is the proper expectation for me to have as far as client growth in the first year. I have a few returns completed for family members (some paid, some free i.e. parents and mother-in-law) that I have been doing for years. I actually do have one "new" client which is still a family member who I hadn't prepared taxes for in the past. I also have a few more family members who will come in over the next month or so, but I have yet to get that first non-related client.

In terms of referrals I have asked for them and I do offer referral fees, but it seems that at this point the family members I have prepared returns for are not the referring kind. While I somewhat expected this to be the case as far as referrals it still doesn't help. As I read some of the discussions it seems that the more established professionals are doing fairly well. Some of you have mentioned that business is somewhat flat compared to last year at this point, others have already added up to 25 new clients. I think if I did 25 all this first season I would be pretty happy with that at this point.


So my question is what was your first year like. How did you land that first real client and what would you recommend for those of us starting out this year. Please indicate whether you started out full-time or part-time. I am a part-timer this year working out of a home office so I would be interested in folks that started out the same, but please whatever your situation please everyone share your experience. If this is your first year please share your experience right now as well. What is working for you and what has not worked out as well as you had expected. All posters please answer this question if you are so inclined: If you were building your practice and you could only use two marketing methods (one for individuals and one for small biz clients) what would they be?


As for me I know that my marketing efforts leave much to be desired but I did expect to at least get some phone calls or actual communication. To date I have received decent traffic to my website but no real inquiries. Sadly I have actually lost 3 family members to HR Block. 2 of them (mother and daughter) I really never had, 1 called and was waiting for docs to arrive, once they did they decided they needed their cash fast so they are going to Block. In both cases I let them know what was going on at Block this year right up front and it didn't seem to take hold in their minds.


This has caused me to shift my focus more towards small business, but I think I may be getting a late start, I'm not sure. I was invited to a meeting at my local Chamber of Commerce by my web designer(who will be my first small biz client) tomorrow morning. The meeting is with the Chamber Ambassadors, which is a team of chamber members who work specifically with new and prospective chamber members so I am pretty excited about the opportunity. Hopefully it pays some dividends this tax season, but if not it is a good building block.


I certainly don't mean to be a downer to anybody, just looking for a little direction. Hopefully your replies will help a few of us out.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
My first year (22 years ago) was slow. I was full-time. I rented space in an old 1870 farmhouse on a busy road near my home and put out one of those electric signs (with the flashing arrow). I bought an extension cord and floodlights and set them up shining on the building so that it would attract people driving home from work in the evening. I printed flyers with coupons and put them underneath people's winshield wipers at the nearby K-Mart parking lot. I went around and taped the flyers on people's mailboxes (you can't put them in the mailboxes). I went out and handed out business cards to every business within a 10 mile radius.

I didn't wait around for the phone to ring, that's for sure. And I returned phone messages the same day (returning to the office at least two times while out doing my marketing). I left a note on the front door saying what time I'd be back just in case a walk-in came by.

I plowed everything I made that year back into the business. I borrowed from my sister and cashed in a 401(k) for living expenses. I would not have survived to the following tax season if I hadn't had those resources. I honestly considered getting a job during the Summer to pay bills, but decided that would be admitting that I wasn't serious about my business, so I knuckled down and went out and called on those same businesses again and again every three months. Someone, at some time, has a tax problem, and when opportunity meets preparedness, luck happens. I was lucky that I was prepared, and I was lucky that I wasn't lazy. I couldn't afford to be shy. Shyness is for employees. Boldness is for business owners.

If it was raining and too nasty to go out to drum up business, I read IRS publications and tax books like J.K. Lasser. Like the lumberjack sharpening his axe during his break, you have to constantly hone your skills so that when you do work, you are sharp and ready.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
Oh yeah, I should probably add that I made mistakes on many of those first (second and third) year returns also. I didn't know nearly enough. But I amended them for free and depending on how serious the error was, even gave a free return to the client the following year if they returned. Be truthful, honest, and own up to your mistakes. Take responsibility. You will win clients for life when you are truthful. You will lose clients when you try to cover up your mistakes.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
I had the opportunity/misfortune of repeating my first year, after I sold that practice in Georgia and moved to North Carolina to be closer to the aging in-laws.

Seven years ago I started my current practice and only did 49 returns that first year. I was trying to concentrate on financial planning and only wanted clients whom I did the investing work (that decision has been changed). I gave many dinner seminars to seniors to drum up investment work and a number of them did come to me for taxes. I dripped on those seminar attendees for three years, each year getting a few more converts. Luckily, I had cash from the sale of my GA practice to pay living expenses.

If you read about businesses that fail (80% fail within the first five years) you'll see that most fail because of undercapitilization. The owner doesn't have enough money to pay living expenses without taking out of his business, and the business doesn't have enough customers to pay both expenses and the owner. So Lession #1 is to have other resources.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
Wow Kevin....exactly what I was looking for....thank you so much. There is a walmart/kmart/sams club parking lot nearby with my name on it.

Dealsam1 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
This is also my first year and I am working PT from home. I am in a pretty good situation in my FT job as the Accountant at a major university. The place I work has over 200 employees and as the accountant, I am familiar to many of them. I sent out an email on the electronic bulletin board and I have had pretty good success so far drumming up business. As of today, I have prepared 13 returns (12 individual and one non profit). I hope to reach about 50 this first year. Any thing over that is gravy.

I purchased the PPR version of Drake software because I really had no idea how many clients I would have. I already owned a laptop (which is technically my wife's, but I have taken it over until April 18th) and a laser printer. The only big purchase I have had to make is a scanner, which wasn't really that much. I want to keep my costs pretty low and average about $160 per return I prepare.

Being on the college campus, I hope to pick up additional 990 business from a copule of frats and other student organizations as the year progresses. I have a total of 4 so far with one other decent prospect in June.

So I am not sure if this was helpful at all. I am really in a pretty unique situation with a majority of my cleints coming from the place where I am employed on a full time basis.

Zokan (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
BTax2010 this is also my first year in my own office. The very first thing I did was to seek out a mentor; this was about a year and a half ago. She has 30+ years experience and has always been there to answer any questions I have. Having a good mentor can be invaluable. At end of 2010 I passed the enrolled agent exam and immediately applied to take the consultant exam in the state of Oregon. I received my license in January of this year. I rented an office on the main street through town for 200.00 a month. Things have been slow for me also. I found two clients on my own. I have gotten two from my mentor, she isn’t taking new clients anymore and I have had one walk in. I need to hit the street and visit businesses like Kevin did but I hate doing that type of thing. Starvation is going to make going door to door looking for work not seem so bad……haha

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
I would say "don't get discouraged when you pass out business cards an no one seems interested." Many people don't even keep your business card because they don't have an immediate need for you. That's why you have to go back every so often (I returned every 3 months). And don't be pushy. All I did was to introduce myself, say that I did accounting and taxes for businesses and individuals, and ask that they pass on the card to the owner (if he/she wasn't readily available). I got more than one client from the customers of the people I was calling on who happened to overhear my conversation and ask if they could also have a card.

People need to file their taxes. Many people are dissatisfied with their current arrangement and would change IF ONLY they could find someone who seemed personable. Smile.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
Dealsam1....you situation is unique....I couldn't imagine sending an email at my full-time job soliciting tax prep from my co-workers would go over very will with my employer (I am an Engineer full-time, so my fear is that it would raise questions about my desire to remain employed there...not only that but it raises a lot of concerns as far as me as an employee outside of HR getting into everyones salary info and whatnot)....there are a few people who have come across my Linked-in Profile at work and some of them have visited my website, but I have not solicited anyone there....

I also started out on a shoestring budget....I didn't buy any equipment and I am using Proseries Basic 50.

Zokan....I tend to be more of a loner, but a mentor is a good idea. Another thing to add to my list for the Chamber of Commerce. Maybe I could find someone there, or through SCORE......As far as hating the door to door thing....look into your local Chamber of Commerce....you have to get out in front of these folks and be persistent....

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
I can't say "NO" loudly enough! Stay away from the Chamber of Horrors. There's nothing but a bunch of old duds that hang around there or eager beavers. Both of them will do you in.

Join the gym (if you are already fit). Never join the gym if you're out of shape, you'll end up being seen as a loser. If you're in good shape, strut around like you are on top of the world and hand out flippant advice.

The key with modern Americans is to make everthing sound easy. Don't bore people with the truth. Read the French and Italian magazines so you know what's going on in Europe (even if you don't speak the language, you can still understand the names). You can buy them at Barnes and Noble (they weigh 5lbs each). Come across as the high dollar sort. Your fees are sky high and so on and they'll flock to you. Shave your underarms and your chest and everything else so you don't come across as a cad. Try not to smell when you work out.

Rent a Mercedes and take the rental sticker off with turpentine and then stick it back on when you're thru with Superglue. Always show up at the gym in a nice car (or an old truck) and flashing a big white smile (it doesn't hurt to wear expensive sunglasses). If you can't afford a nice car, definitely go with an old truck. If you're young, never be caught dead in a van, even if you have 6 kids.

Just remember to keep it simple with people. You know they tax plan they need, tell them it's easy. Tell them they'll pay no tax (because they WANT to hear it, even though they don't believe it). It's a game but let them play it. A funeral director doesn't sell to the dead, he sells to the living!

Keep gadgets around and have the newest trinkets if you want to attract the young set. Have your nails done, particularly your toes. Go to the fanciest nail salon in the richest part of town. It's not that you want your nails done, it's that you want to be SEEN having them done. You won't make it as a young male (yes male) executive without being seen having a pedicure. Wear Italian sandles to show off your toes. Yes, I'm serious.

If you have pretty hair, alternate from wearing a crew cut to wearing a pony tail (don't spend less than $70 on your haircut). If you can pull off a tasteful cowboy hat, wear it but don't overdo it (step on it two or three times so it looks real). Cowboy hats are in this year. Try to look wistful and uninterested in everything if you can. Try to only smile at rich people (it takes a while to learn who's rich and who's not).

Don't go to church for anything but sex (like most young people), but if you meet someone wealthy who's ok, marry them for their money (if they're stupid, that's icing on the cake). Try them out first in the woods at the church picnic (you might want to spray a little OFF around your private parts first if you're not used to the outdoors). If you're already married, forget I said this.

Go to a megachurch if you can (it's good for business). Talk the talk.

This is what I would tell any young executive, particularly the self employed.

P.S. If you are not ready for the gym right now, start on a Slim Fast diet today. If you have the slightest grey in your hair, have a good dye job done this week. Far better to do this than to waste your time (and money) at the Chamber of Horrors. I'm very serious about this.

If you're older, have your doctor give you the highest possible dose of testosterone patch (wear two) and get an RX for HGH as well. Whatever you do, DO NOT listen to your family or friends. Remember, even Jesus had to leave town before he amounted to anything. Go to the chiropractor, sounds odd, but a lot of rich hypchondriacs hang out at the chiropractors office.

This might all sound very shallow (and it is) but you'll never win fighting modern America. Expect failure repeatedly. Expect it and you can deal with it. People get in trouble when they expect instant success.

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
First few years were tough. did many trial and error advertising methods, some were creative and worked others were creaitve and didn't work.

get the word out your a tax professional, send letters to friends and acquaintances, be social, ask former colleagues who may have returns that are too small for their firm if they would be interested in handing over those returns to you (maybe even a small buy out), when you get a referral send a personally handwritten thank you card to person who referred the cleint, always make sure current clients are happy (this does not necessarily mean a low fee by any means) with your service and they will spread the word, go to networking meetings, work per diem for a firm until you get enough cleitns for yourself, and on and on good luck !!!!

NewYorkEA (talk|edits) said:

February 15, 2011
I started part time from a home office. I put up a cheap website, put a $200 ad in a local newspaper, and used Craig's List. The newspaper ad got me 3 clients. Craig's List got me most of the clients though. A few found me online on their own. I did around 40 individual and 2-3 S Corp/partnerships. Of the 40 individuals, 10 were relatives. I was also able to pick up some write-up/bookkeeping clients. I also sent out letters to new businesses every once in a while. Growth continued steadily for a few years.

Then I decided I wanted big growth. So I rented an office, got a CPA Site Solutions website (and added a separate feature that allowed people to book and confirm appointments online), re-named/re-branded my company, and started heavily marketing my practice. I used Craig's List, PPC, Yellowpages.com premium listings, sent out A LOT of direct mail, handed out flyers, hired a human directional, and raised my fees quite a bit. My revenue tripled that year. My expenses went up too, but they did not triple and most of those clients came back the next year.

I think that direct mail (if done properly) and a great website (as well as ways for people to find your website) are the way to go.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

15 February 2011
What did the 'human directional' wear/hold/do?

NewYorkEA (talk|edits) said:

February 15, 2011
They had regular clothes on. I can't remember exactly what the sign said. It was something like TAXES in large letters and then Fast & Affordable under that. The signs were rather large, with bold/bright colors. A local sign shop made them for a nice price. They also had handles on the back. The human directional did not bring me a ton of business. After a while I stopped doing that and had the employee help me with the direct mail instead since I did it in house. Maybe if I was in a retail center on a bigger street it would have been better.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
Thanks for all of the great responses everybody and keep it coming to those who haven't commented. I've come away with a few ideas based on your contributions and I will definitely report back on my results.

Wahoo (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
I am year 2. Year one was rough but if you focus on getting your name out there, meeting people, and staying in front of people you will see dividends. YTD, I am exponentially busier this year- I might even be able to make a living at this. I am a firm believer in having an office space, even if in an executive office space that can be rented by the day, hour, etc to meet with clients. As has been said on numerous threads, don't make the mistake of pricing too low at the start or you will be paying that price for years to come. I am already adjusting upward from year one and wish I had started with higher fees.

Internet marketing and a strong web site have helped. That being said, there are a lot of solely priced based shoppers that troll the internet. IMHO, they are not even worth the time and effort it takes to respond to them via email.

MaxTax (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
In my first year I struggled too. I'm in year 2. I kept the price too low last year to attract clients. Whoever showed up last year demanding the same price this year too. I'm slowly increasing the price upwards. I wish I started last year with higher fees too.
My business is picking up but not the exponential growth I was expecting. Since I do this parttime, I envision this to be parttime for a while.

Lisaw (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
In my first year of taking clients on my own, but also committed to "up to" 35-40 hours a week with a CPA who has been mentoring me. I was hesitant to do much marketing as I didnt know how much time I would have for my own clients and figured that one more year worth of experience doing lots of returns would benefit me in the long run.

So far I definitely regret not putting more time into my own marketing. I didnt take into account that my increased competency would mean less hours necessary at the other gig (this is the second day this week I was asked to not come in since I had completed most of the available returns assigned to me). This didnt happen last year. It is early in the season so this will hopefully change.

In regards to the clients I do have, I have had good luck with referals from a realtor. The clients are mostly first time home buyers that want someone to calculate their recommended witholding allowances. I havent charged for this and it has been easy to convert them to clients.

On the subject of the gym - while it may have been made in jest - I did get one client from someone I met sitting on the bike next to me.

I will defintiely jump both feet in for next season, including possibly buying a small practice if I find the right one.

Best of luck to everyone!

Craigums (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
I am year one. Listen to Kevinh5. I am busier than expected. Read the following books:

Six pixels of separation by Mitch Joel

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

Follow their advice.

Also, local search engine optimization is ripe for the picking.

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
Lisaw,

one thought came to my mind reading your post and that is it bothers me when I see quality tax pros getting underpaid because they are efficient. i feel that you should be getting paid more on a fee percentage than an hourly rate if that is indeed the case. where's the incentive? if you have become more experinced this year and are preapring the returns more efficiently this year, why should that hurt you income wise? I hope your mentor has adjusted your pay to reflect the increased production and value you provide for his practice. best of luck. i also don't personally like charging based on time and/or per forms, but each has their own method of course.

Lisaw (talk|edits) said:

16 February 2011
Wkstaxprep thanks for the feedback. My hourly pay was increased this year but is probably still underpriced for an EA. There are lots of benefits to working there, primarily in the area of free consultation for my own clients and the opportunity to work on some challenging returns. I dont think I am being taken advantage of, but do think I planned poorly from a time management point of view. I like your idea of a fee percentage - I will keep it in mind for next year - I am keeping the door open for 2-3 days a week next year.

Craigums - thanks for repeating Kevins list. I will get on it - apparently I may have the time:)

Lisa

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
You can get more business from the gym than you can the Chamber of Horrors. I guess in some towns the Chamber might be ok, but the main purpose of a Chamber is to perpepuate mediocrity.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.

- Warren G. Bennis

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Warren I agree with you. Oh it's Kevin. Well I agree with both of you.

If you don't like the gym, become a knitter. You can wear what you knit even if it looks terrible. Anything goes in fashion now, the crazier the better. Join one or two knitting clubs.

If I had any talent, I would knit, but I really don't have any talents.

With food prices going up, I predict an end to obesity in America in around 5 years. The whole topic will be passe. We'll all be thin as a rail.

So you could look into a farmer's club and grow your own food and meet people that way. Anything but the Chamber of Horrors. If you like to work on cars, join a car club (you won't be able to afford the gasoline, so they'll be plenty of time to talk).

P.S. By the way, get your hands on some old seeds (heirloom or whatever). The big conglomerates are trying to patent all the seeds and you'll have to pay $10.00 for one seed, even a mustard seed. It will be like prescription drugs.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
So I went to the "Chamber of Horrors" meeting this morning. It was ok. Not bad, but didn't necessarily blow my hair back. I understand what CrowJD is getting at....the folks there are not necessarily looking to be referral sources.....for me though every small business owner is a potential client, but I need to be in the right group....these folks were a bit stuffy for me and I thing if I did join a Chamber, a smaller one might actually serve me better.....

Anyway, my first year is still underway....I've got some fliers to print....

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
I'm sure there are some good Chambers, however, I think any "hobby" or other type association might offer more benefits as far as meet & greet (since you might actually enjoy the hobby). Of course, keep in mind, I'm not an expert on this since I went bust in the tax business. I decided after it was over that I would rather sell myself out to the medical profession for experimentation than to do taxes.  :)

"And over hill and vale we went,

And many fliers left to print,

And many fliers left to print."

Robert Frost (he keeps coming back to me).

Taxaway (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
I was in a very fortunate situation for my first year, with a small number of clients I could count on before starting up, and used a time-share conference room. Also lucky, since I could lock up my computer/printer within the room.

I think the most important thing is to establish a personal but still professional connection to your clients, and referrals will follow. My business has grown because of that, without any direct active marketing, (just indirect like Google and Yahoo listings which I doubt has done anything).

BT, it's surprising that some of your own family members went elsewhere, maybe that was just a one-time necessity to get the 'fast money'? Do they understand your credentials of being an EA, that you're not just a guy that can prepare taxes, this is your profession, a real business?

I would also not offer referral fees right away (except if someone referred a number of new clients)...they should feel lucky you have time to help them.

You have to sell yourself first: your abilities, knowledge of tax law, concern for your clients, level of confidentiality, etc. You want clients to choose you based on that connection rather than them just choosing elsewhere based on a lower price or closer tax shop.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Taxaway,

Thanks for the tips....yeah, it is surprising and unfortunate....I just had another one....a family member who I have helped quite a bit over the years with filling out Fafsa's and anything else she needed.....this was one of the first people I told that I was starting the biz this year....she's been talking to me back and forth since August....asked for fliers to had out to friends that she supposedly told about me.....went to Block and paid $300 for a return that I would have done for $50....she had a W-2 and a 1099G for UE....

The truth is that my network is not very "sophisticated" financially or otherwise for that matter....I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not have that base to work with, so it will be a slower build for me to start this business.....I am more disappointed in them and sad for them than anything else...I will be fine, it will just take time, patience, and persistence....all of those are free....

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
So the real question is 'why would we do a $300 return for $50' when they don't even appreciate our family relationship?

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Kevin, I agree...we wouldn't....fortunately this does not represent all of my family....but I see now that I have to start setting the proper expectations....

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
how did Block charge $300 for a return with one w-2 and one 1099-g? interesting.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Part piracy and part customer stupidity....I think she got suckered by the "Free" simple tax return offer....can't imagine a return much simpler than hers...even the fees for a state return shouldn't climb that high....refund is being received in 8-14 days....Block knows what it can get away with when it comes to its client base....

AtlProfAcctg (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Where is the best place to find small businesses who need your services?

Let them find you. And over 40 million of them use QuickBooks. There is a little icon within the program that says "find an expert in your area". I get A LOT of calls from that little icon. A LOT. (Becoming a Certified ProAdvisor is the way to end up with a listing on the website.)

Helping small businesses with their QB is a no brainer, in my opinion. Once I develop a relationship with them, 99% of them fire their current tax preparer without any urging from me. And then doing their taxes is much faster because I helped them set up their books correctly and I feel good about their numbers.

Once you're in the door, look at what else you can do for your small business clients. I started a 1099/W-2 service that does a brisk January business. And, if you pull the 1099 numbers from QB, you can start getting their tax info together to get a head start on the season. Then, the owners/partners ask you to do their personal returns, which is even easier because you can import the K-1s in an instant. Throughout the year they need help with their quarterly payroll tax filings, etc. And then you end up meeting their friends, and getting referrals....and so on.

Through my ProAdvisor listing I got hired to teach QB at a local university. And that has been a goldmine for me. Who attends that class? Small business owners and employees.....and now they all know a CPA.......

Good customer service is also key to keeping your clientele and getting referrals. I always ask clients why they want to make a change and these are the most common responses:

  • I could never get my current tax preparer to answer my calls or call me back.
  • My current tax preparer makes me feel stupid for asking questions.
  • I don't like my current tax preparer.

NewYorkEA (talk|edits) said:

February 17, 2011
Your experiences with the ProAdvisor listing are very different from mine and others I have heard. When I was listed on their website the only contacts I got were from people price shopping. And the problem with QuickBooks work is that there is always going to be someone willing to do it for $10 an hour.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

17 February 2011
Becoming a QB ProAdvisor is on my list of things to check into, but as NewYorkEA said it seems to be less then a sure thing.

Atl....as I understand it, the listings are ranked correct...how does your listing rank effect the number of calls you receive? Also, how do you improve your listing rank....If I am mistaken in this exactly how does the program work...

AtlProfAcctg (talk|edits) said:

18 February 2011
I list pretty high--on the first page of most searches. But that depends on your certification level and the number of feedback entries---I did the research in year #1 to make sure I would be listed as high as possible. If you start now, you can get certified for 2011 and also 2010 until mid-summer or so. Then in 2012 you are eligible to take the advanced test (after three years of regular certification).

If you take the time to make your profile look attractive to clients, they will call you. Then it's up to you to get the business at the price that works for you. When you are starting, you need to start somewhere. Think big picture--you're not just going in for a few hundred dollars--you want to be their go-to financial services source. If you have to take a profit hit getting in there for the first time, it could be worth your while if you add value to their business.

I'm actually building a network of a few lower-priced bookkeepers who will do QB for $15-20 an hour for my clients who need everyday, on-site type help. Then I come in for higher level review, reconciliation, consulting, etc.

QuickBooks is a big outfit....using their customers for leverage makes sense.

Xz (talk|edits) said:

24 February 2011
Too busy to read every post - will do after the season. Just want to share with you. This is my second year in business and I am very busy. A lot busier than last year. Try every marketing you can think of. Last year so many times I wanted to quit and look for a job, but now I have a very good vision of my business' growth. Don't only rely on family and friends. The big crowd is out there. They are actually easier to deal with. Will post more after the season.

Jimi (talk|edits) said:

24 February 2011
The QB ProAdvisor program has worked for me. More than once a business tax client has said they chose me because I knew QBs. I get inquiries regularly. Some are good and some are bad.

You have to understand how the rankings work. Use the QB forum to get some insight. Intuit thinks a picture of yourself and ratings are high priority criteria. The ratings are mostly bogus. I have only seen one person with a less than a 5 star rating. Feeling like a third grader saying "I will be your best friend", I asked some clients to post a rating for me.

To add to what AtlProAcctg posted, you can get certified in 2010 and 2011 now through early summer. Testing for 2012 should begin in November 2011. So between now and November you could qualify for the advanced certification. Do not confuse years of time with years of versions. You need to be certified in 3 versions, not certified for 3 years of time to take the advanced test. In any competitive market you need to have the advanced certification to rank high.

Fr. Mackelhenry (talk|edits) said:

24 February 2011
Came in like a lion, went out like a lamb.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

24 February 2011
Xz, thanks for taking the time. I look forward to your comments after tax season. Jimi, thanks for your comments on QB as well. Right now I am gearing up for a pretty decent marketing push. I am keeping it simple, I have created a flyer and I will be hanging one on every mailbox in my subdivision, about 200 homes. I ordered some doorhanger poly bags from Uline (cheaper than actual printed doorhangers) so I will at least get my name out across my local neighborhood.


I will also be doing some direct mail to new businesses in my county, and I also plan to visit small businesses in my area, particularly any place that I patronize. If I could pick up just a few clients then it will be well worth it.


As far as the QB Pro Advisor, I have been giving it a lot of thought, and I am pretty sure I am going to pursue it after tax season. I am also starting to seriously think about pursuing a CPA license sometime over the next 2 years or so. I do believe the EA is an excellent credential, but the one thing that bothers me is not being able to provide audited financial statements to my small business clients, and I see this as being an issue long term.


I could essentially outsource that business to a CPA, but I would like to have the ability to provide as much as I can under my own roof. Pursuing a CPA would also enhance my accounting background since I don't have much. I do have an MBA and I took the required accounting course with that, but my Bachelors degree is in Mechanical Engineering. While I am quite naturally numbers oriented, I know I will need a bit more formal accounting training in order to properly service my small business clients. Good CPE would probably get me there, but if I have to do it anyway I may as well get another credential out of it so that is my thought process right now. We'll see where it goes....

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

8 March 2011
So I took some of the advice from this thread and put myself out there a little more using traditional means....I put together a one page letter with a business card and place it in one of those plastic bags they use to hang stuff on your doorknob....I then walked my subdivision and put it on the flag of every mailbox in the neighborhood...about 183 homes....only took me an hour and the weather was pleasant...

A few people were out and about so I was able to hand it to them personally.....I noticed a small blip on the website traffic...no calls, but now everyone in my subdivision knows what I do....all of our kids go to school together and participate in activities together so it was not a lost effort....and I got some exercise....next target: Small Businesses.....

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
my first year(1985): $20,000 revenue, $6,000 Schedule C net. 100% Hand-prepared returns. Bought first IBM PC with a 20mg hard drive, MS-DOS 2.1 (maybe). Thought it was impossible to ever fill up that hard drive. DUAL 5.25" floppies. Two small children, plus two foster kids, stay-at-home wife. Mortgage. Fun times. Will never forget them.

94nole (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
Doesn't it just crack you up how awesome we thought those computers were? IT'S BECAUSE THEY WERE AWESOME in 1985!!! 20MB HD in 1985 was absolutely cutting edge.

Flybynight (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
Remember when Bill Gates said we would never need more than 512kb of RAM? Excel alone takes at least 10x that now. Maybe I can find an old copy of Lotus 123...

Zokan (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
.next target: Small Businesses.....

I finally pushed myself out the door. Went to about 15 local businesses and got one "I will call you when I get my stuff together, I've been looking for a new accountant." Do you guys do follow ups with people that seem interested? or wait till they get their stuff together?

Tomorrow door to door all day....

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
Zokan,

I would give him a few days and then follow-up....nothing too intrusive, you don't want to spook him....maybe drop a postcard in the mail like what the dentists/doctors do to remind you of your appointment.....remind him that you talked and let him know that if he has any questions feel free to call....include another business card to reinforce who you are.....there is a reason he is looking for another accountant....from reading on here a lot of times it seems that people complain about a lack of communication....let him know that he has your attention...

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
TaxAway your Feb 17th post above, I could not have said it any better myself. Very well put!

Wkstaxprep (talk|edits) said:

9 March 2011
As for doing Taxes for friends and family, I got some simple advice a few years ago but it seems like great advice as far as i am concerned. I was told that when we Tax Professionals do work for family and friends the pricing goes one of two ways. You either charge full price or you do it for free.

I really like that philosophy. It seems most problems arise when work is done for family/friends and we charge somewhere in between.

Thats been my experience anyway and this above advice has helped me very well so hopefully it helps others on here.

Suomalainen (talk|edits) said:

March 10, 2011
I’m new too, well since 3/10. Did 8 paid returns last year (and moonlighted as a volunteer for VITA AARP and worked as a branch manager for Liberty so I really did about 150 returns). This tax season, I have my own business up and going (9 paid, 12 more in the queue, my old clients getting ready to file with me again, and moonlighting as a tax checker for a CPA in a distant town, and I will do the VITA AARP thing again).

So far, how I started and ideas to share - - -

First year accomplishments Developed a mission statement Opened bank account Bought software Bought business cards, stationary, folders Got friends that used the same software, and more experience Got CPA friend to be a backup for when I needed help. Got PTIN, EIN, ERO Developed Client Checklist Learned not to sell to friends and family Tripped over NATP on Facebook and joined Attended the Summer Training, and the fall 2010 get ready for the tax year 2010 season

Second year accomplishments

> My web site is up and running. > 4200 flyers are under windshield wipers at apartments, condos, WalMart, K Mart, county offices, parks, restaurants, country clubs and hospitals. (If I move, I can get 400 out in an hour, and have 5 clients from it). > I'm advertising in the local paper Sunday and Thursday (expensive, about $1000 / for 4 weeks of Sunday Thursday, and we’re getting hits from it) > Have a free ad on Craigslist > Have an ad in the local insurance company’s paper, 250 employees > Contacted three 75+ year old preparers to help with their e filing > I'm in the local Coffee News. No hits there. > Have a silent partner, a local CPA, who s great at answering questions for me, and helping when I get over my head. > Have e fax up and running (all faxes come in as pdfs). I try to save no paper. Keep all client data in PDFs. > The iPhone is an incredible time saver and help for maps and contact data. > ProSeries is up and running. > A local tax preparer 10 miles away with 500 plus customers also uses ProSeries. We’ve agreed to be friends and help with ProSeries issues. > Have a part time job at a CPA firm checking taxes so I stay sharp. I get to ask questions there. > Have a local small town where their only Pizza place puts my advertising flyer / coupon on every pizza that goes out the door. > Had 8 paying customers last year. 7 will be back. I've contacted them all, and they are helping with their friends, neighbors, relatives. > Volunteer at AARP / VITA in their tax assistance program for seniors. > Have an engagement letter, privacy policy, and 8 page questionnaire I work through with the client. We both sign off on it as our agreed scope. > Keep digital / pdf files for W2s, 1099s, the engagement letter and questionnaire, 8879's, and tax returns. > Keep a back up copy of my hard disk. > I’ve stopped in at local businesses and a couple have invited me in to talk to their employees. > And I'm proud to have several NATP friends where we bounce around ideas and thoughts about issues and how to be better > Have a daughter who is boundaryless with ideas and suggestions

Summary - get out and let folks know you are in business. Don't go for friends and relatives, and if you do, do them free. Relationships, referrals, and service.

Good luck all. Thanks for sharing.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

26 March 2011
So I put some of the advice in this thread to use and I have had some good results so far. First, I printed up a letter for all of the people in my subdivision and went house to house and hung them on the flags of the mailboxes (about 185 letters). I had a plastic door hanger bag with the letter and a business card inside. It generated a little bit of website traffic, but not calls.

I then discovered that I had access to a public records database through my public library. It is normally a paid service, so the access through the library was not as convenient. I did a search on small business filings in my county. I could only download 50 at a time and it was in the form of a PDF file. I did the search on businesses that were filed starting in November of 2010 and just kept going back until I had 500 records. That took me back to about July. I also had ordered Dan Kennedy's Ultimate Sales Letter book and I used it to learn how to put together a basic sales letter.

I kept the letter to one page in order to keep my expenses down even though Kennedy suggests that longer is better. I had them color printed at The UPS Store and then I printed my envelopes with the 500 business names that I had typed individually into an Excel spreadsheet. On each envelope I had wrote "Please Respond" with a felt tip marker and I put an actual stamp on each envelope.

With the help of my wife and kids I got through about half of the letters on one night and mailed those out the next day. The next day we finished stuffing the rest and I mailed those out as well. I should also mention that I had set up an answering service to take my calls on a seasonal basis (the service is out of Minnesota and I had used them some years ago when I was a Mortgage Broker in Minnesota. They do a good job and they are affordable). I have it set up so that they schedule appointments for me to call potential clients back between 6:30 and 9:00pm in 30 minute intervals.

The first call came in on the third day and the person scheduled an appointment to speak with me that evening. He is a landscaper and he did about $1k in business last year on the side. He is planning to go full time this year and he hit me up for a few questions on what to do, but he was not ready to have any tax prep work done. I answered his questions and plan to follow up, but I must say that at the time I was a bit disappointed.

Then, last night I get my schedule and I have two more appointments scheduled, one for 7:30pm last night and the other at noon today. The client last night said that she was looking for a new tax pro because the current person she works with is not responsive and doesn't return calls promptly, a very common complaint mentioned here on Taxalmanac. I sent her my tax organizer and I will give her a day or two to complete it and then we will schedule a time to meet face to face. She had a few questions including if I was set up with the Better Business Bureau....I am not so I sent here to the IRS website so that she can make an inquiry about my EA status. She also had questions about deducting a home office, and about the treatment of sales tax for online retailers both of which I had plenty of info to share and I will also do some research as well.

The client today just wanted to schedule a time to meet face to face. She didn't have any questions at all. They had someone in California doing their taxes apparently for the last 5 years. The got my letter at just the right time as they were looking for someone local. I followed the same procedure, got her email address and sent my organizer. I will be giving her a call on Monday to schedule a face to face meeting.

Overall I am pretty happy with my results. I made a flat fee offer for small business tax prep and I put a response deadline of 4/1/11 in order to lock in the price, so I may very well get more appointments scheduled between now an then. I was a bit skeptical as to if my letter was a bit late since we are in the thick of tax season, but I made an appeal to the fact that the deadline is approaching (in the mind of the client it is anyway) hoping that I would shake loose the procrastinators or those looking for a new tax pro and it worked out well. Judging by the response and considering it was my first sales letter ever, I will very likely do this type of mailing every year at this time to try and add new clients.

Thanks to everyone here for your advice. Also thanks to everyone in the following two threads, I refer back to these regularly when I have marketing questions....


http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion:Response_Rates_for_1040_postcard_mailers%3F


http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion:Marketing_letters

AtlProfAcctg (talk|edits) said:

27 March 2011
Honestly, I would re-think your goal to prepare audited financials for your clients. I did audits for 8+ years at a Big 4 and Huge Regional CPA firm, and I would NEVER consider doing audits in my own practice.

Way too much risk, unless you hire someone to review your work and agree to sign off as such. Also, audits are typically contracted on a fixed-fee basis, so any problems that arise (and there are A LOT of problems on EVERY audit if you know what you are doing) end up eating your profit margin. Companies who are required to issue audited financials who price-shop for services with a sole practictioner are EXACTLY the audit clients that you want to avoid.

Preparing compiled and reviewed statements is more in line with what you are looking for, I think. And even then you have to undergo a peer review of your client files. I wouldn't recommend doing reviews on your own, either, without doing time at a local firm at the very least, so you can learn from people with years of experience and get some perspective.

Sorry to be a killjoy, but I've been there and done that, and sometimes it ain't pretty.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

28 March 2011
AtlProfAcctg....uhhhh....did you post to the wrong thread by mistake??? Who said anything about audited financials???


Anyway, looks like I just got a crash course lesson in not counting your eggs before they hatch....both of these "potential clients" bailed on me....and ironically they both used almostethe same exact excuse..... Potential #1 - "I talked to my husband and since our business is just getting started and our return will probably be simple he is just going to do it himself..." - So why did you call me???

Potential #2 - "I talked to my husband and he is decided to use another accountant"


It sucks but it happens I guess....on a brighter note I just had a family friend come on board last night....I also picked up another client from church, and had multiple people asking for my contact info at church as well so word of mouth is definitely beating out my marketing efforts so far....

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

28 March 2011
You didn't do badly. Some of those people will keep your letter and you could get a call from them months later. Those two that come over were probably looking for sex. But you never know that could call back for tax work. The economy is still not great so keep that in mind.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

28 March 2011
Thanks Crow....yes I had a conversation with a local tax professional that I met at the Chamber of Commerce meeting I attended....he was nice enough to share some of his own insights and experiences being a local tax and accounting guy....he told me that in many instances he did business with people he had talked to years earlier, and they for whatever reason remembered him and got in touch....my lesson in patience continues...

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

6 April 2011
So a quick update....the flyers that I put on mailboxes in the community in early March paid off after all....received 2 appointments over the past weekend and I am picking up docs tonight from one of those.....a sole proprietor who owns a painting business....also, my 500 piece direct mail piece generated 4 appointments, 1 of those will be a client and I should be receiving docs by the end of the week on that one....and my Estate Income Tax Return client just referred me to a friend who needs a variety of services....basic bookkeeping setup, 501(c)(3) paperwork.....looking good for the first year so far...

Robfurr (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
This is actually my 3rd year, but thought I'd chime in. My 1st year I did about 35 returns, mostly family, coworkers, folks from church, with a handful of referrals. 2nd year I did about 45, picked up a few more referrals. Did no advertising, mailings, or anything other than word of mouth. This year I gave out a few business cards, had some signs made to put on street corners, on track to do between 55-60 returns. Have some very good clients who say they will come back next year, a handful of returns that have really challenged my skills, but overall very pleased.

Davidcpa412 (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
This is my 2nd year. I made A LOT of mistakes my first year. The first one was listening to a partner I used to work with during my time at McGladrey. Newspaper ads, flyers, direct mail yield very, very low response rates. Chambers of Commerce = waste of time. I struggled my 1st year due to these mistakes. Last summer I dedicated all my free time to marketing and sales research. Online marketing (google ads, social media) is where its at. It works. In 2010 I made $35k gross. I just reviewed my numbers and I am at $105k gross in just my first 3 months. Picked up complex 1040's, small businesses, bookkeeping, 2 audits, a few compilations and some consulting type work. The growth has been challenging. I had to hire 2 temps from Accountemps and a full time assistant to handle all the calls coming in, appointment setting, and various admin work. I am now going to hire a PR professional to start doing seminars, webinars for established businesses in a few target industries.

Hope my comments help.

Zokan (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
Hi Davidcpa412, can you share more about what you did online with google ads and social media? maybe some links?

Thanks

Davidcpa412 (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
Send me an email Zokan and I will get back to you after the 18th.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
David,

If you don't mind I would like to send you an email as well to get some insight into what you did. My experience has been somewhat opposite. The Chamber was a total waste, however Google Adwords and Craigslist yielded absolutely no results for me.....Facebook and Twitter - Nada....I am sure a big part of that has to do with my paltry investment in the Google Adwords account, but I can't say that I have a warm fuzzy about PPC for our type of business, and this is coming from a guy who's business is set up to be largely internet based.


With the Flyers and Direct Mail while the response was low it was at least something, and the investment was small to modest respectively. I just picked up a Sole Proprietor client who's fee is more than triple what I paid for the flyers....for the Direct Mail I can't complain about the response....We scheduled 4 appointments as a result of a 500pc mailing....a 0.8% response rate, which is slightly higher than the average 0.6%.


Of those I was able to convert 1 into a client, and 1 is a possibility as he was in an early planning stage and will be diving into his landscaping biz full-time this year. Financially not quite the best investment looking at first year revenue only but 1 - I need to do a better job converting these and 2 - If the 1 client returns next year and/or I am able to covert the possible I will consider this effort to have been a moderate success and a good learning experience either way.

Anyway, I would love to have some success with Online Marketing....I do believe this is where we are headed, but I don't think I quite know how to implement it properly.

DJCCPA (talk|edits) said:

7 April 2011
This is my first year in business as well and I'm on personal return #22 and I just signed a contract with a small business for tax preparation/consulting/bookkeeping for a monthly retainer. One thing that may have helped me was that I started in July, 2010. I had $2,200 in revenue from preparing financials for business plans, a few LLC creations, and a few 990's. But I had six months to network and advertise. I hand out business cards like candy ~ even the sales guy when my mother bought furniture. We talk financing, yes, I'm an accountant, and oh, here if you ever need anything. I've tried a little bit of everything advertising-wise and I track how many clients/phone calls I get from each. The best results thus far? ~ Craigslist and hanging a flyer/cards at my son's karate studio. Craigslist can be a pain because you get a certain share of oddities but perfect example of the payoff? The small biz I just signed was a referral from one of their employees who found me on Craigslist. I spent $20.00 on an online local county listing. I did an 8 week print ad in the county circular ~ that translated into two clients, both elderly without computers. Another client from "liking" my FB business page. Family? LOL I learned long ago not to be offended that my husband has a HUGE family who would rather go to HR Block. My own mother seems to forget what I do ~ every day she calls, "What are doing today?" LOL I'm very fortunate that my husband has the full time job so that I can take my time building this. I couldn't imagine trying to support myself on this income right now. I did do a postcard direct mail campaign that generated zero results but it wasn't terribly expensive. Vistaprint ~ design your own postcard, you can buy a targeted mailing list from them (I selected "new homeowners" within 5 miles of my zip code thinking they may have moved away from their old preparer), and you can even have them mail them for you. Under $100 for 200 postcards including the postage and I get to keep the address database.

RonnieEA (talk|edits) said:

8 April 2011
I was thinking on starting my own business next year. I been working for a small tax and bookkeeping business in California (during tax season) for 4 years. The owner has been in business for 20 years as a CTEC. I just got my EA and all most done with my CPA exams (Pass 3 of the 4). I am also graduating from Golden Gate University this year with a Masters in Taxation. I been trying to get into a small CPA firm, but I am having problems getting hired because of my age(46yrs old). I have found that most of the CPA around me only want to hire 25-35 year olds. I understand. Reading all the posting, I think it will be hard but in the long run it is very rewarding. When my boss started her business 15 years ago, she told me that she had only 15 clients the first year. She now has 682 clients(18% small business). she also has over 50 bookkeeping clients. I was hoping to one day take over her business but her son is now getting involved in the business and she has already told me that she would give it to him.

Leyenda (talk|edits) said:

18 April 2011
Well, my first season has concluded. While disappointing, I'll take away some valuable lessons. I had worked 12 years in corporate accounting in a major metropolitan area, making a decent salary. Last fall, I left and moved to a small city of 200K people in the southern half of the US to be with wife and kids (wife started 3-year assignment last summer in this small city). Since decent jobs are scarce in the new city, and the fact that my schedule needs to be flexible because we have small children, and since we have a nice savings built up, I decided to get my EA and have a go at my own business (tax, bookkeeping, accounting). I leased a small office for the year and furnished with basic necessities (Desk, chairs, laptop computer, multi-purpose office machine, phone/internet setup, etc.).

Not counting relatives and friends from my old home, I had just 4 clients this season. My advertising results were as follows: 1) Church bulletin weekly ad started Jan. 20 for whole year (large Catholic church with 3,000+ practicing) - $475 for year, 0 clients 2) Direct Mail coupon to 40,000 residential addresses sent early March - $1,400, 1 client 3) Local B2B Mailing sent late March to 8,000 business contacts - $500, 1 client 4) Local newspaper classified ad for 30 days (Mar 15 - Apr 15) - $179, 1 client 5) Google profile and AdWords - $50, 20 clicks, 1 client 6) Self Mailing to local new businesses throughout January-April - About $500 in supplies/postage, 0 clients

During the off-season, I realize that I have to focus much more on networking and getting out to meet people. Because I was getting all my other stuff together during January and February, I got a late jump on advertising and most likely missed some of the early filers. Nevertheless, I have also noticed that very few CPAs and other tax preparers advertise in this city. That's definitely not the case in my old city. The other thing I learned is to have letterhead and envelopes printed professionally. I did a lot of printing myself this season to try to save a few hundred dollars, but the effort on this mundane task takes up a lot of energy (especially when you have low-volume equipment) that could be spent in other areas.

Just wanted to share my experience... It wasn't the start I wanted, but it's better than no start at all.

Zokan (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2011
Year 1

14 referrals from tax preparers no longer taking new clients-Need to talk to more old preparers it seems like the average age is about 106....okay maybe SLIGHT exaggeration. 2 walk ins 3 people I know 6 freebies for family

Average return 275.00

Still have a few extensions to do. Can't wait till next year!

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

19 April 2011
Wow....retiring tax practitioners.....just added them to my marketing target list.....

Lisaw (talk|edits) said:

21 April 2011
Thought I would check back into this thread. Completed 15 returns of my own. Made enough money working for the CPA to get a small office nearby. Picked up one bookkeeping client from the CPA and will likely get a collections client as well. Have been busy with 2 new referal leads this week.

On a bad note, hard drive crashed on my 5 month old laptop April 19th!! I am in process of repairing the damage and getting up and running again. Also came to the conclusion that I cannot continue with Drake software. Will need to change for next year.

The part of this discussion regarding software opinions was transferred to Discussion:2011_Tax_Prep_Software_Summary

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

22 April 2011
what do you do (specifically) for a "collections client?"

Lisaw (talk|edits) said:

23 April 2011
Fletch - you asked specifically so my guy needs alot of work - Back tax returns need to be corrected and some are not filed. Needs holds on the collection process while it is sorted out and then will attempt to get him into a CNC status or at the very least a new installment agreement ( he is in default on the old one). He is considering all options and possible bankruptcy down the road. He is a repeat offender so will do my best to scare the living daylights out of him.

Taxoasis (talk|edits) said:

23 April 2011
15 individual and 1 corporate return.

6 word of mouth. 3 Craigslist. 1 business card left at local car wash. 2 sign on car. 2 sent their spouses in. 2 google place page.

Postcard mailings yielded no clients. Ad in local paper yielded no clients. Fliers posted at stores yielded no clients.

Low rent and cheap office supplies are critical. Used Taxact professional which worked fine for me.

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2011
@BT...from the very first post to this thread, you asked: "All posters please answer this question if you are so inclined: If you were building your practice and you could only use two marketing methods (one for individuals and one for small biz clients) what would they be?" 1. direct mail to target market. 2. Seek out centers of influence (bankers, P&C agents, realtors, Any CPE for any profession, attorneys, TPAs, Financial planners, health ins agents, IT firms.....i.e. VENDORS to your target market. Offer to give VALUABLE info and a free lunch paid by the COI, to their customers, such as a 30-45 minute presentation, "The 6 Secrets to Surviving Today's IRS Audits." At the presentation, pass around a yellow pad, page 1 pre-numbered: 1,2,3,4,5,6.....30 fill in the first two with Name, Address, Email. #1 id your name, etc....#2 is the COI's name address, etc. Offer "My Latest tax tips" to these folks if they sign up. Drip on them monthly until one of you dies. Around July, the drip should be an offer of a mid-year tax planning session. Around Sept, offer a clean-up-your-quickbooks discount deal. Around Thanksgiving, the drip should be an offer of a year-end tax planning meeting. Hmmmm, what might you offer in Jan or Feb?

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2011
Also find additional services to offer to your existing clients after April 15th ! Doing this bridges the gap from survival to prosperity.

DZCPA (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2011
Buy a tax practice if yÓu want to become very suCcessful quickly.

MorrowTax (talk|edits) said:

3 May 2011
I too am in my first year out on my own. I had an overwhelmingly great year because I kind of tripped into an underserved niche in the Adoption Tax Credit in my area. I rec'd numerous referrals from adoption attorneys. This led to speaking at foster care agency's, which led to more referrals. Outside of the Adoption Tax Credit, I did 43 returns, all individuals and not counting any friends and family. With the adoption tax credit, I had 104 clients, some of which had 4 or 5 years worth of amendments. Average fee's per client were about $900. Should I try to market to the Adoption tax credit for next year since it is set to expire or should I devote my time more to small businesses, which was my original intent. (I found it hard to say no when the opportunity presented itself with these ATC returns.)

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

3 May 2011
@Fletch, thanks for actually answering the question, although I can't complain at all about the many very good responses to this thread. Looking at your response I can say that I am already moving in that direction. What you are suggesting is very much part of what I learned this tax season, and that is to seek out people that truly NEED a tax pro and not to spend a ton of energy chasing people for whom professional tax prep is discretionary or a matter of convenience. I believe you already commented in my "Re-Branding" thread and this is the very point of me going in a new direction....I need to get on a level playing field with other professionals so that I can start soliciting referrals....

One of my clients that I picked up this year started asking me about financial planning and insurance as I was sitting in his home going over his tax return with him. Moving forward I want to be able to 1. Provide my clients with additional services and/or 2. Refer my clients to other professionals who will take care of them properly, and return the favor by referring clients to me who need tax prep work...Thanks for your continued advice....I am soaking it all in....


@Morrow, just added adoption attorneys to my list. Considering the story of the people who received something like $30k or so in a refund due to the ATC there will definitely be a heightened awareness about this credit next year. Also, why wouldn't you continue to pursue it? It appears that the credit has been extended for 2011, and there is probably a good chance it will get extended again or even become permanent if the lobby can get it pushed through....

Also, what exactly were you doing to justify $900 average fees? Not questioning, just curious....what I know of the Adoption Tax Credit, which is very little I admit, it doesn't seem that it would be too terribly complicated....just another schedule unless I am missing something....

MorrowTax (talk|edits) said:

4 May 2011
My only reason for not pursuing it extensively would be for a couple of reasons. One would be the amount of time it is taking to see each one to fruition. For this year, I amended returns back through 2005. Substantiation docs were sometimes difficult to obtain, depending on the record keeping skills of the client. After filing, the IRS scanned everything in at one location and sent the returns to various examination departments. Upon arrival they could not open the scanned in documents and in turn sent out letters requesting exactly what was sent in originally. Depending on the taxpayer, this could mean resending anywhere from 20 to 100+ pages of substantiation documents. So the time spent on the returns as a whole is quite a bit. Secondly, which somewhat ties to the first, would be that this does not get renewed and I will be a year or two behind in trying to generate other business due to focusing on this credit. About the refunds, when you get into career foster parents or a multitude of adoptions, the checks become enormous. The $30k ones start looking small.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

4 May 2011
Ok. Understood. You were amending multiple years returns and then on top of that the IRS wants to actually see the substantiation documents as opposed to just reporting amounts on a schedule and having the taxpayer keep the documents for their records. Makes sense when you are handing over this kind of cash. Still definitely something to consider. Between getting some type of temporary assistance, and getting as many of these folks as possible to file extensions, you may be able to spread out the workload so that you don't miss out on the easier returns.

Definitely something for someone like myself to think about. I will be going into year two and I am looking for every possible avenue of business to pursue. Not that I will try to be all things to all people, but I am just looking for target markets that are sustainable over the long term. My full-time job is getting shakier by the day and I am more and more looking to ramp up my business as much as possible so that I can make the switch as soon as I can.

Craigums (talk|edits) said:

15 September 2011
The people that mentioned google are on the right track. As I mentioned it's RIPE for the picking. Over the past 9 months, I've gotten at least 10 new clients, most of which have turned out to be very good ones from my local SEO efforts. Google is where people go now. People search for an accountant in my city and they call me over the 20 year veterans, simply because they find me and they trust me based on what they read.

I'm beginning to think I should get out of the CPA business and into the consulting for CPA's business! ;)

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

October 23, 2011
It seems to be pretty quite around here lately and I am wondering what everyone is doing to get ready for tax season. I attended NTPI Level 1 in Vegas in August and I learned a lot. I have recently had some second thoughts about my full-time job and was considering looking for another job but I really just can't bring myself to do it. I put in a few applications and took a psychological profile at another. The profile really messed with me because they were asking a ton of questions about whether you like to work with minimal supervision, do you want to start your own business, or statements like you would rather work for a good boss than start your own business and be your own boss....

You had to agree or disagree and I realized that I just can't bring myself to work for someone else again....its do or die time....

Anyway, I rebranded my business for this tax season and I am gearing up. What is everyone else doing to get ready? Direct Mail? Online Advertising? Let us know what you are up to.

Fletch (talk|edits) said:

25 October 2011
I recommend a "clean-up-your-books" engagement to all biz clients. One of my employees moonlights as a bookkeeper. I don't do that work. She likes it. I hate it for a variety of reasons. Then, with clean books, I'll soon offer year-end tax planning/projection meetings, which avg $400 to $900 per biz client.

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

26 October 2011
BTax, you have one year under your belt as a part-time businessperson.

If you make money before 3 years are up consider yourself lucky. My line of work is different but the only advice I will give you is to charge your family something at least. Always charge something even though it might be discounted. Otherwise, they might come out of the woodwork to take advantage of you, or in their minds to "help" you (as in help you get expereince and not help you eat). My extended family (God bless them) wore me out the first 5 years I was a lawyer until I finally got it somewhat under control.

BTax2010 (talk|edits) said:

October 26, 2011
Thanks JD. I actually did charge them last year. A few paid the full price...of course my parents and mother-in-law don't pay and if they did I would never be able to live it down....I really don't mind those though....I actually received a call from one of the jobs I applied to yesterday to set up a phone interview so we'll see what happens....it's for a management position so I am considering it....it will be good experience for me....I figure I could put in 3 to 5 years and then see what happens....I fully intend to keep doing what I am doing with the tax biz....if I don't get the job then I'll just push harder with the tax prep and rep work....I see it as a win-win....

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