A guide to working with small business clients
Matt Perkins from ICAS Partner* FreeAgent highlights the benefits for small businesses using cloud accounting software.
Small businesses probably already make up much of your client base but it's still staggering to look at the stats and see how many might benefit from the advice and support of an accountant. Did you know that?:
- 95% of all UK businesses are sole traders or micro-businesses;
- over 75% of them have no employees at all;
- micro-businesses generate £655 million in turnover a year, or 19% of all UK business turnover;
- businesses with no employees are the fastest growing in the UK.
We've pulled together some tups that can help you build strong relationships with this market:
Small business clients don't tend to be in business for the joy of doing their accounts! Their focus is usually on running their company, and bookkeeping can seem complicated and overwhelming for the uninitiated. This can mean that you end up doing a lot of admin for them instead of using the skills you trained for.
One option is to empower your small business clients to input their own data. A jargon-free, intuitive accounting solution will help them manage their books, reduce your admin and give you both access to the same set of real-time information on their accounts.
Providing them with easy-to-use accounting software is only one step on the journey to encouraging your small business clients to do their own admin. It's all great until they accidentally post an item to the wrong category.
If your cloud system has customised early warning for your clients' accounts you can set an alert on your dashboard and see within an hour if a client has a VAT return due in the next 90 days or is they mis-posted a large item to "computer software" for example. You can also click straight into that transaction in their records and ask them for more information if needed. You don't have to wait until year end, by which time your client may have forgotten what that purchase was even for.
These alerts mean that your client's financial information will be even more accurate and they have the reassurance of knowing you're keeping an eye on their finances to help them quickly put any mistakes right. they'll never feel like they're left struggling on their own.
Clients may end up becoming frustrated by software that doesn't match their workflow, isn't tailored to their specific needs or doesn't suit their level of expertise. Some businesses may only need to send a few invoices, manage their expenses and prepare their year-end Self Assessment tax return, but other might need these features plus payroll and VAT capabilities.
A could accounting system with customisable permission levels allows you to agree with your clients what each of you will do in terms of bookkeeping, checking and filing. You can set permission levels that work for each client to avoid any confusion and control their access to features such as filing, journals and banking.
While larger clients may be happy to pay a monthly or hourly fee for ongoing advice, smaller businesses may feel that they can't commit to a regular service. This means that you're not able to provide the same kind of added-value service you could if the relationship was year-round.
By shifting to a monthly service, you're saving your client from paying a one-off lump sum for last-minute advice, and you'll build up a steady income stream that does most of the management itself. You can also build an ongoing relationship with them as a valued adviser to their business.
Find out more
FreeAgent, award-winning cloud accounting software for accountants working with small businesses and freelance clients, is working with ICAS to help practices support their clients. All ICAS members will get the first 3 clients they add to their FreeAgent dashboard free for 3 months - saving over £150**. Thereafter each client is charged at £17.50 per month.
|About the author|
|Matt Perkins, Head of Partnerships at FreeAgent, is a qualified business advisor and a mentor for the Government's Growth Accelerator scheme.|
Matt's background is in sales and marketing. He's built his experience over 20 years working in a range of business sectors and has a wealth of practical experience through running his own distribution business.