If you’ve ever caught yourself feeling like you may be missing something when onboarding a new client or unsure of even where to start once you do land a client (if you haven’t launched your bookkeeping business yet), you’re in the right place today.
I’m going to talk about the initial client work and how to figure out where exactly to start. And it all boils down to accounting 101. But before we get into that, you have to clear some other sh*t out of the way.
And I’m talking about limiting beliefs. Feeling like you don’t know enough or won’t be able to answer all your clients’ questions does not serve you or your client. You are here because you already have a base knowledge of bookkeeping, and you’re resourceful, to boot. You may not know the answers right away, but that’s ok. So long as you know where to find them.
I have 3 tips to start:
Just jump in. Don’t let fear hold you back.
Get comfortable with knowing that you are going to have to roll up your sleeves. It is very rare for a set of books to be in good shape. In fact, the only time I have seen a set of books that didn’t need some degree of cleanup, was when it was a blank slate and I was setting them up for the first time.
Find a mentor. You will inevitably get stuck and have questions on how to handle something for your client. Or need to bounce ideas off of someone. Your mentor doesn’t have to be much more seasoned than you, unless you have very little experience and will need a lot of support. If this is the case, I’d recommend looking for a J.O.B. working for another accountant to start. There are some great Facebook groups where you may be able to find a mentor. Alternatively, I will be starting a mentorship program this year, so if you’re interested, email me here.
Alright, I’ll hop off the soap box now and get to it.
First things first, have some sort of onboarding plan. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. If you’re just starting, you will find what works—every time it will get better. At the very least, your onboarding plan must include an engagement letter.
You engagement letter should include (among many other things) exactly what you will and won’t do as part of the scope of engagement.
Will you be doing A/R and A/P? How much of A/R? Collection calls? Or just customer invoicing? Day-to-day bill payment, or just entering historical transactions?
Will you go over their reports with them at month end? Or will it be quarterly?
When will you have reports completed for them?
Several resources to find a good engagement letter are:
AICPA—If you are a member, you have access to sample letters
Once you’ve got that engagement letter signed and first invoice paid, It’s time to gather the info you need.
Back here I posted about my onboarding process using Dubsado and here I have the email templates I use to onboard my clients. The email templates list out the items you’ll need to request from your clients.
Once you have access to your client’s books and the bank statements, you can dive in!
Here’s where Accounting 101 kicks in.
Always start with cash. This is why bank statements are most important to get started. Please do not rely solely on bank feeds. I’ve seen them screwed up more than once. And I’ve seen lots of clients get this wrong, too. They assume that since they are matching and adding in bank feeds, that counts as ‘reconciling.’
Once the bank accounts are reconciled, review the reconciliation report for stale dated checks and expenses (really old uncleared checks) and old uncleared deposits.
Uncleared deposits usually indicate duplicated transactions
Uncleared expenses could be owner-paid business expenses
Stale dated checks could just need followed up with vendor, or could also be duplicated transactions
Continue this process for each balance sheet account. If the balance sheet is right, you know you’ve captured everything.
Obtain supporting documentation for each balance sheet item or
If it’s obvious that the item should not be on the balance sheet, reclassify it.
View a Monthly P&L.
Look at trends and fluctuations from month to month.
Big jumps or dips may indicate:
Something being recorded incorrectly or inconsistently
Look at expenses as a percentage of revenue and compare to industry standards
Look at Gross Margin compared to prior periods and compared to industry standards
Look at net profit as a percentage of revenue and compare to industry
Find out if the owners have paid any expenses with personal funds and not recorded them
Add these as owner’s contributions (if LLC/Partnership or Loan to Shareholder if Corporation)
Look at corporate formation documents if Corporation to make sure equity is recorded correctly (if stock issued).
You also want to make sure certain items are properly setup within the software. This is a good checklist to follow for setting up new files as well.
Make sure prior periods are locked to prevent prior period posting
Ensure EIN, Company Name, Industry, and Addresses are all correct and filled in
Walk through detailed settings with client to ensure everything is setup and working as they wish or that makes sense for their business (project tracking, Purchase Orders, etc.)
Connect Bank Feeds (I do this over a Zoom call with client and give them mouse control to complete the setup themselves).
Setup Invoice Templates with Client’s logo
Make sure Inventory is setup correctly - all items should be connected to Income/Revenue/Sales GL Account for the Sales side, Inventory Asset for Purchases, and COGS for inventory adjustments.
Sales Tax—Do research on the client’s behalf to make sure they know the sales tax filing requirements. Many clients let this slip, so this is something I do complimentary as part of my onboarding. Even if they only provide services—you’d be surprised how many states require sales tax on certain services. Clients usually expect this from you, as well, so this only protects you further from issues down the road. Save the research in your client’s permanent file, whether the research indicates yes to sales tax or no.
This is a rough outline of how I tackle a new client’s books. I hope you find this useful and gives you the confidence to just start putting yourself out there and getting clients. This is truly the best time of year to be helping businesses get in shape.
Remember not to let those pesky limiting beliefs in your way, but if you truly feel you need extra support or knowledge around how to best serve your clients, find the education you need and find a mentor. Onboarding On Autopilot can help you streamline the onboarding process. I’ll be opening up a mentorship program this quarter, so apply here if you’d like to work with me!