Sharing Keys to Success for QuickBooks Consultants

Sharing Keys to Success for QuickBooks Consultants

This is your chance to share your keys to success!  What advice would you share with other QuickBooks Consultants, bookkeepers, accountants, tax professionals or IT consultants?  Is there something that you wish you would have known sooner or had to learn the hard way?  Topics may include: 

  • Setting billing rates and policies
  • Client acceptance and management
  • Marketing — what has or has not worked for you
  • Managing the engagement or work flow
  • Helpful checklists or forms
  • Other business advice?
  • Favorite resources or websites

If you are new and starting your own business as a bookkeeper, accountant, tax professional or IT consultant — what are your questions?  What do you worry about?  What resources have you found to be helpful?

NOTEYour comment may be published in one of my upcoming books, blog posts or articles along with your name and business name or website (be sure to include the info in your comment).  If you do NOT agree to this, please post that you DECLINE and do not want to be quoted.

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101 thoughts on “Sharing Keys to Success for QuickBooks Consultants

  1. Isabel

    I am in the process of starting a bookkeeping business on the side along with an associate. We have never used QB before and are currently in the planning phase. Any tips are greatly appreciated.

  2. Salomao Matchebe

    Just to correct my previous comment: Read “Fixed Assets” instead of Fixed Seets!

  3. Salomao Matchebe

    Sorry if this is not the right place. My comment is not a reply but a start of a new conversation with regard to QuickBooks (QB): I have been QB accountant for almost 3/4 years. I have not succeeded in using QB to register Fixed Seets as well as calculating respective depreciation over time. What is your advice on this?

    1. Michelle Long

      Salomao — If you have QuickBooks Accountant Edition, go to Accountant > Manage Fixed Assets to use the Fixed Asset Manager. It can calculate depreciation, etc.

  4. Sandy Grieson

    I am really just starting out even though I have had my company since 9/2010. My first client was a fiasco. He had not filed or done any accounting for his business at all since 2007. I was supposed to, at his request input his data from documents into spreadsheets for his accountant. I did all of that through 2010 and sometimes I would not hear or get a hold of him for weeks. I needed information to finish and sent him a document . After that no contact.
    I have a new client that are true professionals my billing is 120.00 over the retainer. I feel it is too much since I’m so new at this. Should I reduce it?

    1. Michelle Long

      Don’t undervalue your services! I’m glad you got a retainer — that’s always a good idea. If things took a little longer than you anticipated, I don’t think that is a big deal. $120 isn’t a significant amount. I dont’ think I would reduce it, but I don’t know all the details. Why not bill the client and if they complain, then you can consider reducing it some.

  5. Deanna

    I have a full time job and would like to start a QB consulting business. I’m a single mom and don’t have the time or energy to do both. I obviously can’t just quit my job and start my business. I’m thinking maybe of getting a part time job instead while I get my business going. Does anyone have any thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Michelle Long

      I can understand — being a mom requires a lot of time & energy. If it were me, I would make sure I had a part time job before I quit a full time position. I think starting your own business part time can be challenging but a good idea. It takes time to get started and build up a few clients.

  6. Christine Manor


    The best advice I’ve heard for the situation of being fully booked is to raise your rates. You will lose a few clients, but the ones who stay are the ones who value your services the most. You might even be able to make more money with fewer clients. Sure beats staying up too late at too low a rate.

  7. Matthew Toenjes

    Good communication is key to keeping your clients happy. Even if the work is being performed well, without regular, open communication their perception of your services will suffer.
    Also, “say what you do and do what you say” is very important. Under-promise and over-deliver.

  8. Joy Schechter

    Marketing to clients is ever changing. Lately, I’ve been using the technique I call “just inquire”. It’s part of my relationship building vs pushy sales. Whenever I get to a point in a conversation with a prospect and they are a “not now” or even a “no”, I ask one more question or inquire about something that was addressed earlier on. Recently I picked up the husbands of 2 prospective clients simply by inquiring about something they said during our conversation. Though neither woman is my client at this time, the door is open for the future having built some good will. It could bring double the business with 4 clients vs walking away when when I first heard the “no”.

  9. Kate Gieges

    This is a “pet peeve.” It drives me batty when I see an invoice from a “professional” who has only taken enough time to make sure the business name appears on the template. Now, I’m not going for the wild-color varying designs I’ve seen from some, but I think our invoices should reflect a certain amount of pride, attentiveness to detail, and personal flair. When you really explore the formatting options (including Mac versions, too), there are all sorts of differences you can create that will make all your printed material unique, yet consistent (once you create an Invoice, you can use that to create other forms such as Credit Memos and Sales Receipts). So think about that aspect of your presentation, too, and don’t settle for the mundane!

  10. Jack Cole

    This is very useful for me. I’ve been using Quicken and QuickBooks for years, but more on a personal level. As I expand into doing bookkeeping for others, I need all the help I can get.

  11. William "Bill" Murphy

    Michelle – I wish you would send ‘us’ and those monkeys hanging out in our public buildings in Washington DC your ‘successful’ business tips for getting our National Economy going again. I don’t know about most of my fellow ProAdvisors but things are moving a ‘slower than’ a snails pace.

    The usually responsive “Is your QuickBooks Running Like an ‘Old Jalopy’ post-card and email (with discount) I routinely send out about the middle of November to get year-end business moving early has been for the ‘junk yard’ this year.

    With that kind of response, I just don’t know how many ‘toys’ I will be stuffing in stockings, since I may be having to ‘lay-off’ all the Elves.

    I am certain that you would have some ‘great tips’ for our National leaders (more like ‘sitters on their duffs’) if we could only get you appointed to the office of Consultant Extraordinaire !

    Hope everyone reading this got some ‘ho, ho, ho’ happiness for the holidays……..


    Santa Murph

  12. Denise Merritt

    It is well worth the dollars spent to have good SEO on our website. We met someone through networking locally. His name is Kent Millholland from NeoNexus. He truly knows SEO and how to make it work.

  13. Timberlyn Smith

    I have been in environmental business for several years, but I am NOT an accountant or bookeeper-it gives me a headache. I started out using MYM, it was easy to understand, but they stopped making the software in 2006. So I went to Microsoft Small Business Accounting. It was not as easy to use and I still struggle with it, but it was financially more viable to purchase than Quickbooks or Peachtree. Now they have stopped making it as well. We still do have the income to support outsourcing the bookkeeping and I just don’t have the time to learn something very complicated-bookkeeping for me is like biology or chemistry for an accountant.

  14. Mary Ann Laing

    My first bookkeeping business in the 80’s depended on CPA referrals, manual entry in one-write, or paper ledgers, etc. My current business started with one on one marketing to persons who assist small business owners, in many fields. Loan officers and payroll providers were key. Loan officers because a business owner may need a loan but not have an acceptable set of books, and payroll providers because a new client may not have accurate payroll records year to date. I still benefit from this marketing strategy. I research local banks to see if they have business bankers that work directly with clients, and make contact. I build mutually beneficial relationships with them for referrals. Today’s market requires constant networking, with all types of people. When appropriate, I greet strangers in the coffee shop who are working on their computers, one new client with this method sent me more. I also have a custom name tag, magnetic, with my name, title “business bookkeeper”, and business name. I wear it to any business function and don’t have to mess with labels that don’t stick. I actually have 3, one in the car, one in the purse, and one at my front door. People approach me about where to get a name tag of their own…..99% of the time they are business owners. BTW-any office supply store can make them!

  15. Marla J Blanachard

    RE: Marketing — what has or has not worked for you

    Referral business has been my BEST success, with car decal and website a distant second place. From my experience, word of mouth is key as Clients speak from experience. There is nothing better than a satisfied Client “Paying it Forward!

    Marla @ MJB’s Office Solutions

  16. Fran McCully

    I started my business in 2004 and slowly I have almost acquired a what I consider a full client load. My business has been steady for the most part until 2009 I lost 2 1500.00 a month clients they were taken under by the recession. Wow! What a hit that was! My company is a virtual bookkeeping firm – so I was of the mind set that it had to remain virtual – my struggle continued. Until a friend invited me to a local BNI goup – I have not looked back. This was by far the best thing that has happened to my business. I had no idea that face to face marketing was the key to success. I thought that local clients would be time consuming and that they would not pay me what I was worth! Wow was I wrong! My advise to those out there that are struggling try face to face marketing it has turned my company around 100%. I have also added some very interesting features such as a server to house QB files and a shoeBox accounting line.

    Recently bought Michelle’s book and am now reading it for the second time. Amazing the things I missed the first time around.

    Thank you Michelle for all that you do to keep us informed.

  17. Carla Ramirez

    I started my Quickbooks consulting business in 2007, and I’ve had to turn away work so I have decided to bring on a part-time employee in January. I love learning and I believe this has helped with my success. The certification program, newsletters, and now resources through Long for Success will continue to increase my knowlege, and proves to be incredibly helpful to my clients. I’ve also had some very good advice that I also keep in mind when servicing my clients – “it is hard to fire a friend and make sure at the end of the day your client feels they have received a good deal.”

  18. Peter DeSmidt

    My keys to success are still in process; while I have been in accounting and consulting practice for 20 years, my work with being a ProAdvisor is still getting off of the ground. I have had a difficult time finding new QuickBooks clients – in part due to the economy – and am working on building new keys to success to build up my business to a greater extent. The biggest challenges that I have faced in the past include trying to raise billing rates for slow paying clients, combined with trying to overcome low billing starting rates – and trying to get clients to understand your value to them, when they only focus on the day to day.

  19. Katie Schultz

    I am only comfortable with Mac and Quickbooks Online. I just do not feel comfortable on the PC version of Quickbooks. Would you recommend specializing or branch out and just do trial and error with the PC version, it just feels so different.

  20. Tammy Bodine

    As bookkeepers, a great source for referred business are your local CPA’s. I have connected with a couple tax accountants who don’t have time to do their clients’ bookkeeping as well. So I handle the QB side and the CPA handles the tax side…it can be a beautiful marriage 🙂 Plus, I like to have relationships with trusted CPA’s to refer businesses to for tax purposes.

    And thanks, Michelle, for all your work in keeping us in the accounting industry well connected!! YOU ROCK!!

  21. Teodora

    There are great tips here, thank you, everyone who shared tips from their experience. I’ve been an accountant for about eight years but I am planning to start a virtual accounting business. I am learning to use quickbooks because it looks like it is a programm that can be used for virtual bookkeeping and virtual accounting. Do you think a complete virtual bookkeeping business can be successful? Because I don’t live in USA, so it will not be possible to meet clients face to face. Do you think someone can develop an accounting business entirely over internet? Getting clients over the internet, comunicating only by internet/ phone?

  22. Laura Lincoln

    One of my “keys to success” has been to maintain my certifications. I live in an area where there are not many Certified ProAdvisors so being an Advanced Certified ProAdvisor has paid off for me.

  23. Angela Cooley

    Years ago I found out that a real simple tool in QuickBooks that often clients do not know about unless you educate them is how to set a closing date, with a password, and why it is so important. I ask my clients to at least annually set a closing date and password. This is a must before they send their files to me for year-end tax preparation. I remind them again in my memo of year-end adjustments to set it if it has not already been set. After you start this practice with your clients, you’ll find that in future years your retained earnings is accurate, you’ll possibly eliminate lump prior year adjustments and/or the time involved would you have had to research those large variances.
    If I set my client’s closing date and password, I like to use the phrase “CALLCPA” and I tell them if they need to make an adjustment to prior period transactions, that this should remind them to call me first. They get a kick out of it.

  24. Cheryl D

    Be unique – and be creative. I didn’t want to be a Wal Mart version of a bookkeeping service – I wanted to be more of a Macy’s! Personalized, with a service taylored to each individual client. It’s slow, but it’s working. And slowly expanding our services is increasing our business, too. Thanks, Michelle, for stating you should ALWAYS have an engagement letter when starting with a new client. Even the older clients like it when you are upgrading services and rates.
    I like to recommend my clients to each other too. They always do it for me!

  25. Tim Hughes

    CDR is amazing. Thank you Michelle for making us aware of all the great tools we have at our disposal, as this will only elevate our level of service to our clients. We will be able to focus on other very important things like cash flow, financial analysis,

  26. Andre Kachirsky

    I would have to say that the power of information that I have gained from Michelle’s website and others out there has been the best thing that has helped my business improve, become more efficient, and profitable. Linking with others assists with the building of your business, learning from their experiences and how to apply them to your own practices.

  27. Jessica Connell

    One of the best ways to be successful is to be available to answer even the small basic questions for your clients. Show them that they matter regardless of how complicated the question or issue. Also, teach them some of the short cuts and quick tips we as Pro Advisor learn and use daily. They will be impressed and love that you shared a secret tip.

  28. Kramer

    I can’t even tell you how helpful all of the comments have been. I am in the process of starting my own business as a stay-at-home mom and cannot believe the great resources that are here. I am looking for a checklist/intake form for new clients. Although I only need a few clients at this point, I want to be prepared to take on even more when my kids get in school. I really feel having a smooth start up with a new client is extremely important. Keep the comments and advice coming!

  29. Marlene

    Having a good education and workplace experience has helped immensely, but having a mentor or someone to team up with is still a needed lifeline in freelance work.

  30. Joanne Resnick

    One of the hardest steps I have to take in my practice is to find other bookkeepers to hire that will be as dedicated and myself to projects. What is your suggestion on training these individuals and tips on “how do I let go” and trust others?

  31. Curtis

    I think one of the biggest challenges as a QB consultant is having confidence and being firm in the billing rate/method. Once a value has been placed on your services, don’t let the reaction of your clients/potential clients cause you to make an adjustment. What I have seen is that if a client has a problem with the price in the beginning, they will almost always have an issue with your pricing no matter how great the service. One of our “client qualification checklist” items now when we are reviewing a potential client is to ask ourselves “do they see value in our services?” The answer to that comes out pretty clearly over a couple of conversations with them.

    I think another key to success is, as much as possible, under-promise and over-deliver. A big part of this is setting expectations for the client. Always look at your service from the client’s point of view as well, particularly when it comes to how your service helps them manage the business and make appropriate business decisions.

  32. Patty Mory

    I agree with everything stated above, but if you come from the small business industry like me ( I owned a manufaturing business for 15 years before starting my QB practice) leverage that knowledge for your clients. My clients love me because I’ve been there and done that. I had to pick health care plans, merchant services, Worker’s comp Plans and other small business decisions for my own company years ago. I bring that knowledge to the table and help my clients with those issues as well as QB issues.

    Also If I bring new technology to a client and it does not work for them, I have discounted my invoice to them. If I do not bring a solution to the table then I have failed to help them. Their business is like my own, I care if the help solves an issue, “Pain Point” for the client. I recently discounted an invoice to a client over 1500.00. The client was amazed that I was willing to do this, but I felt as if my solution did not work for them & I failed, Showing the client that you are in the trenches with them is the BEST way to get client loyalty.

    PSS -the client I discounted gave me a huge hug today when I went to visit. He is convinced that my services are for him to make more money. He believes I am there for him no matter what. I think my attitude will keep him a client forever.

  33. Jennifer Davis

    I started my own company after being laid off and have been so lucky in the last year (or is it two already!?!) that most of my clients have been referred. Now I’m struggling at how to add to my client list, since I didn’t need to market when I first started. Have started placing ad’s on Craigslist but so far the only responses have been spammers. I also started out with my rates way too low, and have gradually been increasing with each new client.

    These blogs have helped tremendously and I’m thankful that there are so many out there willing to share their experiences!

  34. Jim Merritt

    This is a great topic! I have a saying (and I feel sure I took it from someone else; I just don’t know to whom to give the credit), “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

    In 2001, when I began QuickBooks Consulting, I knew nothing about the accounting industry or this software. What I did have was a very good teacher and a business owner who believed in me. I literally recall spending an hour searching for a .10 A/P entry because I was not going to let the issue go unresolved (no, I did not bill the client for this time). Today, I could resolve this issue in 14 seconds, and teach a client how not to have this happen again. But back then, I did not know what I did not know.

    In 2006, after my family and I relocated from Atlanta, GA to Wilmington, NC, I started QuickTrainer, Inc., a QuickBooks Consulting company. I was extremely confident and competent in QuickBooks and I knew how to consult with clients. What I did not know were the numerous ways to go about obtaining those clients. My concept was to place an ad in print and they would come. While a few did call, and we did great business together, it was obvious in very quick fashion that the print ad approach would not sustain.

    So, I began attending various networking events within our community. Gosh, I was so very green with networking back then. I can remember walking up to people, introducing myself, handing them a business card and telling them what QuickTrainer was all about. And, I wanted to do this with 10 -15 people and get it done as quickly as possible. Needless to say, very few (if any) were impressed. In fact, I felt people avoided me. Ouch!

    Today, my networking approach is MUCH different. I have learned “it’s not about me”. It’s about what we can do to help someone else in business with an issue. It may or may not be related to accounting and finance. It may be a person is looking for xyz and I know a person in the xyz business.

    For us at QuickTrainer, we were introduced to a very good business coach who was able to teach us the things we did not know and how to be successful implementing those things. In one year, we invested $9K with our business coach and while that’s a big investment, we conservatively estimate we realized an additional $40K in revenue. Not that’s a wise investment.

    In conclusion, determine where your weaknesses are and commit to learning what you don’t know. Surround yourself with smart people or persons. These people typically love to share their knowledge. And, be about helping others. The power of reciprocity is all powerful.

  35. Nancy Faris

    I’ve worked with QuickBooks for 10 years yet still don’t feel my accounting knowledge is what it aught to be to consult others. Do I really need a four year college degree to be a GOOD consultant? What level of knowledge should one have before hanging the shingle?
    Thanks Michelle!

    1. Michelle Long

      @Nancy — When I first started QB consulting, I was worried I didn’t know it well enough. I quickly realized that most clients are not that complex and I knew there were lots of resources available when I had questions. I used the Sample files and Help, the Consultant’s Reference Guide (from The Sleeter Group) and ProAdvisor tech support. You don’t have to know it all (I don’t think I ever will) but you need to know how to work it out and get the answers. With Google, Linkedin Groups and more, it is easier than ever — you’re not alone out there! You can do it! 🙂

  36. Sheryl Meshell-Theis

    I am just pondering if its to each it’s own Bookkeeper, whether they will state a quote over the phone or email; some may receive calls and state they have been getting quotes by phone from other Bookkeepers, they explain they are in the market looking for Bookkeepers, this is really hard to decipher to be true or not as it could very well be a Bookkeeping business in the area seeking what other competitors are quoting.

  37. Beth Boyd

    It took a lot of years, but I have become very comfortable and matter-of-fact about my QB billing rate. (I think I used to give the impression that it was a suggestion adn somehow negotiable!) I tell people up front about the mimimum number of hours I expect to be paid for and that I get paid at time of service. Yes, there are price-shoppers out there who hang up when I tell them my billing rate, which is on the high side for my area. I am SO worth the money though – I’ve seen some really horrible work by some folks who hold themselves out as QB experts. I’ve come to appreciate clients who value what I do and who don’t bolt the minute they can get it cheaper elsewhere. Attitude is everything!

  38. Suzan Ali, EA

    My problem is getting my clients to pay me on a timely basis. During our initial consultation I tell new clients my hourly rate, yet they seem surprise when the bill arrives. I am thinking about using a follow up email showing each phone conversation, or office visit immediately or within 24 hours of each call or visit. What do you think?

    1. Michelle Long

      @Suzan — I think billing promptly is a good idea while it is fresh in their minds. Even better — get a deposit up front or get paid at the time of service. There are several options where you can accept checks or creidit cards to get paid quick.

  39. Bill Rogers, CPA

    Joe Woodard told me to get Michelle’s book (Successful QuickBooks Accounting). She has lots of good advice in there. If one does 85% of what is recommended in there having enough work will not be a problem. Having trouble getting all the work done is a good problem to have!!

  40. Cheryl L

    I have been using Quickbooks for the last three years. I enjoy using it and would like to someday like to have my own business as a Quickbooks consultant. Your website has given me knowledge of what steps i need to take.

    Thanks for all you do.

  41. Cindi Ebert

    One of the most satisfying and enjoyable things that I’ve done was to become a Counselor and Trainer with our local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at a nearby college. What started as a “come on in and see what it’s like” 5 years ago from a good friend that happened to be the Director of our SBDC, has turned into something I hope to continue for many years to come. I have met so many interesting colleagues, small business owners, students, and, yes, clients along the way. The networking opportunites have been terrific! I never would have thought that QuickBooks course developement and teaching would be something that I would ever do. Always keep an open mind to new ideas and opportunites, because you may be very pleasantly surprised where it leads you.

  42. Martin Meyer

    One thing I have learned since I started my business is not to under value my services to my clients. I no longer pay attention to the price shoppers, and I focus my efforts on the people and businesses that value what I have to offer relative to bookkeeping and business management experience, between my wife and I we have over 60years of combined experience so we have alot to offer.
    I try my best to make each client feel they are my only client, and to respond quickly to question or requests that may have.
    Another thing I have learned to do is to pay attention when possible to what other ProAdvisors have to say worked in growing their practices. What a truly great group of people, and I have to say I put Michelle at the top of my list I have learned alot from her.

  43. Sharon

    Very important to constantly keep educating yourself and staying current with all of the changes that are occuring in the world of technology and accounting. The Intuit websites have a lot of information as do the various QuickBooks experts. Stay connected.

  44. Sue

    I have been using QuickBooks for 17 years for my husband’s business and have my personal finances set up as well. Hands-on daily use is a great way to learn! I started freelance bookkeeping 6 years ago; started small, slow, and steady. The past few years have really taken off and most of my new clients have been word of mouth referrals. Becoming a Pro Advisor, reading all these blogs and forum posts are key; I feel I learn something new every day. I think it is important to keep learning in any capacity and start with making your clients happy with your work; most often they are your best referral!

  45. Sandra

    I started my bookkeeping business in August and joined the LinkedIn Group and bought Michelle’s book, which have been very helpful! I currently do the bookkeeping on the side while I work full time. I’m hoping to be able to go part time and grow my bookkeeping business. I have one client that started as more of a project but has turned into full bookkeeping and payroll. Next week I have my first 1 hour consult scheduled!

  46. Madhavi Vedantham

    After getting laid off as a senior accountant, I decided to go on my own. I became a Pro advisor, bought Michelle’s book and learnt a lot from it. I love the flexibility that being on my own gives me, my biggest fear is the uncertainity involved in the process of going on your own. Today I have 2 new
    clients, tons of hope and a to do attitude. It is very hard to find new clients in this economy, but I am hoping that my education, experience will pay off in the long run.

  47. Jo Ellen Peters

    I have just started my business and I find that reading Michelle’s blogs and being a member of her Linkedin group is a valuable resource to me. She really knows her QuickBooks. Thanks Michelle.

  48. Marisa

    I am just starting my business and I have found that Michelle’s Linkedin Group has provided a WEALTH of information. After joining this group, I am DEFINITLY becoming a QuickBooks ProAdvisor…..Thanks Michelle!!!!

  49. Steffanie A

    These are great to read over, I have learned from your posts! Thank you.

    I have always been a business owner and the Bookkeeper or Manager of the Accounting department. Knowledge of business and struggles of the small to mid sized business has been the very helpful to my business success.

    I think that the other key is to hiring to my weaknesses. I am not great at all facets of business and need to hire to cover that. I don’t like the day to day work of bookkeeping or accounting. I also don’t like to be the sales person either. Recognize your strengths and stick with them!

  50. Nancy Smyth

    These are all awesome responses! My tip is going to be a little more basic – be honest about your abilities & knowledge.

    If you feel like you’re over your head with a specific client – perhaps they are in an industry that you aren’t familiar with – if so say so and offer to hook them up with someone else.

    If you don’t know the answer to something – be honest and say so – but tell them that you’ll be happy to find out the answer and get back to them (they will respect your for it).

    Don’t “assume” anything…it can get you into a lot of trouble 🙂

  51. Sonia Rae Warmack

    A rule I wish I would have followed myself sooner…If you think you need support staff, get support staff. Even a minimum wage person to help with piles of paper or mundane stuffing envelopes makes a world or difference.

  52. Lori Thompson, EA

    Confidence is absolutely key when starting your business. You may be trembling on the inside, but you can’t let it show. If you wait until you know everything, you will never get started.

    Network with peers as much as possible. Besides the normal business leads groups and business associations, there are many online forums with kind individuals happy to share their experience and knowledge.

    When I first started out, I set my monthly client rates too low. Once I realized that I had underestimated the workload, I was already bound by the agreement. I have learned that when undertaking a long project or monthly client to bill hourly until I have a good understanding of the necessary workload. Once I have established my average time per month, I am happy to switch the client to a monthly fee. This helps the client in their budget and keeps me looking for smarter and faster ways to accomplish the work, at the same pay.

    Never stop learning, constantly try to improve your knowledge with an eye on how it will benefit your customers. Learn about your client’s industry, how they compare with others in their industry and what specific challenges they face. They will appreciate your extra effort.

  53. Mark cpa

    I think my biggest success comes from the fact my clients are also my friends. Sometimes during tax season, we will sit for 15 minutes doing taxes and an hour talking about families and life and challenges. People see me as more than just a GREAT CPA. They see me as nearly family ( except they won’t loan me money).

    mark cpa

  54. Debra Kilsheimer

    Best advice? Talk to everyone! I always have my cards ready. If anyone comes within three feet of me I pipe up, “Hi, My name is Debbie. Do you have a GREAT accountant?”

    Now, who has a “Great” accountant? Everyone has an accountant! I say “I’m the best accountant there is and I love what I do! Here’s my card. If you ever decide to switch or know someone who needs a great accountant, needs some help with setting up or training on QuickBooks, etc., give me call.”

    You’d be surprised how many do. It’s not really your skills they are buying. After all, how is your bank reconciliation any different than mine? What they are buying is YOU – your enthusiasm, your confidence, your smile. Show them that, and you’ll have more business than you’ll know what to do with. I do!

  55. Jim Savage-The QuickBooks Guy

    The biggest thing that I have learned after being a Pro Advisor since 1999 was to network with other local Pro Advisors. Each one brings a different skill set to the table and the synergy that it has created has definitely been a huge benefit to my business. If you don’t have a local group, start one. There are plenty of resources to tie into, the Sleeter Group and the National Advisor Network for sure.

  56. Carolyn Franjko

    The biggest mistake I made is billing clients based on ability to pay. And I don’t mean higher bills. A couple good examples include ultimately doing schedule C returns for FREE. I did not require them to pay upfront (problem #1) nor did I bill them anywhere close to what I should have (problem #2). One client did not pay me until she came for her taxes the next year, and I’m still waiting to be paid for last year. The other has not paid me yet.

    As bad as I feel for their financial situation I have to consider my own or I will not have a company anymore. Now I bill what I feel is an acceptable fee and expect my fees be paid at time of service for taxes and consulting.

  57. Andrea Kranitz

    I have been in the accounting field for over 30 years and started my business just over a year ago. Because I provide consulting services as well as QuickBooks services, I like to have my clients on a monthly retainer.

    This allows them to call me more often, without worrying about how much their spending. Of course, I do factor this in when determining the rate. For clients whose needs are unpredictable I bill them on an hourly rate.

    I think you have to consider your client base, the market you’re in and also what your competition is doing.

    It’s very helpful to have Michelle’s expertise so close at hand, especially when you run into situations where you need a good workaround.

  58. Cathi Aiello

    Lots of good advice has already been said in the comments above. So I will go off on a bit of a different angle…

    For me the #1 piece of advice I have to give WOMEN who are new business owners…. stop being a “pleaser” and learn how to be a bitch when it’s necessary.

    As girls, many of us are raised to be obedient, to take care of everyone and to act like a lady. Yet in our society, if a man speaks bluntly, shares his opinion or speaks up for himself, he’s considered “strong.” But so many times, if a woman does the same thing, she’s a “bitch.”

    When you are a small business owner, YOU have to look out for yourself as no one else will. And that will sometimes mean that you have to get tough. And sometimes, you’ll have to be a “bitch!”

    So stop worrying about offending people and act with confidence about your work and your skills. Demand respect and fair pay and do not let your clients control you as if you were their employee. Put your foot down and don’t be afraid to fire that pain-in-the-butt client. Another, better client is just around the corner!

  59. Kimberly Grass

    Know your value. Many undercut their worth. It is important to not only assess your expenses when determining your rate, but also value your education and experience accordingly.

  60. Deb Howard Greenleaf

    My suggestion to new QB consultants is to find a worthy charitable organization and give away your QB expertise to help them setup or troubleshoot their QB file. You’ll gain practice, get to test-drive your client forms and procedures, and hopefully gain a great testimonial in the process! Furthermore, by impressing the Board of the organization, you can begin to network amongst some local business leaders and maybe gain a few referrals.

  61. Beth Whitworth

    Two keys to success that I have learned in my years of being in business are:

    1) Pay yourself first – there is only so much time you should be willing to work for free to build your business. Once that is over, budget your salary and PAY it!

    2) Empower employees to be a part of the team by practicing open book management. This philosophy of sharing the internal numbers of your company with your staff is not very common in the accounting field. My experience is that (especially in times of struggle or start up) sharing the numbers with the employees helps them focus and be proactive in making positive changes in your business.

  62. Diane Fries

    Clearly the best thing we did to improve our business was to begin hosting QuickBooks. We started hosting QuickBooks for our clients back in 2004 and we would never go back. By hosting we allow our clients consistent support and it allows us to support our clients by filling in the blanks. If they have a great bookkeeper but need Controller support we can fill that need, if they have a CFO but need bookkeeper help we can fill that need. Hosting allows our clients to get the support they need and allows us to provide the best service possible.

  63. Lauree Adams

    I have found Michelle Long to be a wealth of knowledge for starting my bookkeeping business. One of my “keys to success” is to always have someone to call on or email when I’m stuck.

  64. Mary Hathaway

    I have found that running the “Reports-Accountants & Taxes-Audit Trail”, is a helpful report to look at before I begin my work. This report shows what each user has done in a specific time period. I look at the period between visits.

  65. Mary Longacre

    My key to success was teaching QuickBooks classes for my SBDC, through a computer store, and in the Adult Community Education program. Many of the students hired me to work with them one on one or to just do the bookkeeping for them when they decided that they didn’t want to do it themselves.

  66. Angel Heath

    My biggest “Key to Success” would have to be get it in writing (and signed if possible). This includes letters of engagements, telephone conversations (write them out in email form and send to client), text messages, chats and all in person conversations – use it as a “I want to make sure I am serving you to the best of my ability so I wanted to restate our conversation in this email and get your approval” type of thing. This has been detrimental in so many instances when the client (or better yet ex-client) stated I did not tell them this and that. If it is in writing, you have proof and you know what they say “the proof is in the pudding” or something like that 🙂

  67. Dawn Brigman

    My biggest “Key to Success” is existing experience in accounting & bookkeeping. Even after decades of experience, I felt the need for bookkeeping certification before I started my business. I suggest AIPB for that purpose.
    If you are new to accounting/bookkeeping, I can’t stress enough, the importance of real life experience before you start a consulting business. Doing so will cement your success!

  68. Shelia Beeker

    Date: November 21, 2010

    Overall Rating 5 out of 5


    “Whenever you have a question or need to help with a Quickbooks problem you can always depend on Michelle Long giving you the help you need to get the problem solved. She is the expert to turn to. Her answers are precise and to the point.”
    Reviewed on Proadvisor

  69. Felicia Olagbemi

    I have had my business “on the side” since I became a CPA in 2000. I worked for another company till May 2009 when I started in my business full-time. I have to agree that advertising has helped grown my business. Utilize both free and paid advertising. Of course, having a website is a good thing for expansion. Do the best for your clients so they can refer others. Ask clients how they find you so you can know what works and what doesn’t. Then you can get several leads/referrals a month like I do.

  70. Jo Ellen Peters

    I have just started my business and only have one client. I haven’t done much in the way of marketing just yet, but have been reading and learning what I need to do. I do realise that I am not charging my client enough, but it was a referral from a former client at my former employer. Oh well, lesson learned. I have been concentrating more on building a website. I want an internet presence, I want my business to be a virtual business and not depend on local clients. I’m working at home for personal reasons and I don’t plan on being in this area forever, so when I move I need to be able to move my business with me. I do plan on looking for local clients, but that is not my end goal.

  71. William "Bill" Murphy

    Intuit’s program (recommended) for ProAdvisors to have an ‘initial one-hour free’ consultation probably has generated as many ‘new clients’ for me as my ProAdvisor listing. That initial ‘extended telephone consult’ or preferably an initial on-site consult at no expense to the new contact goes a long way toward turning a potential client into an actual long-term client.

    I have also found that if a client, for budget reasons or other causes has reduced their reliance on you, that a simple post-card asking how their own business is going is worth a lot. People seem to react positively to someone who takes the time to handwrite a note in these days of techno-communications. I usually follow-up such notes with a $50-off any service coupon a couple of weeks later and almost always turn a ‘formerly inactive client’ back into a current active client.

    Thanks Michelle for giving us a blog to share our thoughts and stories about how to improve our customer service and relations.

    William “Bill” Murphy – Okla. City

  72. Monique Colver

    One thing I had to learn was that in pricing I had to make sure I took into account all of my expenses each year. It can add up significantly with QB ProAdvisor, add-ons, tax software, etc., and failing to take these things into consideration can mean a huge shortfall!

    I’m fortunate that now I’m working with all great clients who pay on time and do what I say, but it took a few mishaps along the way to get to this point.

  73. Karen Atherton

    I’ve been in business for about two years now (this time around!) and learned how important it is to get everything in writing. If I have a telephone conversation with a client and specific questions have been asked/answered or decisions made to change process or data, I write a follow-up email listing all conversation items as I heard them, and a request for the client to acknowledge their acceptance. This has helped me numerous times to 1) remember and 2) remind. Another thing I started doing right off is an engagement letter. After the decision is made to hire me, I immediately put together an engagement letter listing the services that have been agreed upon, what the client can expect from me, what I expect from the client, my rate, and any incentives given for referrals. I have the client initial through each section of the engagement and sign and date. You would not believe how many clients have thanked me for this very clear listing of expectations–CPAs, too!

  74. Marnie

    I agree that the letter of engagement is SO important, and in the past, I haven’t been very good about using them. But because I’ve have a few clients who just don’t give their books the attention that they deserve (ie not replying to my repeated emails, changing passwords without letting me know, sloppy business practices, you name it), I’m now using these with all my clients. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to “fire” clients who just refuse to work with me. My pet peeve is people who treat their “corporations” like personal bank accounts 😉

  75. Amy

    A few tricky things:

    1.) Not accepting every client that requests services (because you need the business) but choosing clients that you work best with or can be of the most help to-charging what you need to make a living and build a profitable business-not based on your location or what others are doing but based on the value of the services you provide
    2.) Getting paid-work on retainer for on-going work-no retainer-no work completed-not working hourly but on a flat rate TBD by the work required and also by the value of my time
    3.) When doing on site work, using services like Intuit’s Go Payment-or creating invoices using Quickbooks Online for your own firm. When you finish with the client that day-you login to Quickbooks Online on your phone, create an invoice, e-mail it to the client, and you receive the payment on your phone before you leave their office. No unpaid invoices and collections required. It’s no different than hiring a plumber to come to your home, you don’t pay them later or tell them “send me an invoice”, they request/require payment before they leave your home.
    4.) Using a letter of engagement for each on-going client that clearly outlines my responsibility as well as their responsibility (providing the information or file in a timely manner, paying the retainer, etc)
    5.) Using a client interview to understand who they are, where they have been, what problems they need solved and where they want to go-so I can provide full service solutions

  76. Jennifer

    For us, it was helpful to start a website. We get a lot of calls from people that go through the phone book and pull us out because we have a website they can go to. They can check us out online first and feel like they know who we are and what we do before they call.

  77. Dianna G

    I have worked with QuickBooks for 15 years now. I enjoy working with clients to get them setup on the right QuickBooks for their needs and to try to help solve any problems they may have while working in the system or with third party add on programs. It is important to listen to your clients and ask them questions about their business to familiarize yourself with their needs before you give them any advice. For an example, I had a client call the other day asking about the difference between QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier so I explained the differences to them. Then I found out that they had an inventory tracking issue-so if I had not found out about the inventory issues I could not guide them in the right direction.

  78. Rebecca Tervo

    I’ve had my business open for 2 1/2 years now. It’s been evolving since then! At first, I started out doing “normal” accounting firm things….monthly accounting services, payroll, getting QuickBooks files ready for year end. But, here’s the thing…once I started doing live workshops, I never looked back. I found that my true passion is teaching and writing! Who would’ve known? So, my advice is to find what you’re TRULY passionate about. I’m not TRULY passionate about taking care of other people’s books. I was finding that to be more of a “job”, not a business I could love. Now my business is mainly online…teaching solopreneurs and very small business owners how to do their bookkeeping and use QuickBooks effectively for their business. I’ve also written a QuickBooks home study workbook, and have several more online training products in the works. I get up every day and can’t wait to get creating!

  79. Karen Nunley

    I have always been a Peachtree accountant (I usually fix things their customer service can’t). I lived in Las Vegas and had several clients when I was there. I have since moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and found out that most accountants us QuickBooks. I do know QuickBooks but am not a ProAdvisor. Is it more benifical to become a ProAdvisor if I only want to do this part time?

  80. Judy Jackson

    My company consists of just two people. We joke that neither one knows everything, but together we are really good. It helps having someone to bounce things off of. Sometimes just talking something thru solves the problems. Don’t be afraid to find someone to join with you in running your business.

  81. Gina

    One tip I would share with other bookkeepers is “don’t be afraid to team up with other bookkeepers”. Often they have what you don’t and you have what they don’t. Between you both you can refer clients to each other.

  82. Jay Mangrum

    At first, I accepted every engagement as long as they could pay. Later, I realized that by getting familiar and becoming an expert in only a couple of industries, I could charge more, deliver better work, and spend less time trying to learn the nuances of various industries. It has made me a happier person.

  83. Penny Giron

    My question is similar to Kelli’s. I have 2 clients who have not paid for completed work done over a year ago. Weekly calls and letters have gone unanswered. What do you guys suggest for this situation? Write it off and move on, or try collecting through legal means?

  84. Janelle Kimball

    My husband was transferred from Dallas to Houston so we made the move in 2006. I had been working in a industry that was located on the opposite side of Houston than where we lived and I was not going to make that drive everyday. So using my BA in Accounting I started my own business. I saw that everyone was using QuickBooks, I was a Peachtree user, so I learned QuickBooks. Started networking on social sights, one in which Michelle Long posted to regularly. Followed everyone’s advice and bought Michelle’s book, “Successful QuickBooks Consulting”. Followed that with Julie Mucha-Aydlott’s book, “How To Open Your Own In-Home Bookkeeping Service”. And here I am, Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and loving every minute. Just hired my first employee and looking for another.

  85. Michelle Long

    @Kelli — You teach the clients how they can treat you. You need to get paid timely just like they want their customer to pay them timely. I would start them on a payment plan to get them caught up as quick as possible. Then, either get a retainer from them and work off it or get paid weekly (or every other week) and if you don’t get paid you don’t do the work. You have bills to pay too and cash flow is just as important to your business as it is to their business. You aren’t being pushy, you’re business a good business person! 🙂

  86. Pam Scott

    Kelli, That’s a hard question. I think I would start billing them every two weeks instead of just once a month. I would get a bit more assertive and tell them that you expect to be paid on a more timely manner.

    Catherine, I’m almost to that point myself. I have recently added several clients that for now seem to be working out time-wise, but could get into a mess if they all want help at the same time. I hate to turn down work, but I really don’t want another “weekly bookkeeping job” for a small business client that really wants a bookkeeper at a cheap rate like the call that I got last night. I’m considering contracting out to a friend of mine that is a bookkeeper, but not a ProAdvisor. She has the flexibility to do these smaller jobs and could use the extra work.

    As for sharing success stories, I’d have to say that Mikogo web meeting works great and it’s free! Also I signed up with Joe Woodard on the National Advisor Network and use the YouSendIt file transfer program. It’s great not to have to drive over to a client’s office to get their data file.

  87. Julie Pyatt

    Gosh! Where to even start? I started my business over a year ago with the intention of simply having a small side business allowing me to be a work-from-home mom. Well, that has quickly changed. I’ve had my doors open for 17 months now, currently have one employee (soon hiring another) and am continually growing. There is so much I could say to try and help someone starting out but I know my biggest frustration when I first started was “How do I get clients?!?” I would encourage you to try several free advertising mediums such as Craigslist, Google Business Listing, etc. and track your success (ask all leads where they learned about you) from each advertiser. Use LinkedIn and Facebook to help reconnect with old business associates… these connections can turn into referrals. You will quickly learn what works best for your business.

  88. Kelli Goodnight

    What is the best way to handle a client that pays 30 to 60 days late every month? This has been very tricky for me. This is one of my bigger accounts and I don’t want to seem pushy. How should I approach the client? Should I set a credit limit and tell the client I cannot work further until paid? I work for this client once a week and bill monthly. Thank you!

  89. Elaine

    I agree with Diana, set monthly rates are easier on you and the client. No surprise larger than normal invoices for a ‘catch-up’ month or during tax season when you must dig thru that shoebox full of receipts. Set monthly rates also help clients with cash flow and forecasting problems. Great tools in QuickBooks!

    I’ve used QuickBooks for about 15 years and love it! I just wish I could learn all the quick tips and stop looking for the shortcuts! Recently, by accident, I discovered I can hold my ctrl key down and slide my cursor over multiple cleared checks in reconciliation instead of clicking them individually… now how did I miss that one?


  90. Sheryl Meshell-Theis

    My idea started with a long time dream of owning my own business, then one day I read about using QuickBooks, purchased the ProAdvisor program which helped me to get started on the basics. Then, I purchased Michelle L Long’s Sucessful QuickBooks Consulting book which in turn helped me in the details of getting my Bookkeeping-Payroll-Tax-Notary Public business started. It takes determination, patience and prayer BUT it can be done!

  91. Catherine Wolfe

    What do you do when you’ve reached a work saturation point and can’t really handle it by yourself but aren’t in a financial position to hire someone? Once you decide to hire someone, how do you find the right person? How do you convince your clients to allow someone other than yourself to work on their files? Inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Michelle Long Post author

      @Catherine — It sounds like it is time for you to use a sub contractor. Start networking to find another Certified ProAdvisor, bookkeeper or accountant. Get to know them and see if it might be a fit for your needs based on their skills and abilities and your personalities.

      I would talk with the client to assure them that I would still be involved and they can contact me when they need to but your sub would be handling the daily work (or whatever). Usually they just want to know that you’re not abandoning them. 🙂

  92. Diana

    When I first started my bookkeeping business 7 years ago, I did not have the confidence to set my rates at a liveable rate. I thought I was undercutting my competition, but then came to realize that I was undercutting myself. I have been able to slowly raise my rates while culling the bad customers. I also had a few issues with invoice payment, so all services are now pre-paid. I find it hard to get away from hourly billing with current customers, but new customers are coming in at set monthly rates and it has worked out for everyone.

    Foremost, believe in yourself. Always strive to raise your skill level. Keep learning.