Whether I use the term “bookkeepers” or “accountants”, this applies equally to each kind of small business service provider.
And that’s the first lesson: most people don’t know the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant. That is the very first thing that you will have to teach them.
And the very first thing that I will tell you is: Shout out your strength. Put it up there in the header of your website or blog. Don’t make people search for what you do, or read through your whole bio to identify your credentials. Know what it is that you do and tell them, right up front.
Marketing Your Online Bookkeeping Business
Marketing seems to be a real bugaboo for bookkeepers and accountants. There is a way to capture business — lots of business — with online clients, clients you never see in person. You do this by following a couple of very simple steps.
The single most important thing you have to do to capture clients is to distinguish yourself from every other bookkeeper/accountant online. There are a number of ways to do this, such as:
Distinguish Your Accounting Geographically
Most often bookkeeping/accounting rules apply nationwide. A shop is a a shop is a shop.
Once in a while, geography really plays a role, like in Delaware corporations. With the burst in the cannabis industry, for example, special state rules will apply.
If you have special expertise in offshore or foreign corporation accounting, this is where those skills will shine. While large companies will no doubt hire a large accounting firm to audit their books, there are literally millions of individual entrepreneurs working abroad who need to communicate with someone in English about a business based in Argentina or Korea.
Focus Bookkeeping On One Industry
“Online business bookkeeping” is a real specialty now, and will continue to grow exponentially over the next few decades. Many of the old rules for brick and mortar businesses just don’t apply to online businesses.
Jan specializes in online service businesses and is too busy to take on more clients. Capturing valid deductions for her clients is her razor sharp focus, and her real challenge since most of her clients work at home with minimal documented expenses. But when she does find real deductions, she can apply them across the board to virtually all of her clients, a boon to her and to her clients.
There are other industries that benefit from specialization too. Construction of all sorts is notoriously challenging for accountants. Small contractors, from plumbing to brick laying to painting, can truly benefit from a specialized bookkeeping service.
Specialize, Specialize, Specialize
Don’t try to be everything to every business. Not only can you not do it effectively, but you will waste bundles of money trying to market to “every business”. Here’s the deal: Advertising is laser sharp focused. I don’t get ads from Coca-Cola because I am not in their demographic. Same with Porsche. They know their peeps, and I am not one. Advertising to me would be a waste of money for them, so they don’t do it.
The same principle holds true for your business. You need to know with laser sharp focus just who your clients are. Market to them, and only to them. They will really appreciate the fact that you are a specialist in their field, and will welcome what you have to say to them.
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Focus Accounting On One Phase Of A Company
Whether a company is brand new, growing, or ready for sale, there are unique issues in bookkeeping.
Startups have so many issues. Most entrepreneurs aren’t even aware of everything they can deduct, or how to set up their bookkeeping. Providing an introductory package here, at the beginning, would likely garner you lifelong clients.
As a company expands from a shoe box to a basic system is another turning point.
And getting a company ready for sale is a real specialty. Creating the sales brochure that spotlights a company’s strengths is a skill that few entrepreneurs possess. If you happen to have that advertising flair in conjunction with numbers skill, you are needed here.
Broker Online Businesses
I have sold several of my businesses, and my clients have sold lots more. None of us has found an online business broker that we can trust. None of us.
Valuing an online business is a real skill. Most brokers routinely say that an online business is worth one year’s income. Period. Balderdash. I am reminded of a story told about Picasso. A woman approached Picasso and asked for a sketch of herself. In five minutes he provided a delightful sketch and said, “That will be $10,000.” The woman was astounded. “But it only took you five minutes,” she protested. “Yes,” Picasso said, “but it took me a lifetime to learn what I did in those five minutes.”
Web businesses are a lot like that. One business may only have earned $10,000 in a year, but the owner knows well that if but one more component is added, the income will triple, or more. Some online businesses are true fly by nights. Some are genuine scams. A smart business broker knows all of that too, and takes into account an online business’ future, as well as its present state.
With your accounting background and knowledge of online businesses, this is a real sleeper of a business that you might want to explore.
The bottom line is that there is a tremendous amount that a bookkeeper or accountant can do online, both in maintaining books and beyond. Reach out a little. Find your niche. It is there, and it will grow and grow and grow.