If you’re like me, you can sometimes get overwhelmed with the requirements of tax season. We all want to take advantage of the time with our clients – to add value and increase our billings. Here are five ways to get back more time so that you can focus on your clients – use these tips now, in the middle of the season, or any time throughout the year.
- Hire an administrative assistant. If you don’t have an admin, you probably think you can’t afford one. That could not be further from the truth; instead, you can’t afford not to have one. We are numbers people, so let’s run the numbers on this. If you hire an admin to work 20 hours a week and you pay that person $20 per hour, that is $400 a week for 13 weeks for a total of $5,200 for tax season. I assume that if you could spend an extra 260 hours talking with your clients, you could generate well over $5,200 of additional revenue. The more likely scenario is that you could probably generate $10,000 to $20,000 of additional revenue by spending the extra time with your current clients. As I mentioned before, we are numbers people, so that’s a pretty good return on your investment.
- Own your schedule and have a system for each week. You own your time and don’t let someone else – namely, your clients – dictate your schedule. We are professionals, so we should act like professionals. Doctors only see patients during certain times of the week, and you can do the same thing. Block off times of the week to prepare and review tax returns, make and return phone calls, draft and return emails, and hold client meetings. Build in some free time to relax, too. In addition to protecting your time, have a system to handle tasks that come into the office and create a task list to keep you focused. This will give you more time to spend with your clients than you realize.
- Set deadlines for your clients. An important part of setting your own schedule is setting rules for your clients on how to do business with your firm. Be very clear when you expect tax return information to be provided. If the information is not received in a timely manner, clients need to know that their returns may not be completed by the deadline. Don’t let your clients’ procrastination cause your firm to stress and work unnecessarily long hours. We all work a lot of hours because of the type of work we do, but there’s no need to work unnecessarily long hours due to client procrastination. If you have a delivery policy and stick to the policy, your clients may not like it at first, but they will respect the way you do business and abide by these deadlines in the future.
- Meet with a select group of clients during the fourth quarter. We all have clients that are more complex than others, so meet with them outside of tax season. Our firm meets with all of our clients at least two times a year outside of tax season. During the fourth quarter, we are preparing the tax return based on estimates, while during tax season, we are just putting numbers in the proper box. This allows us to spend less time preparing returns and gives us more time talking to our clients. It also gives us more time to ask for referrals during tax season. As we all know, referrals are the most profitable clients we could ask for and get.
- Client satisfaction follow up. Once you deliver the return to your clients, have an admin follow up by telephone or email to make sure the client experience was extraordinary, and ask if there is anything else the firm can do for them. This will create goodwill with your clients and push some of the technical conversations out of tax season.
I know not all of these suggestions will make sense for your firm, but if you implement one or two of these items this season, I believe you will be thankful for the extra time you get to spend with your clients. Best of all, you may become more profitable. Our firm does all of these during tax season, yet it took us several years to implement them … and we certainly did not implement them correctly the first time.
Practice makes perfect – good luck this tax season!
Editor’s note: Keeping up with technology is also a key part of staying up to date with your work during tax season. Check out Barry MacQuarrie’s article “Tech Tools to be More (or Sometimes Less) Connected to Your Clients,” on the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Pro Center.