If you’ve just decided to start your own tax and accounting practice, you’re probably feeling a lot of things: excitement, apprehension, and maybe overwhelm to name a few. Perhaps the biggest of them all, though, is uncertainty. Where will things go from here? Will your practice be a success in the long-term? How will you grow the business over time? All these questions will be answered eventually, but what’s important is to focus on one of the initial hurdles of opening a new practice: finding your first clients. Without paying clients, your practice can’t be a sustainable business or source of income for you. And, as with many industries and types of businesses, the first few sales before you’ve established yourself can be the hardest. Today, we’ll break down some of the ways the most successful new tax and accounting practices start building up their client base. From your online presence to utilizing personal connections to knowing where to scour for leads, we’ve got you covered.
1. Create a website
The first step to finding new clients is to build a professional, mobile-friendly, authoritative website. You want to make sure that anyone who you talk to in the lead generation and marketing processes will have somewhere to go for more information, so make sure to have this set up before you start seeking clients. Your website should include everything a prospect or client needs to know about working with you, without drowning them in information. Include your background and qualifications, the services you offer (and any packages), a professional headshot, links to social media, and any other relevant info. In this day and age, it’s also crucial that the website be mobile-friendly since many users will be looking at your site on their smartphones. In fact, mobile accounts for approximately half of total web traffic globally and has consistently hovered around that number since 2017. CountingWorks PRO can design a lightning-fast, beautifully designed website for your practice that Google will love — hello, high search rankings! Learn more here.
2. Tell your family, friends, and existing network
When you have a new job, it’s normal to share that news with those you’re close to. Think of this in the same way, except that now you want everyone to know. In this case, “the more, the merrier” basically means that more people knowing about your new practice will lead to more referrals and more potential clients. However, don’t just stop at an email to your family and friends; remember to tap your existing professional network as well. Think big here and don’t just include people you talk to frequently. Past bosses, colleagues, college classmates, professors, or other business connections are all worth reaching out to. Utilize LinkedIn and other social media sites to your advantage, but remember to strike up a conversation before immediately asking for a favor (or for someone’s business), especially if you haven’t spoken in a while.
3. Ask people in your target market for advice on landing clients like them
Rather than going to your ideal client and immediately trying to sell them your services, try a different approach: ask them for advice. One of the best ways to understand what your target market is looking for is to simply ask someone who fits the profile how they would want to be sold. Ask about their needs, their frustrations, what they like and don’t like about accounting and tax pros or solutions they’ve worked within the past, and how they would go about communicating value to potential clients. Through that conversation, you can get inside the mind of your ideal client to better understand how to sell to other prospects. You may even hook them along the way without explicitly trying.
4. Start building reviews from the start
Throughout the life of your practice, reviews will be one of the most crucial pieces of a solid online presence and growth strategy. They are your best sales pitch to prospects: testimonials directly from your past satisfied clients that showcase your value-add and expertise. When you’re first starting out, it may feel slow-moving to build reviews with few (or zero) clients. At the very least, ask people who have worked with you in the past — whether as colleagues or clients — for some quotes that you can use on your website in the meantime. Some pros also try working at a reduced rate for a couple of clients to start building testimonials. However, be careful with this: you don’t want to force a review out of anyone, but you can say “I’d like to offer this to you at a reduced rate since this is a new service for me. And if you’re happy with my work, I’d love a testimonial after.” As you eventually start to get some clients, make sure you ask every single one to leave you a review on sites like TaxBuzz, CountingWorks, and Google My Business. Make it easy for them by including links to review on your website and in your email newsletters.
5. Maintain active professional social media from the start
You probably already have a good understanding of how prevalent social media is in our world today, both in people’s personal and professional lives. In fact, 69% of American adults use at least one social media site, and the average digital consumer spends nearly 2.5 hours on social networks and social messaging every single day. It makes sense, then, that you’d want to build up a solid presence on these platforms to meet your potential clients where they’re already spending time. There are two sides to this. First, do a search for yourself on social media. Any profiles that come up can also be seen by potential clients searching for you — so make sure to delete any that you don’t want visible at all or make them private to restrict who can view what you post. Second, start social media profiles that are exclusively for your practice. In tax and accounting, we’d recommend having Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Of course, you can add others if you’re comfortable and want to increase your presence. The content you should post changes depending on the platform, but here are a few types that tend to perform well with potential clients:
- Tax or accounting tips for your niche
- Reminders of important due dates
- Fun and engaging content, like a tax joke for #FridayFunny
- Questions, polls, or contests
- Relevant blogs or articles from the industry
You can utilize your social media in any way you like, and it’s a great opportunity to start building an authoritative brand voice. The most important thing is to maintain consistently active profiles. Feel like you don’t have time for social media? Let us automate it for you.
6. Build up the rest of your online presence
Outside of your website and social media, it’s critical to start building social proof and topical authority. This, along with your reviews and testimonials, will start to shape your reputation online for anyone searching for your name.Ways to boost your online presence include:
- Blogging – Keeping an active blog on your site with relevant and trustworthy content is imperative for any tax and accounting pro in the digital age. Don’t have time to write them yourself? CountingWorks PRO can post for you.
- Guest posts – Partner with other sites and contribute guest posts to their blogs. It will put your name and expertise in front of more readers, build valuable professional relationships, and bring inbound links to your site that will boost SEO.
- Quotes – Getting quoted as an expert on certain topics will bring many of the same benefits as guest posting. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive emails from HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and respond to journalists looking for sources on subjects you know. We even have Q&A opportunities for our CountingWorks PRO clients which we then use to build articles on TaxBuzz and CountingWorks like this.
- Newsletters – Collect everyone you know or think might be a good referral partner and add them to your client newsletter database. Newsletters help keep you in touch with your favorite people: clients and prospects! They also generate more referrals and consultations while helping you build long-lasting client relationships.
7. Go to networking events and meetups
Looking for new clients doesn’t stop at your computer. Get out and go meet some people! Local networking events are great places to build relationships with other professionals in your area. They may not end up as a client, but they could refer someone to you in the future or just offer advice on starting out as an entrepreneur. Not sure where to start looking for events? Try using Meetup.com (also an app) to find local events where you can meet prospects and other professionals.
8. Partner with other professional services firms
Joining forces with other professional services firms in your locale can be mutually beneficial and help all of you grow your businesses. Whether it’s a law firm, a consultancy, or even another accounting or finance professional that specializes in different services than you, try to find other firms willing to set up arrangements where you refer clients to each other.
9. Use cold emails and retargeting
Many people avoid the cold pitch as it can be uncomfortable and involve a lot of rejection, but it’s also one way that many practices have quickly boosted their client base and revenue. To do this, use Google and LinkedIn to make a list of potential clients and businesses in your target market. Write up a template email that identifies their problems and how you would solve them, but make sure to tailor the email to each individual so it doesn’t feel copy/pasted. You can also use these targeted lists in tools like AdRoll, where you can load the database and push display ads when the prospect is online.
10. Buy a small practice or group of clients
Rather than starting from scratch, you can also consider buying a small practice from an established professional who is looking to sell. Whether you are buying from your employer who is retiring or from another pro who you haven’t worked with before, it’s important to ensure both the buyer and seller are meeting their objectives and can transfer ownership without any loss in quality for the clients. There are a few different ways that tax and accounting practices are sold:
- Collection Pricing – The seller receives payments from the buyer based on billings or collections over a predetermined period of time.
- Look-Back Pricing – The buyer “looks back” after a period of time has passed, determines collections or billings, and then adjusts the sales price accordingly.
- Cash Pricing – Exactly what it sounds like. The seller receives the full sales price from the buyer in cash at closing.
- Fixed Seller Financed Pricing – The sales price is determined before closing and the seller carries a portion of that sales price, which remains “static throughout the life of the loan.”
11. Nail the meeting
Once you get past the initial contact — like the cold email, referral from a mutual connection, or other online interaction — it’s time to nail the first meeting. This could be over the phone, in person, or via video conference, but you want to ensure that after talking with you the prospect is sold on your expertise, trustworthiness, and value. Focus the meeting on the challenges they’re facing and their goals for the future, then showcase how working with you can be the bridge between the two. Try out something like The Briefcase Technique to really drive it home, and don’t forget to just be genuine: clients want to work with someone that cares about them and will do everything they can to bring about the best outcome. It’s not easy starting a new tax and accounting practice from scratch, but it is an exciting opportunity to build something brand new that is all your own.
If you are an accounting, tax, or bookkeeping professional and have questions about getting clients for your new practice, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts.