Tax season’s in the rearview mirror, which means a lot of us are breathing a sigh of relief and enjoying some well-deserved down time. That’s great. But before you jump back into business as usual, it’s important to take some time to reflect on your business – especially if this past tax season made you want to pull out your hair.
Most solopreneurs don’t make time to do this because they’re so busy keeping up with day-to-day demands. But if you aren’t intentional about evolving your business, it won’t become the business you want it to be. Here are some concrete things you can do this week to ensure a smoother tax season next year – and a more satisfying business overall.
Ask Yourself Which Clients You’d Rather Not Work With Again
Difficult clients are inevitable. But if you can feel your blood pressure rising when you see a certain client’s name in your inbox, it’s time to take action. Eliminating your least favorite clients will eliminate a lot of stress, which frees up energy and time to take on new clients who better fit your ideal profile.
Tackle it with these steps:
- Figure out why the client is so frustrating. Are your rates too low for the demands they make? Does scope creep always happen? Do they consistently get stuff to you at the last minute?
- Identify possible solutions. Could you raise your rates? Update their contract? Add document deadlines and late fees? Write stricter boundaries into your engagement letters?
- Determine whether these solutions would make the client worthwhile to work with. If so, communicate your new policies. If not, consider parting with the client.
Remember: freeing yourself of a problem client means you have more time and energy to take on a great client.
Review Your Apps to Streamline Your Practice
If you haven’t purged your QB apps in a while, now’s the time. Maintaining accounts for apps you no longer use (or don’t use often) is a waste of time and possibly money. Go through yours and delete any you haven’t used in the last six months.
It’s also a great time to try out apps you’ve heard about but haven’t got around to testing. Download and get used to them now so you’ll have a sense by next tax season which ones can make a difference in your client’s business as well as yours.
A few recommendations:
- HubDoc: All financial documents in one (digital) place with minimal effort from you and your clients. That’s good news because low effort usually means high compliance, which means less work for everyone – and more accurate files. Free trial available!
- ClockShark: One-click employee time tracking tied to GPS locations. Any client that has employees in the field could benefit from this app, and when your clients adopt it, you will save oodles of time. You can try it free for two weeks.
- Trello: Intuitive, highly visual project management functions. You can invite anyone to share a calendar, and it’s always free. The interface takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve got a rhythm, you can consolidate a lot of other systems here.
- Bento for Business: Obviously, we love the no-fuss solution we’ve built for small businesses: prepaid employee expense cards that you can track, control with spending limits, and turn on and off from a cloud-based dashboard. Plus, transactions and receipts can be synced to QuickBooks. Try Bento free for sixty days.
Automate Processes You’ve Been Meaning to Automate
Here’s the thing about automation: it requires extra time to set up, then saves you time over and over and over. Now that you have some breathing room, it’s the perfect time to automate processes wherever possible. Every minute you save on busy work is one you can bill.
Not sure where to start? Check out this piece for the nitty-gritty, or just start with the most common targets: your calendar, client onboarding, prospect information gathering, and handling engagement letters.
Review Your Systems & Processes
If you built your practice gradually, you probably have some systems or processes that don’t make sense anymore. If nothing else, they’re probably not what you would have set up if you started at your current size. To identify places where there’s room for improvement, answer these questions:
- What goes wrong most often?
- Where or when do you most often feel frustrated or like you’re wasting time?
- What have you been meaning to fix, update, or change?
These problem areas won’t get better on their own. But if you deliberately make time to tackle them, you can see substantial gains in productivity and revenue.
Ask Yourself: If You Could Change One Thing about Your Practice, What Would it Be?
This is a biggie. Your answer can be as expansive as you want: Only want to work from the beach? Want more of a specific type of client? Want to get out of tax preparation altogether? Now’s the time to make a plan.
Be as specific as possible about what you want for your business (maybe pour a glass of wine and write a bunch of notes). Figure out what it would take to make that happen in your desired timeframe, then work backwards until you have goals to achieve each week and month.
There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you’re honest. Once you’ve got your dream segmented into achievable steps, it’s not a dream anymore – it’s an action plan.
Happy end of tax season, everyone! Here’s to a less chaotic one next year!