As an accountant or bookkeeper, I’m sure you can pretty much map out the peaks and troughs of your business year without even trying. One day you’re in hot demand, the next, your clients don’t want to know you - until next month of course.
Instead of fretting about the lack of work during those downtimes, or whiling away hours playing this accountant-friendly Excel spreadsheet game, here are 10 productivity-boosting tasks you can implement during your downtime:
That is, the real-world kind of networking, not the watching-viral-videos-on-Facebook kind of networking. Join local business associations or networking groups and build up your presence with local business owners. You’ll not only meet potential clients and connect with industry peers, but you’ll build valuable relationships with other business owners who can be a source of referrals for new business. While networking is something that you should try to maintain year-round, you might find that your quieter periods are a good opportunity to visit other chapters or branches of your networking group.
When it comes to online networking, think about scheduling posts on your social media channels well in advance. For example, have you come across interesting articles or resources that you can share with your audience? Schedule these in over your busy periods, so you don’t have to think about keeping up your social presence when you’re torso-deep in tax returns.
2. Work on your online presence
Give your website the once-over. Do a quick audit of your copy, call-to-actions and design and then break down any updates that you want to make into manageable chunks so you can tackle them one-by-one during your downtime. Perhaps your home page needs an overhaul, or your services have changed slightly since you first put your website up, or you really need to update that bad-hair-do-headshot. Working on one task at a time makes it seem like a less daunting process - and your website should really always be a work-in-progress project as you continually tweak and modify its content.
The last thing you want to think about during your busy months is non-billable work such as creating marketing collateral or writing blog posts. So use your quiet time to bust out a whole lot of blog content that you can have on hand to publish when you’re already under the pump.
3. Call in on clients
Use quiet periods to strengthen relationships with existing clients, as well as nurture potential leads by getting a little more personal. Pick up the phone, arrange a coffee or at least send a personalised email, perhaps with some helpful resources attached. Touching base without any kind of agenda helps build trust with your client and adds value to your services.
It might also be an opportunity to give some love to people whose services you value. Write up some testimonials for them to include on their website - ask them to include a link back to your own website to help boost your SEO while you’re at it.
4. Think of ways to add value
Sure, your clients come to you because you fulfil their compliance requirements - but what makes you different to the accountant or bookkeeper down the road? Why should they choose you, and what’s keeping them loyal? Think of ways that you can add value to your customers that will help you stand out from the crowd, without affecting your bottom line.
Recruit some creative colleagues or business associates and start tossing around some ideas; you never know what inspiration might strike when you surround yourself with energetic and inspired people.
Some ideas include:
- putting together some educational or reference resources for your client, suited to their industry (I love that my own accountant actually happened to do this on the very day I wrote this article!)
- sending referrals or connecting businesses with potential synergies
- offer more than just compliance, for example you could provide more detailed data reporting and become a trusted business advisor
You could use quieter times to develop a new skill - that doesn’t necessarily mean just learning something new within your own industry. How about taking an SEO course, attending a public speaking seminar or a newsletter writing workshop, or learning about a new piece of business software to use in your own business, or in that of a client.
You could also think about some professional coaching. Find a business coach who specialises in helping accounting professionals. Having an outsider’s perspective on your business can help you gain clarity on where you can leverage your strengths and where you perhaps need to invest more time or resources.
6. Sort your systems
Take some time to review your admin systems. Look for opportunities where you could streamline your processes and improve efficiencies for yourself in your business. Embrace cloud business tools where you can, and investigate where you can integrate separate software - such as your CRM and your accounting software - to create one seamless system that will be working hard for you when your workload picks up.
7. Review your service offering
When you first started your practice, it’s likely that you offered (or still do offer) pretty generic accounting or bookkeeping services. But one way to push your profits to the next level is to define your niche. This means promoting yourself as an expert in a particular area - perhaps you want to focus on a particular location, industry, a type of business owner or business size, or an area of expertise such as international tax, business valuation or trust tax. Once you have better defined the kind of customer you want to work with, it becomes easier to then target your marketing efforts to find them.
Reviewing your services might also mean considering how you can diversify your income. Consider additional services you could potentially include that are over and above the usual compliance services, and which might also help you out when things get quiet. For example, being a WorkflowMax Advisor allows you to ‘own’ subscriptions which you can generate additional income from while also providing your clients with powerful business management tools.
8. Do-up your docs
Are your administration documents and client forms looking a little dated? Are they in line with your current branding? Review your client documentation and make sure it’s still relevant. Consider implementing a tool such as FormTab which will transform all your paper documents into automated online submissions - awesome for working with clients remotely.
9. Clear up your database
If you winced slightly when I mentioned the word ‘database’ then I’m assuming that’s because yours is either non-existent, or rather neglected. Dedicate some time to dusting this off and clearing out the clutter.
- Decide what relevant fields you want to include and get rid of irrelevant or out-of-date information
- Include a field for ‘permission’ - this is where you can note whether the contact has given you the OK to contact them with other communications.
- Get more value from your database - include extra information here that might help you add value or a more personalised experience for your customers. Here’s some tips on how you can do it using WorkflowMax.
10. Enjoy the peace
Remember that it’s ok to relish the quiet time and take a break. It can be all too easy to end up close to breaking point during your busiest time of the year, so if you’re feeling exhausted or a little disillusioned, give yourself some time to recoup. If you get the guilts just putting your feet up, then gather together a whole lot of reading material, such as business articles and blogs, and catch up on all the latest industry news while you can.
Think of quiet periods as a positive - now you have an opportunity to take stock of where your business is at, think about where you would like it to be, and then put into action the tasks you need to do to get there.
What other things do you work on in your business during your quiet periods?