As an accountant, you have to aim for having clients pay you upfront to prevent any troubles in payment which might actually lose you some money in the long run. You have to know your value and train your clients to realize your worth because you offer them the best service in return. In this episode, host Michelle Weinstein shares the 10 ways you can get paid in advance for your accounting services.
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10 Ways To Get Paid In Advance For Accountants
I’m going to take you behind the scenes of all those fun related sales activities that can help you grow your firm. We are talking about ten different ways that you can collect money upfront from your clients. If you’re an accounting professional who worries about where your next client may come from or struggles with inconsistent cashflow during the tax season, or throughout the year, make sure to head on over to FiveStepsToAbundance.com. Get my five-step process that accountants have used to go from waiting around for that busy time to closing high-level clients all year round who pay you the fees you deserve and who appreciate the work that you do for them. Head on over FiveStepsToAbundance.com.
I would love to give a warm appreciation to our reviewer of the week. Our reviewer of the week is Dakota TaxMan. He says, “The how of tax planning. Michelle, a great reminder that the how of tax planning is irrelevant until the client engages.” That’s true. I believe that the how is only for clients who are paying you. The how is your knowledge and inventory of your head, all of the schooling and CPEs that you’ve done and only clients who pay. This means they’ve engaged with you and they’re the clients that deserve to know the how.
When we give out a little tip and we help a client because we feel bad and you know something that they don’t know, we give away our free advice. That doesn’t help you or the client. Remember, the how is for paying clients who engage with you. Until that, how you’re going to help them is truly irrelevant. I want to get to know more of you who are reading. I would love it if you would leave a written review. I will make sure to take that review and highlight it right here on the Abundant Accountant Podcast.
Let’s dive in. The ten ways accountants get paid upfront and on time. This is an important topic. Who wants to have accounts receivables? Not me and not you. I know that there are so many accountants that I’ve worked with time and time again where they have receivables of $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 because we send out invoices and wait for our clients to pay. I had a client ask me how they can switch up their pricing model so they can start receiving payments in advance from clients. They were not happy about waiting for payments, being a bill collector at the end or having to chase clients down. If any of you felt that way, this is for you to maybe give you an idea or two that you can implement starting maybe next week or right now. Why wait? There’s no better time than the present. I’m going to give you ten different ways and ideas that you can start getting paid in advance and get paid upfront so you don’t have any accounts receivable. You have clients that are paying you before you even do the work. You’re probably a lot happier when you start doing the work and you won’t want to miss out on this business-changing discussion.
A lot of accountants I’ve worked with feel less stressed. They can give more time to their clients. They don’t have to worry about, “What are they going to say when they get the bill?” All of that is now out the door. You can be front and center in helping and serving your clients. Let’s learn how to charge upfront that’s going to be fair and easy for both you and your client and ultimately be able to help serve them better. Asking for the payments upfront, that would be the first thing to do. However, before you ask for payment upfront, it’s important to understand knowing your value and your worth.
Know Your Value
Being able to ask for money upfront has to solidify in yourself that you know that value and you know that worth that’s inside of you. Sharing stories and testimonials from previous client engagements that are happy working with you will help other clients feel compelled to pay you upfront when you ask for it, so they can get started working with you based on you sharing a success story from a previous client. Making sure both parties are 100% on the same page so they understand that they’ll know the investment. If someone asks you, “How much do you cost?” I always like to explain it, “It’s not a cost.” The cost of them not working with you should outweigh the investment of working with you. It’s one for you to make clear when someone asks you what it’s going to cost, share with them that this is the investment now moving forward with you.
Share Success Stories
Let’s say you’re a bookkeeping client and I’ve worked with some of you who do that. You’re charging anywhere from about $3,000 to $5,000 a month. What you want to do is say that you get paid in advance on the first of the month for services that you will be performing on 1st through the 30th. If someone’s payment doesn’t go through, you can tackle it now before you get frustrated in the future. We don’t want to do that ever. That’s option one. Let’s go for way number two. Let’s say they don’t want to pay upfront and this is new to you anyway. You could do 50/50, you could do half upfront and you could do half later.
There are different ways that you can do this. If that’s what you have to do, that’s okay. I definitely invite you to try on and see what happens when you ask for the full payment upfront. Sometimes depending on the dollar value, especially on any 10/40 returns or some of that lower value work, you should be 150% getting paid upfront. There is no reason you should have 100 clients with $100 to $1,000 bills outstanding that you have to go figure out who passed a pay. Personally, I don’t deliver a service to anybody unless I’m paid in full. That should be for anybody in the business. It’s our moral imperative to help and serve others.
Have A Greater Level Of Trust
Why would we do that if you didn’t get paid for that service in advance? I’m not a nonprofit. You’re not a nonprofit. Most of you are trying to increase your revenue and your bottom line. The more payments you don’t collect on is hurting your bottom line. Keep that in mind. Also, your level of trust. If you have a deeper, greater level of trust and you built a good foundation and rapport with them. The greater the trust, the more people will pay you upfront. Keep that in mind too. It’s important. When you get paid upfront, a little bonus thought, it helps with your cashflow.The cost of them not working with you should outweigh the investment of working with you. Click To Tweet
You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to make your payroll. You might have a team of 2 to 5 people or maybe it’s only yourself. From all the profit first professionals I’ve worked with, you’ve got to pay yourself first. This helps you with that too. Another option, not one I always recommend, but I’m giving you different ideas. What I encourage each of you to do is try on asking for a 100% payment upfront and see how many times that happens. You have your backup plans in case that doesn’t work out. You could offer 2/10 net 30 and you might be wondering, “Michelle, what the heck does that mean?”
I did a lot of net 30, 60, 90-day terms with my vendors when I had my last company but I was purchasing inventory and I had other products. I would have to purchase inventory in advance and sit on that money. I wouldn’t probably collect money from that customer up to 90 days later. Everyone likes a little, I don’t like this word, discount, but maybe there is a reduction in cost if they pay the invoice soon. Basically what 2/10 net 30 means, and I’m giving you an example, but I would say, and some of you might even say, “I’ll give you 3% off your invoice if you do an ACH because you don’t have the credit card fees.” I usually use credit card fees as a cost of doing business. I don’t care if my credit card fees were 3%, 5% or 7% because I know that the profitability in my services can handle that.
That’s the cost of doing business. You could give 2% off an invoice if they pay within ten days and this is if you’re a little scared asking for it upfront. I know it can be a little intimidating at times, especially if you’re not used to it. We take baby steps. This is the third option of something you can try on and expect full payment within 30 days. My only bonus tip and thought for this one is, if you’re going to wait 30 days to collect, the work that you delivered and it does not get delivered to the client until you get paid in advance. If they want their work on the 25th day, they will have to pay you in full prior to you delivering the work. Keep that in mind that you have to keep that commitment to yourself with the work before you deliver it to the client.
These are the ten ways to get paid in advance. This is tip number four, request the payment before the delivery of the service. Let’s say you’re doing a tax litigation case. I had a client that did one. The client wanted to do the 50/50, “I’ll pay you 50% right now to get started and what you require is the other 50% upon delivery.” It’s important and someone reminded me, “Michelle, the people that get your advice and work are clients, and clients pay. Lookie-loos don’t pay so they don’t get any of your knowledge. Your knowledge is the how.” In a tax litigation case, how did you win? What did you have to do to overcome whatever the client’s challenges were? You get paid for that how? There is no one not paying you for your how, your knowledge or you might have heard me say in the past, your inventory. You have to protect that inventory.
Request Payment Before Delivery Of Service
Let’s say you’re doing a tax litigation case that’s all done. The client still owes you $10,000. You provide zero documentation or anything until that $10,000 is paid. Right after the payment clears and sits in the bank for about three days, you need to make sure payments clear, then it’s fine to deliver the final product, work, plan and final returns, especially if it’s tax season. This is something simple to implement that has increased people’s revenue anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to $30,000. Do you want to know why? You’re missing out on revenue because you keep doing work, you keep delivering it, you file people’s returns, and you don’t get paid on that invoice.
You have to pay a collecting agency or an admin to call and chase people down for their clients. It’s costing you money by not doing this. By doing this, you have instant revenue. Imagine having money in your bank account. You don’t have to worry about it. You delivered the service. Your clients are happy and everything is hunky-dory. Make sure it’s clear and agreed upon before starting. The risk the client could be taking if you are not paid on time, which on time either means right upfront or before any work is delivered. A little reminder from The Pitch Queen. I want to make sure that each of you is paid.
Issue Electronic Receipt
Number five, it’s important for documentation that electronic invoices are sent. I like to call them electronic receipts. Receipt means that someone has paid. If you have an invoicing system and a lot of accountants have said, “Michelle, I sent them the invoice, so now what? Do I wait?” I would recommend getting a payment over the phone. If you’re with a client in person, get it right then and there. You send an electronic receipt showing the proof of payment and zero balance due. If you have an invoicing system in your firm, which I know most of you do. Make it as simple, easy, and convenient for your clients to pay.
I recommend if you’re on the phone, you have a form, you can fill it out in your own QuickBooks over the phone. It doesn’t matter. You do the heavy lifting. The heavy lifting means that you will be asking for payments from your clients. That’s number one. Number two, if you’re in an in-person meeting, you should have a form that they fill out right then and there. I know some of you have ACH forms or credit card authorization form. Whatever it is, fill it out, enter in the amount, charge them right then and there. Here’s what this helps with because you might be wondering, “Michelle, that sounds pushy.” I do this all the time along with a lot of other people, but there’s a benefit to it.
What if their form of payment doesn’t go through? You have back and forth email exchanges, phone calls, and you’re probably dealing with busy people. It’s not conducive to anybody’s time. What I recommend is do it over the phone, especially if you’re charging anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 consistently or the bigger numbers. The bigger the number, the credit cards might not go through. They might have daily limits. That’s another trick. If someone’s payment doesn’t go through, have them call their bank and up their limit for that day. It happens all the time. If you’re taking a check, you can run a check payment through most of your billing systems. If you’re on QuickBooks or whatever, run the payment right then and there with your client in front of you or on the phone to ensure that you get paid. After, you can send them an electronic copy of their receipt, aka invoice.
Offer Different Payment Options
Tip number six is to make sure you have a lot of different payment options. I would make sure that people could do bank transfers. I would make sure that people could do debit and credit cards, and yes, take Amex. It might be the most expensive but it doesn’t matter. If you want to attract higher-value clients, better business owner type of clients, you name it, whatever it is, you want to take every form of credit card. Let them collect their points on Amex so they can go fly business class. If you’re working with high-level business owners, this is something that’s the norm. I don’t care if the percent fee to use is 3% to 5%. Make sure to have your fees cover that.The greater the trust, the more people will pay you up front. Click To Tweet
Be Clear About Late Payment Policy
Remember, pricing is another topic we’ve discussed here on the Abundant Accountant Podcast, which is an important topic. Another one that you should probably take as the form of payment is PayPal. PayPal is a great way to receive payment. It is a secure way. A lot of people use PayPal. If you do not have a PayPal business account set up, make sure to do that. Have some automatic billing or withdrawal system like a monthly ACH debit. Some people do prefer to use debit. That’s okay. Whatever floats their boat. Make sure you have and included all the different payment options that a client could pay you. If you want to accept Bitcoin, which I’m not even sure if in your industry is legal, why not? Whatever form of payment, that’s the way to go. You’re like, “Michelle, I want to ask for everything upfront, but I’m not there yet.” I understand how you feel. A lot of other accountants have been in your shoes.
Here’s an option for you to do, as an example, if you do the 50/50 and you have in your payment terms that they paid 50% on July 1st and they will pay the other 50% on July 31st. It’s now August 3rd and it’s still not done. Add late fees and late penalty fees. This is how you will train your clients to know your value and your worth. When you don’t, this is how clients end up walking all over you, especially if you’re going to start having one as a monthly client or some consistent type of clientele.
It’s important to add maybe 5% of the total invoice will be a late fee. That’s an idea. If you’re doing monthly bookkeeping, you set a flat rate based on the monthly charge that you’re charging them, so maybe it’s $200 a month if you’re late. It’s super-duper important to do this because if someone commits a date to you, that is your time. That is what your agreement was. You had a written agreement. If someone doesn’t fulfill that agreement, there has to be some penalty. That is what I recommend.
Be clear about your late fee policy or late payment policy, whatever you want to call it. Make sure you have it in writing and I would put that on your electronic invoice receipts. Have it at the bottom so everyone knows what’s in store for them. This will incentivize lazy clients to pay you on time. My guess is your lazy clients also get you their documentation late. They don’t send you everything you need right away. They send you one email with some stuff and another email. They’re uploading files to your secure servers and they keep missing things. Your job as a firm owner is to train your clients properly. There’s no better time than the present.
Send Regular Reminders
Number eight, send regular reminders. This does not apply if you get paid 100% in full. Let’s say we’re on the 50/50 example. It’s your job to also set the client up to win. If your client wins, you win. That’s important. Let’s say it’s July 1st, they paid you $10,000 and they owe you another $10,000 on July 31st. You don’t want to implement your late fee penalty or policy. Let’s do the courteous thing, maybe five days before sending a reminder, “The balance due of $10,000 is required.” If not, remind them of the late fee penalty, “An additional 5% will be added on the invoice.” Lastly, “We, as a firm will not deliver the work until we are 100% paid.” This is normal in other industries too. If you’re saying, “Michelle, this sounds strict.” It’s not. You have to know your value and your worth. These boundaries and setups for yourself and your firm is what starts this.
I’m going to share a personal story. I had a food manufacturing company for almost eight years of my life. I would order protein bars from a bakery. They wanted 100% upfront, but I negotiated the 50/50 deal. Let’s say I was going to do a run of $100,000 of inventory. I paid $50,000 upfront and I had to pay $50,000 before they would even ship the order and that thing left the bakery. I’d have to be 100% paid in full. This is normal in a lot of other industries. I want to normalize it in the accounting field, bookkeeping, tax planning, tax litigation, tax consulting. Even if you’re doing audits, whatever it is, get paid in advance. If you don’t, make sure you send reminders so your clients are set up to win because we always want everyone to win. That’s my eighth tip.
Stay On Top Of Your Invoicing
Ninth, stay on top of your invoicing. I always recommend and I went over this because I’m working with a client to sell a tax plan. We’re going to sell a tax plan and one of the things that I always recommend prior to any sales calls and sales meeting is to have your invoice ready to go so the clients can see it. Make sure it’s the right amount, it’s up to date with all your pricing policies and assume the sale and assume you’re going to get paid 100%. If you’re not quite there yet and you need the 50/50, maybe have a backup invoice ready to go. It’s 50% due now and the other 50% do either 5, 10, 30 days from now, whatever works best for you. Do the invoices prior to any meeting. It’s important and it will help you win. Because your clients will pay upfront, you’ll be able to deliver the work, and everything will go smoothly. Once they paid, mark it in your QuickBooks or through your system and you’re good to go. All of the admin work is now in the past. You don’t have to worry about it. It’s a win-win for everybody.
Keep A Zero-Tolerance Policy
Tip number ten is you want to keep a zero-tolerance policy. The clients that are paying you late or not going for 100% paying you upfront and they don’t see your value, do you even want them as a client? Think about it. Once they’re late, they’re probably not going to do the work you tell them to do. They probably won’t value what you’re saying to a tee, they’re probably looking for a better deal somewhere else. You might even want to think about not working with a client if it gets a little slicey and dicey when it comes to this part.
Make sure to know your zero-tolerance policy. It’s crucial because this is what makes your value. Know your worth and the clients will see it on the other side, promise. If you want a little less stress around client payments, implement some of this in your firm. I promise you it’s going to change the game. Some people told me, “Michelle, my tax season this year or whatever, everything shifted. I’ve never been happier. I’ve even made more revenue,” because they didn’t lose any revenue from clients not paying. You deserve to be paid what you’re worth. You deserve to be paid upfront and on time before you deliver any other work.
Thank you all so much for joining me here talking about the ten ways and ten different things you can do to push forward in getting paid upfront. I want to remind you if you have a quick second to leave a written review on iTunes or Google Play and share one a-ha moment that you were able to take away from this, I would love to know. I read all the written reviews. It does help other accounting professionals like yourself find this and help me help them grow their firms. Please do leave a written review. It was an honor to have you here with me. If you want my five-step process that accountants have used to go away from waiting around from busy season to having consistent clients that pay them a high amount of fees and appreciate you for doing that type of work for them, make sure to head on over to FiveStepsToAbundance.com. Get my free guide. Have an amazing day and I’ll see you in the next episode.