The definitive guide to getting 800 clients for your tax practice

You can quickly grow to 800 clients with your small tax practice, no problem. At $350 average per tax return, your gross will be $280,000. I’m not kidding, and here’s how to do it.

Complete guide to starting and managing a tax practice

Finding and keeping 800 clients for your tax practice

The first step to grossing $280,000 with your new tax practice is finding and retaining 800 new clients, of course.

Clients can be found through advertising (especially online), referrals, blogging, and local networking.

Finding them is only part of the equation – you must serve them well to keep them.

We’ll need to have a talk about that.

Let’s dig right in with how to do this.

Building clients online through free business listings

800 clients for your tax practice

Setting up your business online might seem intimidating at first – but it’s not, really.

First off, take full advantage of any free clicks you can generate – through listings in Yelp and Google Business, for example.

These are your

absolute

highest

priority

items to go after when trying to build clients.

Sorry to be so dramatic with the weird spacing, but I’m serious.

Update these listing with current contact information, hours of operation, catchy mission statements, and lots of current pictures.

You will get a crap-ton of free leads this way, and many of them will turn out to be great clients. They will leave reviews which will attract even more business.

AND you will also get a “spot on the map”, which is awesome.

And this will be great for mobile searches – which is like more than 60% of searches in 2020.

I want you to like me, but if you are not doing this, you are doing it wrong.

Here is the link to “Google My Business”.

And don’t forget to hit up “Yelp for Business Owners”.

These links are going to open up in a new tab, so you can read the rest of this guide when you’re done. It may be a good idea to bookmark this page.

Let your new client growth blow up with pay-per-click advertising

My favorite (and seemingly most cost-effective way) of advertising for new clients is with Google Ads (and Bing Ads).

Paying to run ads on “Yelp” can be a very effective means of building your clients, but it may be a bit expensive for a brand new tax practice looking to control costs. I’ll leave that up to you and your budget.

I have to admit, however, that advertising on Yelp has brought me a LOT of new clients. Plus, the clients that came through Yelp, being the Yelpers that they are, left me reviews. This increased my free client leads from Yelp. SO I really can’t complain.

If you are just starting out, I would avoid paying sites like Facebook for tax preparation advertising. In my experience, I didn’t feel like I received so many clients form them as compared to what I paid.

Google ads and other pay per click advertising setups can be a bit confusing to set up – but there are lots of great tutorials on the web. I would imagine that you could have a nice ad campaign set up for your tax practice in a matter of 4 hours or so. Not a bad time cost for the results you will see from it.

Here’s one – but if you do a Google search for beginners guide to Google Ads, and hit the “video” results, you will get multiple options to check out.

Ads also draw traffic to your website, which results in more shares and more “backlinks”. This will result in higher organic (non-paid) leads in future years.

Building clients through referrals

Obviously, you want to build clients by asking for referrals.

It doesn’t take money or other incentives to get referrals, either.

Client will refer you to their friends and family if:

  1. You are friendly
  2. You are reasonably responsive
  3. You do an average or better job at taking care of them and providing at least average value in your product
  4. You ask them

That’s all it takes. You don’t have to offer them $50 for each referral. You just need to ask them to help you. They’ll do it – you’ll see.

I wrote a guide on how to get referrals from your current clients here.

If you have no clients to ask for referrals to begin with, you can hit up some friends and family – but you must do this TASTEFULLY.

“Hi Jim, I just wanted to let you know that I’m starting a tax preparation practice. If you need help with your taxes, please let me know – and if you know anyone that needs help, please refer them to me. Thanks!”

I suggest that you email this to everyone you know and post it on Facebook, etc (take out the “Jim” part).

Do this just once! Don’t keep bugging them. They know.

Thank them and don’t say another word about it.

You don’t want to be that person that tries to sell things to all of their family and friends non-stop and every-time they see you. This will backfire and you will alienate the trust of potential new clients

All that tax preparers have to do for referrals is ask for them nicely, and then shut the heck up about it.

Warning: when starting a tax practice, preparers set their prices WAY too low.

This is because we are anxious to get clients quickly, and many of our primary clients are friends and family. I understand. But it is a MASSIVE error that will haunt you for years.

I made this mistake even though I was warned not to do this.

Everyone does.

Like me, no one listens.

It is imperative that you price yourself with normal rates right from the start. If you don’t, you will have a lot of trouble raising your rates later and you will not earn a fair or comparable wage for the time you put in.

Just wait until your overhead expands, OMG. My expenses this year were $190,000 (I have 800 tax clients and 50 “business” clients needing payroll and bookkeeping, etc).

Charge full price.

You are worth it.

There are not enough responsive, friendly, and professional tax preparers out there. All you have to do is be those 3 things and you will have success beyond your wildest dreams. Don’t be anxious, be patient.

building a tax practice

As far as free services go, give 3 family members and 3 of your best friend’s free services and that’s it. No satellite freebies either.

If someone complains, tell them politely, “I’m sorry, but with my expenses and my time costs, I just can’t do it for less than that. Thanks for understanding.”

Will they walk?

Doubt it.

Oh, and if no one walks, you’re too cheap and you will end up with clients that stress you out until the cows come home. Cheapo clients suck. Clients that say, OK Tod, I understand and you’re worth it – those are good clients. That’s like 80% of them.

Hold out for those, believe me.

Charging half price is like saying to your kids, “I’m going to skip an hour with you while I do something for free for Mr Edwards for no reason instead”.

(If you have had a similar experience with prices, please leave a comment and help me out here thanks).

Hit the street with some grass-roots marketing on foot

This is MUCH easier than it sounds, I promise.

Food trucks, flea market vendors, karate dojos – you would be surprised at how many small business owners will be receptive to your approaching them. And it’s mostly unlikely that you will get back-flipped by the karate instructor.

Grab a stack of business cards, and go from place to place telling people politely:

“Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that I’m a new tax preparer in the area. If you have any questions about your taxes, please feel free to give me a call.”

Offer your card, and go on to the next.

VERY few people will be mad or taken aback by this (hopefully not the karate instructor).

In fact, many will start asking you questions about their taxes that have been bugging them or even keeping them awake at night.

You will get answers like, “well, actually I skipped filing last year because I didn’t know how to categorize my expenses and now I’m so far behind I’m scared to even think about it.”

You job is to tell them, “OK, it happens, don’t stress, it’s not too difficult to get caught up, and if you can’t pay, you can make a payment plan”. Give me your email and we can get started with the first steps”. It’s easy”.

That’s about all I would say. Make yourself scarce. You don’t want to seem like you are desperate and have lots of free time to provide advice on the spot. Thank them, tell them not to stress, and that you will be in touch.

How your tax practice can retain new clients

Be sure to treat your clients with care and SERVE them well. After all, it’s a service.

Respond to emails and voice mails in one day.

Note that I’m not suggesting that you answer questions or give tax advice by email. I don’t. But answer them even if it’s to ask them to give you a call about the subject.

Just be responsive. That’s what people want form a service.

Don’t be allergic to work.

Try to keep your turn around time to a reasonable level. Give yourself 1-2 weeks, or 2-3 weeks during tax time – but that’s it. Move through your queue with a methodical focus and don’t be lazy.

Yes, you will get rich, but I’m not promising that you won’t work hard.

So work hard.

I do.

Finish up those items on your queue list.

Always be polite and keep your cool.

My trick, when someone gets up in my grill, is to try to understand how they feel.

Then I say “I bet you feel like – [insert feeling].”

I picture myself as a “saint” who is “all understanding” and my job is to relive their suffering. I’m the freaking Buddha now.

The funny part is I only know to do this when someone is downright pissing me off and I feel like firing them. “Go somewhere else then! Good riddance!” When I feel like that – this is my signal to do the opposite.

It’s like a game, and I feel so good about it after. It’s win/win.

Never charge for work you didn’t do.

“Dude” (or Dudette”), asks one of your clients, “how much would it cost to have one of your team members to go through my bank statements for the year and make me a P&L?”

Estimating 12 hours of work, you tell the client $1800.

Then you do the work and it only takes 6 hours.

CHARGE THEM $900!

First of all, people “know” when they are slighted. They just do.

When you come clean and tell them it didn’t take as long as you thought…guess what – client for life! Not only that, but they will refer EVERYONE they talk to about taxes. “My accountant is the absolute best”, they will insist in every tax conversation.

When you do tell the client that the price will be half of what you quoted, don’t brag about it, just say, “It wasn’t as much work as I thought so it didn’t feel appropriate to charge you what was quoted. If you know anyone that needs their taxes done, please refer them to me”.

Simple.

If you need to raise your prices, do it in advance.

I send out letters three months in advance.  Do not go from $350 to $450 on a tax return without warning them. That’s bad business and you will lose clients and referrals.

Apologize, when appropriate

We are all human and we all make lots of mistakes.

When you make one, own up to it.

“Oh, shoot Jane, I’m sorry, I forgot to include that 1099R you emailed me. Totally my fault.  I will amend your tax return right away and make sure I have a system to manage emailed docs better in the future.”

See that, no excuses. No drama. Fixed.

We all constantly make mistakes and therefore as the owner of a tax practice, you should be prepared to say your sorry as often as if you were Canadian.

tax practice sorry

Don’t do half-assed apologies where you blame the person to whom you are apologizing, either. “Sorry I didn’t have time to finish but you kept talking so much – and that hat is so ugly. Did you get a free bowl of soup with it?”

Don’t be afraid to say no

“Maybe” is weak, and a “yes when you really mean no” totally sucks.

No is strong. It allows people to move on and find a real solution.

When you say yes and don’t mean it, you will regret it. Just always be very polite and say no with dignity.

“Hi Tom, I was wondering if you could come and wash my car as part of the tax preparation services”

“Gee Sarah, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the bandwidth right now because of commitments to other clients. Car washing is just not a service I’m able to provide. I hope you understand.”

Be honest about your reasons and always be gentle and nice about it.

But no is powerful. Use it. Try it now.

“No”

Feels good right?

Also, remember that when you say yes to anything, you are saying no to something else. Like your family or spouse. It’s like the “charging half price” example.

Complete guide to starting and managing a tax practice

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