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Transform your practice and turbo charge your fee base

ChangeGPS // Practice Management, Engagement & Pricing, Marketing

All too often, accountants are happy to have a quick chat with their clients, thus completely disrupting their day, without even charging for these interactions. The result is a client base that doesn’t properly value your services, as well as heightened risk for the business and an inefficient practice. The way to deal with this is to train your clients about how you provide your services. It’s also critical to clearly communicate the price of advice before you provide it. Finally, ensure everyone in the business understands the advice process and how to deliver it.


Every time we pick up the phone to our solicitor we expect to be charged. Every time we see our doctor we know there’s a fee involved. But all too often as accountants, we let our clients think they can call us up any time they like, seek our advice and not have to pay for it. We need to turn this around.

There needs to be a big reset in the way accountants train their clients’ behaviours and it all needs to start with client meetings. The number one service accountants offer is a listening ear and the ability to be a sounding board. But we need to acknowledge this is part of the advice process and charge accordingly.

Avoiding the self-limiting belief ‘quick chats’ should be free

You might not recognise the huge amount of value clients receive during a conversation with you. But the insights you proffer during these exchanges come from years of study, ongoing professional development and experience.

We need to educate clients about how we do business, take control and be proactive about explaining how the relationship works. The ‘Value, Plan, Price’ methodology helps you articulate to clients how you will help them. We need say to clients, ‘this is the plan.’ But it’s so important to develop resilience around this, because clients will always try to find a way to use your services for free.

Stop the scope creep trap

There are three types of client conversations that masquerade as missed billing opportunities: quick catch up chats, quick tax chats and unscheduled meetings.

It’s easy to pick up the phone when the client rings, based on the misapprehension it won’t take long to deal with the client’s issue. In fact, if you operate like this, you’re usually providing very complex advice in a very short space of time. More importantly, these are not quick chats because they distract you from the work on which you have been focused. Agreeing to take these calls, and not charge for them, devalues your work in the clients’ eyes and reduces practice efficiencies.

Quick general calls aside, quick tax chats are your biggest risk to profits. They provide peace of mind, which clients value. But they make it difficult to charge for providing this advice more formally and in writing in the future. Unscheduled meetings happen when a client calls and wants an urgent chat and asks for time in your diary on the same day. You might agree to such a meeting because there is space in your diary. But these disruptions to your day mean at the end of it, you haven’t done what you set out to achieve.

Aside from being a missed billing opportunity, unscheduled calls during which you provide advice are also a risk and are potentially perilous for you and your business. Clients often misunderstand what’s said and take action on that basis, leading to a negative outcome. So providing verbal rather than written advice risks legal action and a subsequent professional indemnity claim.

Great expectations: make the way you work crystal clear

There are lots of ways to move away from operating on what is essentially a short-term basis and take charge of your practice. The first step in controlling quick chats is to be aware they are happening. Then you can put in place processes to deal with them. If you happen to be talking to a client and they ask for your advice, don’t be afraid to pause the conversation and let the client know the topic is outside the scope of the call, but you can make another time to discuss the matter the client wants to raise.

It’s important to understand your clients don't appreciate what you do for them unless you spell it out for them. When you win a new client, let them know how you operate and charge for your services. Make it very clear you only provide written advice and you never give advice verbally. Let clients know advice needs to be in writing under the terms of the business’s insurance policy. When you bring on a new client or start a new engagement, let the client know the scope of the written advice you will be providing, the price of the advice and ensure they provide consent for you to start the work outlined in the written quote. It’s important to train your team to operate this way as well so everyone knows the process and follows it.

The result for your business will be higher profits, greater professionalism and reduced stress. It might take some time to flex your new practice management muscle. But once you’re used to operating this way, it will become second nature and, more importantly, add to your own and your colleagues’ work life balance and satisfaction.


To get your practice on the right track, book in a free consultation.


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