Updated: Nov 1
Bookkeeping has become somewhat of a commoditized industry, for better or worse. Finding a way to differentiate usually means either getting so efficient that you're at an AI level of speed, or providing so much value that you become a partner to your clients. Keep reading to learn how to differentiate your bookkeeping services while working less and charging more.
Outside of relationship management, those are the big two that you can do to grow your business and/or your profit.
Let's tackle both!
How to differentiate your bookkeeping services
Again, efficiency and value are going to be the big two themes of this article, and by the end of it, you'll be offering such a unique service that you can break free from the commoditized bookkeeping industry, work less, and charge more.
How to incorporate automation and increase efficiency
There are plenty of tools out there that will auto-classify transactions into the right accounts within Quickbooks, Xero, etc.
This is a big one that has been out there for a while. The more proficient your tools are here, the more efficient part of your work can be. We won't spend much more time on this piece, since it's well-known.
However, that's just part of your work.
Once everything is categorized correctly, most bookkeepers send out a monthly report or collection of statements.
That's where some bookkeepers lose a lot of efficiency. If everyone wants the same thing, you still have to make the reports, put them in a secure folder, etc.
If everyone wants different reports, then each one becomes custom and you can't do it on autopilot - it's very manual.
If you want to highlight specific things, it's no longer just getting the reports from Quickbooks, it's going in and highlighting the important pieces and trying to summarize things in Excel.
And after all that, do we know if the client even looks at it??
They might not because it's still a financial-looking report for them that isn't their bread and butter. It's less of a tool to run their business and more of a check to make sure everything is compliant.
Make the reports much more captivating and make it so the reports are vital to running their business! Once you get there, you'll significantly increase retention and even get some new clients because of it.
How do we do that? Read on...
So how do we automate the monthly reporting?
Even if your clients want different report outs, they hopefully and most likely still want the same data (P&L, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow, etc.).
There are two parts to the automation process - gathering the data and building the report.
Gathering the data is likely similar for everyone and that's one area where we can maximize some efficiency. We're still going to automate the second part as well, by the way.
Automated data for your clients
There are a few options here, but I'll highlight two.
One is to use Coupler. You can select the specific reports you want to pull and have them all sent to one master database!
Use our referral code linked above for a discount!
That database can be in Sheets, Excel, or Google BigQuery. Normally Sheets is the easiest for just a few clients as it is probably the most familiar and definitely easiest to connect to (especially later on in the journey).
Once you get your data flowing properly (they make it pretty easy to do so), then you've got your data centralized and that is a huge first step!
We go through this a bit in our walk-through video as well!
The other option I'll mention is to do what we've done and hire a team to do all of this database work for you! We offer this out as part of a package where we automate the data for you, create custom dashboards, and handle all the maintenance and changes.
That one is more expensive but can give you (almost) unlimited flexibility in the hands of experts that really can boost your efficiency and add significant value (more in the next section).
Creating automated reports for your bookkeeping clients
Once the data is automated, then things get fun! In our, "data nerd" minds at least…
So far we've just gotten the data into a standardized format (great) and in a central location (also great). Now we need to make the monthly reports!
This is where you might have some variability in what clients want, but as long as the backend data is standardized and coming from one place, you can always link to it and have the reports that you show clients automatically update when new data is input!
You know what the reports should be, so using some simple pivot tables in Sheets and basic graphs, you can have a compelling, detailed report that is totally automated! Note - in Sheets, the pivot tables, formulas, and graphs will automatically change when new data is detected!
You may have to get a little fancy with the dates that you are displaying, but using a formula like TODAY() and linking everything to that will give you the flexibility to always have the most recent info showing up!
You can also have some conditional formatting to show red/yellow/green type indicators of certain pieces of the report that are automatically input. Simple things like that go a long way!
We’ve got a video that touches on some of this linked below!
How to add more value to your clients through your bookkeeping service
The value of keeping the books in order is crucial. Talk to any tax person when they’re trying to do your taxes - the second you say “I have a bookkeeper that keeps everything in line”, they take a huge deep breath.
They know the same thing that’s true in my business - clean books means clean reporting which means happy client which means happy business. It all starts with having clean books!
How can you do MORE though? As I started the article with, bookkeeping has become somewhat commoditized so even though it’s an incredibly valuable service, sometimes people will just go with the lowest price.
Taking yourself out of a commoditized market but still providing a similar service is the key! And it’s very doable.
We’ve talked about how to get more efficient and create automated monthly reports, but those automated reports might still be “too financial” for a lot of clients. They may just focus on whether or not the business is growing and there is money in the bank.
They can’t always make a better strategic decision from an automated P&L. They need to see trends, breakouts of revenue, month over month growth, cash changes, etc. The three statements (and whatever else they need in Quickbooks) need to transition to be a business tool, not just an accounting checkbox.
That’s where a dashboard comes in.
If you’re able to make a dashboard of your clients’ financial results, you’ll be differentiating your services out of a commoditized market.
We recommend using Google Looker Studio to do this. The screenshot above is done completely in Google Looker Studio so you can see that the three statements can take on an entirely new life once put into a visual format. Plus Google Looker Studio is completely free! It also updates automatically as well! You can see the theme here…
If you’re already automating your data into Google Sheets, then linking up to Google Looker Studio is pretty easy! You will need some practice in making these dashboards in any business intelligence software and there are courses out there (like ours here) that can help you on that journey!
You can also put all of your similar clients into one dashboard too - controlled by an email login so they only see what they should see (that’s part of what we’ve done in our QuickBooks dashboard offering).
How can you add value to your bookkeeping services? Add a visually compelling dashboard and your clients will thank you for the bookkeeping work, and rely on you for the dashboard.
How to be able to provide concierge-level service (if you want to)
Like we talked about in the beginning, relationships matter.
They can be a significant differentiator in the bookkeeping world. So how can you do that even better?
At this point in the article, I’m sure you see where this is going…
If you’re able to automate the transaction level work as much as possible, then automate the monthly report, and then automate the dashboard you’re presenting to your clients, you’ve just created an impressive service offering that also saves you time!
More value for the client, less work for you. Win Win. That also means you can focus on the relationship you have with your client too!
You’ll simply have more time to do so! And if you want that concierge-level service, you can not only provide it, but you can charge more for it.
There’s a lot of value that automation can provide, but it still can’t have that human-to-human interaction with clients - that’s where you can really excel and now you’ve got the offering to retain them and the time to truly partner with them.
How to work less and charge more for your bookkeeping services
In summary, you can do exactly what this title suggests.
To get more efficient, we’ve talked about:
Transaction level automation
Monthly report data gathering automation
Monthly report out automation
To add more value, we’ve talked about:
Huge value add from a dashboard
Automating the results
To provide concierge-level service, we’ve talked about:
Leaning into the relationship piece
Increasing your time available to do so
All in all, if you do all of these steps, you’ll not just be able to work less and charge more, but you’ll be able to completely differentiate yourself out of the commoditized world and play by your own rules.
We’re happy to help where you need us!
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