Work as we know it, is changing. Think about the gig economy – the on-demand, mobile workforce leveraged by the likes of Uber – which is attracting armies of ‘workers’. For many it’s a dream job: when you want to work, you simply turn on your smartphone, accept the jobs you want and ignore the ones you don’t.

Some bookkeepers have the luxury of choosing their work and the clients they want to work with, yet studies arising from the gig economy suggest that most earn very little. The ones that earn high incomes have found their niche and not wasted time on work and clients they don’t enjoy or are not good at.

In the professional services area – accounting, bookkeeping, financial planning – high-achieving firms work on a strategy of weeding out clients that do not fit the firm’s positioning (to make more profits!). Client metrics are an integral measure today, showing the impact bad clients have on your firm; where they are slowing down work flow and your processes.

How top firms work

As an example, one firm works on a ‘discovery’ session with prospective clients which starts with a “Quick Review”. For this service they charge $300. Arsing from this review are some points that are revealed to the client, presented as a “clean-up”. The prospective client has already paid the $300 and is therefore a good chance for the clean-up work.

The assignment may not be full service but it is an engagement and during this stage the firm can work with the client on a ‘needs analysis’ worksheet which identifies major problem points, finding where breakdown occurs (for example unpaid invoices or poor stock control). The business owner should be asked the question: “Who is responsible for this breakdown?” Answers may be revealing. During this analysis both parties can assess whether there is a great fit or not.

Partnering with an associate

Doing the books, maximising billable hours, may be a fine practice but without making the kind of investment that the above process entails, there is little chance of growing the firm or securing ‘ideal’ clients. For sure there are clients that should be kept even if they don’t fit the bill of being a high value potential.

“Keeping” a client or referring them to an associate firm should become part of the process of investing in the marketing for higher-value potentials. Working with another firm that is more suited to clients that do not match your strategic positioning is no bad thing as, with good communication, the result should be satisfied client-firm relationships.