You’ve completed all the steps needed to secure your next accounting client. But once you do this, you need to make sure you complete a few more steps to get them ready. The onboarding stage for accounting clients can be more overwhelming than in other industries.
After all, you need to gather documents, ask for access to records, and keep your client informed. With all of this going on, it’s easy to miss a step. Luckily, we created an easy-to-follow
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Before you jump head-first into working with your client, it’s important to get all the basics out of the way. This way, you’ll both be on the same page, creating a smooth start to your working relationship.
You need a signed contract before beginning any work. A contract ensures you both know what to expect and can protect you legally and financially.
This contract should include important details about your arrangement, including services, payment information, and other necessary legal sections. Once the client signs it, keep it in your client file so you can reference it if needed.
Use a welcome email to set the stage for your client. The email itself doesn’t have to be overly fancy. But your welcome email should include expectations from their side, the next steps, and an initial timeline. This allows you to both get on the same page and gives you an opportunity to gather some additional information.
As an accountant, you need some basic information. Without it, there would not be a lot you could do. Some information you need includes the business formation documents or Articles of Incorporation. You’ll also want an ownership schedule, cap table, and the operating agreement, as applicable. Key information such as the company’s address and EIN is easy to overlook, yet crucial.
Access to Records
The welcome email is also a great way to request information and documentation you’ll need in the next step. Send along a questionnaire or checklist with any information you need right off the bat.
Namely, you will need access to a few key types of records. If you want to make access to these records easier, you may consider using a password-keeper app. Just make sure to take steps to keep your password-keeper app safe to prevent the passwords within from being compromised.
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Previous Accounting Systems
Seeing previous accounting records will help you get an accurate idea of the current condition of the client’s records. While you may have discussed this in a previous meeting, looking through them is crucial to understanding where the client currently stands.
Clients may be using any number of accounting systems at the moment. Some may still use paper and pen, as 25% of small businesses do. This necessitates a switch to an accounting software program like Quickbooks. However, if they are already set up on a program, it’s much easier to gain access by creating a new file or taking over their subscription.
You will also need to ask the client for access to their accounts. This includes their bank accounts, credit cards, and loan accounts. You’ll also want to ask for the most recent account reconciliations. This will help you better understand the current financial health of the business.
Even more helpful is to request information about how the client uses each account. For example, a business owner may receive all income in their banking account but use a credit card with their suppliers.
Understanding how the client previously handled inventory will help you develop a plan for proceeding. But to do this, you’ll need to ask for access to the client’s inventory records. This might include quite several other records that are all intertwined. This includes:
- Handline expenses
- Accrued revenues
- Supplier payments
- Order fulfillment ledgers
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You need to be able to see previous invoice records to verify past records. This will also help you determine which ones need to be cleared in a future accounting cycle. The payment and receivable processes should have proof of all invoices.
Statements and Taxes
Access to taxation and general financial statements is key to accurately handling upcoming years. At this stage, you may also want to check and see if there are any ways you can improve the client’s tax planning for the coming year.
Financial reports are key tools for you as the client’s accountant. They can help you see the business’s current status and how they have been improving (or not). Make sure to ask for income and cash flow statements, balance sheets, and reporting at the portfolio level.
Past tax documentation will help you better gauge the company’s accounting health. Make sure to request at least the prior year’s tax return. However, two or more years is preferable as it gives you additional information. It will also allow you to see what changes you can suggest in the future.
Check If Your Client Qualifies For Tax Credits/Incentives
It’s not uncommon for businesses to miss out on tax incentives. For example, many businesses don’t even know they qualify for the R&D tax credit without speaking to a professional about it.
Onboarding is a good time to see if the client qualifies for any they have missed out on. This can affect their financial planning and will also make you look proactive and client-focused. You can even use software that makes it much easier to check for eligibility and calculate the incentive the client can claim.
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Open and clear communication is key to a smooth business relationship. Once you have the documents you need to start work, make sure to continue to check in with your client. Scheduling regular meetings with them will help keep everyone on the same page. We recommend scheduling meetings about once a month. Some clients may not need updates as frequently as this, but others may need to schedule meetings more frequently. Make sure to talk to the client to see what they are comfortable with.
In addition, stay in touch over email. Emails remain the most popular way for companies to keep in touch with clients and are a way to stay connected between meetings.
Follow Our Bookkeeping Checklist For New Clients
If you’ve recently acquired a new accounting client, you want to get off on the right foot. You can do this by gathering the information and access to documents and keeping your client in the loop so you can do your job well.
After ticking off these items, you’ll be more ready to serve your client well.