Mistakes to Avoid When Pricing Your Accounting Advisory Services
- About Geraldine’s coaching process
- Overview of advisory and pricing
- Steps to make the shift to advisory
- Building a client base
- Establishing prices
- Payment processes
Connect with Geraldine
- Geraldine’s website: shethinksbigcoaching.com
- Geraldine’s podcast: smartstrategyforcpas.com/
- Geraldine’s “Pricing Tools” PDF: shethinksbigcoaching.com/jetpack
- How to Implement Value Pricing
Geraldine Carter provides business strategy and coaching to CPAs who are ready to get out of the accounting rut and create the business they want to own instead. By breaking free of the traditional business model of accounting, Geraldine enables owners of solo and boutique CPA firms to work less and make more, so they can get more out of life. Holding a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Cornell University, she is also the co-founder and CFO of a company where her cash flow forecasting models generated millions of dollars for climate change efforts.
In this week’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we sit down with Geraldine to talk about several mistakes to avoid when pricing your accounting advisory services.
About Geraldine’s Coaching Process
Geraldine coaches CPAs who are ready to get out of the accounting rut and create the business they want to own instead, but what does that look like practically? Geraldine describes her coaching as being a four-month process during which she helps the client focus on what they want to do with their firm. The client designs a system that is unique and will work well for them. After this, Geraldine helps them find a niche, shift away from hourly billing, and aggressively systematize and delegate workloads so they can focus on leading their company.
Overview of Advisory and Pricing
When we talk about advisory, though, what exactly do we mean? Geraldine notes that “there is not broad agreement on what advisory means, and it’s so different for different CPAs doing different things.”
On the simpler end of things, advisory can be serving business owners with real estate investments by meeting with them on a quarterly basis and taking care of their bookkeeping. On the more complex end would be serving private practice physicians and offering them CFO-level services. The pricing for these services is equally as broad, ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 per year.
This is why tacking down what advisory means is so difficult because services and the cost of those services vary so widely.
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Steps to make the shift to advisory
Despite the scope of what advisory encompasses, there are certain steps that you need to take to make the transition to advisory.
The first thing Geraldine recommends is to figure out what it is you want to design and build. What kind of practice do you want to have? What size of client base do you want? Do you want to work alone or do you want to hire other people?
Secondly, you need to identify your target market or ideal buyer. Who is it that you want to serve? Do you have a particular market or client type that you would like to work with?
Thirdly, you have to identify the problems your ideal buyer has and the outcome they are looking for. Is the problem something you can address, and can you provide your ideal buyer with the results they are looking for?
After you have discovered and addressed these things, then you can start designing and pricing your services.
Building a client base
So, how do you go about developing a client base? Most often people look at their current client base to start building their roster. Geraldine’s recommendation is to identify your top ten customers using an income-by-customer report. Once you’ve identified your top customers, ask yourself who these business owners are and what is it that they want or need.
If you don’t have an existing client base, Geraldine notes that while it is more challenging, “you can still do it because there is so much demand for financial, tax planning, guidance, advisory services for business owners.”
It is easier to get clients if you have a focused marketing message and if you understand a potential client’s pain points. However, the best way to build your client base is via good client relationships and word of mouth, especially within a niche market. “When you become an expert in this way in a narrow field, your phone starts to ring.”
The sticking point for most CPAs is pricing. When it comes to pricing, you have to consider the services you’re offering and your client’s revenue. Geraldine notes that she walks her clients through a cost-benefit analysis which helps inform their decision on pricing.
It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with offering a prospective client a trial period at a price you are comfortable with and then re-evaluating and adjusting the cost appropriately according to the value of your services. Oftentimes, the cost of your services will increase, up to ten times the initial amount in some cases.
“We see significant price hikes, but the value hike, if you will, is commensurate with the price hike.”
As we wrapped up our chat with Geraldine, we asked her about payment processes. When it comes to getting paid, there are a lot of options out there. You’ve got platforms like Venmo, Paypal, and Facebook; you also have QB invoices, wire transfers, snail-mail checks, etc. Geraldine notes that every business is different so each client is likely to use a different solution. To her, the two most important things are using what works best for you and ensuring you get paid.
We covered a ton of great information in the podcast, so if you’re after more detailed information, be sure to check out the full episode! If you’re interested in getting into advisory and want to learn more about pricing, Geraldine has some great resources for you over on her website. Check out her podcast for some in-depth information on pricing and other great topics. She also has created a useful PDF that covers the four main pricing tools that her clients are using.