By Cathy Badry, BComm

I know that if I want to succeed in my bookkeeping business or any business for that matter, I need to attract the right type of client to me.  But how can I do that?  What do I need to do to ensure only the best clients are knocking on my door?

Defining my business and building my brand should help me find a good client.  If I don’t know what my business is about, then how do I let others know about it, and how will it help them?  I need to define what services I am going to provide how I am going to deliver them and how I will be compensated for providing those services.  If I know these pieces and I am consistent in how I offer them, then I can be purposeful in the image I am portraying.  And that will attract the type of clients I want to work with through my business.  I know some people would be calling it niching – but really, I think it is defining the way I want to do business.

Now that I know the services I provide to clients and how I am going to deliver them, how do I decide who I want to work with every day?  I get to have a say in who I work with, don’t I? Do I have to take every client that knocks on my door?  What is all this talk about an ideal client profile?

I know I want to enjoy going to work every day, and since my profession is a service business, I think one crucial characteristic of my ideal client is that they are someone I enjoy being around.  I don’t want to cringe every time I see their number on my phone or an email in my inbox.  Does it matter to me if my client is male or female?  What about age?  Do my services help a specific type of person, or does that matter?  These questions might come back to why I started my business or how I am going to deliver my services.  Specific age groups or genders may find it challenging to use the tools I have selected to use in my business.  Yes, my ideal client needs to be somebody that I want to work with, but I don’t think sex or age matters as long as they are willing to adapt to my service delivery method.

However, does it matter where they are located?  Is it a geography question, such as in my office or theirs?  Or is it a bigger question about where in the world they are located, or I want to be located?  I guess that will depend on the type of tools I decided to use when I was defining my business model and my ideal client’s adaptability to those tools.  If my client isn’t already using or willing to use the tools that I want to use in my practice, I don’t think they will be my ideal client.  Physical location isn’t as important to me as long as my client will work virtually using my tool kit.

I wonder if the industry they are in might impact my decision about being my ideal client.  If a client has unique needs because of the industry that they work in, do I have the skills needed or do I have peers to call upon if I get stuck?  Can I learn those skills, or more importantly, do I want to learn those skills?  I could also consider hiring for a specific industry, but that brings up a whole other set of issues.  Do I want to have staff, and what do I do if that staff member leaves?  It might be better to pare down the number of industries that I am willing to become an expert in, instead of catering to every type of business.

The size of the business might also be a factor to consider, as well as their industry.  If they are a huge client, do I have the capacity to take them on?  Here we go again with the big staff question!  Do I want to grow my staff, or am I OK, with the current size of my practice?  I guess another choice would be to let a client go so I could take on this new client.  I need to make sure I can or want to take on new large clients before I even meet with them.

But what about the other side of that coin?  The smaller business.  If they are too small, this might affect their willingness or ability to pay my fees.  A new startup would be inspiring to work with, but they have lots of expenses and not a lot of cash.  What about the services that I provide beyond just doing bookkeeping?  Do I want to only look at clients who are more likely to grow into the range of services that I provide, or am I OK staying with the small Mom & Pop shop businesses?  One thing I know for sure, companies with poor cash flow might not be my ideal client because they don’t fit the compensation policies in my business.

One last thing I need to remember to look at is why is this business looking for someone to help them with their financials?  The answer to this question will tell me a lot about this business owner.  If this potential client is only looking to get their books done to file their income taxes, then they aren’t interested in growing their business.  They won’t see the value in having timely financial reporting and keeping their books up to date.  I don’t think I am interested in that kind of client.  My clients need to see value in hiring a well-qualified professional to help them grow their business.

I need to remember that potential clients don’t care about me; they care about how I can solve their problems and take away their frustrations.  When I narrow my focus to a specific group of clients, and I speak to their particular needs by understanding their most significant problems, I am attacking the right client for me.  They will see value in the services I provide, and working together will be so much easier.  We will become partners in their business’s success.  I guess I will be making a list and checking it twice, before I take on any new clients, to make sure they are the right client for me!