In order to avoid burnout during the busiest time of year for accountants and CPAs, you’ll need to prepare your practice, your clients, and yourself ahead of time.
Prepare your practice
Talk to your staff about workload and workflow. Make a reasonable estimate of how many returns you will receive and how long they will take. Review with your staff the procedures and project management software or online platforms that are in place and brainstorm any changes that may be needed to maintain efficient workflow. Make any necessary changes to fine-tune the process in order to complete as many returns as possible, accurately and on time.
Upgrade your technology. Make sure you have the most recent updates on your accounting software and your cybersecurity services. Evaluate your methods of secure storage for sensitive documents. Streamline document submission for clients with an online, secure tax organizer where they can upload data and documents and view tax results.
Take an honest look at your staff to determine if you have enough people-hours to complete the expected workload with an additional buffer for growth in business, and hire more staff if necessary.
Prepare your clients
Reach out to clients early so you don’t get overwhelmed. Be sure to prioritize your best clients – those who are easy to work with, use the most services, and pay on time. Provide clients with a checklist of what has to be done and when. Offer services before the tax season to help clients pull together critical tax information that they can’t do easily themselves. This could bring in additional revenue, spread your work throughout the year, and take some stress off your client, who will be very appreciative and more committed to you.
Recognize your value and convey it to your clients through your confidence, your policies, and your prices. Set boundaries for your clients and stick to them. For instance, if your client submits a box of receipts rather than an organized list of expenses, charge a premium fee for the additional work. If a client who is difficult to work with threatens to take his or her business elsewhere, be polite and professional, but firm. Your time is money, and you know what you and your staff are worth. Avoid sending mixed signals by sticking to what you say. Of course, that means you have to be very careful about what you say. Think through your policies and prices, write them down, inform your clients, and then follow them.
Set a date for when you will stop accepting new clients (or information from old clients). At some point, you will have to begin to say no. It’s very hard to say no to work, but if you have written down your deadlines, informed your clients, reached out to them ahead of time to see if they need help, and clearly communicated your deadlines on your website and social media, there is no reason why someone else’s procrastination has to become your headache.
Commit to taking care of yourself: plenty of rest, healthy food, regular exercise, fresh air, and friendship. This isn’t just for tax season, but it’s particularly important during your busy time. Don’t make the mistake of saying “Oh, I’m too busy right now for that.” It is precisely during your busy time that you need those things the most. Plan them into your day, and treat them like a doctor’s appointment – i.e., don’t miss them!
Understand your limit when it comes to how many returns you can actually handle. If you and your staff already have a full load and you haven’t yet hit your deadline for taking new clients, change your deadline. Hopefully, you already have all your best clients. If you see yourself getting to your maximum before the deadline, contact your favorite clients who have not yet touched base and tell them you only have a few slots left. Then stick to it.
By planning ahead, you won’t dread tax season anymore. In fact, you will look forward to it as a time of increased income and business growth.