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Client "left" me. How to chase o/s fee?! & how to gain new clients?

bengysbengys New MemberRegistered Posts: 8
I lost my first client (client for 4 years) in December 2010 as he felt he could get his tax and accounts done cheaper elsewhere. Usual excuse it seems.

I accepted this, although, as I knew him personally before I carried out work for him I felt obliged to charge him a lower hourly fee than I have charged other clients. Despite this he still felt he would save money by going elsewhere.

As this is the first time I have dealt with a client who wishes to cease business with me (I have dealt with receiving clients from other firms obviously) I understand it is reasonable to charge one hours' fee for handing over the necessary documents to enable his new accountant to resume his accounting needs.

I did the above and sent an invoice to him for an hours work at the end of December, the same time as with the handover documents to the new accountant.

Suprise suprise it is 6 weeks since and he hasn't paid. I know it is only 1 hours' fee but I feel on principal that it has taken me time and money to carry out the handover work and he should pay.

I have seen other firms charge my clients a higher fee (? my hourly rate) than mine for this and they paid when moving to me.

The crux of it is how do I best chase for this in terms of stating.... interest will apply.... then.....?small claims companies etc? Polite reminders aren't working!


I also am struggling to find new clients. I have advertised in local papers and have a web page (www.bsaccountancy.com) but so far no response. Is it worth speaking to those companies that conact you saying they can increase your place on google search for more traffic? I type in google words my site has and it doesn't get any results in first 5 pages of results (maybe more than 5 but give up then!) I would appreciate any advice on where best to advertise and get noticed. I keep hearing word of mouth but I need to gain clients in order for them to recommend me! Vicious circle it seems.



Thanks

Ben

Comments

  • groundygroundy Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 495
    Sorry to disappoint but I do not agree with charging clients to forward professional clearance.

    I had an example of local firm charging subcontractors £100 to reply to my professional clearance, the charge for completing their accounts and tax return was only £150 and therefore our clients refused to pay and I simply wrote to HMRC to request copy returns.

    Obviously this is a very basic example and I have had other clients who have had to pay. I always encourage new clients to pay any outstanding fees for work done so that we can receive a reply to professional clearance, however I can not understand the need to charge for losing a client.

    Personally on the rare occasions that we lose a client, I deal with the professional clearance the day it is received as long as we have been paid. Life's too short to worry about clients who leave, I would suggest writing off what you have charged, however I am sure there are others who will disagree.
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    @ groundy

    Thanks for the reply. As this is my first client loss I did what I thought right at the time. I do think your opinion is right but the reason I charged is (rather badly) other firms charge and as you said £100, I can see why clients would object, as that is a lot of money for a handover. I only charged £25, which is my hourly rate (he was perviously being charged £20 by me as I knew him personally).

    I think considering others do charge then it was common practice to (as it was my first) but I do think that it is something that (hopefully) isn't a regular thing so I won't lose sleep over it, I just think in principal he had a legit business bill and he hasn't payed it.

    Any advice on gaining new clients? And my hourly rate? It's now £25 but that seems low to some and reasonable to other MIP members I have met.
  • MoneySavingBankMoneySavingBank Well-Known Registered Posts: 143
    Website is not good enough!!!

    Hi bengys,

    I don't want to discuss about the £25.00 invoice but I would like to give you a small feedback about your site.

    The site you have created is not in any good standard as long as you are talking about google, search engine and SEO. I am sorry to give you a bad feedback.

    Please do some research on this and you will find all that.

    Hope you get this right.

    Regards,
    MSB
  • BeccaLouJ9BeccaLouJ9 Experienced Mentor DevonFMAAT Posts: 1,022
    I disagree, I like your website. It sounds like you are a small and friendly accountancy firm. It looks as though you care and are in it for your clients as much as for yourself! Well done!

    Also I am bias towards any Westcountry native!

    x
  • PAMDILLPAMDILL Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 716
    BeccaLouJ9 wrote: »
    I disagree, I like your website. It sounds like you are a small and friendly accountancy firm. It looks as though you care and are in it for your clients as much as for yourself! Well done!

    Also I am bias towards any Westcountry native!

    x

    Website looks okay to me, except the bit about saving on VAT.

    I would read up a bit on 'buzzwords' I think they call it which push up your ratings on search engines but in my opinion it is certainly not a 'bad' website that needs a lot of changes.
  • MoneySavingBankMoneySavingBank Well-Known Registered Posts: 143
    @BeccaLouJ9

    You have every single right to disagree with me but as long as you are talking about SEARCH ENGINE, SEO, GOOGLE etc the site is not near to good.

    @BeccaLouJ9, i hope you are giving your comment based on your knowledge and experience. I have been in SEOs for about last 5 years. I hope other MIPs who have experience in SEO will come forward and express thier openion.

    Ta,

    MSB
  • MoneySavingBankMoneySavingBank Well-Known Registered Posts: 143
    PAMDILL wrote: »
    Website looks okay to me, except the bit about saving on VAT.

    I would read up a bit on 'buzzwords' I think they call it which push up your ratings on search engines but in my opinion it is certainly not a 'bad' website that needs a lot of changes.

    The website needs work in Title and Meta TAGS to get attention from Search Engine.
    Ta,
    MSB
  • BeccaLouJ9BeccaLouJ9 Experienced Mentor DevonFMAAT Posts: 1,022
    No I am not basing my comment on knowledge and experience, I thought I could base my opinion on.. well opinion? I guess I should leave you to talk shop with other MIP's!
  • MoneySavingBankMoneySavingBank Well-Known Registered Posts: 143
    BeccaLouJ9 wrote: »
    No I am not basing my comment on knowledge and experience, I thought I could base my opinion on.. well opinion? I guess I should leave you to talk shop with other MIP's!

    Surely, you have right to express your opinion.

    You gave your opinion based on the beauty

    but

    I gave my opinion based on BACKENDS of website.

    Anyway, nothing personal.

    Ta,

    MSB
  • anniemanniem Experienced Mentor Pewsey, WiltshireRegistered Posts: 1,326
    Ben, to help with your website:

    I've looked at your website and I want you to look at mine ..... it's one of THOSE games :lol:

    When you are on my website. At the top right hand side of your screen is a drop-down menu beside 'Page', go to the last item on the list 'View Source' and have a look at my lines 10 - 13.

    Then go and look at your lines 10 - 13; there are no references to anything about you, only gobble-de-gook.

    You need to go back and edit the settings in your website so that you can be 'found' by search engines.

    Also, google other people that are coming up at the top of the list in your area and have a look at their 'View Source' line items.

    Don't give up!

    Anna
    FMAAT - AAT Licensed Member in Practice - Pewsey, Wiltshire
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    Harsh but fair.

    I have no clue what search engine optimization is and how to "do" it. Is it easy or am I best off finding someone who knows what they are doing and get a better result?

    In your opinion then is the web the best medium to spend time/money in advertising terms? ie. not papers, thompson, yellow pages etc?
  • MonsoonMonsoon Font Of All Knowledge FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071
    Back to the OP, it's not right to charge for professional clearance. The ICAEW and ACCA strictly forbid it, I believe. I don't know what the AAT's policy is on it but I wouldn't do it.
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    Thanks Anniem, BeccaLouJ9 and Pamdill and Money Saving Bank for your opinions and for taking time to look at my site.

    I know that my site needs some work but I just wanted to get something up on it and kind of improve from there. But I guess there's no point in me doing it if no one can see it.
  • anniemanniem Experienced Mentor Pewsey, WiltshireRegistered Posts: 1,326
    Web is an excellent medium, as it gives potential clients an opportunity to quietly look at what you are offering without any time constraints. In this computer addicted age I don't think any business can run without a website.

    At the moment I'm a new MIP and am just running with a free website that I did myself. OK I know that it isn't the most exciting website ever created, but it is something I can maintain myself and doesn't cost me money I can't afford.

    It should be quite straightforward to set up your search optimization; it'll be somewhere in the website name/save part of the process, see if you can find a 'Settings' tab somewhere.

    Also, don't be afraid to use facebook and put your website address in the signature line on your emails. BE BRAVE and BOLD.

    I've had a couple of people approach me through facebook and, yes I know there will be people on here who don't 'do' facebook, but any advertising helps.
    FMAAT - AAT Licensed Member in Practice - Pewsey, Wiltshire
  • anniemanniem Experienced Mentor Pewsey, WiltshireRegistered Posts: 1,326
    Monsoon wrote: »
    Back to the OP, it's not right to charge for professional clearance. The ICAEW and ACCA strictly forbid it, I believe. I don't know what the AAT's policy is on it but I wouldn't do it.

    I feel that it would be wrong to charge for professional clearance - bit like a final kick in the teeth. Interesting that the ICAEW and ACCA have a ruling on it!
    FMAAT - AAT Licensed Member in Practice - Pewsey, Wiltshire
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    Monsoon wrote: »
    Back to the OP, it's not right to charge for professional clearance. The ICAEW and ACCA strictly forbid it, I believe. I don't know what the AAT's policy is on it but I wouldn't do it.


    Ok thanks. Two of my clients were charged (can't remember the £) for handing over to me by their previous accountants so that's why I thought it was standard procedure.

    I will write to my previous client and write off the fee.

    Help on how to gain clients is appreciated (not just web- unless its the best thing to be spending time on)

    I am in Clevedon North Somerset / Bristol with my girlfriend.

    But I moved from my parents in Lyme Regis Dorset a year ago, so having friends and family (and existing clients) there still means I go back frequently and I'm happy to have new clients in Bristol Somerset and Dorset/Devon areas.
  • burgburg Experienced Mentor GloucesterModerator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    If you do searching on here on advertising I have commented extensively on my findings.

    For me online is the way to go. My SEO knowledge is limited and I paid for my website build with some basic SEO. I have however about 5 years experience of running my own adwords campaign and although there may be better ways of doing things it works for me. Jan - Dec 2010 got me a return of around 10 times on my investment. January and February so far has seen around a 20 times return on investment.

    January and February new business is running at around 10 new clients of which I anticipate at around 7-8 will become new clients.

    My adwords campaign is localised and budgets and targets have been set with lots of tweaking over time as well as the actual adverts themselves. I feel my website coveys me and how I run my business. I don't follow the crowd in terms of layout and design and went with what I think works. It has a call to action on every page and this works. The main bulk of the site was designed by someone and it cost nothing in terms of the gains.

    Since May 2009 when I went full time new clients from this source have been around 85-95% and has taken me from 25 clients to around 125 or so.

    Spend some time doing some research about what you need to do and then trial it but be prepared to commit money to the cause to get the rewards. I have not had a month where the expense has not been paid for by new business.

    In terms of charge out rates that depends on what you are happy with. I don't charge by the hour for anything but in my first year when I was monitoring recovery I was aiming at £50 per hour upwards. I achieved this on most clients. I know don't even keep time sheets and base everything on fixed fees which are based on transaction numbers, quality of records and risk factors.

    Oh I also agree with not charging a fee no matter what it be. I often advise new clients to argue it should one be raised.

    Best of luck.
    Regards,

    Burg
  • RASRAS Well-Known Registered Posts: 124
    I agree that you should forget the £25, it is standard practise not to charge for handover time.

    As far as the website is concerned, I think some of the critcism is a bit harsh, what is SEO anyway? Personally, I would rethink your pricing policy, I think that fixed fees are becoming more and more the trend, clients want to know what they are going to be charged up front.

    Whilst I think it is important to have a good website, I think it is much more important if you want to run a successfull practice to provide a good quality service and build a client base through recommendations. Good luck, hope all goes well.
  • burgburg Experienced Mentor GloucesterModerator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    Hi RAL I agree with the website comments as personally I don't have much SEO experience. Pricing is definitely something to be considered and I agree fixed fees is the way.

    I do agree with the principles of recommendations but recommendations take time. If growth can be achieved with good clients with minimal cost these can then recommend you. It is however good to have clients from lots of sources.
    Regards,

    Burg
  • Jo ClarkJo Clark Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 2,525
    SEO is Search Engine Optimisation.
    ~ An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ~
    Benjamin Franklin
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    Thanks for the additional comments Berg and RAS.

    I have spent some time looking at your site Burg and Anniem and I have picked up some good advice from your comments also, so thank you. I think I need to work on the website first as it is clear that, other than clients' recommendations, websites are the best form of advertising.

    I am however a little suprised not to have any feedback from paper adverts. I know they are not going to get the response that a good, well designed and promoted web page would but I would have thought someone would have responded. I do know a friend also trying to establish themselves as a MIP in Bristol is having equally disappointing results from paper advertising, so I wouldn't have thought it is worth the investment as it's more money than a website!

    So now to work out how to edit my "view source" lines on Microsoft Office Live.. :)
  • deanshepherddeanshepherd Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 1,809
    With regard to chasing payments..

    http://www.thomashiggins.com/

    ..is all you will ever need.

    As for advertising, I think you may have more success if you called your practice 'No BS Accountancy'!
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    With regard to chasing payments..

    http://www.thomashiggins.com/

    ..is all you will ever need.

    As for advertising, I think you may have more success if you called your practice 'No BS Accountancy'!


    Thanks Deanshepherd. I've added the TH website in case I need it, they look good.

    ... As for the name :) made me laugh! Definitely worth considering (seriously I am!)
  • burgburg Experienced Mentor GloucesterModerator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    bengys wrote: »
    So now to work out how to edit my "view source" lines on Microsoft Office Live.. :)

    Can't help with this but a lot of sites these days are built in Wordpress. Certainly the news part of my website was and this was done by me with limited/no experience in around an hour.

    The rest of my site was built by a professional with html coding but I have made the adjustments myself using a html editor and by googling the codes for what I want to do.
    Regards,

    Burg
  • bengysbengys New Member Registered Posts: 8
    Thanks Burg.

    I have made some changes to my website and the search for "bs accountancy" now gets me to appear on the first page of google, albeit at the bottom. Just need it to improve on search terms for area such as "accountants in clevedon" etc.

    I still need to improve it but it is moving in the right way.
  • MoneySavingBankMoneySavingBank Well-Known Registered Posts: 143
    Keep it up
    bengys wrote: »
    Thanks Burg.

    I have made some changes to my website and the search for "bs accountancy" now gets me to appear on the first page of google, albeit at the bottom. Just need it to improve on search terms for area such as "accountants in clevedon" etc.

    I still need to improve it but it is moving in the right way.

    Keep it up.

    It sounds good.

    Work on inner pages as well.

    Regards,

    MSB
  • totleybladetotleyblade Feels At Home Registered Posts: 48
    Search engine Optimisation

    A couple of years ago I attended a brilliant, (and free), half day course on SEO arranged by Business Link. I'd reccomend looking at their events listings to see if they are still offering this course. There is also some helpful information and web links on the Business Link web site, there are some good tricks and it's worth a look if you want to improve your search engine ranking.
  • Jenni TJenni T Just Joined Registered Posts: 4
    bengys wrote: »

    So now to work out how to edit my "view source" lines on Microsoft Office Live.. :)


    Log in to edit your pages, go to page properties in the fifth editing box at the top of the page and you can either edit your page settings or SEO.

    Hope this helps.
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