Starting a tax prep business may feel like total job security. What’s the one thing that everyone hates doing but you kind of secretly love? Taxes. What’s the one thing that literally everyone has to get done once per year? Taxes. What’s the one hypersensitive financial subject that often makes people wary of branching out for help? Yeah, taxes.
It will take some serious effort to get clients in your door at first. And then, you have to keep them. Sounds easy enough – however, there are a few things to keep in mind. Plan your outreach with intention, and cultivate success one baby step at a time.
Why should someone walk through your doors for tax assistance now, instead of wherever they’ve been going before? What, exactly, makes you so much better? Better rates? More personalization? Attention to detail? Do you specialize in certain areas? Have notable training, accolades, or past clientele? Are you the super-hip, chill, young firm on the block? Or the old-fashioned, high-brow, traditional one? Do you focus on businesses or individuals? Entrepreneurs? Families? Child actors? Whatever your niche is, make it known. If you don’t have a niche, get one. You can broaden it as your clientele grows with you, but it’s usually easier to have a narrowly-defined demographic to target at first. Make them feel heard, and they will come flocking.
Look the Part
It should go without saying, but we’ll mention it nonetheless. There are certain hoops you need to jump through before officially opening your doors. Minimally, you need to pay $50 to register as a preparer with the IRS and keep your ID number on hand (your PTIN). You should also have your e-filing ID from the IRS (your EFIN), which is free to obtain. Externally, spend some time dressing up your workspace, especially if you’re going to be meeting with clients in-person there. You should come across as organized and professional as possible in order to garner early confidence and trust from your clients.
Act the Part
Obviously the most important factor of your business’s success is how well you can provide your advertised services, and to what level of client satisfaction. Continued education is the name of the game when it comes to accounting, and it’s important that you seek out schooling opportunities to help you stay on top of all the current tax requirements. Consider taking accounting courses from online schools like Devry University to brush up on the basics and learn new key tools.
Once you are fully informed and prepared to offer quality advice, you need the software to back you up. Nowadays, there’s almost no getting around the use of tax software. The ease and efficiency of tax prep software for accountants, like ProConnect from Intuit, is impossible to match with manual labor.
Software tools like this will save you precious time and money, and therefore help you serve your clients well. It can generate tips and suggestions, pinpoint missing or erroneous data, keep data seamless across forms by using smart import technology, and a thousand other productivity miracles. Plus, it’s easy to learn and easier to use. You’ll literally feel like a tax rockstar.
Keep Your Doors Open
Even though the tax season is only a few months long, you can easily stay in operation year-round. Advertise to your tax prep clients that you’d be happy to provide regular services. You can do payroll and bookkeeping for your business owner clients. You can become licensed to offer insurance advice, create retirement plans, et cetera. Or, you can take your tax knowledge and keep it in your back pocket as a key asset while working in another field, such as banking or real estate.
Opening your own tax preparation business can be wonderfully lucrative (though if you’re reading this, you already know). As long as you can make it through the first couple of tax seasons without too many hiccups, you’ll be fine. The trick is to hit the ground running with good branding and outreach, solid qualifications, great software, and a plan for some year-round side hustles. Find your niche, serve them well, extend annual services, rinse and repeat.
Best of luck in your new tax endeavors! You’ve got this.