How Value Billing is Changing How Accountants Work With Clients

Forget everything I’ve ever said about billing packages. That’s right – I said it.

For years, I’ve had standard bookkeeping packages and offered them to clients. But, in reality, I just couldn’t get them to work. I even tried giving them names: (Bronze, Silver or Gold) and assigning set services in each level. It didn’t really make a difference. But MAN, I really did try to make these a part of my practice, especially after I hired people to work with me.

When I got to the point of quoting services, I would present the packages. One of two things would happen. First, the client would say: “Well, those are nice, but what I really need is …” and then describe exactly the services they were looking to have us provide. This was good! It would leave me an opening to give them a price for what they were asking. Or second, the client would say: “Thanks, but no thanks; I’ve decided to see other options.” This was not good. It meant the client moved on and I’d missed out.

If the client hadn’t already completely written us off, when pressed, they could never quite pinpoint why they decided to go another route. After several discussions, I eventually figured out something that I’ve always known, but in these situations, was missing it completely. First, the client didn’t know what they needed, and didn’t know what they didn’t know. Second, they wanted choices, and felt these packages didn’t offer that.

Early on in 2014, I took a different approach with prospective clients. Rather than offering packages that included set services, I started offering a more a la carte system. The result? Out of all the prospects that approached Kildal Services LLC in the first quarter, we’ve closed all but two. For the record, for those two, we never got to the point where we could even quote services because the clients were non-responsive after the initial contact.

What this evolved into was a system that we call “Base Plus” billing. Once we’ve done our initial client interview, data review and needs analysis, we offer different levels of service, starting at the base:

  • Basic services that include account reconciliation, after the fact bookkeeping via bank feeds and a few other simple services.
  • The client has the option of including “Add On” services, resulting in Basic +1, Basic +2 and so on. Add-ons include payroll, Accounts Payable management, Accounts Receivable management and more.

Each of these has limitations. For instance, the payroll option covers up to five employees, with additional fees for any employees over that initial five. If the client requires something above and beyond these limitations, we provide them a custom quote.

There are two things I want to mention. I understand that there are some firms that have made the standard packages work and I commend them. I’ve just found that for the types of small businesses that my practice (and the QuickBooks ProAdvisors® for which I’ve done consulting) services, they’re not the best option. Also, for all of those people that I’ve presented to and taught to build packages … at the time, I truly believed that these would work, and up until recently, I regularly offered them to clients. These days, I teach Base+ Billing as part of StacyKAcademy.com

This method makes it so that the client is able to choose a level of service that they’re comfortable with, and that their current budget allows. (For instance, some clients that have been doing everything themselves since they started their business and just aren’t ready to turn over paying bills right away.) They can see that services can be customized to their needs, and that they’re scalable as their company grows.

Often, clients come to us feeling beat because they’re struggling with their bookkeeping. They could be doing other things – working on growing their business, or spending more time with their family. The two most surprising – and important – side effects that I’ve noticed since implementing the “Base Plus” billing method is that the client feels a great sense of empowerment over this, and they understand you’re creating a truly collaborative relationship.