Episode #032 5 Ways Bookkeepers Can Overcome Invoicing-Day Guilt & Fear Mindset
Is there anything worse than the horrible guilty feeling you get when you’re invoicing the clients for work you’ve actually done? Do you find yourself writing off time because you feel bad for invoicing clients or following up bad debts?
Your guilt and fear around invoicing and chasing owed monies, doesn’t just cost you financially! Yes, it costs you in a loss of profit, but even worse is the negative effect on your self-respect.
In this episode, you’ll learn the best 5 things YOU can do to overcome invoicing guilt and fear and help you step into being the self-respecting, courageous business owner you were meant to be.
Host: Amy Hooke
Guest speaker: None
Topic: 5 Ways Bookkeepers Can Overcome Invoicing-Day Guilt & Fear Mindset
And for those of you who are not tracking your time you’ll have a rough idea of how much you work so you’ll know that you start at 8:00 every morning for example and they leave at 3:00 to pick up your kids or you work until five thirty or whatever your standard business hours are, you’ll also know if you work in the evening or early, early in the morning before kids get up and before the world is awake.
Some of you might be getting up before the sun comes up. And then, you know, I guess you also know if you’re working on weekends so what you want to do is just do a rough tally of how many hours you think that you work
Now you will be surprised… I was surprised bit a little while ago. I’ve mentioned a couple of times on my podcast, I work 30 hours a week now. I have an automatic time tracker that sits in the background and it just tracks everything that I do on my computer. And then what I’m supposed to do is go in once a week and allocate all of my time that hasn’t been allocated like what it does is it kind of records which apps I mean which browser windows I mean and it kind of guesses where things should go or sitting on allocated. So what I’ll do is go in and allocate all of the various times that I spent on different things.
And so I haven’t done that for a really long time and I thought maybe a couple of weeks ago I should actually go in and do it and see how I am actually spending my time because I’ve been evaluating my team capacity and how many ours my staff are working and what’s kind of being delivered and things like that so I thought well I’m not just go in and see..
Break down my time is between billable and non billable and how I spend my administration time and everything. And that took me by a little bit of a shock because obviously I’ve been saying for ages that I work 30 hours a week, well… I don’t work 30hours a week…. I work 50 or 60 hours a week. Probably any of you could have guessed that. So people were, you know, messaging me and when I’ve ha d conversations with them they’re talking about “Oh, you know, like you you’re so busy you’ve got so much going on and everything online.” And I’m like, oh not really…I only work about 30 hours a week… you would be surprised how you can think you’reworking 40 hours a week.” So there must have been a period of time where it was,maybe it was over the Christmas holidays… I don’t know but I had a look and I was like oh my gosh my average work hours around fifty five hours a week mark.
So there you go there I’ve boasted being savvy thinking like… here I was thinking, “Oh yeah you know I don’t work that much.” And so I said to my husband, I said, “Gee you know I work about 50 or 60 hours a week. I just realized.” And he’s like, “Yeah.” So he knew and you guys knew I didn’t know. And so I guess what I’m getting to here is there is also a possibility being, you know, because we’re all humans and we kind of you know our brains tend to work in a similar way. Well, some of our brains do anyway. So some of us are a little bit different in the way that our brains work. But basically there is a good chance that you might be working a lot more than you think you are
Because what can happen is, the hours can create in an early morning here and there a little bit of all of just go to get this done for a client over the weekend and it just really can add up and all of a sudden you can find yourself working a lot more hours than you thought. So my recommendation is to track your time. I mentioned a background app that I use it’s a Mac only app so it’s probably not that helpful for most of you who wouldn’t be on a Mac. It’s called timing app so you can check that out although I don’t necessarily recommend it for bookkeeping business. I like toggle… so we’ve started using toggle because I realize I need to actually track the team time not just my own. And you know being able to get in and track the team time is actually really good. So I used to do it in the past I always use workflow max and then I kind of had a break. I just I felt workflow maxes or also known as XP PM Xero practice manager is so light detailed and I don’t I find it really complex. I found it difficult like the staff had challenges using it and that kind of thing. So I just went for something a bit easier which is toggle it doesn’t integrate for billing and things like that but it doesn’t matter because it gives you some good reporting and some good insight into the business for decision making. And so one of those decisions that you need to make is about your billable time because this is going to come a shock to you like it’snot uncommon that I’ll meet with a bookkeeper who once we sit down and work out how many hours a week they work can we work out a lot of bookkeepers work 50 hours a week. That’s very common, some work 60 somewhat more.
And so that’s not uncommon uncommon and also someone might come to me and they you know they they think oh you know I work on pretty decent money like maybe they’re earning one hundred and twenty thousand a year or something like that.
And then when we sit down and we work out that they’re actually working 60 hours a week and rarely even take time off. Then suddenly it’s not really looking as good. So for example if you’re working 60 hours a week and you’re earning one hundred and twenty thousand a year.
That means that your hourly rate is…. Let me just double check that this is right but it’s about that’s about three thousand hours each. So that’s quite a bit higher than a standard workweek. And so if if that’s about three that is about three thousand two hundred hours a year or something like that. So if you’re on one hundred twenty that’s thirty eight dollars an hour and that’s before your expenses. So that’s not necessarily that good. Like, once you deduct your expenses off there you might be lucky if you’re getting twenty five bucks an ho
So it is important to take a bit of time out to kind of have a look at this and to be able to kind of make those decisions because I think that it’s very, it’s actually quite easy to lose money on, you know, when you’re billing by the hour and u send this so many times with my client. So what we do is once we sit down and we evaluate. So we look at all of that call and invoicing and things like that. We have a bit of a we have a bit of a check of the number of billings that are going out. We compare it to how many hours the team are working. And often we discover these massive gaps. So, for example, you know, we work out… OK well, we know this many hours is getting put out as output but we know any of these amounts coming in as billings. So there’s a massive gap. So we think where is the gap coming from is the gap being caused by, potentially, it could be caused by a number of things that could be the staff on logging their time, it could be that that business or, you know, the bookkeeper is not tracking the time either.
And often the cause of this is it’s actually caused by switch tasking so what that is is when you’re jumping in between tasks. You could switch so quickly from one to the other you go in your e-mails and you respond to a client. You’d work a little bit on a file and you respond to a staff member. So what’s happening is you’re switching between tasks and and you’re not necessarily capturing all of that time on your timesheet. You know sometimes because you’re flicking so quickly if you don’t if you’re not set up with a really good software platform a time tracking platform that you can quickly switch tasks. So that’s why I like toggle because you can toggle between the tasks really easy it’s got a little desktop app and you can just pop it up and you can just look at your list of things that you’ve worked on recently and just click on that next thing and it will switch your task across. So something like that’s really nice. Another one is called timely. I think it’s called timely. That’s one that runs in the background as well. And then obviously there’s TSheets which I believe is a very popular one that integrates with your billing. So some of them… don’t I think timely app integrates with your billing toggle doesn’t as I mentioned… for some people it doesn’t matter once you get onto packages it doesn’t really matter as much if it integrates with your billing because you’re not going to be doing your billing through that anyway
So that’s just something to think about… there are a couple of other apps out there that do timing but obviously you’ll have to research that yourself. It’s not really the focus of our topic today. It’s more about, you know, thinking about how much money you’re losing by billing by the hour so. Yes. So, basically the other way that you could be losing money is non billable work. So, obviously there can be lots of work that get done that’s not not billable. The biggest culprit for non billable work you would never guess… invoicing. So, if you spend half a day a week, for example, so if you’ve got a pretty decent sized client base you could be spending half a day a week, even… some of my clients have been working a day a week, but let’s say, you know, a lot of people spend maybe two to four hours per week with the, you know, like actually doing the invoicing for the clients. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought this through but ifyou spend four hours a week someone and it’s been for a month… it just dependshow often you do your billing… It could be a day a month or whatever but whatever itis for you, write down how many hours per month or week that you do your billingand then multiply that by your hourly rate and then, you know, actually how muchyou’re spending so on average with a bookkeeper charging at sixty five dollars anhour doing half a day week on invoicing. The average bookkeepers losing fifteenthousand dollars a year just on doing the invoicing and that’s not including lost timeon switch tasking… it’s not taking account of the actual billable work that doesn’t getlogged because, you know, because you’re switching between tasks and it doesn’tinclude anything that might get dropped by a staff member maybe not recording theirtime correctly or things like that. So yeah. Just something to think about because, youknow, like… alright, hourly billing is still a very acceptable way to do billing and there’sactually nothing wrong with it. It just means that you have to be cautious in the waythat you plan things out . You just have to monitor what’s going on from time to time…you need to get an overview of what’s actually happening in the business and seeing ifthere’s some gaps that you can close because by closing those gaps you can actuallymake your business more profitable. And that’s really what we’re talking about.
hatWe’re talking about this isn’t about whether billing by the hour or packages orvalue pricing or whatever, or which one’s better. It’s about you running a profitablebusiness and being able to have the capacity within your profits to be able to deliverthat service because what a lot of people don’t think about. So sometimes when I talkabout business growth people keeps saying, “Oh yeah like I’d love to have mybusiness pay half a million dollars and then we sit down and we work out.” All rightwell, to deliver half a million dollars worth of work how many billable hours do youneed to put out? And if you need that many amount of billable hours then you’regoing to need X amount of staff to fulfill that work. You can’t do it all on your own. Sodo you want to manage let’s say. Let’s just say three staff if you want to get to four orfive hundred thousand you might need three or four staff. Now, do you want tomanage full staff. That’s another question that you need to answer. So, it’s all aboutkind of digging in to what’s happening in the business. But one of the bestopportunities for you to maximize your profit but not just that to be able to deliver theservice better to your client. So this isn’t just about making your business moreprofitable although that’s part of it. But when your business is more profitable youhave room to breathe and you can offer a better service to your clients, your favoriteclients. And so that’s why I love package pricing because it does that. It gives you theability to do that. It gives you the leverage that you need to be able to do that for yourown business and also for your client.
Now, the other point that I’m getting to here is about feeling guilty. So, one of theinteresting things that I’ve come across very often… and it only came about becausethis is what I experience myself back in the day, when I’d spend four hours a weekinvoicing my clients. I remember the feeling I remember sitting at my desk. And sowhat I do is I generate all of the invoices from the time sheets and then I would feelthis horrible feeling in my body, this feeling in my chest… and I’m like, “What is thatfeeling?” And then I realized it’s actually guilt. And I would sit there and sometimes I’dbe too scared to press send on the invoice because I would picture the reaction thatthe client might have because you know sometimes when you know when you’rebilling by the hour you’ve got you’ve kind of fluctuations in the work and sometimeslike there’ll be extra work that needs to be done and it’s not your fault. It’s not,because obviously there’s times when you have to write off staff time if they’re notbeing productive and things like that that’s just the reality of being a business owner.But sometimes it’s things that are actually happening in the business that are causingthe hours to go up. And then what happens is, you know. Well I remember just feelingguilty to send the invoice off for work that I’d actually done. And so for me this hasbeen a massive shift to go from hourly billing into doing packages. It removes thatguilt because the regular invoice just goes through.
There aren’t those surprises for the client… But also it just takes the burden off of youbecause it’s just a regular thing. Now, obviously you do need to closely monitor thescope. You need to make sure that that is in your engagement letter properly.
I have found in the industry that there are not any engagement letters that aresuitable for package based pricing because they don’t properly cover you for scopechanges. So we’ve actually developed one that is perfectly suitable for package pricingwhich you know because you need to have a grounds to be able to go back to theclient and say look this has gone over scope but the thing is if the client is notprepared for that and they don’t actually understand what causes the scope to changethen you’re going to run into problems. So I always help my clients to be able to makesure that that doesn’t happen, to make sure that the business understands whatcauses the scope to change in the first place, so that it puts the ownership back on tothem. If their business is growing and things are changing and getting added to thebusiness or if they are doing things like putting private expenses through theirbusiness accounts causing extra work for you then of course that’s going to changethe scope.
But the point that I’m getting to here is that you should not feel bad for invoicing forthe work that you’ve actually done. And to me, now that I’m out of that headspace… Ilook back on it and I think it just doesn’t make sense. But why why do we feel guiltyabout changing charging for work that we’ve done like, that is work that you’ve doneand there shouldn’t be any guilt associated with it. All of you know fear of rejection bythe client and things like that, it’s just it doesn’t make sense but it happens to all of usand it happens over and over again. And there are ways to actually deal with it
And so really I’ve broken it down into what I think a full thing. So the first one I’vealready talked about this quite a bit which is what I’ve talked about for the first half ofthe podcast which is tracking your time. This is the first step in dealing with the guiltbecause it’s putting something in place that’s going to help you manage what’s goingto potentially happen in the future. And the second one is what I’ve just mentionednow, which is to set expectations for the client. You need to have a properengagement letter with a proper scope. And the client needs to know upfront whatcan happen and what causes the price to go up what causes the fluctuations in thebills because the reason the clients get upset is because they just don’t understandwhat’s going on. So it’s just about setting expectations with the client and beingtransparent and the cool thing is that once you’ve moved onto the package pricingyou don’t have those same kinds of issues anymore but you do need to still set thoseexpectations with the client. And so I would say the third thing in all of this which isstarting to come through is you’ve written what you need to respect yourself. Youneed to see yourself as a professional. You need to see yourself as someone who isproviding a service to your client. And I talk about the employee versus businessowner mindset. And so this is about this is not only about respecting the client but it’sabout respecting yourself. And so when you think like a business owner you will seeyourself as an employee of your client. The reality is you’re the leader you are there tohelp that person you’re there to actually make their business better. And so there’s aproblem when you come into a business and you see yourself as… almost like a victimof the business and you see yourself as at the mercy of the business owner ratherthan coming in with an approach. And sometimes if you’ve set yourself in a positionwhere you’re kind of like viewing yourself as an employee who just does whateverthey tell you to do then sometimes it becomes very hard to change that if you try andflip yourself to being an equal with them. They might not want that because you’ve setthe expectation with them for such a long time that you’re below them. And so whatyou need to do is respect yourself. It doesn’t mean elevating yourself above them andgosh I say this way too much in our industry bookkeepers just talking about you knowwhat the clients is if they’re just complete idiots and which I also don’t agree with. Butyou need to you need to see yourself as an equal and so what I do is when I’m helpingbookkeepers to transition the existing clients onto packages what I do is I get them tore-establish the position in the relationship which is on the business side and I just likeyou. And when you help that person to say, Oh you’re not just an employee who’sthere for them to boss around and also you’re not just some kind of miracle worker intheir life who they can come forth to the counselling and things like that. That’s theother extreme but it’s in the middle it’s you are a business owner just like them andyou want to grow your business just like them. And what you need to do is you needto teach them that. And so I teach my clients that right from the very start in thebookkeeping business I let them know that I don’t do any of the bookkeeping myself.Often they’ll ask me that… they’ll say when I talk to them and they say, “Oh so I won’t be working with you?” And I said, “You and I will catch up on a regular basis. We canmake monthly or quarterly or once a year it’s up to you. But the bookkeeping I don’tactually do any bookkeeping at all anymore. I just run the business.” That’s what I sayto them because I want them to know I’m not your bookkeeper. I’m a business ownerjust like you. And I’m here to help you to reach your goals in the area that I can helpyou in in my area of expertise. And that works really well like with the bookkeepersthat I’ve helped to transition that client base and I’m talking about cases with large client bases, some have 30 40 50 60 or more clients. And my proposal acceptancerates for transitioning those old clients into new packages is between 92 and 97percent. So that is really high. So, mostly the clients, the bookkeepers, who come tome for help with this. It’s not that I don’t know how to set up their packages I couldfigure it out if they wanted to. It’s about how do I transition the clients without losingthem. And I you know I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging here or anything but myconversion rate is really high and I’m not taking full credit for it myself it is definitely atestament to the relationships that the bookkeepers already have with their clients.But I help that process to go smoothly and the way that I do that is helping thebookkeeper to position themselves as the equal as I’m a business owner just like you.And this is how it’s going to work and what you do is you let them know that thesechanges are happening and you let them know that you know this is the way that it’sgoing to be rather than you know… Or is it okay? That kind of approach you puttingyourself beneath them and you letting it be an option whereas you have to thinkabout this. This is your business you need to decide how you want to run yourbusiness. If people don’t fit in with that then you can then decide if you want to caterfor people who don’t respect the way that you want to do things. Sometimes that’sgoing to happen. You can then decide. So some bookkeepers decide to keep theirclients a couple of clients on hourly billing because know it will just be too painful. ButI can guarantee you sometimes the ones you think are going to be difficult end upbeing fine. You’ve just got to have that real conversation with them about how you arean equal with them and how you are a business owner who also has goals and yourgoal is to do as well as you can so that you can support them as well. And so I guessthe final point in all of this is the fourth one, is really about treating others with thesame respect that you’re then demanding for yourself. I’m not involved in too manyother industries but I do say a lot of compensation that goes on with bookk about howthey are placing themselves below the client or as I said before they are placingthemself as above all more important than the client. And that is also wrong. We doneed to treat others with the same level of respect and outside bookkeepers are thefirst people to come out and to to complain when someone doesn’t pay their bill ontime or when someone’s causing some kind of problems and are like well I would justhave to say you know like just to give a little bit of an insight like I find since I’ve beenworking with bookkeepers as opposed to directly with the original set of businessowners that I worked with in bookkeeping I had a lot of problems with my clients backthen and you can listen to all the podcast to hear me talk about some of those issuesand how I’ve overcome them through working on my nation that kind of thing and so Iwork with bookkeepers. Now that’s who I work with my primary client is abookkeeping business owners. And since I’ve started working with my clients asbookkeepers you know like I just thought what a breath of fresh air becausebookkeeping is a great to work with compared to sort of the general world of businessowners that said notable cases of perfect. So I’ve definitely had a couple of challengeswith some bookkeeping but overall I would say my clients are really great. But I haveactually started to notice know just over the last little while that I’ve had a number ofpeople so what they’ll do is they’ll be looking for consultations with me I’ve had this.The reason I thought I’d mention it today is because it wasn’t really happening but Iguess it’s it’s happened like five times in the last kind of six weeks. So I’ve had somepeople and I don’t know why it’s just sort of sad to suddenly happen and it’s beenquite unexpected but I’ve had bookkeepers come a back in sessions with me and thennot comply with the the terms and conditions of the booking. So, for example, Irequest 48 hours to reschedule because my calendar gets really full. And so whensomebody cancels on me at the last minute that doesn’t give me an opportunity towrite a book. And so you know I’ve had a number of conversations with people whohave engaged me for a specific service so whether it’s a consultation or a package ofconsultation or whether it’s setting up their pricing for them so a couple of times. Justrecently I’ve had some bookkeepers say oh I’ve like if I’ve changed my mind or I’ve gotsome financial situation going on in my life and I’ve tried to pull the pin and I thoughtto myself… Hang on a second here. So when you request a service from somebodyand they send you an invoice. So for example with the consultation if you say to me“Amy I’d like to meet you for a consultation” and I send you an invoice if you haven’tpaid that invoice and you decide to just cancel it because some big expense came upor something like that… I came up this is just an example because I don’t really wantto talk about the real life examples but let’s say some expense comes up and you justgo, “Oh Amy I can’t afford to pay this anymore so I want to cancel it.” And I think tomyself like what gives you the right to actually do that. Like what. What is it about. Youknow like why is it that someone might perceive me as someone who would be okayto just pull the pin on a service or sometimes the services have already been initiatedor sometimes I’ve lost the opportunity to be able to refill that booking appointment.And so then what happens is. And for me I went along with this quite a foot for quite atime like over the you know especially over the last six weeks as its kind of there’sbeen a little bit of an increase and I’ve just said I’ve started saying to people like no.When you request a service and your intention is to keep that service it doesn’t matterwhether it’s in writing. It doesn’t matter you know when you request that serviceyou’re creating a verbal agreement with the person and a verbal agreement is a legalarrangement. And so that’s part of commercial law which you