Many accounting and financial planning firms think of the onboarding process as little more than an admin task they are burdened with as part of their compliance responsibilities. But those firms are missing the strategic potential of optimising their onboarding process and using it as a strong foundation on which they can build a strong working relationship with a new client.

This article will show you a step by step accounting client onboarding checklist to start a strong working relationship:

  • Why is client onboarding important?
  • The onboarding process – step by step

Why is client onboarding so important? 

Clients come to your accounting firm for a reason — most likely, they want to reduce their stress around unfamiliar financial processes and want support in managing their bookkeeping to make running their business easier. They are looking for a smooth experience that provides them with clarity and reassurance that you’re handling their accounts for them, with reports and information provided to them in a way that’s easy to understand. 

By providing a good onboarding experience, you are setting the tone for the entire working relationship. The onboarding will be paving the way for a smooth partnership by understanding their needs, wants, communication styles, and expectations at the very beginning. 

The onboarding process checklist – step by step

Here are the steps and activities you should be completing when going through the onboarding process with a new client. You can create a checklist and make sure you’ve covered each area once you’ve brought on a new account.

Sales summary 

It’s good to summarise the basis of the client signing with you, when you start. This conversation can happen in person or over the phone, and just clarifies why they came to your business in the first place and what services they were specifically looking for so you can make sure your proposal and work plan meet their needs.

Get to know their business

If you don’t already know, spend some time learning the client’s operation, so that you can gain more insight into the business and what they do. If you are able, try to spend time at their office or take a tour so you can understand exactly how their business works, and then potentially identify areas or services where you could upsell to them later on.

Signing the contracts

Next, make sure the sales contract is signed and complete. When sending this to your new client, include the proposal outlining what services you are delivering so there is no confusion about what is or isn’t included in your fees and service. This saves any issues later down the line if the client is expecting extra work or hours as it’s written clearly in the initial contract. 

Don’t start the work until you have this signed and approved, as the client will not be legally bound to pay for the hours you worked. 

Create the work plan

It’s time to compile and share a summary of the project, services and hours that you will be completing for the client. Perhaps you are working a set amount of hours per week for this client, which includes the same services every month. Include detail on:

  • What your services you will be
  • When the hours will be carried out
  • The fees for each service or hourly rate
  • Any information or documentation you need from the client to carry out the work 
  • What the deliverables are (for example, is the client expecting a report every month) 

You might want to use a Gantt chart to organise your work for the client, as this can include the individual responsible for each task and plot a timeline that everyone can refer to.

Kick-off call

In a meeting or video call, present your plan of action to the client. This will give them the opportunity to comment or make adjustments to how you’ll work or how you’ll communicate when working together. 

Be receptive to feedback and be present in the call to try to sense any moments of hesitation or coax out any questions so the client feels completely comfortable with the plan.

Connect the client

Once you’ve gathered all the information and documentation you need from the client to begin working, then link them up to any software you use, or share them into any reports you’ll be using. 

If they have yet to send you some documentation that you really need, then don’t hesitate to chase them up on this, and be clear that you can’t begin working on their finances before you have it.

Check in

Set a schedule for checking in with the customer, either face to face, via call, email or a mix of all three. Find out what the client prefers, if they want a high level of involvement and visibility or if they want you to manage the accounts without their needing to be present. 

At a minimum you should be checking in with the client’s satisfaction with your work every quarter to ensure your relationship is still working and your services are still relevant for them.

Make adjustments

Your working relationship with the client should evolve as their business needs change, so make sure your firm can be flexible around their needs to ensure you are providing the best possible service for your client. Without making adjustments there’s the chance that your client will feel that your firm doesn’t understand their wants and needs and look elsewhere for accounting support.

Save time with clients and Countingup

You can save your practice time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software. It’s built specifically to help you manage your self-employed and sole trader clients.

The app automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for your clients so they can focus on running their business—and send you accurate, structured data to work from. With instant invoicing, automatic expense categorisation and cash flow insights, your clients will be able to confidently keep accurate daily bookkeeping records.

Countingup’s accounting software is MTD-compatible and full of features for you to review and manage client accounts efficiently, with direct access to their real-time organised data. Find out more here.

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