Tag Archives: CPA

Three Steps to Faster Better Blog Posts

astronomical clock face

So, you started a blog. At first, it was kind of fun and new and exciting, but now the reality has set in – “How in the world am I going to find the time?” Well, science hasn’t yet been able to alter the flow of time, but here are some tips you can use to write your posts faster – and make them better too.

Always with the Ideas

Keep an idea file so you don’t spend time agonizing over a topic. Ideas will come to you at the strangest times so be ready for them. Write them down to keep them from evaporating into the ether. I know from sad experience that you won’t remember even the best ideas that come to you while driving or brushing your teeth. The only thing you’ll hold on to is the frustration of not quite being able to recall the idea that you know is fantastic.

Carry a small notepad and pencil with you, jot those brilliant thoughts down and put them in a folder. My idea folder is a box with a motley assortment of notepaper, clippings from magazines and newspapers and napkins and scratch paper with virtually illegible scrawl on them. It works for me.

If you spend a lot of time at your computer (who doesn’t anymore?) or find inspiration online, keep an idea file there as well. Make it simple so you won’t have to fumble around for it to jot notes and copy links. Mine is a notepad file on my desktop with an unsorted jumble of links, article ideas and possible titles.

Lay it Out

It’s OK to take the quick way out when you format your post. Take a look around popular and widely read blogs and you’ll see that the list post is a favorite now. It’s also the fastest to organize and write.

Start by setting down your key points and adding a paragraph or two of explanation for each. Three is an appealing minimum number that offers compelling information but doesn’t seem too long for the reader to tackle. More than ten defeats your purpose of writing faster but can be useful for longer posts. Here’s a great example with 50 items.

There are others, but here are some ways to begin your post:

  • Pose a Question
  • Use a Quotation
  • Offer a review

Write Already!

Get your idea clear in your mind and start writing. Write as fast as you can. Don’t worry about how it sounds or reads or if it’s too long or stupid – you’ll fix it later. Once your words are on the page, let it rest a while.

Now, shape it into a proper post. Click here for the post checklist with tips on doing that.

Blogging isn’t rocket science – or even science fair science – so don’t give up. How’s the writing going for you? Let me know what’s working and what’s not – I’d love to hear from you.

If you need help, let me know – I’m available now for edits and content management that bend the space-time continuum so you don’t have to.

Image: Creative Commons


Don’t Blog Just to Hear Yourself Talk

Boring Meeting Drones On

Have you been trapped in one of those meetings where someone just goes on and on and ON until you think your head will snap off your neck from fighting sleep? Long and dense blog posts are the written version but readers have the option of leaving the meeting. How do you keep them from bolting?

You write for your audience. For example, my goal is to help professionals communicate effectively. Since this post is about writing, I could say this:

  • Identify information readers will need and make that information easily accessible and understandable. User-centered documents must be usable, so consider how the document will be used rather than just how it will be read.

Boring! Did your head start to hurt?

Or this:

  • Write what your clients want to read and give them useful information.

It’s the same thing in short easy to read words.

If you write for professionals, dive right in to the technical subjects and go heavy on the arcane details. This audience looks for a thorough treatment of the subject and will assess your authority based on the content.

But, if you want to reach clients, keep it light and short. You can explain in more detail when they ask. As the expert, your job is to translate the technical information for your clients.

Neither is wrong but each speaks to a different audience. So, who do you write for and how’s that working? Leave a comment or send a note and share your thoughts.

Image: Creative Commons

Are Accountants Really Dull?

Big Yawn

Based on my extremely unscientific and statistically invalid search of accounting blogs this morning, I say yes – absolutely!

Not one of the blogs I found was interesting or readable – my requirements to avoid boredom. Of course, I have the attention span of a dragonfly, but so do most blog readers.

I talked about focus earlier but laser like dullness doesn’t keep readers either. So, here are two more things to keep in mind when blogging.

Be Interesting

Mostly I found dry and technical entries on stuff that only matters to accountants. There were entries on S-corporations vs. LLCs, proposed regulations on preparers, payroll taxes and other technical minutiae. I actually understand this and it’s still excruciatingly boring.

Be Readable

After the parched topics, the prose itself was a hurdle too high for most writers. I claimed that accountants can’t write and this sloppy research seems to bear that out. The extreme length of posts coupled with the lack of any apparent internal organization is an insurmountable barrier for most readers. I gave up and got coffee.

So, have you read, or written, a good blog lately? Please, let me know, I need something to read.

Image: Creative Commons

Business Blogs – 1 Mighty Thing

It seems like we’re all blogging now – personal blogs, creativity blogs, business blogs and even blogging blogs. So, if you have, or are considering starting, your own professional services blog, you’ll want to stand out in the sea of words. Here’s the one powerful idea you must know.

Focus, Focus, Focus

Decide on your blog focus and stay with it. Write narrowly about your professional area of expertise to attract readers looking for that information and establish your credibility. Stay focused on that one theme – don’t stray into current events or marginal topics.

Ask yourself why you’re blogging. Do you want to improve client communication and service, to position yourself as an expert in your field or perhaps to establish your reputation in your profession independent of a specific company? Have a clear and measurable goal in mind every time you post.

Know who you’re talking to. Write every post as if you’re talking to your ideal reader. Picture them in your mind and even choose a name. Know that person well and write exactly what they want in the way they want.

Maintaining this kind of focus is hard, especially after the first few posts. Write it down, post a sticky on your monitor, but stay focused.

Are you blogging? Why or why not and how’s it working for you? Leave a comment and let me know.


How Much is a Stamp Worth?

Not the Post Office!
Why not offer pre-postaged tax return and payment envelopes to your clients?

If your answer is “It’s too expensive and takes extra processing,” maybe it’s time to reevaluate the actual value of that stamp.

I recently had the occasion to be a tax preparation client. As a client, my first impression of the return package was favorable – it was nicely packaged and well presented – then I pulled out the return mailing envelope and that impression was gone.

No postage, no address, nothing. Now, mailing this return just became one more aggravation as a trip to the Post Office loomed. It left me with a negative feeling about the return and, by extension, the service provider.

The preparation price was fair at close to a thousand dollars. A few dollars more to cover postage and additional processing wouldn’t have mattered and would have made a much better impression.

I know, you’re thinking it costs too much and then there’s the extra processing to determine postage for each return. Try this to streamline and implement the process.

  • Determine how much postage returns need based on the number of pages and set up a standard chart for processors to use.
  • Add an amount to cover the actual postage plus overhead when you increase fees (you do increase your fees periodically, right? We’ll talk more about that later.) Don’t forget the postage for the return payment envelopes as well.
  • Either scale the increase based on the billing with more being added to more expensive returns based on the premise that they cost more to mail or take an average and add it across all returns.

The value of that postage is much more than a few stamps. To your client, it’s exceptional service that few others offer and to you it’s an impression on your client you couldn’t buy for many times that amount. As for that return I had to mail, it’s a good thing I wasn’t the one who had to mail the check.

Have you done or are planning something similar? Share your thoughts!

Image:Creative Commons

One Easy Way to Make Clients Happier

This happened a few days ago at a local accounting firm I was visiting, but the principles apply to all professional service businesses.

A client dropped by with a few questions to finish preparing his records and an apology for it being a busy time of year. He took 10-15 minutes of a professional’s time. After showing him in, an administrative employee commented “I hate when they do that” referring to the client’s dropping in without an appointment.

It’s important to know that this firm uses value billing and markets its services by telling clients the flat rate for services includes questions and phone calls. Here are two points to consider, but this scene offers a lot to think about.

  • Value billing is just that – being paid for value delivered. If that client couldn’t have his questions answered, he could easily go to another firm that would be more helpful. If you choose to offer flat rate billing, the rates should include the additional personal time that clients will ask for.
  • The tone and attitude of a firm is subtle but easily transmitted. It struck me that the client felt he had to apologize for requesting a service that had been offered. While the professional who met with him had no reluctance to spend the time, the initial administrative contact was where the displeasure was expressed.

Of the two issues, I think the second is more serious. The tone of any business is either set by its leaders or simply evolves in the absence of strong example. The firm in this case has allowed an attitude of unfriendly “gate keeping” to develop in its administrative staff.

Today is a good day for a check on the attitude your firm transmits. We’ll talk about how to polish that in future posts, but, for now, observe professional and administrative employees when they deal with clients and note the overall tone.

What else do you see in this little scenario? Have you dealt with the same or similar issues? Please share your experiences!

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Dot_not_touch.PNG&oldid=26378712

Are You Secretly Irritating Your Clients?

A Slow Burn
We all have different personalities and communicating styles. That’s a good thing, but it can be a problem when different styles are at odds.

Most professionals have their preferred method of reaching clients and use that with great success in some cases and not so much in others. Let’s have a look and see if we can improve.

There are three categories of contacts:

Written- This includes the obvious like written letters and emails as well as new technologies like texts, Twitter and Linked In.

Verbal- For most of us, the telephone is the standard in this category but it could also include things like interactive chat, tele-meetings and webinars.

In Person- Here’s the old standby of meeting in the same place at the same time. Technology has yet to upgrade this with the possible exception of the virtual meeting.

Sometimes, the nature of the reason for contact dictates the method. For example, formally communicating important points is best in a letter and a sales presentation most likely requires a face to face meeting.

But, what about a quick question to clarify a point on the current project – is that an email, a text or a phone call? The answer is whatever method the client prefers. That’s right, what they want, not what we’re comfortable with.

Lots of people use the telephone and don’t think twice about picking it up to make a call and answer it with no hesitation. There are people who hate talking on the phone and see calls as interruptions. Some clients view a drop in visit as a great chance to talk and others see it as rude and thoughtless. The trick is finding out what your clients want.

The way to do that is to just ask. Most people are happy to tell you what they want and will be thrilled that you asked. Make a note in the file with the contact information and follow their preferences whenever you can.

Try it and see if your clients are happier and prospective clients are more receptive.

For the record, I’m an email kind of person and don’t like talking on the phone. Leave a comment with your preferences and experiences-let’s compare.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cibomahto/ / CC BY-SA 2.0