First Attorney Client: Pricing Clean Up Work



If you're starting a new bookkeeping firm, pricing is probably one of the more difficult things you have to learn. When you niche your practice, you have the ability to become an expert in your selected specialization, which will allow you to charge more for your work. This is what led me to work with attorneys in law firms. 

It is all about becoming an expert and specialization, commanding higher fees. This is what I will be teaching at Scaling New Heights 2020 in Orlando, FL in a very few short weeks. My session is “Why your Niche Strategy Plan is Your Path to the Future”. We are so excited to be teaching at this special conference. Huge thank you to all of the people behind the Woodard Group for all that they do and for having this conference this year. If you thought about coming, please do!  You can attend in person or virtually. 

But back to my post… For many years, I was a generalist. Fortunately, I had the experience of pricing from doing this work for over 20 years now. I have many clean up jobs under my belt. And pricing this type of work is hard. I had some really good ones, that were highly profitable, and then I had some, not so good jobs, that were not. Figuring out how to charge on these is definitely an acquired skill. It is not something you can get right at the onset. It takes time, and you have to win some and lose some to figure out what your pricing will be.

I hope that by sharing some of these stories with you, you are able to not have to make the same mistakes I have. 

Monthly Pricing Method

One of my most straightforward ways to price out a clean-up job is to look at the work and look at the account and decide what is to be if I did the work monthly. Next, I look at the number of months I have to re-create and multiply it by the monthly rate. This simplistic way of pricing clean-up job is not perfect but should help you gauge where to begin.

A Real Client Story

I had a client who would come to me annually. Each year, I would try to entice him to let me work on his file on a regular, monthly basis. This way, we can stay on top of his work in real-time and strategize his firm’s future growth. But we had just completed the annual clean up. I charged him $995 to clean up for 12 mos. of work in the prior year. 

The client then stated, "Lynda, you had charged me $995.00 for the clean-up work, but you indicated that you would charge me $250 a month to do the ongoing". That is when I had my pause moment. Mathematically it did not make sense to him to pay $250 a month times 12. This is why it's imperative when pricing a clean-up job that you consider it from the client’s perspective.  In this case, the math did not add up.  

Lesson learned, right?

Free Clean up Method

A colleague of mine has this method:  He prices out the clean up and gives it away for FREE! Yes, free. But part of the free is the new client would have to sign up for monthly services for two years with him. Then he recoups his cleanup spread out over the two years.

I don't want to give away all of our hard work cleaning up messy books, especially with the trust accounting clean up. It's also an opportunity to up sell, and then maybe that one-and-done client can turn into monthly. We've been very successful with landing law firm clients this way. But it is really your choice what method you want to use.  My friend is very successful with the "Free clean up" method.

Slow Down and Scope out the CleanUp Job

There are checks and balances when doing clean-up work and pricing it. Happily, we have the overview screen. Always look at the chart of accounts and start from there. That's your baseline. Other places to consider when was it last reconciled? Is there any money in uncategorized anything? Run a P&L by cash basis and see if there's unapplied cash payment income or expense.  If you're doing law firm work, look at the advanced client cost account and the IOLTA/Trust account.  Make sure it balances three ways.

Balancing the IOLTA/Trust account can be your biggest challenge. It can take up a lot of your resources. Look at the app that the client is using to track that trust accounting. Some very challenging apps like Practice Panther and Clio make it more challenging to figure out what's going on.  Neither is very transparent.

These are just a few things I would look at with any client's books in a clean-up capacity.

I hope this helped you figure out how to price a clean-up job correctly. If you need more assistance, join us in our Facebook group, QB Community Live, where we help accountants and business owners.

If you are an attorney that has messy books, please reach out. We would love to help you as Trust Accounting clean-up is our specialty!