This week I am going to talk about a request sent in by a subscriber, JC.
Here is his email:
“My newsletter idea would be one issue dedicated to the “accounting as a side-gig” crowd if you will. Ways to be efficient and set up the initial processes to cut back on the time you’re working after the 9-5 grind of your normal job.”
My Side Hustle Days
I was a side hustler for over five years. Two of those years were while I worked at Ernst and Young, in audit then transaction support.
When I wasn’t studying for CPA exams, I was teaching myself cloud accounting software and trying not to screw up clients’ tax returns too badly.
I did not make very much money in the first three years, but I learned a lot about tech, processes, and efficiency.
If I were to go back to 2012, with today’s tech and connectivity, I would do things differently.
I would focus on three main things:
- Recognize and build your value;
- Build a prospect pipeline;
- Get key workflows and people in place.
A side gig can be the best way to learn how to run the other components and launch into full time ownership better.
Recognize And Build Your Value
Not valuing yourself enough is the biggest blockade for side gig or part-time firm builders.
When we devalue what we do, we charge less, work more and struggle to enjoy and see the vision of benefiting from our side gig.
Experienced firm owners frequently devalue themselves, so this will be a consistent consideration as you grow and evolve. But now is the time to practice how to value what you do.
Focus on a niche
The number one thing you can do to value what you do is pick a niche and become an expert firm.
Many firm owners hesitate to niche down and focus because cash flow is tight. ‘Yes’ becomes the default response for any inquiring prospect.
I get that. I was there.
As a part-time firm builder, take your time to develop your market position and the value you offer.
You will better leverage your limited time by focusing on a specialized service offering for a few clients.
Expert firms are built on repeated experience rather than intelligence. Check out one of my favorite newsletters, #027, about building expert firms.
Don’t be a cheaper option
It is easy to sell yourself short as a side hustler. I saw it for myself.
In fact, it was part of my sales pitch – I was a more economical option.
I thought that because I wasn’t a ‘legit’ business and didn’t have an office, team members, blah blah blah, I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) charge full price.
Learn how to price based on the benefit received by the client. If you deliver high-value work, charge for it.
As a part-time firm builder, you will get more from your firm if you play the value game instead of the volume game.
If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:
Turning your side gig into a full-time gig doesn’t depend on your revenues but on your profits.
Build a Prospect Pipeline
Connect To Your Audience
There have never been faster ways to connect to niche clients than there are now.
Your clients are already congregating in audiences. Finding those audience’s influencers and focal points is key to maximizing your efforts.
If you want to work with doctors, you could stand on the side of the road and approach every person that walks by. Guaranteed, you’ll find a doctor or two.
Or you could go to a medical conference and swim in a sea of medical professionals for two days. You could also be a guest on a medical business practice podcast or write an article for a medical business publication.
Go to where your ideal clients are, either in person or online.
This concept is called The Dream 100. Basically, you find 100 influencers/ focal points where your ideal clients congregate.
Think professional + industry organizations, apps your clients use, prominent figures + influencers, podcasts, publications, online groups etc.
From there, tap into those communities and start engaging and connecting.
It may seem daunting, but it’s better than staring at the goal of starting a full-time firm without a plan.
With consistency and value, you can find your ideal clients in droves. It does take time, so start early.
Here are two examples of online communities:
Future of Trades (FB Group) – Smaller contractors
This FB group is run by a Instagram influencer in the construction space. Check out winni.designs on Instagram. He has 652K followers.
TheFutur.com – Smaller creative companies
This site and social channels are run by Chris Do. Collectively, there are over a 1M people watching his content daily.
Check out thechrisdo and thefuturishere on instagram as well as on Linkedin. Posting on influencers content consistently is the best way to break into a community and get recognized for what you can offer.
Market yourself (if you can)
Your part-time firm is probably your first business, which means you don’t fully appreciate the value of marketing.
Trust me – marketing is the next skill you have to learn.
Once you have found your audience, get visible.
As a side hustler, you may be ‘hiding’ your side hustler from your employer.
If your employer is open to you running a side gig, tell them what you are doing. This will make your marketing more effective.
I remember asking for permission from the partner I reported to. She had no issue with my side gig, because I was not a competitor.
If you’re offering similar services as your employer, make sure you’re not infringing on any non-compete/ non-solicit agreements before you start.
Learning the fundamentals of content will go a long way to building your online presence. Check out newsletter #025 for my thoughts on creating content.
Get Key Workflows and People in Place
Figure out your core tech
AI is the craze at the moment. It will definitely impact how we do our work forever but don’t get too distracted now.
Establish your core tech for fulfilment, practice management and proposal/payments first.
Those are the fundamentals. Get them right first.
When you use the best accounting tech, you will build in space for AI to join your infrastructure when it is more developed and prevalent in our profession.
Fulfilment – make your service delivery efficient and fast. Make sure you avoid data entry as much as possible.
Focus on data flow.
Practice Management – ensure deadlines don’t get missed and you can manage a contractor right away.
Proposal/payments – make collecting payments as easy as possible. Invoicing is the biggest admin time suck.
Onboarding is important, but real efficiency won’t be gained until you are onboarding more than one client every two/three months.
Next will be marketing. Your marketing tech + workflow will be key to have in place once you’re ready to open your doors full-time or shortly before.
Learn to delegate
I remember a client dropped off a half-full garbage bag of receipts and paperwork. I spent one full evening just sorting through it.
I excitedly told my wife that it was worth it because the client was paying $2,500.
It was such a waste of time.
Just because you are ‘only’ a side hustler, that doesn’t mean you should not maximize your value.
My early engagement times were spent like this:
Set up/organizing: 20%
I burned so much time on admin and low-value bookkeeping. Find an admin as soon as you can to do the low-value work.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I hired two CPA students who did bookkeeping for my side gig at various points (one of them was my cousin). Online contractors were less popular back then.
I recommend Fiverr or Upwork to find good overseas talent to help with the lower-value work. Finding talent for one-off projects is easy, but finding a long-term solution takes a different approach and will cost more.
I still use Fiverr frequently. I currently have a gig on the go right now:
In addition to accounting talent, you can find people for every need of your firm, from graphic design (logos + websites) to automations (zapier + make).
A full fledge website is not needed right away. A landing page is recommended to develop your online presence, especially if you do digital marketing.
Carrd: Free one-page websites
Squarespace: Cheaper DIY website builder
Clickfunnels: Deliver lead magnets and collect email addresses
Get on social media. You can create an attractive LinkedIn profile or Instagram account with a bit of time and attention. It’s cheaper than a website and builds quick credibility.
Invest in a CRM to collect email addresses and track contact.
Activecampaign: This is what I use.
Mailchimp: It’s free and owned by Intuit for the QB crowd.
Convertkit: It’s free and offers good functionality.
Ultimately, I recommend starting a side gig if you have the personal capacity and flexibility for it.
It will allow you time to make mistakes, adjust your mindset, and get systems in place before going full-time.
Build The Firm You Want.