Each day comes with a finite number of hours, and if you want to earn more money during your 24 hours, you’ll need to know how to maximize your time. Good time management as a tax preparer isn’t only about money though. If you’re able to take charge of your time you’ll feel happier, more focused and deliver better results to more of your clients along the way.
With that in mind, here are 10 ways to capitalize on your precious time during the busy tax season.
1. Put First Things First
Perhaps one of the greatest productivity and leadership books of all time is Stephen Covey’s 1989 bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
To write this, now infamous, best-seller, Covey studied 200 years of literature surrounding success and leadership and compounded his findings into seven concepts. Although a few of the concepts are somewhat contextual, one of the ideas that holds true for good time-management is step three: “Put First Things First”.
Put First Things First suggests that you should focus on the most important things first. If you’re wondering how exactly you can you identify what’s important, use these categories to guide you:
- Urgent and important tasks: do them now
- Important and not urgent tasks: schedule time to do these in future
- Urgent and unimportant tasks: delegate these to others where possible
- Not urgent and unimportant tasks: eliminate these, they’re a waste of time
Covey recommends that we should try to spend most of our time working on important tasks, more specifically, important and non-urgent tasks. Apparently, this is because urgent tasks often distract us from focusing on tasks that are intrinsic to our long-term goals and values.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Research has shown that you’re more effective, and more productive, when you’re happy. That’s great news for everyone, because who doesn’t want to be fulfilled?
While there are various factors at play that contribute to overall happiness, the major feel-good contributors are:
- Having strong, loving relationships
- Believing your work is meaningful
- Practicing gratitude
- Being fit and healthy
- Having fun regularly
Are you: eating well? Taking regular breaks? Celebrating your wins? Exercising regularly? Spending quality time with friends and family? And making time for fun and hobbies?
Any effort spent creating and building a tax preparation business will be wasted if you’re unable to bask in the benefits. Ergo, prioritizing your health and well-being is a must.
3. Use Time & Billing Apps
During tax season, the last thing you need is to be dwindling your time away on unnecessary administrative work. When time is of the essence, it’s crucial to know exactly where you’re spending it and why. To ensure that you’re staying on track of your hours, and your money, consider using time-tracking and billing apps like Harvest, FreshBooks, TimeCamp or QuickBooks.
The beauty of real-time tracking is that you’ll reduce time lost to administrative tasks and fixing invoicing errors. Plus, because you’re billing to one project at a time, you’ll be less likely to multitask (which is the enemy of productivity).
In addition to offering time-tracking and easy invoicing options, most time-tracking apps also provide other useful features like:
- Sales proposal templates
- Expense tracking
- Accounting reports
There is plenty of software out there so look around and choose one that best fits your business model.
4. Create a Client Questionnaire That Includes Financial Goals
It’s easier to “put first things first” for your clients when you know what they want. Each client that comes to you for tax preparation will have different short and long-term financial goals that you can work towards together.
To provide tax preparation with flair, create a financial goals questionnaire and send it to each of your new and existing clients. A few possible sections to include are:
- A checklist of assets and their estimated worth
- A checklist of liabilities and their estimated cost
- Amount spent on charitable donations, education costs, and healthcare, etc.
- Target retirement age
- Financial priorities in the short and long-term
Not only can you zero in on your client’s financial goals, but you can also identify patterns and behaviors related to their spending and saving habits. For example, are they following best practices when it comes to personal finance? Do their actions impact their credit? Can you step in with recommendations that might improve their relationship with money?
5. Consider Hired Help
As briefly mentioned in tip one (“Put First Things First”), think about delegating your urgent and unimportant tasks to others so that you’re free to spend time on more strategic matters.
Hired help doesn’t need to come in the form of full-time staff by the way. In fact, if you’re still in the early stages of your business, hiring full-time staff could be more of a liability at the moment. You could hire freelancers, virtual assistants, or demo software instead.
6. Provide an FAQ Page on Your Website
As you start to acquire more and more clients, you’ll likely notice the same questions arising day after day. Rather than acting as the only information source for all of these questions, curate an FAQ list and add it to your website.
You will likely always have people asking questions about your business, but if you have an FAQ ready and published, you’ll be able to:
- Help people take initiative and find answers for themselves
- Refer people to answers when you’re too busy to talk
- Copy pre-existing text into emails that you want to respond to directly
7. Use a CRM Software with Integrations
Another way to save time through streamlined processes is with a CRM (customer relationship management) tool that lightens the workload with clever integrations. Some of the benefits of using CRM software are:
- Improved customer relationships through interaction-tracking and data insights
- Marketing strategy optimization
- Sales performance tracking
- Streamlined invoicing (especially when paired with the right time-tracking app)
Before you dive in, it’s worth taking the time to research the right CRM tool for your business because transferring and updating data retrospectively can be a time-consuming, tedious process. Some of our favorite CRM software for tax preparers can be found here.
8. Remove Distractions
Multitasking is officially dead and nobody is bragging about it anymore. Why? Because distractions increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol and create a “mental fog”, while simultaneously draining your focus.
Instead of being available 24/7, turn off notifications, remove distractions and split your day into chunks using the Pomodoro technique (or a similar alternative). Time management methods such as the Pomodoro technique use a timer to break work into intervals (traditionally 25 minutes in length) followed by a short break. Working in bursts like this will help you to focus on a single task – you’re then free to use your breaks to browse the web, check off a chore or do 20 push-ups.
9. Plan Ahead
It’s much easier to achieve your financial goals when you have a framework in place to achieve them. Productivity guru and author of more than 70 books, Brian Tracy, says “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1000 percent return on energy!”
A plane wouldn’t board its passengers before it was ready to depart. Nor would a surgeon enter the operating room without the right instruments. Before you reach the hectic nature of tax season, get prepared for it. Try using a project management tool like Asana or Trello to schedule important, non-urgent, tasks and then finish them ahead of time.
10. Have a Consistent, Year-round Income
What can add even more pressure to the business of tax season is the thought that it’s the optimal time of the year for a tax preparer to make money. That doesn’t have to be the case though; have you thought about extending your financial services beyond tax preparation?
As a financial professional with credibility in your field, you could expand your income and knowledge-base by offering other services like:
- Independent financial advice
- Credit repair
- Wealth management
- Financial planning
There’s no reason for you to be overwhelmed during the busy tax season and underpaid the rest of the year. Discover how you can make more money as a tax preparer, and become a hero to people in your community through credit repair.