Working from home, or remotely, has experienced a massive surge in popularity in recent years. Spurred on by the arrival of technologies like Skype and cloud-based productivity suites such as Google, it’s become entirely possible for professionals of all industries to do their jobs without ever setting foot in the office.
According to the U.S. Census, 8 million Americans now work from home. That’s 5.2% of the total workforce, up from 5% in 2016 and just 3.3% in 2000.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Working from home offers a ton of enticing benefits like more time with family, no commuting, and an escape from office politics.
Tax Preparers and Working from Home
On top of avoiding office doldrums, you gain the benefit of getting to know your community better. You may run into a neighbor while walking your dog, get to know the couple who owns the local coffee shop, or simply become a familiar face to people in your community. When you gain facetime in your community, people are more likely to work with you when tax time rolls around because they already know you.
With so many people working as contractors and working from home for their small businesses, tax preparers also have a bigger market to tap into: people whose taxes a just a little too complicated to do on their own. When you advertise yourself as a small business owner yourself, people in your community will trust you not to nickel and dime them when preparing taxes.
As a tax preparer, you’re already familiar with the May-December lull when your tax preparer income can take a hit. To protect your bottom line during these off-season months, you need to add new revenue streams to your business model.
Finding home-based work during the off-season isn’t too difficult, but you’ll need to practice certain habits to make it work. How much money tax preparers make here will depend on how well they prepare.
Here are some habits shared by tax preparers who are crushing it as remote workers:
1. Start Each Workday With Organization
If you’re a self-employed tax preparer, you’ll already know how running your own service-based business is very different from working for an employer.
When providing extra services from home, there are a number of items you’ll need to keep on top of, like:
- Time management
- Up-to-date equipment
- You personal quarterly tax schedule
To stay on top of your admin work, and the many little behind-the-scenes tasks involved in working from home, consider seeking the help of software that lets you make organization a daily habit. The right business software can help coordinate client communication and internal processes, freeing up your time for matters that help grow your business.
Keeping your physical workspace organized is also important. A Harvard study took two groups and gave each a puzzle to solve, seeing how long each would persevere. The group with a clean workspace spent an average of 18 minutes working to solve the puzzle, compared only 11 minutes before those with a cluttered space gave up. Image how much longer you could focus on important work if your brain weren’t distracted by all those piles of papers!
A well-designed work environment can be an incredibly valuable resource for you. Try to set aside one area of your home that’s purely reserved for work activities, and don’t do anything else in there. Some ideas for doing this include:
- Set clear rules for you and your family — you can’t be disturbed during working hours
- Avoid social media by using apps or plug-ins that restrict your time on these sites
- Make a space that feels professional and separate from the rest of your home
Another good idea is to leave your home completely and visit a local cafe or co-working space. This helps separate home from work and keep you in a more focused and productive mindset with fewer temptations.
2. Check Up On Tax Laws Every Month
Tax laws change all the time, especially following elections, and the changes can be significant for your clients. Following any changes throughout the year, as they happen, is much better than having to brush up on everything all at once just before tax season.
Changes in tax law can even benefit you. The new tax law, for example, may provide opportunities to increase your salary by adding new services to address changes, such as:
- Year-round assistance for small business who need help navigating the major tax changes they’ll endure
- Continued guidance for clients who need help planning a 529 for their children
- Increase leads from clients who typically use electronic-based tax preparation software, but need in-person assistance to understand changes to deductions, tax rates, and credits
3. Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Opportunities
As a tax professional, you’re well-equipped to provide a whole range of valuable services to supplement your tax preparer salary. It’s worth taking some time to think about what new services you could start offering and different options for expanding your business.
Can a tax preparer make good money doing more than just tax work? A few ideas could include:
- Financial consulting and planning work, such as helping clients with investments and loans
- Helping companies with their payroll and bookkeeping throughout the year (this is regular, ongoing work)
- Offering financial advice to individuals, like assistance with retirement planning or managing their savings more wisely
- Improving individuals credit score and financial health with credit repair services that are easily run from home
Along with offering new services, there are other ways to grow your existing home-based business. For example, you could ask for referrals and reviews from existing clients. Treat the search for work as a daily task and you’ll be much more likely to generate a good flow of projects.
4. Keep Your Marketing Strategy Fresh
If you’re working with multiple clients, you’ll have to be proactive when it comes to finding new work. This may well be something you have experience with from your work as a self-employed tax preparer.
You can attract new clients in the following ways:
- Perfect your messaging: Remind clients who you are, what you’re offering, and how you are different from your competitors.
- Build a well-designed website: An organized and optimized site will not only make you look professional and trustworthy, but it can also act as a marketing tool in itself by attracting clients from search engines and other sites.
- Visit local businesses and events: Networking and promoting your services can help you expand your client list and acquaint you with mentors in your industry.
- Use social media wisely: Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are a cost-effective way to get your business in front of millions of potential clients.
- Ask current clients for referrals: Word-of-mouth referrals are a key influencer for more than 72% of consumer purchasing decisions.
- Submit your business to directories: A business directory is an online list of a particular niche, location, or category. One way your businesses can get found by online searchers is through inclusion in business directories.
Getting into the habit of regular, sustained marketing is crucial if you’re to stand out and attract a steady stream of work. When working from home, it’s especially important as people are often looking online and asking friends for recommendations. They can only find you if you make your business known.
5. Build and Maintain Relationships
As a business owner, your clients are your best resource. Treat them well and strive to exceed their expectations, and they’ll keep coming back to you. If you save your tax preparation clients money, you become a community hero.
You can easily set yourself apart from the competition by being more than just a faceless service provider and building meaningful, lasting relationships with your client base.
You can do this by:
- Offering value-added services to solve a range of pain points for your clients
- Providing discounts for long-term clients or those who commit to an ongoing relationship with you
- Send friendly messages and small gifts like holiday greetings, thank you notes, or birthday wishes
- Get out of the house, and meet your clients in person to strengthen your communication, and progress your relationship
When you’re based at home, building relationships is more important than ever. When you’re dealing with your clients through a screen, things can feel distant and isolated.
It’s important to build strong bonds with your client base and maintain long-distance relationships. Relationships take constant work, and this is one habit that should be a regular fixture in your work-from-home life.
6. Get Out Into the World
Working from home is great in all kinds of ways, but if you really want to grow your business and supercharge your tax preparer salary there’s no substitute for getting out in the world.
Doing this regularly will not only help you find new clients and grow your business, but it’ll also help you meet people from your industry, make friends, and learn from them.
- Attend conferences, events, and meetups; The NATP website has a list of events and educational opportunities you can attend.
- Visit local businesses and speak to them about what kind of financial services they would like to see offered and how you might be able to help.
- Grow an affiliate network by visiting businesses who rely on clients with strong credit to close deals, like car dealerships or banks.
Working from home can be highly rewarding and fulfilling in a way that office-based work isn’t. Following the steps in this guide will help you avoid some of the pitfalls remote workers fall into and build the best possible home-based business.
There are countless habits you can start to boost your home-based business as a tax professional.
Tax preparers can make good money by keeping their eyes open for opportunities like offering credit repair services.