Posted on

Should You Charge Less Than the Minimum Wage as a Contract Bookkeeper?

Junior level 1 bookkeepers good cheap local bookkeeping services - Natbooks

Don’t attract interest in your services for the wrong reasons

RECENTLY I’VE WRITTEN about how your prices should be part of your business strategy and not your marketing strategy. I talked about Mark, the painter, who advertised a really low day rate but wasn’t able to carry out the volume of jobs he needed to make enough money (see Is Your Charge-Out Rate a Marketing or Business Strategy?).

A better strategy for Mark would have been to research the market and find ways to provide customers with savings elsewhere (Researching the Market is a Crucial Part of Every Business Strategy).

The same principle can be applied to contract bookkeepers charging less than the minimum wage. Although this may get you a lot of regular work early on in your business, you will soon learn that it’s unsustainable. And because it’s also really hard to increase your rates substantially, you’ll just find yourself back at square one if you do so anyway.

Check out the National Bookkeeping Rates of Pay to get indicative pricing for contract bookkeeping services.

Remember your entitlements

When you’re setting your prices, don’t forget to factor in your entitlements. As a full time employee of a business, you receive annual leave entitlements equating to four weeks’ salary, sick leave equating to ten days’ salary, public holiday pay, superannuation, and tax withheld on your behalf.

As a contract bookkeeper, you should earn the equivalent of a full year’s salary proportional to how many days or hours you work each week.

Contractor or employee?

As a contractor, your hourly rate will be higher than that of a full time employee, sometimes two times as high. If you have clients who don’t want to pay a higher hourly rate to hire you as an independent contractor, they might be better suited to employing casual staff instead.

If you’d prefer the life of an employee check out our Career Academy Success Program.

Increasing your rates

If you decide it’s time to increase your rates, you need to show how you provide value to your clients’ businesses, in order to discourage them from seeking the same services from another, cheaper bookkeeper. If there’s some extenuating circumstances, it may also be worthwhile explaining the reason for the increase — if your compliance costs have increased due to government regulatory changes, for example. (Note: Rising electricity, broadband or rent is best kept to yourself.)

***

You’ll learn ways to increase your rates without losing your clients by enrolling in Research the Market module of our Business StartUp training course as a standalone mini course. Visit our website for more information or to enrol.  

Ref:#700

 

Posted on

How to Tell You’re Setting Your Prices Too Low

How to set prices in business

how to set prices in business
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by pricing too low and only winning jobs that you make very little on!

AS ALL SMALL BUSINESS owners know, setting the right prices is a difficult task. And a lot of newbie business owners think that being cheap is the better than meeting the market, but that’s not always the case.

Take, for example, a tradesperson I met recently. This tradesman is a painter and he’d been in business for a while before he realised his prices were set too low, and despite all the business he was getting as a result, it was actually costing him money. (We cover more detailed, real-life case studies like this in our micro courses.) 

He shared with me the tell-tale signs that your prices are too low.

Lots of small, one-off jobs

Small jobs are important because they keep the home fires burning, so to speak. But you need a good balance of small jobs and bigger projects, with the small jobs being completed around or in the middle of the larger ones.

If you’re only getting lots of small, one-off jobs that you spend more time to travelling to than it takes to complete the work, this is a good indication that your prices are too low. For jobs like these, either charge for travel time or a call-out fee.

For small jobs … charge for travel time or a call-out fee.

You’re too busy to plan ahead

If you find that, in order to make ends meat, you need to keep yourself so busy that you don’t have time to plan your working week, then your prices are too low. You should be able to plan out your weeks so customers know when to expect you, and so you can be as productive and efficient as possible — if you have two jobs in the same area, for instance, planning ahead will allow you to go to those jobs on the same day.

Use a tool like Google Calendar from G Suite to organise your days, and keep in touch with customers along the way so they know to expect you.

You can’t afford to pay for help

Setting your prices lower than your competitors may be one way to win jobs, but the downside is that you’re constrained to completing the work entirely yourself. The tradesman, a painter, whom I was speaking with, told me about a time he couldn’t afford to find another painter to help prepare walls or pitch in with the painting because his prices were too low.

If you’re not able to pass jobs onto other businesses in your industry — subcontracting — and still clip the ticket, or you’re not able to afford to use a portion of the money you’d earn to hire someone to complete part of the job, you’re charging too little.

You’re too busy to invoice promptly

Just as it’s important to plan your work weeks in advance, it’s equally important that you invoice customers for the work you’ve completed in a timely manner. If you find that you often don’t have the time to invoice customers until a week or a month has passed, there’s a deficiency in your business processes. Use accounting software like Xero so you can invoice on the go.

***

We cover setting prices the market — and your business — will bear in our EzyStartup Course. Visit our website for more information and to enrol.


Check out our Spring Specials!

learning how to use excel and xero with online training

We have a host of online training course specials for the spring season — take a look!


 

Posted on

Working Out Job Costs and How to Charge Your Clients

Why You’re Underselling Yourself with Fixed Price Quotes

bookkeepers fixed price quotes
There are many reasons why you may lose out when fixed price quoting.

We’ve written a number of blogs on how bookkeepers can work out their fees and what good local bookkeepers generally charge. However, now we examine the nitty gritty of determining your on the job costs so you can clearly see what your hourly rate should be.

When it comes to working out fees, most business owners go: “Well, the average market rate for my profession is X per hour and this job should take around Y hours” and off they go and give their client a quote that, in today’s small business parlance, is frequently referred to as being a fixed-price quote or the project fee.

This would be fine except that you’re essentially working on an hourly rate, without the benefit of being able to charge the client if you run over your allocated timeframe.

Quite simply, this is an inefficient way to set prices for your business. It’s an even more inefficient way to quote clients, because you’re either going to rush through their work in order to make it cost effective for you, or you’re going to increase your prices the next time around. Instead, you should factor job costings — that is, how much it will cost you to complete the job — into your prices. Here’s how:

Working out the direct costs of each job

This seems obvious, but countless new and established business owners overlook the direct costs of their services when setting their prices. Ask yourself how much, in a take home hourly rate, you can reasonably live on — is it $20 an hour? $25? $30? $35, perhaps?

Once you’ve settled on a rate, you then need to add in all the other costs associated with being employed in Australia. Tax is a big one. If you’ve been working for a while, you should have a fairly good idea of how much you will pay in tax based on how much you paid last year. If you’ve just started out, try and base it on an average number of hours you’d like to work per week for the next 12 months. Got that figure? Now go onto the ATO website and work out the rate of tax you’ll pay for each dollar you’ll earn. Add that to your hourly rate.

Do the same for sick leave, annual leave and superannuation, because if you’re going to work for yourself, you should have the same benefits as you would as an employee. Now add those on top of your hourly rate.

Working out the indirect costs of each job

We’re still not done with that hourly rate yet. It’s now time to work out the other costs, like wages office expenses. Think about the services you provide and what they entail. Is there travel involved — to your client’s office, for example — because you should add that in. Allocate both the time to get there and the approximate cost in mileage (note: some invoicing software, like QuickBooks’s self-employed app works out the cost of your business travel based on the ATO’s tax rates to give you an approximate dollar figure for each business trip you make). Also factor in other costs, such as parking, even though it’s a tax deduction, and add those costs to your hourly rate.

Now work out your fixed-price quote or project fees

Your hourly rate will now be significantly higher than the amount you need to live on, and it may even be higher than your competitors, but that’s okay. You’re not working on an hourly rate, remember. You’re creating a fixed-price or project fee, so you can choose to itemise your project fees however you like in the estimate you provide to clients. For example, if your hourly rate is now $50 but your competitors charge $35, take $15 for each hour you’ve allocated to the project and assign it as some other ancillary task. This is precisely how manufacturing businesses set the prices for the products they sell, and it’s no different for businesses, like law firms and advertising agencies, in the service industry.

***

Learn how to set the correct prices for your business, plus everything else you need to know about starting and operating a small business in our EzyStartUp Business Course. Visit our website for more information and to view all of our special offers to save money on your next EzyLearn training course.  

Posted on 3 Comments

What Bookkeepers Can Learn From Real Estate Agents: Setting Prices

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Glean Relevant Info from the Property Industry

how much to charge as a bookkeeper
As a bookkeeper you can learn much from the humble, or not so humble, real estate agent!

As a bookkeeper, or someone thinking about becoming a bookkeeper, you may be surprised how much you can learn from real estate agents. For an example, take the way a real estate agent has to price a property for sale.

The key to selling a property quickly and efficiently, is setting the right price. A real estate agent who sets a price that’s too high for the market, isn’t doing her or his job properly. In such cases, the property will sit around for many weeks, or possibly even months, until the price is eventually reduced to one the market will bear, sometimes to well below market value. Real estate being what it is in this country, agents rarely undervalue their properties. When a buyer tells their friends they got a great deal on their new home, it’s usually due to the property being originally overvalued, rather than undervalued.

Most New Contractors Set their Prices Wrong

When business people, such as first-time or newly contracting bookkeepers, first start freelancing or contracting professional services to other businesses, very few know what their services are actually worth. Therefore they frequently overvalue or undervalue themselves. In the case of the former, they’ll discover pretty quickly that they’re overpriced (they don’t get any clients), but in the case of the latter, it may take a while longer to determine that they’ve undervalued themselves and their services.

The lesson bookkeepers can learn from real estate agents — good ones, at least — is to never do either. Here’s how you should value your booking services, to set the right price, just like a real estate agent would.

Value Your Services Like a Real Estate Agent

Know Your Market:

We cover this in our EzyStartUp Course; and it’s important to note that knowing your market isn’t simply confined to the start-up period. Continue to look at the market throughout the life of your business, because times change and you need to move with them. When we first put our training content online, we were one of the first training companies to do it; now you can do a whole university degree online!

Value Your Services Strategically:

Have you ever seen a real estate agent market a property as being identical to another one, even if it’s right next door? As a bookkeeper, you’re already competing in a crowded space, so always establish a point of difference between you and your nearest competitor(s) — a niche industry, a particular way of doing business. Whatever it is, find it, and capitalise on it.

Don’t Try and Be All Things to All People:

Know where to find your customers. Real estate agents know where their buyers come from and precisely what they’re looking for, then they market directly to them. You should do the same. Think about your local market, your services, and the type of customer who’d be looking for a business like yours. Then market to them and them only. Don’t waste marketing money trying to be all things to everyone.

***

Valuing your services correctly, and setting the right prices, is vital to the success of your business. Our EzyStartUp course covers researching the market, setting prices, and an introduction to marketing and business planning. If you’re starting a bookkeeping business or you already have started on, enrol in our EzyStartUp course to ensure you’re not selling yourself short.

Posted on

The High Cost of Cheap

How to tell whether your prices are too cheap

cheap can be bad for business clients and your health small business startup training course will help with your breakevenDETERMINING YOUR PRICES, and whether you’re selling yourself too cheap, is a critical element in the success of your business, and in your own success as well.

Our EzyStartUp Course covers setting prices in some detail as there are many factors you need to consider and include in your prices to ensure you’re not just competitive — but that you’re also drawing a living wage.

There’s a theory that low prices attract more clients and that, in doing so, you’ll be able to earn more than if you had higher prices and only a few customers. This model does work, but it’s usually only in relation to big supermarkets or chain department stores. Take, for example, Woolies and Coles each trying to outdo each other with the cheapest bread and milk — and more recently, Bunnings and Masters who’ve gone head-to-head over the price of hardware items like paint.

But smaller retailers have rarely been able to compete with big ones, and it’s largely the reason why there are fewer independently owned retail shops now than there were 30 or 40 years ago. And gradually this mentality has started to seep into other areas of business, including the area of professional services.

Reasons why setting your prices cheap doesn’t work

Even though cheap prices will generally bring you more clients, there’s good reasons why having a lot of clients paying you very little is bad for business. Here’s a couple:

1. Lots of clients paying very little means you’ll work like crazy

If you’re going to outdo your competitors with low rates, then you’ll need to employ staff or find other contractors willing to subcontract the work from you for even lower prices, otherwise you’ll find yourself working like a crazy person in order to make ends meet.

I know there’s that old saying which goes something like, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life,” but I also know that living in a capitalist society means having to pay for stuff, and unfortunately, very few banks accept bags of love as a mortgage repayment.

It doesn’t matter how much you love what you do, you need to ensure you’re remunerated fairly for it. You may choose to set your prices lower to get those first few clients but you need to adjust them later as you become more established.

You may choose to set your prices lower to get those first few clients but you need to adjust them later as you become more established.

2. Cheap Seems “Cheap”

Everyone loves a bargain, but there’s a difference between something that is well priced and something that is plain cheap. If your prices are drastically cheaper than your nearest competitor – and that includes other small businesses and sole traders – and you can’t justify why (“I don’t have the same overheads because I work from home”), then people are going to wonder why.

Cheap rates reek of one of three things:

  • you’re inexperienced
  • you’re not very good at your job
  • or your work is substandard, either because of one of the aforementioned reasons or because you simply don’t have the time/care/both.

None of those things are appealing to businesses looking to hire a contractor, and more often than not, most businesses will go with the slightly more expensive option.

***

There are many things to consider when setting your prices, which is why we include it as a subject in our EzyStartUp Course. However, as a general rule of thumb, researching other businesses in your industry will help you to understand how much you can expect to earn, and should serve as a good starting off point for your business.


Check out our Spring Specials!

learning how to use excel and xero with online training

We have a host of online training course specials for the spring season — take a look!


 

Posted on

Pricing: Are You Being a Con Artist Without Knowing It?

It doesn't pay to sneak around your pricing; stating it up front is a better way to go.
It doesn’t pay to sneak around your pricing; stating it up front is a better way to go.

A short while back we wrote a post about why your final price should include GST, and just recently we talked about how you should structure your prices, so we thought we would add to these and talk about whether you should make your prices freely available on your website.

The internet has changed the way we do many things. It’s changed the way we bank, communicate and work, but if there’s one thing it’s almost entirely revolutionised it’s the way we shop — particularly the way we shop for professional services.

Divulging Your Prices

With the internet at our fingertips — on our computers, smartphones and tablets — we can quickly search any business, any time we like. It’s the first thing most of us do before we pick up the phone to call that business, so it makes sense to provide as much information on your website to encourage people to actually make that call.

Yet, many businesses do not. The most common thing missing from a company’s website: the price. This isn’t uncommon in professional services sector. But it doesn’t mean it’s right, either.

There is not a single business that doesn’t have a basic price structure set out for each service they offer, whether they’re an accountant or a plumber — and, frankly, any business that doesn’t is not a very successful one.

Subject to Change Pricing

Even if your prices are subject to change based on the additional services your clients require, put that basic price on your website and mention the fees for each additional service.

You’ll not only establish a point of difference between you and your competitors, but it also demonstrates transparency. Your potential customers know that they’re not going to get a different price depending on the time of day or day of the week they call you.

***

At the end of the day, unless you’re hiding something, there is no reason why you shouldn’t put your prices on your website. We cover pricing in depth in our Small Business Management Course.

Posted on 2 Comments

When Should You Work for Free?

It's ok to do work for free, but your clients should be made aware of the extra value you're adding.
It’s ok to do work for free, but your clients should be made aware of the extra value you’re adding.

In our Small Business Management Course there is a module on determining and setting your prices, which includes factoring in things like travel expenses if you’re going to be visiting clients and so forth. But what about things like, installation costs – should you bill your clients for this or work it into the price or just let it slide?

Some businesses work those sorts of prices into their final cost; others – think Foxtel, for example – charge installation fees; but a surprising number of businesses let it slide.

We don’t think this is necessarily a bad idea, though we don’t think you should leave this kind of added value go unnoticed by your clients, especially when you consider some companies charge you for everything – from customer support to installation of their product.

It’s not just big players like Foxtel, either. Consider any time you need some form of legal help, be it a letter sent on your behalf or a consultation, you’re billed for that lawyer’s time. The same goes for the medical profession.

Let Your Customers Know What You’re Adding

When you’re starting out, however, it can be hard to do this because usually you’re just hungry for that first customer. That’s why we think it’s a better idea to do some work for free, but notify your customers of this added value you’re providing at no additional cost.

This also enables you begin charging these clients for that additional work at a later date – so long as you give them notice beforehand, of course. By doing this, you’re not only establishing a way to later bill people for time that will eventually become precious as your business grows, but you’re also establishing yourself as a competitive player in the marketplace.

In this sense, doing work for free can be very good for business. By the same token, you can also use this approach when clients ask for discounts or price reductions on your products or services.

Rather than giving them a discount, think of ways that you can provide them with added value without discounting your prices, just as car dealers or some IT resellers do when you ask for discounts.

***

Next time you’re thinking about your prices, consider outlining any potential added value that your customers and clients aren’t being billed instead of discounting or giving price reductions.

Posted on 1 Comment

Should Your Final Price Include GST?

The price you charge for goods or services should always include GST.
The price you charge for goods or services should always include GST.

We are constantly refreshing the content of our MYOB training course so that you can benefit from all the new information that is always coming in about being a bookkeeper, running your own bookkeeping business or doing the books for someone else’s business.

Pricing Your Services for GST

For bookkeepers and tax agents, GST is often one of the more confusing aspects of Australia tax. We cover GST reporting in our MYOB training course, but long before you come to doing financial reports, you need to ensure your clients are accurately collecting GST in the first place — something many new business owners have trouble with, and often do so incorrectly.

We were recently speaking about how business owners should price their services in relation to GST with Julie Guest, an accountant, auditor and the secretary of YNH Services, a neighbourhood house in the community of Yarrawonga, regional Victoria. YNH Services is a registered training organisation, providing learning and development opportunities to the local community through training courses, seminars and community events, and it’s where Julie regularly teaches a business course for small business and soon-to-be business owners.

When discussion turns to setting prices, invoicing and collecting GST, Julie has one golden rule: “The price is the price,” by which, she means that business owners, if they’re registered for GST, need to set their prices to automatically include the GST component.

Automatically Include the GST!

Julie says that the reason prices should always be inclusive of GST is because it is already implied. “People assume the final price on a tax invoice contains GST,” so business owners need to ensure that any prices they quote or advertise does, in fact, include GST.

But this is where a problem arises; when business owners who are registered for GST advertise their products or services as being exclusive of GST. “It seems people are using it as a marketing ploy to advertise something at $100 plus GST because it sounds cheaper than $110, even though that actually is the price,” Julie says. This can be confusing to the consumer when today it is really standard practice to purchase something, at the supermarket, for example, where GST is included in the price.

It’s for this reason that Julie goes back to her golden rule: the price is the price. If you’re registered for GST, you need to supply your clients and customers with a tax invoice — not an invoice which is what business that aren’t registered for GST would use — that shows the final price, including GST. If you choose to break down or itemise the GST on your invoice, that is your prerogative, though you don’t really have to. If you’re not registered for GST, issue your clients and customers with an invoice — notice the absence of the word “tax” since you’re not collecting any tax. It is also handy to include a note that says that you haven’t charged any GST, though, agin you don’t really have to do that either.

***

For more information on our GST reporting click here, or for more information on the YNH neighbourhood house, visit their website here.