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When It’s Good to Offer Free Bookkeeping Help

woman working as a bookkeeper for free

Providing an initial consultation free of charge

woman working as a bookkeeper for free
No one should expect you to do work for free, but spending time getting to know your clients will help distinguish you from a bar of soap!

IT’S NEVER REALLY a good idea to work for new client or potential new clients for free, particularly if you’re an established business. But it’s also difficult getting a client to feel comfortable that you’ll do a good job for them, when they don’t know you from the proverbial bar of soap.

Rather than working for free or charging less than the minimum wage for your bookkeeping services a better idea is to spend some time with your client, either in-person or over the phone, to go through your processes and procedures before you commence work for them. It’s also important that you make your clients aware of value adds you’re providing to them.

Schedule a consultation with prospects

If you take the lead and schedule a an initial consultation call or meeting with your new clients or prospects, you get to control how the working relationship progresses. This gives you the opportunity to set some ground rules around the assignment of work, turn around times, payment terms, and so on. 

Aside from making you look professional and organised, it’ll also make your job easier because you’ve clearly outlined how you operate, what’s expected from the client in order for you to do your job, and what happens after you’ve finished your work.

For example, is BAS lodgement included in your fees, or is that additional? Do you follow up late payers on your client’s behalf or is that additional?

Read more about what you can cover at an initial consultation

Do some needs analysis

It’s a good idea to look at how much knowledge your new clients have of bookkeeping and the software you’ll be using (Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks, etc). Carry out some quick needs analysis during your consultation, so that if there are any areas they are unfamiliar with you’re both prepared and able to give them a quick overview. Further, in-depth training is a potential source of additional revenue, so be careful not to spend too much time here. All of this will help you form your bookkeeping business strategy and, in particular, ensure your rates are competitive, yet sustainable. 

Read more about what you can cover at an initial consultation


Start a bookkeeping business today

Start a bookkeeping business not a franchiseIf you’d like to start a bookkeeping business, then visit our online bookkeeping directory, National Bookkeeping. You can find information about how to start your own bookkeeping business, promote yourself through our directory or become a licensee.

As a licensee with National Bookkeeping, you’ll have access to EzyLearn training courses (which also means the license fee is one hundred percent tax deductible. Visit the National Bookkeeping website today and register your interest online.


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Am I Better Off Doing Some Work for Free or Discounting My Rates?

working for free
Working for free is often better than discounting your fees.

We’ve spoken about working for free before. In one post about setting prices we discussed why you should outline the free work that you do as ‘added value’, but if that’s still not working, maybe you should consider working for free. This may sound counterintuitive, since you’re trying to get paying customers and now we’re telling you to give your services away for free, but stay with us.

Wetting People’s Appetites with a Free Work Sample

We mentioned in another post that many companies start out by offering their services for free and then gradually introduce fees once they’re established. As a new business trying to get those first few customers, this is a great way to offer people a taste of your work.

Snack food companies have been doing this for years: they’ll give you a free sample of their new banana flavoured chips, you’ll fall in love with them and buy them next time you’re at the supermarket.

Perhaps you’ll tell your friends about it – after all, they’re banana-flavoured chips! This simple act of giving something away for free just achieved what could take multiple newspaper or TV ads to achieve; what could even take years of working for people to achieve.

Why Working for Free is Better than Discounted Rates

There is a clear benefit of working for free in the initial start-up phase of your business as opposed to charging discounted rates, and that is that you don’t have to work for free forever and few people would expect that.

By offering discounted rates, however, you enter into a grey area. At what point can you increase those rates, and by how much is acceptable? Even once you’ve decided that it’s fair and reasonable to increase your fees, it’s often a difficult discussion to have with your client.

But by offering your service for free at the outset, it leaves the ball in your court to raise the question of payment the next time they want to use your services.

Besides, if you do good work, and your fees are fair and reasonable, there’s no reason to think those customers won’t employ you again at your full rate. If they don’t want to, then they’re not the kind of customer you would want anyway, even if you secured them as a customer at a heavily discounted rate.


Working for free in the initial stages of your business, pays far more in the long run than offering discounted rates. If you’re struggling to get those first few customers, consider offering your services for free to give customers a taste of your work.

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Working For Free: Why You Should Give With No Expectations

There are benefits in working for free, on occasion, in small business.
There are benefits in working for free, on occasion, in small business.

In a recent post we talked about the times when businesses should work for free, which we referred to as ‘added value’. We cover value-related exercises, such as determining and setting your prices in the module of the same name in our Small Business Management Course. Sometimes working for no charge at all and outlining where this so (that’s important — people need to be informed that you’re doing something for nothing otherwise they mightn’t know!)  discourages hagglers and nuisance clients always looking for a discount at every opportunity.

At the Beginning, When Things Were Free…

It’s not uncommon to see companies offering their products or services for free when they’re first starting out or launching something new. When that company or product becomes more established, however, they tend to become less inclined to offer than service for free.

But every business should devote a certain percentage of their time to working for free, whether it’s each week or month or quarter — take the time to give.

Why Working for Free Works

Aside from doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice, which is valuable in its own way, there are a couple of reasons why working for free can be invaluable to your business:

  • Those who can afford it won’t accept your work for free, because they’ll want to call on you again. There is the perception that larger businesses get ahead by using smaller ones and not paying them, but this isn’t always so. Most businesses, if they can afford to pay you, will.
  • Those who can’t afford it will never forget you, and they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about the work you did for them. You can’t buy this kind of good publicity for your business, and though not an entirely altruistic reason to work for free, it’s still a good one.
  • You’ll learn about yourself and your business. When you’ve been in business for a while, it’s because you’ve found a formula that’s proven successful in the past and you’ve continued to replicate it. When you work for free, there’s the opportunity to try things you haven’t done before, and the things you’ll learn will prove invaluable to you and your other customers.
  • You can be creative. As we’ve just said, you’ve been in business a while, you’re successful, you have money to pay for the quick, easy, mainstream fixes. When you’re working for people with a limited or no budget, you need to find other ways of doing things, and there’s no reason why you can’t take those ideas and use them in your business.
  • More than likely, you get to feel good about yourself. How you feel about yourself and your business and what you do is important. It’s the reason you get up in the morning, no?


Believe it or not, in business, not everything needs to have a dollar value attached to it. Sometimes the only reason you need to give something to someone is for no reason at all. Find out more about how to set your fees and charges in your small business by reading up more about our Small Business Management Course.