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Accountants: Have you made a rod for your own back by being helpful?

Since the pandemic hit Britain many accountants have been doing more work for clients pro bono, to help them cope with the crisis. Well, this has to stop, says Vanessa Ugatti.

If you’re anything like me, when lockdown first happened you thought it was going to be short-lived.

You certainly had no idea that it would drag on for quite so long or indeed have such severe consequences on the economy and businesses of all sizes. Everyone has been challenged in one way or another, both from a work/ business perspective, as well as personally.

However, in this article, I am focused on you, the accountant, and the impact it has had both on your business and you as a person.

I am not one for pussyfooting around. I’ll get straight to the point and say it as it is. You’re an honourable person, you love looking after your clients and you always do your very best to achieve that.

On the other hand, you’re not so good at giving your own business, or yourself for that matter, the same level of time and attention, are you? I sense you might be nodding your head.

In recent weeks, you’ve had to get to grips with all sorts of new ‘paperwork’: grants, the Corona Business Interruption Loan Scheme, deferred taxes and VAT, and so on.

No doubt, at least in the early days, you were bombarded with telephone calls from stressed clients, asking you about one thing or another, crying down the phone and generally offloading. And this on top of an already hefty workload!

Does that just about sum things up? Because of your kindness and the fact that you wanted to shield your clients from more stress, which is laudable, you probably ‘took on’ this extra work without charging.

Maybe, just maybe, it was sustainable for a short period of time to help out your clients without charging.

However, since this situation is dragging on and the economy is not just going to bounce back overnight, what’s your plan to start charging again for all your services?

Oh, you haven’t got a plan?

The trouble is you’re far too busy doing all this extra work for free to have time to stop and think about your business, let alone smell the roses.

Let me remind you:

  • You are not superman or superwoman.
  • This is not sustainable.
  • You are a business and not a charity.
  • You are human!

What makes it OK for you to put everyone else first and not take care of yourself? I get that you want to help your clients, many of whom you have known for years, so the boundaries have potentially become very fuzzy indeed.

Yet some of your clients’ businesses may not recover from this, despite all your best efforts. This is a sad fact of life.

And how is your business faring? What has the impact of Corona Virus been on your business and you? How has this additional work impacted on the quality of your family life and work-life balance or as some prefer these days, your life-work balance? I know what the answer is to that one. Massively!

Surely you must protect your business and look after yourself in order to ensure that you can help your clients, long into the future, without being distracted by your own issues, whether they be financial or health?

So let me be so bold as to ask you:

When will you start charging again for this additional work? What will happen if you don’t? I am sure you know the answer; I can only surmise.

So let’s be honest about why doing lots of work for free is not sustainable. It won’t work for your business. You cannot afford to work for free.

It won’t work for your profession as you may be influencing others to do the same.

It won’t work for the economy.

Finally, in the end, it won’t work for your clients as you will get tired and resentful which means paradoxically, you will not be able to serve your clients as well as you would like.

Just so as you know, I do help people when I can, without charging them. However, I do not give away vast quantities of my time without charging, as that would be hypocritical and inauthentic, wouldn’t it?

I’ll ask you one final time: when will you starting charging again for all your services?

• Vanessa Ugatti, the author of ‘True Worth: How to Charge What You’re Worth and Get It’, helps accountants and lawyers get paid their true worth while creating a healthier work-life balance. Email vanessa@thetrueworthexpert.com or call 0120 743961

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