Nobody wants to be the bad guy, and saying no to accounting clients often makes you feel like one. It can be difficult to manage client expectations, especially when you aren’t sure of your own value. You might be afraid you’ll lose a client, or afraid that someone will be unhappy with you. At the end of the day, taking on work you don’t have time for or aren’t being adequately compensated for will only hurt your business. So, it’s time to draw the line. Here are some tips for learning to say no to accounting clients. 

Setting Boundaries

Saying no is all about setting boundaries and sticking to them. When you first onboard a new client, make sure that they understand that you will not do additional work that you have not agreed to in advance. When a client asks you to do something, give them a quote for how much that service will cost. Don’t be afraid to speak clearly and candidly with your clients while still being polite. 

Avoiding Scope Creep

Scope creep is what happens when the work you’re doing for your client goes beyond the bounds of your engagement letter… meaning you’re giving them additional services for the same rate. Scope creep can be detrimental to your business, using up your staff’s time and resources. That’s why it’s so important to not stray from the terms of your original agreement. If you’re hesitant to tell a client no, use your engagement letter as a shield; explain to them that the terms you outlined must be respected. 

Giving Clients Options

Saying no doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation. In fact, these talks can be a great opportunity for upselling your services. When you say no to a client, be sure to show them the path towards getting the services they’re after. If you have another package that includes the service they’re looking for, tell them about it! Explaining your service offerings and what each package entails will also help them better understand the accounting business. Sometimes, clients are just asking because they don’t understand how much work goes into different tasks. 

Knowing Your Worth

Oftentimes, we say yes when we really want to say no because we undervalue our own skills and experience. We say yes because we think it’s not a big deal to do a little extra work. It can also be easy to think of clients, who you see often and probably get along well with, as friends. You wouldn’t mind doing a favor for a friend, would you? However, only bad friends undervalue you. If you don’t know your own worth, it’s easy to be taken advantage of. The best guard against this is knowing your business, your offerings, and how to navigate difficult conversations like the back of your hand. 

At the end of the day, you understand your business. You know how much time you have, what your resource limits are, and how much you are worth as an accountant. When it comes down to it, it’s important to trust your gut and say no when a client’s expectations are too high.