Once you have completed the steps to becoming a tax preparer, it’s time to turn your new job title into a career that earns you money. Here are some of the basic steps to get you going in the short and long-term.
A lot of seasoned preparers will tell you it takes at least a couple of tax seasons to learn the terms, laws, forms, software, customer support needs, and other nuances of the industry. If this is your first year working as a tax preparer, it might make sense to work part-time or full-time in a firm. The experience you’ll gain in an established tax preparation office will help you become more self-sufficient, so you’re ready to strike out on your own in the next couple of years.
Set up your office
As a sole practitioner, not only will you be preparing tax returns, you’ll also be processing payments, organizing documents, communicating with clients, and more.
Your essential items will include an up-to-date computer system, fast internet, and a reliable tax prep software. You’ll also want a printer, scanner, barcode scanner, a signature pad, and some additional software for reading and creating PDFs. Here is a complete checklist to get you started.
Understand what makes your business different
In the time it takes you to understand the ins and outs of the tax prep business, you are gaining skills and specific expertise that will help you stand out from the competition. When a potential new customer asks why they should use your services versus your competitor, know the answer, and be prepared to pitch.
Do you cater to businesses with a focus on business tax filing? Are you the expert at 1040 individual returns? Do you offer bank products or additional services like bookkeeping? Once you’ve identified the unique value you provide, you can narrow in on the clients who are most likely to use your services and market directly to them.
Build a client list
Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of advertising there is. As you’re just starting out, it makes sense to turn to the people closest to you, like friends and family, to build your reputation as a tax preparer. Once you have demonstrated the quality of your work and established a relationship of trust, you can confidently ask them for referrals. You can also use low-cost online resources like social media and web search to help you gain and nurture leads.
Remember that returning clients are just as important as new ones. Maintain contact with them during the off-season through reminders and updates. Offer incentives for referrals if you can. Using a combination of traditional and online resources, you can effectively maintain and expand your base.
Continue your education
One way to set your business apart and create year-round income for yourself is to become an enrolled agent (EA). EA status is the highest credential awarded by the IRS, so it takes time and commitment and 72 hours of approved continuing education every three years.
But even if becoming an enrolled agent isn’t in your master plan, the more you learn about tax preparation and the laws governing the tax system, the better you can serve your clients. With increased confidence, you may decide to diversify the types of tax returns you prepare and expand your business even further. Every year the IRS holds seminars across the country with you in mind. At each one, a variety of courses are available on a range of topics designed to help you serve both individual taxpayers and business entities.
TaxSlayer Pro hosts regular webinars to help you learn the ins-and-outs of the industry as well as the software, and we invite all our users to attend the annual seminar each fall in Augusta, Georgia. Click here to learn more about the annual TaxSlayer Pro seminar.
Market your business
If marketing is not your area of expertise, then it may seem overwhelming (and expensive) at first glance. Where do you even begin?
Social media is a low-cost tool that you can use to your advantage, both to maintain contact with your existing clients and to generate new leads. Engaging with people on social platforms will help keep you top-of-mind when tax season comes around. Read also: Social Media 101 for Tax Preparers
Email marketing is another highly effective method that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are lots of affordable subscription services that offer easy-to-use templates and allow you to send several emails at once. Don’t underestimate the value of a traditional flyer or postcard delivered in the mail, either.
Ultimately, creating a website where people can discover your business online could give you an edge over your competitors. It’s also an important part of customer acquisition. Describe your experience, expertise, and the unique value you provide as a tax preparer. Provide contact info and list your physical address, too, so you show up when people search for a local provider.
TaxSlayer Pro is here to help you grow your business. Reach out to our team at 1-888-420-1040 to find out more about our software and our support.