Accountants, you can say no to bad clients


Revenue growth does not mean taking on any client that comes your way; being 'choosy' about selecting your clients can pay off in the long run.

Promoted by Ignition 4 minute read

Having an ownership stake in your firm is just like any business. And like any business, when you first start up or become an owner, you can be driven to increase revenue at all costs. When I first started my own firm, I took on every client that came my way, no matter who they were, the state of their affairs or how much they bargained on price. 

I was tunnel visioned towards revenue growth, determined to make sure that I won enough client work to cover all the costs I was now responsible for. 

What is interesting, though, is I don't remember exactly what the first engagement letter I sent was,  but I do remember the first disengagement letter almost word for word. I remember the relief of finally being free of a difficult client that treated my staff and me poorly, held no value in the work we did, consistently paid late, argued for free out-of-scope services and was overall a bad client. 

It was the beginning of a change in my approach toward client engagement and retention. I had built a team and a successful business; revenue was growing, and clients were coming. I didn't feel the need to hustle every second. That moment brought clarity that I did not want to work for every business that knocked on my door. 

I would challenge most accountants to think about their client base; you know you have clients you don't want to work with. Maybe they aren't terrible people, but perhaps they are low value, high maintenance, don't fit your model, won’t work the way you want, from an industry you don't want to touch or a range of other reasons they aren't right for you. In 2022, why are we still working with these businesses?

If there was ever a time to review your client list, it's now. Accountants and Bookkeepers across the country are at maximum capacity. We have a widely reported staffing shortage, there is more work than most of us can handle, and rules & regulations are changing around us every time we blink. But instead of complaining about how exhausted we are, we can do something about fixing our circumstances. 

We can proactively decide not to blindly chase revenue growth but focus on pricing, profits and quality work for the right clients. This process will be different for everyone and will be driven by your own business model and how you value clients. Your financial status will also influence the approach that you take and how quickly you exit clients. You may be able to sack a bunch of them today, or you may need to ensure you have replacements waiting in the wings. 

Either way, identifying who you do and don't want to work with means you have a plan and can work towards having the financial capacity to only engage with your ideal clients. Clients who fit your model and appreciate your value bring that little bit of extra joy into your working day. Knowing that the hard work of you and your team is appreciated leads not just to better job satisfaction for everyone, but you will find lifted morale will produce better results across your business. 

I understand that this change can be daunting, but I know how hard it is to turn down a lead or exit a client and say, “sorry, you aren't right for me”. But I also know firsthand how satisfying it is to put a bad client relationship behind you or to dodge a bullet by never starting one. It just takes planning, focus and a touch of bravery. 

For a comprehensive process to help you identify your ideal client and sack the rest - watch our recent webinar on-demand ‘How to identify and grow your ideal clients list’.

>>Watch the webinar on-demand now<<


Written by Rebecca Mihalic

Rebecca Mihalic is an Australian Registered Tax Agent, a member of the Chartered Accountants Australian and New Zealand, and a member of the Institute of Public Accountants. She has been working in public practice since 2003. Rebecca was a co-founder of Aptus Accounting & Advisory which was named the 2018 Innovator of the Year at the Australian Accounting Awards. Rebecca has earned a reputation for her leadership, passion and commitment to the accounting industry and recently won 'Thought Leader of the Year' in the prestigious 2021 Australian Accounting Awards.


About Ignition

Ignition is the world’s first client engagement and commerce platform for professional services businesses, to streamline how they engage clients and get paid. Over 5,000 accounting and professional services firms around the world use Ignition to win new business with impressive digital proposals, engage clients with a clear scope of work, and get paid on time by automating payment collection. Ignition also integrates with leading business apps such as Gusto, QuickBooks, Xero and Zapier to automate time-consuming tasks. Founded in 2013 by a progressive accounting entrepreneur to find a better way of doing business, our goal is to help customers grow, be more efficient, and create win-win client relationships. To date, we’ve helped facilitate more than 2 Million client engagements and over US$2 Billion in client payments. Practice Ignition has teams in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, The Philippines, South Africa, US and the UK, with over 150 employees globally.

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