March 30, 2017

8 Things Every Creative Should Look for in an Accountant

Happy Thursday friends! Today we are off to have our final meeting with our accountant Lisa before she files our taxes this year. And I just woke up SO grateful that we have someone in our life who cares as much about our business & family and fights as hard for us as she does. That definitely wasn’t always the case in our business when we were using someone else, and I can tell you that finding her has made ALL the difference. What used to take us days of stress-filled hours, wading through receipts and trying to figure everything out ourselves, has now turned into one simple, stress-free final meeting where we go over the final numbers and eat cupcakes to celebrate!! (I’m not even kidding!)

I know that filing taxes doesn’t seem like something to really celebrate, but it is! Just the fact that you had to file taxes at all means that you have a business and that you’re making money with it. People are paying you money to do what you love….and that’s pretty cool! Right? So if this year’s taxes haven’t been the walk in the park, easy breezy Pantene commercial that you hoped they would be…I wanted to give you some good advice that we’ve learned the long way in finding an accountant that will really go to work for you so that next year can be different and you can eat cupcakes too! :) Because what we’ve found, is that the kind of accountant you have makes all the difference in the world! And that’s especially true come tax time! So here they are, 8 Things Every Creative Small Business Owner Should Look For in Their Accountant!

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For years, we were using what I’m going to call a “reactive” accountant, in that it felt like we would do all the work and he would just react to whatever we put right in front of him. No more, no less. There was no proactive effort from him on our behalf. In other words, he wasn’t fighting for us or our business at all. He was just a numbers guy. And you could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. Then we found Lisa (thanks to an amazing recommendation from our friend Alicia)…and let me tell you, it changed everything. I literally cried when we found her. Both from relief and because I realized for the first time what we hadn’t had in our business for the years before. That’s because she really CARES about us and our business. You can sit down with her one time and tell that everything she does is driven by heart and by a strong WHY that she believes in. And like everything else that starts with Why, it makes all the difference in her work.

For Lisa, it isn’t just one meeting come March or April. She works with us ALL year leading up to tax time, to make sure that we’re on track and making adjustments as we need to. She actually came down to our home & met with us last August for the taxes we’re about to file now because she could tell that the business was growing rapidly and we needed to make adjustments to account for that. How amazing is that?? After working with her for several years, we now know how an accountant SHOULD treat you. And since we didn’t know what we were missing out on for years, we wanted to make a list of some things to look for in an accountant so you guys are finding the best person to take care of you too! Here goes.

1. Your accountant should specialize in small business. As a group, small business owners get the short end of the stick when it comes to taxes. Not only do we have federal & state income tax, but we also get charged a (really hefty) penalty just for the luxury of being self employed. Those self-employment taxes can be even more than income tax, which is crazy to me. Here we are trying to create business, create commerce, contribute to the economy and we’re penalized for our entrepreneurial spirit. This makes me really cranky. So it’s really crucial that your account stays constantly up to date on every change in the tax code that affects small business, so he or she can get the best result for you possible.

2. Your accountant should do your bookkeeping. Or work directly with someone who does. Our accountant now does all of our bookkeeping through the year which means that come tax time there is no confusion and no learning curve as she tries to figure out what someone else did. So the taxes go a LOT faster. It also means that she can track how we’re doing throughout the year, so she can tell us if we’re on track for where we want to be or not.

3. Your accountant should be proactive. Your accountant should be actively invested in how you’re doing. Ours does this in a couple of ways. 1) she doesn’t just react to how we’ve set things up, she gives amazing recommendations for simple changes we could make that would go to work for us SO much more and 2) she will not only look at just the numbers & the end result…she’ll go the extra step to give us the analysis to say “ok, so this type of workshop is actually more profitable than this one” or “hey you guys should really get some more money in your SEP (self employed pension) because your expenses/deductions are down.”

4. Your accountant should meet with you throughout the year. I’m not saying it has to be every month (but ours does check in with our monthly profit & loss statements), but your accountant should be checking in with you before the end of the taxable year to make sure you’re on track for where you need to be before the year ends.

5. Your accountant should set up your estimated tax payments. Whether that’s monthly or quarterly, your accountant should be helping you come up with a plan to pay in throughout the year so you aren’t getting slammed come tax time.

6. Your accountant should manage sales tax payments for you. The sales tax law is also constantly changing and our accountant goes to regular seminars to make sure she’s staying as up on it as possible so that we’re paying the right amounts. She will also prepare those returns & file them for us.

7. Your accountant should speak in normal language. Our old accountant used to only ever speak to us in “tax speak”….it was a constant stream of forms, numbers and letters. And I left every meeting SO stressed out. But just the way that we would never speak to our couples in terms of apertures, shutter speeds or ISO, you want an accountant who is super technical on the inside and knows her STUFF, but can talk like a normal person on the outside when she’s talking to you!

8. Your accountant should care about you. Our accountant told us she was really proud of us this year. And again I cried. Because I’m just SO thankful that we found someone who is fighting for us and our business like she cares about it. Because she actually does. Oh and it also doesn’t hurt that she gives us M&M’s when we meet with her! :) That’s the way to really show you care!

We hope that helps give you some ideas for what to look for in an accountant! And stay tuned tomorrow when we talk about our new favorite app for staying on top of all these numbers! It’s seriously a GAME changer!

xo
M:)

*PS: If you are looking for even more resources on running a smart business, be sure to check out The Guide in our J&M Store which is on special today for $50 off!! Just head over HERE!

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  1. Alicia Daw

    You forgot to add all the dry humor as a bonus. ;) And I’m gonna have to start a little fight with her, because she doesn’t serve US M&Ms when we are there!!

  2. admin

    @Alicia: bahahahh you have to get on her “sweet” side!! :)

  3. Catherine

    I LOVE posts like this! No one WANTS to think about the, technical, financial, nitty gritty, non creative stuff, but as small business owners this is the super important information we need to know! Please keep posts like this coming :)

  4. Stephanie Stewart

    Yes, I always love these posts! Please keep them coming…along with all of your pretty pictures too, please! So happy that you found an accountant that truly cares about you and your business! So hard to find great people who know their stuff and who make the experience just as great!

  5. Ashley Mitchell

    I am LOVING these types of posts – there is so much information for newer photographers out there, and I am loving the posts you have been writing that are just as applicable to a newer photographer as a more seasoned one! Jeremy and I are in the market for an accountant for our business now that we have jointed together and this was so helpful! Now if only we lived closer to you guys so we could just have your gal haha!

  6. Divya

    such a helpful post – thank you!

  7. Cathy

    Love posts like this!!! We just found a small husband & wife accounting company that we’ve started working with and they are amazing! Just a question (and maybe you can address this in a later post), but as far as your bookkeeping, how does that work to have her do it all for you? As in, what is the process you use to do that, how did you set it up with her initially, and how often do you touch base with her throughout the year on that? We’re considering going that way next year, but aren’t quite sure what to expect. Thank you!!!

  8. Cristi

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!!! I am just starting my own business and this info is such a huge help as I am currently looking for an accountant. Finding you guys has been one of the great blessings to me in my business so far. Thank you for EVERYthing you do!!! You guys are such an inspiration to me!

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