Practice Management

How Much Do You Charge?

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BillingDo you cringe when you get asked that question? Do you answer it as quickly as possible so you can get back to what you’re doing? Or do you answer with the common reply of “It depends?” Having an open mind and a new approach to answering this question could be just what you need to get more profitable clients.

When I am coaching accountants on marketing, I often hear that clients and prospects that ask this question make poor clients because they are price-sensitive and they are just shopping around. While this might be true a small percentage of the time, I’d love for you to consider a whole new viewpoint.

Perhaps these prospects simply don’t know what else to ask when they are shopping for an accountant, QuickBooks consultant, tax person, or bookkeeper.

No one wants to feel stupid. And yet, clients who need to hire accountants and QuickBooks consultants often do not know the right questions to ask in order to judge how good you are at what you do. Many small business owners must rely on their gut instinct when you are communicating with them. So their fallback question is “what do you charge?”

The accountant who gets fed up with the question makes the prospect feel worse. It’s not really a good way to start a relationship!

Judging the Clients’ Ability to Pay

Another factor that comes into play when deciding how to respond to a prospect who asks “How much do you charge?” is judging the prospect.

We make judgments all day long: Checking balances, getting things coded correctly, ensuring the tax deduction is done correctly, etc. The problem is, we don’t turn the judgment off when it comes to a prospect’s ability to pay. And we base our judgment on things that might be inaccurate, such as the client’s industry, how smart they sound, or what they look like.

That’s why developing a system of qualifying and selling is so important to our marketing results. The judgment and emotion we feel while trying to make the sale is reduced when we can ask questions and follow a process that we know works over and over again.

Qualify, Then Sell

All great salespeople will qualify their prospects, then set a future date or two to build the relationship and make the sales pitch. I recommend the same thing for accountants, and don’t worry; it doesn’t have to sound sales-y at all.

Here are some ideas of what to say. If you don’t have time to qualify the client, you can respond with something like this:

“What a great question. I have bookkeeping packages, and I would love to speak with you more about which package might be right for you. Would you like to set up a time to talk?”

“Hmm. I’d love to find out more about your company so I can give you an accurate quote. Would you like to set up a time to talk?”

If you have time to qualify the client, you will be able to prepare more for the sales call. First come up with three to five qualifying questions and comments so you can figure out in broad terms what this client needs. You can use these questions over and over again for each prospect once you’ve written them out. Ask the client:

  • Do you have a deadline or a requirement coming up?
  • Do you have an idea of what services you need from us?
  • Can I ask you a few questions about your company? – You’ll want to know things like the type of entity, size of company, size of the accounting department, and who was doing the previous accounting unless they are a startup.

Try not to spend more than five minutes on an unscheduled phone call with a prospect. Your goal is to set a sales appointment with them so they can get to know you and your expertise and make a decision about whether you are right for each other.

How Much Do You Charge?

I encourage you to ask yourself if the response you are giving to this common question is the most profitable one from a marketing standpoint. If not, then develop a response that you and your prospect will feel good with. Consider writing some qualifying questions, and test them out the next time someone asks you about your fees. You might be pleasantly surprised at the turn the conversation takes.

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About the author

Sandi Smith Leyva

Sandi Smith Leyva, CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Xero Certified Advisor, helps accountants and QuickBooks consultants make more, work less, and serve clients better through her marketing programs, services, and products. Visit to find out more.


  • My answer to this is simple, I charge an hourly fee. I do have to qualify clients as far as the size of their business, because this is my PT job and I may not provide all of the services they are looking for.

    I will say that this is really a key question you should have a ready answer for. Even if it’s not as simple as an hourly fee, Sandi’s suggested responses are perfect. If I were to ask this question, and the answer sounded like a bunch of fluff I probably wouldn’t want to be a client. Being budget-minded doesn’t automatically make for a bad client…in fact those clients tend to be the most appreciative of my services.

  • My immediate response when I am asked how much I charge is to ask the client to give some background on their company, what they do and where they’re at. There’s a reason they called. Some problem needs to be solved, so the first thing I want to know is what that problem is. Sometimes there will be something very specific they need help with and other times they just generally know they need better financial accounting and bookkeeping. Either way I get them to fill me in on what they think they need.

    Even after they explain their company to me I often invite them to upload their QuickBooks backup to me so I can review it. Often times I will record a video of my review so they can actually see me go through their balance sheet & P&L. The video has an incredible impact. Clients go crazy when you do that. Then by the time we’re back to talking price they know there is value in what they are getting. I have actually offered to do this for free if I thought it sounded like it was going to be pretty simple and in other cases I have gotten as much as $500 just for doing this review (video included). At the very least I am going to teach them a ton of stuff about their own company as well as QuickBooks and every client I have done this for has raved about it!

    So my philosophy when I am asked what I charge is to sort of blow them away with what I can do for them. By then they know it isn’t going to be cheap, but they know what they’re going to get. Now price really shouldn’t be an issue but if it is, I’ll find out Quickly. Also after reviewing the prospect’s balance sheet, P&L, and Statement Of Cash Flows I can see for myself whether or not they can afford me 🙂

  • I am finding a devious escalation of quick books pro charges. It seems to be the case where CPA’s are doing quick books consulting they are charging their hourly CPA fees and not the fees normally charged by competent quick book pro advisors who are not CPA’s. I find this a particularly egregious fleecing of the consumer. I did software consulting for several years and was an expert in a number of software packages; without being either an attorney, doctor or CPA. When a CPA is acting as a quick books pro advisor they should be charging those fees and not those of a CPA! It is a dangerous escalation of costs for all of us who use QB Por advisors.

    • Well, I’m not a CPA myself – but if you go to a high level person you should expect to pay for their time, regardless of what you are asking. If I go to my attorney and they give me time, I expect to pay that attorney’s normal fee no matter what I’m asking for. If I want some help with a matter that doesn’t need the attorney, I’ll talk to their assistant who is billed at a lower rate.

      If you don’t want a CPA fee, don’t go to a CPA. Find a ProAdvisor who bills at a lower rate, who isn’t a CPA. Of course, don’t ask the ProAdvisor for higher level accounting questions that you should go to the CPA for.

      Just my opinion.

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