How to build a six-figure firm on Instagram with Sandra YorkDownload MP3
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Sandra York: [00:00:00] And again, picking my niche, that's that's like the the number one thing is find your niche and niche down as far as you can go. I didn't just niche down to service providers because I don't know a thing about retail and inventory and point of sale systems and any of that. That's that's not me. You want to find somebody else to help you with all of that stuff. Knowing who my audience is and speaking directly to them instead of trying to reach the broad accounting market in general where you open your arms and you say, somebody, anybody, please just come be my client. There's a big difference there.
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Blake Oliver: [00:01:37] Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Earmark podcast. I am your host, Blake Oliver, CPA, joined today by Sandi York. Sandi, welcome to the program.
Sandra York: [00:01:48] Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
Blake Oliver: [00:01:51] Sandi, I have a confession to make. I'm a bit sleep deprived today. I didn't sleep so good, but then I realized that this ties in. Well, I think in some respects to our topic today, which is Instagram, because Instagram has been criticized for keeping teenagers awake and sleep deprived for years now. And I know it happens to us millennials as well. Now, it wasn't social media keeping me awake last night, but it could have been. And I'm excited to talk to you about Instagram and how you've built a whole business, it sounds like, on Instagram to find clients. And please tell us a bit about your firm, what you do. Love to know your background.
Sandra York: [00:02:34] Well, I certainly never expected to get here as quickly as I did. I have been in and out of public accounting since, well, 1990 is when I first got in. I'm going to save the listeners the math. I'm going to be 55 in December. So I've been doing this for a very, very long time. I have been jumped ship from public accounting numerous times during my career, but I kept coming back to it because as I moved, it was the easiest place to get hired. I am married to a Coast Guardsmen, so we move every 3 to 4 years. Full disclosure, we've only been married ten years, so I've only been moving half of his career because he's been in over 22 years now. But once you get up to like manager, senior manager, it gets really tough to go find a comparable job in the outside world. If you're going to move every four years. No one wants to hire a CFO who's going to take off after four years, and they have to go through the expense of hiring all over again.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:30] Well, unless you can work remotely. But I'm taking it like most jobs at this time, you know, they're not they're not letting you do that. They want you in that in that office. Right.
Sandra York: [00:03:39] Right, right. I mean, I think it's gotten a little better since COVID. But now there's still that just insane push to get people back into the office, which I understand at certain levels. But anyway.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:51] And I take it you're at home right now because I hear the the dog in the background there.
Sandra York: [00:03:55] I'm sorry.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:56] Yeah.
Sandra York: [00:03:56] No, it's all right. The door closed. I have her music on.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:59] I have. I have a dog myself. Fortunately, he is keeping quiet right now, so I understand. Yeah. Sometimes it's my son running in in the middle of a webinar that actually happened during COVID. 1000 people got to meet him, and fortunately, it went well. But yes, it's risky.
Sandra York: [00:04:17] So long story short, I got burned out in public accounting just like everyone else has. I was working for a very large, very large firm in Buffalo, New York, when finally I decided something had to change. I just couldn't do it. I'm getting older. I didn't want to be working 65 plus hours a week anymore. Busy season never ended. You just rolled right into whatever next was coming. So I ended up bailing without anything to go to. I quit and.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:45] Quit. Nothing lined up.
Sandra York: [00:04:47] Yeah. Super scary. Never done anything like that in my life. I had a little bit of savings that would carry me for a very short time because I had this idea. I had this idea about Instagram, and I'll back up and talk about where that idea came from. Yeah, but I was fully expecting, after three months of just taking that leap without the net, having to go get a part time job somewhere. And, you know, my husband was super supportive. He's like, okay, yeah, give it a shot. But, you know, just don't let us go broke. Essentially. Don't let us lose the house. So I got started with this Instagram idea of full throttle, and I never had to get the part time job and things are still just exploding. So I will back up and explain how we even got there in the first part.
Blake Oliver: [00:05:36] So yeah, you're going to have to fill in that gap for me because that seems like quite a leap. So you had a what was your role before when you left Public accounting?
Sandra York: [00:05:44] I was a senior manager.
Blake Oliver: [00:05:45] Okay, so you're a senior manager. You just leave. You quit with nothing lined up. Which, you know, that's something I might do because I'm a little weird, right? Like most people. They tend to have things lined up, right? So, yeah, you'd burned out you so And then you started building a business on Instagram. Like, what led you to, like, deciding that was how you were going to grow your own practice?
Sandra York: [00:06:08] Yeah. So it was July of 2021 when I left the firm. Two years prior to that? Actually, probably four years prior to that. I have I have a very close friend that I'm in constant contact with. Almost every day we message each other and she and I kind of like our own little mastermind and completely different related fields, but we bounce each other ideas off each other all the time. And she had told me as she was watching me burn out that. Personal trainer. She, among many other things, including journalists, she's a personal trainer. And she said personal trainers don't get any instruction on how to manage finances, how to run a business, bookkeeping, taxes, any of it. We're constantly surprised at the end of the year by what we owe in taxes. I really think that you could build an online course that would teach them how to do these things and that you would be very successful. And I thought it was an interesting idea, but I didn't know how to do it. I knew like making the PDF part, the video links. That's easy. How would you even market this thing? I don't. I don't get it. So I just kind of sat on that idea and she would prompt me every six months or so.
Sandra York: [00:07:19] Hey, you know, I see you're still continuing to burn out this. That's still an idea you could take and run with. Okay. Somewhere in that time, I. I. 2016, I had opened a personal Instagram account and I was just posting what everybody posts on there. Personally, I've got my pictures of my family and my dog, what we're doing, and I started following all the things that I was passionate about. All of the health and fitness accounts. I've lifted weights my entire adult career. I've been a runner, I've done whatever. I love being outdoors. These were the things I was following. I happened to follow an account of a doctor of physical therapy who was going by the handle, the movement maestro, and she was putting out these videos or like, Hey, does your shoulder hurt? Try these exercises in this order, Give it a shot, let me know how it goes. And she was actually there in the DMS like answering people who would who would respond to her and say, Hey, I tried this. It feels a lot better. What else you got? And her entire account was physical therapy, tidbits. They were all professionally done. The videos looked great. She was using all the latest Instagram tools for captioning and whatever.
Sandra York: [00:08:26] You know, the branding, the coloring was on point. Around 2019, she started to shift away from the physical therapy content and started to shift toward building an online business. So I just kind of happened to be in the right place at the right time to get these free Instagram tutorials. And while she was pitching it from online business to coaches who want to do like personal training online or telehealth, telehealth appointments, that kind of thing. Here I am, an accountant going, Well, I have this idea for a course. Maybe if I could build an audience on Instagram, I could sell the course. So she did this thing post every day for seven days and tag me in it so I can see your post. And this is going to be how you get started with consistency on Instagram. So I created an account called Fit Money Coach, which is my account as it is today. And participated in that challenge. And it all just kind of went from there. I built that course. I put it on Teachable at the end of the year, I broke even. That's not what we want to do. That was not the goal, to put all of that sweat and money into it and break even.
Blake Oliver: [00:09:43] So. So the purpose of your account. So your account at first the purpose was I'm going to create an online course on Teachable, and then I'm going to use Instagram to give out tidbits and then get people to go buy the course. Yeah, okay. But that was the idea. But it wasn't really delivering the results you were hoping for.
Sandra York: [00:10:03] It was not. What I found out was that people actually wanted a way to work with me. So the next thing I did was give them a way to pay me. I set up an acuity account and I developed what I call coaching calls, which is really an accountant consultation. But rather than being so formal about it and put it in their language because I was targeting my ideal client was in the health and fitness space, I wanted a service provider. I wanted someone who was doing all of the things that I had, either used the services up or participated in those services and I could speak their language. They just couldn't speak my. So did the coaching calls and started them really cheap. Like 45 minutes I think was 75 bucks in the beginning. Today there are 149 and I feel better about I think I think 149 is the right price for those. I get so many people who call me. We do a zoom and we talk about should they be an LLC or not, if they're very, very, you know, starting in the from scratch, how should they track their income and expenses if they're not yet to the point where they want to make a leap to QuickBooks? Do they really need to separate their bank accounts? We go through all of these different things and then they're more advanced.
Blake Oliver: [00:11:18] So they just come to you with their list of questions like Ready to go. They've booked the time, they've already paid. It's on your calendar. Can I ask before you go, I want to hear more about the advance stuff, but how did you make that leap from here? I am putting. Trying to get people to go to my course to then, you know, scheduling these calls, these consultations. How did that how did that happen?
Sandra York: [00:11:39] Yeah. So I started doing a thing on Instagram called Free Coaching Friday, and I would just post up an image free coaching for free coaching Friday. I'll be kind of paying attention today. Ask me some questions and I'll answer them. And so I got enough interest in that that I thought maybe people would pay me.
Blake Oliver: [00:11:55] Is that where you use the like the Q&A feature in Instagram where you can.
Sandra York: [00:12:01] I did some of that. That was in stories at the time. It might still be, but I would I would double post it. I post it to stories so I could use the Q&A. And that way it could be anonymous if they wanted. But then I'd also leave the image and they could just comment their questions if they were comfortable in the and the actual comments. And I would respond in the comments for everybody to see.
Blake Oliver: [00:12:20] Got it. Okay. So you're using both. You're using the stories feature and the comments in the Instagram post. Please continue.
Sandra York: [00:12:27] Yeah. Yeah. So my mentor, the movement maestro, her actual name is Dr. Shanti Cofield. She was she always had made it a point to say, teach everything you know, for free. People will pay you to teach them the specifics that apply to them. So I went with that. I did. I did all of the free teaching I could think up to do. After a while, it gets really hard to think of new and exciting topics for accounting, but I gave them the way to to pay me to learn more, essentially. And now I still have I'd say I'd do a minimum of three calls a month. It's not, you know, like I was spending all day, every day on the phone. I think I'd probably shoot myself if I did. But, you know, I get I think it's on an annual basis, maybe 5% of my income comes from coaching calls.
Blake Oliver: [00:13:18] But I'm guessing that the coaching calls turn into clients.
Sandra York: [00:13:22] A lot of times they do. It depends on how far along they are in their business. For the advanced ones, we could be talking about things like Is it time for me to escort people who are actually making money and wanting to know how much to set aside and savings for taxes? We'll go through the calculations and figure out, okay, let's let's set aside this percentage of your gross income, not your net, because that way you get in that habit, as soon as someone pays you, you're saving for taxes. If you save too much, fantastic. Refund yourself. If you don't save enough, then you've got that, much less you have to come up with when it comes time to settle up your tax bill.
Blake Oliver: [00:13:57] And is that something you're doing on the calls or is that something you're also putting out onto your Instagram?
Sandra York: [00:14:02] I do that on the calls.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:03] On the calls. Okay, Got it. But you but you're what you said there that I that stuck with me is you're not you're not holding anything back for the calls. The calls are how do I apply this strategy to my personal situation? You're putting all the information out there on your Instagram, which I think is kind of different than we think. A lot of times. A lot of times this practitioners, we worry If I tell everybody how to do this stuff, then they don't need to hire me.
Sandra York: [00:14:28] Right?
Blake Oliver: [00:14:29] But they'll still hire you.
Sandra York: [00:14:31] They will still hire you. It's kind of it's kind of developing an inverse relationship with them where you give and you give and you give so much that finally, when they're ready to hire somebody, they go like, Well, I'm going to go to this person that's been giving me all of this information.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:44] Because most people, they don't want to actually they don't want to actually form their own SE corp and they don't want to actually set up. Yes. Payroll to do it. Right. That's what they need the help with.
Sandra York: [00:14:52] Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:53] Okay. Well, that's fascinating. So you're doing how many of these calls are you doing a month now? You said a handful.
Sandra York: [00:14:59] Yeah, a handful. I would say an average month is probably at least five. It's not crazy. If I could work it out where I could just do the calls and not do the stuff that takes all of my time, that would be fantastic. But I don't see that flip that switch flipping anytime soon.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:16] Right? How often are you posting on Instagram?
Sandra York: [00:15:20] So it used to be daily and I would still love to be able to do it daily. But in the meantime, once I left the firm in July of 2021, around September is when I started taking monthly bookkeeping clients, because I would have people ask me in the calls, people ask me through DMS on Instagram. And none of my attempts at selling a product where we're going to make it. Everyone seemed to want to work one on one with me, so I thought, We'll shoot, let's just go for it. So.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:52] So you built your client list by accident, trying to sell a course? Yeah. And is that the only way you've gotten new clients is like Instagram? I imagine they refer you to others.
Sandra York: [00:16:03] Is it? Exactly. It's Instagram and it's referrals. And now I'm getting a lot more referrals than people who just stumble upon me on Instagram. Here's here's the thing that I want a client specifically to know about Instagram. The beauty of it is that you're not just a little bubble image icon sitting at the top of your LinkedIn profile, for example, or any other social media profile. You don't have to just be that bubble. You can go on video if you're comfortable with it and be a living talking human being. They can see your personality. I don't try to be professional. I try to be anti professional. I use the poop emoji in my graphics and in my comments. I go on Instagram with no makeup, my hair and a messy bond. I look like I just got done working out because I did. Because my clients are health and fitness. I want them to feel like they can come to me in between their clients and they don't have to worry about getting cleaned up and sitting down and being composed and ready for this meeting and all of that. Come as you are and we'll figure it out. Let's get your questions answered.
Blake Oliver: [00:17:09] You're making them comfortable because you I mean, you're passionate about what they're passionate about.
Sandra York: [00:17:15] Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:17:16] And and you are you are dressed like they are dressed and you're part of that community. And I can totally see how it wouldn't it wouldn't this idea of like, we need to be professional by wearing the pantsuit and the, you know, the jackets and the the ties or whatever. Right. All that stuff doesn't really work when it comes to this group of people.
Sandra York: [00:17:37] Right. And that's the beauty of it. When I was working at the at the large firm, you know, everybody who's in a firm right now will understand this. You get assigned a client and that client is yours. Typically until either you leave or the client leaves and you can get stuck with some pretty. Let's just call them clients you don't want to be working on anymore. They're difficult for whatever reason, whether whether it's the transactions, the situations they get themselves into personalities. It's just you. You automatically you can think of right now five clients, you're like, Oh, I wish I could just take these people off my plate. I don't have any of that. I niched down to who I wanted to work with. So for me, I've got at this point, my, my monthly client list are physical therapist chiropractors. I didn't expect to get those. I was expecting personal trainers and yoga teachers. Chiropractor I do have those as well. Yeah. The big one right now is Pilates Studios. I had two Pilates studios unrelated to each other and they're starting to tell two friends and they tell two friends and so on and so on. So I'm starting to get more Pilates studios now. I have circus performers. One of the things I was doing in Buffalo before I left was taking aerial classes. I was taking aerial era and aerial silks. And it was something that was so fun for me to use the strength that I had trained for and be able to express it in a creative way. So I put a couple of videos of that.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:09] I have to ask you about the aerial stuff. So is this like I've been to Cirque du Soleil and yeah, I've seen the performers in the air with this. Like it looks like they're hanging on drapery or like these giant. Yes, like fabrics hanging from the ceiling. Is that silks? Is that what you're talking about? Yeah. Wow. So you were doing that?
Sandra York: [00:19:26] No, you're. You're picturing Cirque du Soleil. Let's picture it. Six inches off the ground. And that's what I was doing.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:33] Not not 40 feet off the ground or whatever it is. Yeah, No. Okay.
Sandra York: [00:19:37] I have an extreme fear of heights, so it was always fun.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:40] It's the same idea, though.
Sandra York: [00:19:41] It's the same idea, though.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:43] Okay. Wow.
Sandra York: [00:19:44] So it turns out there are a lot of performers and coaches and people who teach these classes around the country. And one thing that I do on Instagram is like, I'll put all of my accounting talking points in a general post in my stories these days. I put all my personal life. They see me riding my motorcycle, my dirt bikes, they see me snowmobiling, they see me cross-country skiing, snow, they see my dog. Whatever it is I'm doing in my personal life, they see all of that. I don't. We moved. We moved to upstate Michigan, Upper Peninsula, Michigan. So I don't have an aerial studio now. But every once in a while I'll drag out one of my old videos and throw that up there, and then a circus coach will see that. And so now I've got two circus coaches on monthly service and I've got at least one more. That's a regular coaching call client, and I think I've got one that's a tax client as well. Three, I have three all monthly service. So yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:42] So yeah, that's.
Sandra York: [00:20:44] So I don't have any of that dread of, you know, Oh God, I got to work with this client. I'm, I'm getting to work with the people I enjoy working with.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:53] I definitely, you know, I didn't work at a big firm very long, but I definitely remember one client that was a big one that I was assigned to, and we just didn't mesh, you know, personality wise, it wasn't working, but I had no choice. And it was it was not fun.
Sandra York: [00:21:08] Exactly.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:09] Yeah.
Sandra York: [00:21:10] Exactly. You don't have a choice. You've got to work on what is assigned to you unless you can find the right partner to plead your case to and maybe get switched to probably an even worse client.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:20] That's the risk, right? So it could always be worse.
Sandra York: [00:21:24] It could always be worse. Yeah. So. So anybody that's looking like doing something like this, I'd say find the niche that you love. Fine. You know, if it's service providers, great. If you've had a terrible experience at a chiropractor or a terrible experience at a physical therapist, don't choose those people as your clients because you're just going to take over that resentment into their bookkeeping and tax prep. You've got to find what it is that you're passionate about, if possible. And maybe if it's not a passion, at least it's a community of people that you're excited about.
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Sandra York: [00:23:49] I have an online fitness coach that I'm working with now. She is someone that I worked with her spouse when I lived in Niagara, New York. So that's that's working well for my weight training. And then, gosh, everything outdoors you could think of. We are the snow capital up here. So we're just coming into the season where I'll get out my cross-country skis and my.
Blake Oliver: [00:24:10] Snow.
Sandra York: [00:24:10] Shoes.
Blake Oliver: [00:24:11] I have never been more sore than the day after I did cross-country skiing. I only once. That's a lot. That's a workout.
Sandra York: [00:24:19] It is a workout.
Blake Oliver: [00:24:20] Yeah.
Sandra York: [00:24:21] It's fun.
Blake Oliver: [00:24:23] Well, that's great. So. So how many clients? Well, first of all, like. You started at zero. How long until you had the number of clients you're happy with? Like, are you happy with how many clients you have, or are you are you done? Are you take in more? You know, it seems like you got there in a pretty short amount of time.
Sandra York: [00:24:41] I got their super short. My initial goal was to get 25 people who have paid me 200 bucks a month. I could make around 65,000 a year before taxes and work maybe 20, 30 hours a month, and that would be great. And they just started coming out of the woodwork. My client acquisition cost is zero. It's all Instagram. I haven't run any paid ads in referrals from existing clients. I am up to 44 monthly clients right now and 20 I don't think that's right. I wrote down 21 oh 21 tax or the ones who aren't also bookkeeping, so 21 separate tax. I am no longer accepting standalone tax clients. I can't do it. I've got to be able I'm everything I do is QuickBooks platform into a platform. So I want to be able to export from QuickBooks right into pro connect and not have to manually key everything.
Blake Oliver: [00:25:31] Oh yeah, probably saves you a ton of time. So, so I want to run through those numbers again because I think they're they're fascinating to me. So you said 40 something bookkeeping clients, 20 something tax only, but you're trying to get rid of that. What's your average on the bookkeeping monthly?
Sandra York: [00:25:50] So my average client is 2 to 22 a month. So I'm I'm, you know, around eight grand a month just in bookkeeping.
Blake Oliver: [00:26:00] To 22 $200 and change per month for a client. You know, David Leary and I were chatting on our Cloud Accounting podcast the other day and we were, you know, David said something about how it's hard to make a living on $200 a month clients. And I think a lot of folks who like myself, had a big firm experience where we couldn't charge people less than like $1,000 a month and make it work, right? Like, how do you make it? How do you make that work? Because I think that comes as a surprise to people.
Sandra York: [00:26:31] Yeah. So you have to be good at saying no to things and what you won't do. I will not do payroll because I did payroll years and years ago, the first time I went out on my own. And I quickly discovered that I never got a vacation because it was always somebodies payroll. Now, nowadays, how easy is it? You've got gusto, you've got on PAYE, you've got Zenefits. You know, there's any QuickBooks payroll, there's any number of payroll service providers out there. And with the complexity that came with payroll after all of the covert stuff and deferring this and, you know, benefits erases all of that stuff, I'm just I could not take any employee retention credit clients. That's just something I chose not to specialize in. I won't do payroll. I will do your bookkeeping around your payroll and make sure that the Gusto Journal entry imports correctly. But I'm not going to do your payroll.
Blake Oliver: [00:27:19] You're not going to process it for them. You're not going to pick up the phone and they tell you the hours and you key it in right.
Sandra York: [00:27:25] No way. I can't do it. All of my clients, because they are health service based. They and I built my my accounting, my firm model matches theirs. I bill on a subscription basis first of the month. Here's your charge. Pay your bill. I'll do your work. I'm not your bank. I'm not going to be trying to chase people down and collect on receivables. They're used to that. So inside their QuickBooks, everything's coming in from Stripe or Square or Jane is the payment app that a lot of the physical therapists are using. So everything is already in their bank account, All of their bill pay, they're doing electronically. Everything is coming in on that electronic bank feed. I'm classifying transactions. I am reconciling the bank account and I am sending them monthly financials. And I'm pointing out key indicators about gross income, net income, percent of operating costs. If I see anything like super concerning as I'm looking at it, I will bring that up. They have unlimited contact with me. If they need to call and ask a question, we'll set up a Zoom call through the same acuity link so we don't have to go back and forth trying to arrange a time, but I give them a coupon code so it's free to them. Yeah, it's about it.
Blake Oliver: [00:28:38] So it's very streamlined. I'm hearing you don't run the payroll, they run it, but you are able to get the reports you need to do the journal entries or what do you recommend that they use for payroll?
Sandra York: [00:28:49] I really like gusto. It's it's low cost. Most of my people only or either employing themselves if they are an escort or they have one or two employees. Otherwise, I do have one or two clients that are significantly bigger. I have a couple of very large Pilates studios that are, you know, they're running $1,000,000 in revenue and they've got maybe 20 people on payroll. So those are my outliers. Most of my people are either only paying themselves or paying, I'd say, less than five employees. So I've been really happy with gusto. And at the end of the year, you know, I've got this one who's a single member s corp, so we've got her on really low salary. So we watch cash flow throughout the year and then in December we have to do that conversion to get some of her distributions into salary and gusto was pretty decent. At working with me on that transaction. Last year it was actually I was actually able to talk to a human being and walk through that and not be going back through a chat bot trying to get it done.
Blake Oliver: [00:29:51] That's always nice. Yes. Yeah. Human connection is still important.
Sandra York: [00:29:55] Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:29:56] So what's your GL?
Sandra York: [00:29:59] Quickbooks.
Blake Oliver: [00:30:00] Quickbooks. And then you said the clients pay their own bills.
Sandra York: [00:30:04] Mm hmm.
Blake Oliver: [00:30:06] Okay. And what do you. How do they just do that? Through their bank bill pay. Do you give them a tool? Bank bill pay?
Sandra York: [00:30:11] No. Most of them are just figuring out on their own either. Some of them still write checks for rent and whatever, but most of them are just electronic payment on everything. A lot of them are using credit cards for points. And so it's really easy just to import the credit card.
Blake Oliver: [00:30:26] So you're pulling in the bank feed, you're pulling in the credit card, you're categorizing all that, you're producing the reports, you're sending out the reports and you said so you're you're highlighting some numbers for them every month.
Sandra York: [00:30:40] So what I figured out was when I set the the exports, I export them into Excel and send them out in PDF. No one's complained about that. I'm surprised, but it's easier on my eyes than Excel. But the thing I noticed was that one of my clients who is the most consistent about getting in her records on time, and I know that I'm getting the reports to her on time. She made the comment one day, You know, I have no idea how much money I'm making. And I'm like, Well, wait a minute. You send that to you every month. You should know this numbers. So I started doing a separate Excel template, basically. So I don't have to do this individually for each person. At least I don't have to write the whole thing out. I drop in the numbers gross revenue, net income, operating expenses, percent of operating expenses to gross income, what's your net profit margin, that kind of thing. And send that in the email attached to the financial statements.
Blake Oliver: [00:31:36] So the email I get as a client has the executive summary, if you will, or the key highlights that the top numbers I need to look at that is really helpful. They don't have to open up that PDF file or that Excel report. Yeah, I think it makes sense to do that. Right. But it's just just adding that little ease of I don't have to take this extra step and look at this big, complicated report. It's just it's all there for me. I love.
Sandra York: [00:32:00] That. Right?
Blake Oliver: [00:32:01] Yeah.
Sandra York: [00:32:03] The one thing that that they all crave, the reason they're coming to me is because they haven't been able to get answers from anyone else. It's no no secret that public accounting is known for not returning phone calls when you're the little guy. Yeah, well, and it's not. I've been there, so I understand what's going on behind the scenes. I know that everybody is losing their people and still trying to serve as clients. And the small firms that handle these $200 a month. Clients are just so bogged down. They probably have every intention of responding, but just haven't gotten to it yet. So the point where I'm at now is trying to figure out I would love to be able to simply I you share a file for sending sensitive documents. I would love to be able to simply upload their reports to share file and then they get the email notification that it's there. But by doing that, they lose part of that connection with me. And that's a big part of why they're with me to start with, because they know they they feel like even if they're not paying close attention to their numbers, they know that I've got their back and they get so excited if I notice things like, holy crap, you you normally gross 10,000 a month. You just had a 30,000 a month. Let's take a minute to celebrate that and also tell me what you did this month that made it so different. They love that I'm watching and paying attention and celebrating with them when they have their successes, because, again, most of these are small business owners. Most of these are people making. $100,000 or less a year. Some of them are making 200, but the vast majority of mine are at the six figures or less. So it's it's important to them to have that connection. So that's going to be my stumbling block as I continue to grow, figuring that part out.
Blake Oliver: [00:33:51] I love that you mentioned that because it might seem obvious to us as accountants that, Oh, you just open the report, you can look at your revenue and you can look at the prior period and see how you did, right. I don't need to call that out for somebody. But yeah, you do. Because when somebody has that three times normal month, it's because they were so busy. They don't have time to look at your report and analyze it for themselves. They just need you to give them the the highlight. And they may not even have any idea that they did that well. I know as a business owner myself, you know, starting a company, I feel like I'm much more empathetic now to my clients that I used to have, because I understand how when you're an entrepreneur and you work for yourself, you have so many things that you need to do. There's like an infinite list. So that accounting and that accounting stuff is really far down on the list. Yes. You know, and it's hard for us, I think, because we do it all day long to to feel that as well. And so that's why I don't the customer experience or the ease of getting them the information and this is why portals fail the client portals, you know, like it's hard to get people to use them because it's all these extra steps they've got to go through. So I understand your hesitation in moving away from that direct email. I don't know if there's a good solution.
Sandra York: [00:35:13] I don't know. I've started, actually. I've hired three contractors to help on the bookkeeping side, and I have not yet I am not yet willing to do that on the tax side just because of all of the sensitive data. And, you know, I'm I'm hiring people that I don't know all around the country. I mean, yeah, there's background checks and whatever, but I just that's that's why I've quit onboarding stand alone tax clients because I just I don't have help on that side yet. I'm going to get through this coming tax season and see how brutal it is because no matter what, even if you're working with the people you love when it comes to tax season and you've got you can just export from QuickBooks into Pro Connect, you still have all of their personal data that you're going to get 75% of, and then they're going to send you the last 25% on April 10th. It's still you're going to have those people. So I'm protecting myself until I see how this next one goes and then kind of figuring it out from there.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:12] Yeah, I feel like the root of all the problems in our profession have to do with the busy season of tax. And so many people, you know, they've either they're either trying to get away from it or like, like what you're doing is you're not you're not getting away from it entirely, but you're saying I'm only going to do tax for people who I also do the books for.
Sandra York: [00:36:32] Right.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:33] Which that way you have fewer tax returns, right? You don't have this compression, the same amount of compression. I mean, you got some of it, right, But.
Sandra York: [00:36:40] Some of.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:40] It. Yeah, some of it, yeah. But ideally, you can collect a lot of information throughout the year.
Sandra York: [00:36:46] Yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:36:47] Are you. Yeah. What are you planning Like are you planning for this tax season now or is that something you're going to do in December. Like what are you, what's your schedule look like for the next few months?
Sandra York: [00:37:00] Right now, it's kind of what I call the start of 1099 season. So I'm scanning through everyone's books as I go through them this month and looking for those people that were going to need to do 10.99 for.
Blake Oliver: [00:37:11] And I should say being as we record it, is mid-November.
Sandra York: [00:37:14] Yes. Yes. And it's an interesting wrinkle this year because, you know, there's always been the rule that if you paid someone by a credit card, you didn't have to include that amount in your 1099 to them because the merchant's going to cover that, Right. Well, now with the merchants going down to the $600 level and including PayPal and Venmo, it's going to knock out a lot of 10.90 nines that we used to have to send. So that's going to be good. But I kind of have this nagging fear of double reporting, you know, someone not not paying attention to that, picking up the full amount on the 1099. Now you got the full amount on your 1099 K and you know, the IRS is going to bang those two together and it's going to be this nightmare of correspondence trying to get that sorted out.
Blake Oliver: [00:38:01] So, yeah, it could actually be bracing.
Sandra York: [00:38:03] For that.
Blake Oliver: [00:38:04] To make things more complicated in some ways. Of course, you know, that's how it always gets. We never we never catch a break, Right. It's never going to be. Yeah, easy.
Sandra York: [00:38:14] But back to your question. Yeah. Yeah. Mid January I will send out from from within pro connect they have the organizer and the portal and this it gets complicated too because they use share file for year round basis and then pro connect has its own portal and the advantage of them uploading directly to pro connect portal it will actually import all of the government documents. So I don't have to see any of that stuff either. So mid-January is when I'll get out my engagement letters and such and open up the portal for this coming tax season.
Blake Oliver: [00:38:49] Well, and you're doing 60 or so returns it sounds like. Yeah yeah that's a lot better than 600.
Sandra York: [00:38:56] Yes way better.
Blake Oliver: [00:38:58] Which is probably what you'd have to do if you weren't doing the bookkeeping right. It would end up being. Yeah.
Sandra York: [00:39:03] Hundreds and hundreds of returns. Tax is not my favorite. I'm good at it. And it's easier. It's way easier to come up with tax topics for Instagram posts than it is bookkeeping. But it's it's really not my favorite thing to do.
Blake Oliver: [00:39:17] But that's how.
Sandra York: [00:39:17] You because of the compression.
Blake Oliver: [00:39:19] That's how you go viral on Instagram and TikTok. Right. It's you got to give people these crazy tax saving strategies. Yes. Yeah. Have you dabbled in any of that?
Sandra York: [00:39:30] Oh, my God. So not personally. I did the opposite. I, you know, do the opposite of everything on my Instagram account. I, I will not go on and say, okay, do you the a rule you can write your house to yourself for two weeks and you don't have to pay any tax on it. Good luck. Yeah, I will go on and explain that. When you see things like that, you need to realize that there are rules and circumstances around everything and you need to be informed whether or not you want to stick your own neck out in some of these situations and know the consequences before you just do something, you know.
Blake Oliver: [00:40:04] On behalf of the profession. Thank you for bringing some reason to the advice out there on social media drives.
Sandra York: [00:40:12] Me crazy. This whole take a tax free vacation? No. How about. No. How about we look at what we went there for and we look at.
Blake Oliver: [00:40:22] The.
Sandra York: [00:40:23] Costs while we were there and what was what of that really was business. I did one recently. I went on a business trip with my husband because I wanted a change of scenery. And so I'm sitting in the hotel room working while he's out, working, working. We're in a different city. And I went to Al to get lunch and I'm like, Oh, perfect opportunity. I jumped on Instagram. I said, Just because I am with my husband on his business trip and I bought lunch while I'm working. This does not make this a business right off. I am not here for business purposes, so. Well, that's like the boys crying in the wilderness.
Blake Oliver: [00:40:55] Well, but it seems to be attracting the right kind of clients and then. Right. I imagine your clients are willing to listen to you when you tell them, Hey, this isn't worth the risk, right?
Sandra York: [00:41:05] Yes. I have this kind of clients that say, I don't want to go to jail.
Blake Oliver: [00:41:10] Those are the good clients to have. Yeah, I don't want to go to jail. Maybe that could be a a gatekeeping kind of question. Right? In our intake forms, you know, how willing are you to go to jail to save money on your taxes? And if they say yes at all, then you say, no, no, thank you. Well, you know, we were talking about this in a recent episode of of our podcast The Cloud Accounting Podcast, the Pumpkin Patch episode, talking about, yes, you know, this this one particular piece of tax advice that got everyone's attention because it was around Halloween and it was about take your family to a pumpkin patch and you can deduct the whole thing if you do these five steps, you know, employ them as models. You know, all this stuff, very, very stretching the envelope, if not just right over the line kind of stuff. And I think we talked to Jeremy Wells about that. And I'd be curious to hear your take on this. I think the thing that he said to me that resonated was, well, yes, you might be able to make an argument for this. It's almost certainly not worth the risk based on how much tax you're actually going to save from doing it, because it's a huge red flag. And that's.
Sandra York: [00:42:19] Exactly.
Blake Oliver: [00:42:19] That to me as a business owner resonated because, yes, I want to save money on taxes and I want to be as aggressive as I can be because I only want to pay what I really owe. Right. But I also don't want to deal with an audit. I don't want to go to tax court. I don't want to deal with fines and penalties. Right. So there's this risk reward kind of analysis that needs to be done whenever you're doing this kind of. What was the example you had? The take a vacation in your business pays for it, right?
Sandra York: [00:42:47] Yes. Yeah. So that was one that I came across. Or this guy standing on a beach going, Follow me to learn how to take a free a tax free vacation. It's like, Oh my gosh. And the problem is, I do get the people who come to me and luckily they're pretty much trained now, though, like I saw this on another site. What do you think of this? I'll be like, Oh, God, here we go. Okay. That is a true statement. However, try to take the statement and apply it to your business. What is it that you are doing and how does it even with the research and development credit, I've had so many people reach out and go, Hey, do you think I could qualify for this credit? Like you're a physical therapist. Tell me what you're researching and developing. And I'm all ears. I mean, I'm not going to say automatically you can't. I bought a little tool. I have no, this person is not my client. I bought a tool from a physical therapist. It's called the hip Hook. And I would imagine since she's not my client, that someone advised her, Hey, you're putting a product, a physical hard product to market. She she very likely was a physical therapist who qualified for the R&D tax credit. I don't know. But if you're just running a physical therapy practice and you've got canned software that you're trying to tweak to, you know, you're turning one little switch to make it communicate with something in your business that's not going to get you there, at least in my opinion. But again, I did not choose to specialize in that. So I will refer you to someone who can legitimately walk you through that, not these fly by night companies that have popped up.
Blake Oliver: [00:44:17] Well, and what's great about your presence on Instagram is that your clients follow you, your prospects follow you. And so they see you saying being this voice of reason. So when they come to you, they don't expect you to just say yes to whatever crazy strategy that they want to try. They know who you are and and if you're filtering them out before they even talk to you.
Sandra York: [00:44:36] Right? Yeah. Because the flip side of that is if they're watching me and going, Oh, she's not going to let me deduct anything. Good, don't don't even bother.
Blake Oliver: [00:44:46] So had you ever been on Instagram before you started doing this? You said, I think you said you signed up in 2016.
Sandra York: [00:44:53] 2016. I have my personal account. So that was just that was just Sandi York on Instagram. And just what.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:00] Made you what made you sign up in 2016? Like what? Why did you finally get on?
Sandra York: [00:45:05] I think it was one of those times where I gotten sick of Facebook. I may have had some relatives that were like being a pain in the butt on Facebook. And I was.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:14] That was that election season because that's when I think a lot of people.
Sandra York: [00:45:17] Could have been. Yeah, it could.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:19] Have been when it was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That is when I stopped using Facebook, like my usage went down 90% because that's all I saw.
Sandra York: [00:45:27] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it's like, just show me your pictures at that point. You back then, there weren't like, captions and writing any descriptions. It was like, Here's a picture of my friend's cat. Oh, yes.
Blake Oliver: [00:45:38] You know. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So you went on it and so, yeah, like, I think I did the same thing. I started using Instagram because I just. I just wanted to see the pictures. I wanted to see people's lives. I didn't want to see all their political opinions all the time. Not that I don't like seeing that, but when it's like I want it to be like 10% of my feed, not 90% of.
Sandra York: [00:45:57] It, right?
Blake Oliver: [00:45:58] Yeah, of course. Then people figured out how to do that in stories, right? They take screenshots and then put that into their stories and I'm like, No, no, save that for Facebook. That's where we have the. Yeah, unhelpful political discussions where nobody's mind is changed. Right.
Sandra York: [00:46:11] Exactly.
Blake Oliver: [00:46:13] I forgot where I was going with that question. Oh, I guess it was. So you got on in 2016 and basically within a few years you'd kind of figured it out and you just got comfortable posting personal stuff like, did you have a public account to start or was it just for friends to start?
Sandra York: [00:46:30] I think that's a good question. I can't remember if I changed it to private or not.
Blake Oliver: [00:46:37] Because that for me was a big step. I had a private account for years and years and years and I never posted anything professionally. And then for me to decide to change it to public, and then I had to really think about what do I what am I okay with posting that I used to post just for my friends, for right, The world, Right. That's I think that's the reason a lot of us don't get on social is because we have a hard time sharing like getting rid of that barrier. But maybe younger generations don't feel this way. Like they're used to everything being out there. But I don't know. I'm a I'm what they call an elder millennial. I'm 39. So for me, I got Facebook in college and so and, and Facebook was a closed system. It was just your friends. It wasn't public. Right? And so I got used to posting on social media just for my friends. And then the idea of doing it as a public person was new. And so I, you know, like, that was hard for me now.
Sandra York: [00:47:37] Oh, I definitely I definitely went through that when I established this Fit Money coach account in 2019. And I used that that Instagram challenge post every day for a week. And I'm putting stuff out there that, you know, now I'm putting myself in a position where people can question my authority, which I got to tell you, I've been on there since 2019. Fully public account and I have yet to be trolled. I shouldn't say that because now they're all going to come. But, you know.
Blake Oliver: [00:48:05] Our listeners, I you our listeners are great people who would never do that.
Sandra York: [00:48:10] When I first joined Instagram, it had the reputation as being, you know, all the all the polished and curated pictures. You only put your best picture on there. And, you know, we went through the duck lip phase and all of that. Oh, thank.
Blake Oliver: [00:48:23] God. That's.
Sandra York: [00:48:23] I never, never felt victim to that. But for the most part, I was doing word tiles. Yeah, word tiles or some, you know, Canva graphics or something like that. It took a long time for me to put my face on there and to be comfortable, especially because, like I. I did my hair and makeup for you today. I don't normally do that. It's like a rare, rare occasion. So I'm on there with like the messy bun and no filter. I've never used a filter in my life. I've got this this window that the side light comes through and sometimes it's good and sometimes it's not. And you see all of that. And that took a really long time to get comfortable with and not be scared that people were going to say something like, you know, I don't know what is this old hag talking about?
Blake Oliver: [00:49:10] I, I have to say like I, I, I'm nervous posting as a man on social media and like if I was held to the standard that women are held to, I don't know if I would be doing it. Like you have to be really brave. Like, it just.
Sandra York: [00:49:27] Seems silly. There's a there's a swing now. There's all of this, you know, the body positivity movement and all of that. And you are seeing an older crowd, like even older than me. You're seeing these people on Instagram now. And I don't want to be naive and go out on too much of a limb, but it seems like we're finally starting to get comfortable with aging in America. It's a thing. It happens if you're lucky. If you're lucky, you get to live long enough to age. Yeah, I don't know.
Blake Oliver: [00:49:56] I think that's.
Sandra York: [00:49:57] There seems to be more acceptance.
Blake Oliver: [00:49:58] I guess, you know, as we as we all age together and there's more and more people who are older on social media. Yeah, it's going to become normal, right? And we're maybe at some point we will stop applying filters all the time or, you know, whatever. But yeah, getting comfortable, I think. I mean, even if you're not concerned about that, how you look, it's just getting comfortable making a video that's really hard. So I want to go back to what you said, which was you got started with a daily video challenge.
Sandra York: [00:50:26] Is that right? Isn't a video. It was just a posting.
Blake Oliver: [00:50:28] Just a posting. Okay. How did you get comfortable with doing actual video? Because that's a barrier for a lot of people.
Sandra York: [00:50:35] I think it was tough. You just got to do it. You just got a wing and a prayer and go for it. It's luckily there, kept really short. I think even back in the day, I think it was only 30 seconds. Now you get a minute? I think so. It's really short. You're not going to have to look at yourself for long. For me, even harder than looking at myself was listening to myself. My voice sounds very different to myself than when I hear it. And and that was tough and learning how many times I, you know, or Google. I never realize how much I giggle until I had to listen to myself. So, yeah, it's it's just being willing to suck it up and go for it. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. This was the platform that I was going to use to try to reach people. And in order to do that, I had to show myself as a real human who's relatable. And if I'm feeling that nervous and scared about it, then there's probably a lot of other people who are too.
Blake Oliver: [00:51:36] Did you make any mistakes along the way?
Sandra York: [00:51:40] I'm sure I did. Don't we all?
Blake Oliver: [00:51:45] Anything. You. Anything? Yeah. Anything you could share. Like. Like posts that didn't quite go the way you'd hoped or. I think because that's. That's what we're kind of afraid of doing is being wrong or making, you know, putting things out there that aren't 100% correct. In accounting.
Sandra York: [00:52:00] Yeah, I you know, I still have some of that, too. If there's anything where I, like have just like a hint of I could be challenged on this and I could be wrong. I'll think twice before I think about my my conviction of it and whether or not I want to go there. Most of my stuff is just so very basic, though. I'm working with people who have just opened businesses in the pandemic. Mostly. Some of them were had open businesses before and then had to pivot to online during the pandemic or because of the pandemic. But for the most part, most of my people are in very early stages of beginning their businesses. So speaking to them in some ways is a lot less risky than going out on a limb and talking about a topic that I really don't have any background in.
Blake Oliver: [00:52:54] Well, that's a good point. So you're talking about material that you are very confident in and that helps to be confident on social media, on video. Yes, I know this. I know this really well. I can stand by it. I can defend it.
Sandra York: [00:53:09] Yeah. And again, picking my niche, that's that's like the number one thing is find your niche and niche down as far as you can go. I didn't just niche down to service providers because I don't know a thing about retail and inventory and point of sale systems and any of that. That's that's not me. You want to find somebody else to help you with all of that stuff? I'm a service provider. Provider. Yeah. And knowing who my audience is and speaking directly to them instead of trying to reach the broad accounting market in general where you open your arms and you say, somebody, anybody, please just come be my client. There's a big difference there. I don't have any local clients whatsoever. I'm not I have not built a practice in a town where when I move from this town, I'm going to lose all my clients. I'm in Upper Peninsula, Michigan. That that cutout on the wall behind me with my name and my logo on it, that's the shape of the Upper Peninsula. Like, everybody thinks this is Michigan and it is. But Michigan has this peninsula on top of it. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm I'm up there and I've got clients in California, New Mexico, New York, New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, and probably somewhere else.
Blake Oliver: [00:54:36] Do you use any other social media or is it all Instagram?
Sandra York: [00:54:39] Instagram is the only thing I'm using for my business. I had considered at one point cross posting to Facebook, but I never really got to the point where I needed that. I've got a waiting list of people who want me to do their taxes and I'm really close to getting to weight, listing, onboarding, monthly bookkeeping clients. It depends on how quickly my contractors can get up to speed and how much they can take, whether or not I'm going to have to wait list.
Blake Oliver: [00:55:08] And that's a whole other challenge is building.
Sandra York: [00:55:11] That other challenge building. I never thought I would be their bookkeeping team. I thought this was going to be a nice little solo practice 20 hours a week and just so many people needed help that it kind of broadened my horizon on what is possible. And if I allow myself, I haven't I haven't allowed myself to go there other than just like a brief little flicker in my mind. But if I allow myself to go there and picture having a bookkeeping manager who is handling all of that, because what I'm finding now is I have just enough clients. I'm approaching, let's call it a hundred even. Let's, let's say instead of 60 and 80, I don't know, I'm approaching 100 clients plus you. If you figure in my coaching call clients, there's always somebody in my email box every day that has a question that needs a little more work, or is this the year we're going to take them from sole proprietor to escort? I have one of mine that is investing in something that's entirely outside of what she does for her business. She's doing it as an investment, but it required some tax planning around that investment and it involved looking at her basis and her SW corp and, you know, all of this kind of stuff that I don't account for in my daily time budget. So I work through these things and at the end of the day I'm like, God, I didn't get anything done today. Well, I did. It's just all the things I got done were emergent needs, taking care of things and being that community to communicative client or. That everyone wants. But I've still got to take care of my monthly people. So that's kind of where I'm at now. It's figuring all that out.
Blake Oliver: [00:56:50] Well, sounds like you're enjoying the challenge. And that is the most important thing, right? Is yeah, you have a business that you are passionate about. You like the people you work with and you can do it from anywhere. So it works with your situation where you've got to move around. Right. And yes, and you can just keep doing this well. Sandi, if if anyone's listening who is a bookkeeping manager, maybe, maybe they'd want to reach out and talk to you. Like, where would that I guess your Instagram would probably be the best place, right?
Sandra York: [00:57:23] My Instagram would be the best place, yes. At Fit Money, Coach f Gitmo and eyc0 ach.
Blake Oliver: [00:57:30] Well, that's great. I'm going to follow you on Instagram and I hope our listeners do as well at Fit Money Coach. And thank you, Sandi, because I, I mentioned at the beginning that I'm a bit sleep deprived today and this has woken me up and energized me. I want to do a better job posting on on Instagram more frequently as well. So I'm going to I'm going to make a promise to myself to do that.
Sandra York: [00:57:52] Excellent.
Blake Oliver: [00:57:53] Thanks for chatting with me and I hope I get to see you around soon. Any chance you'll be at a QuickBooks Connect in December?
Sandra York: [00:58:00] I had thought about it. I was close. I was supposed to go to California to present at a little Fitness Entrepreneurs workshop that was going on, and I didn't get to go to that because my husband got COVID and I was worried about exposing others. I ended up not getting it, thank goodness. So when that didn't work out, I thought about going to connect. And then I'm like, I looked not too long ago and they said it was sold out. So that kind of kind of took it off of my my radar for the moment.
Blake Oliver: [00:58:30] Yeah, I think they did not.
Sandra York: [00:58:31] You can bet if I ever get there, I will look for you guys. You might see me at Xero.
Blake Oliver: [00:58:37] Com just quick fix. Well that's fine because you know what, we go to both and we use both. We actually we have we have zero.
Sandra York: [00:58:45] For one client on zero.
Blake Oliver: [00:58:47] Okay, good. So you can go, you know you're that's legit right. Yeah. We have one entity on zero and one on QuickBooks and of course as you know with me and David in our The Cloud Accounting Podcast, we come from those two different worlds. So we have fun. Yeah, discussing it. I've actually been using QuickBooks now because we're setting it up for an entity and the, the built in Bill Pay is pretty fantastic. Like that.
Sandra York: [00:59:10] Is really.
Blake Oliver: [00:59:10] Is a feature like Xero has got to do that if they want to win in the US in my opinion. But that'll have to be a topic for another show. Sandi, thanks so much for joining me. I hope you have a great rest of your week and and thanks for being on the show.
Sandra York: [00:59:26] Thank you. It was my pleasure. It was a fun. I've done a lot of podcasts with my target audience. This is my first time ever speaking to accountants, so it was really cool.
Blake Oliver: [00:59:39] Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode and that you learn something new. And if you did, wouldn't it be nice to get some CPE credit for it? Well, I've got great news. My new app, Earmark CPE offers free Naspa approved CPE credits for listening to podcasts, including this one. Visit earmarked CPE to download the app, Take a short quiz and get your CPE certificate. That's earmark CPE. Com.