How Much Time Do You Need For Your Clients?This post is Part Two in my quest to defeat The Bossy Inbox and to take control of my days. You can read the post here.

One of the most important aspects of planning is to figure out how much time is really needed for both client work and for the non-billable overhead time associated with running a virtual bookkeeping business. Apparently, it’s more than I thought!

In my case, it was super easy to figure out how much time was needed for client work because we’ve always tracked my time to the minute–even for clients who are on a package.

We use FreshBooks for time keeping and invoicing so it was always a breeze to run various monthly reports. (The “Revenue by Client” was the most useful type of report).

What we did:

  • Reviewed the past six months to figure out how much time each client, on average, needed. Clients with known anomalies got a more in-depth analysis.
  • Each client was then assigned a size. Options: Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large. I was starting to feel like I was ordering fries and almost added a Supersize category, but decided Extra Large was a good enough descriptor.

Each size was assigned an amount of time, and from there, I was able to easily peg clients with their size.

What I learned:

  • The size is extremely useful for planning the 90-minute blocks because I know, at a glance, approximately how much time I’ll need to allocate.
  • I had said “yes” to too many clients, largely because we have a number of Slackers (said with love!) who are too much of a wild card to truly plan out individual days.
  • Our largest client had ballooned in late February 2017, and my average monthly hours went from approximately 13 to 47! No wonder I was feeling so “behind” on everything and wasn’t doing much “in” my own business. There literally was no time, and trying to make each day last 30 hours just wasn’t working. I tried!
  • There were too many hourly rates, which was adding unnecessary strain to our invoicing time.
  • I absolutely needed to get more comfortable with saying “No”. Self-care also needed to become more of a priority so I could maintain the energy needed to properly serve everyone. It turns out I’m not the robot I thought I was.
  • While I’d like to maintain a 70% or higher amount of billable time, it was obvious that business development work (rebranding, writing blog posts, working on my QuickBooks Online + PayPal course, etc.) would continue to not get done. I was just too busy.

Things that changed:

  • Meetings were set up with The Slackers to see if we could get back on track and what I could do to help facilitate making things easier.
  • Instead of setting aside a few hours a day for the largest client, they now also got one full day (in addition to the few hours a day). This had the most significant psychological benefits.
  • Hourly rates were going to be uniform. As a result, some clients experienced a considerable percentage increase–but luckily, we only lost one.
  • Finding more strategic partners became a priority so we could refer out some clients.
  • I hired an assistant to help manage my inbox. Ultimately, having someone check my email didn’t work out, but I did learn a lot during the three months we experimented with it.
  • Going forward, we’ll be reviewing the average time needed per client on a quarterly basis. This will allow us to pivot faster when there are significant changes that will ultimately impact scheduling.

My biggest revelation during this exercise was just how much I truly need the psychological win associated with “crossing an item” off my to-do list and how that relates to the work we do for clients. This insight alone made the process worth every overwhelming minute of this exercise!

If you’ve done this exercise, you now have a realistic and fairly accurate idea of what is needed.  What celebrations and revelations did you have? How will you change? Do you also truly enjoy crossing items off your to-do list like I do? Let’s talk about it!

You may be wondering how to take this information to plan out a month. Well, next week I’ll dig a bit deeper into how I plan out my month, which isn’t so much about what I’ll do when, but rather a way to make sure I allocate ample time for what needs to be done.