My biggest lessons learned after doing hundreds of QuickBooks Online cleanups

Are you taking on a QuickBooks Online cleanup and looking for some helpful tips? After doing hundreds of QuickBooks Online cleanup projects, I have pretty much seen it all by now. I have made my share of mistakes, but I have certainly learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way. Every cleanup has it’s own unique challenges, but there are some key factors to help set you up for success from the start. Keep reading or click the video link below to find out my biggest lessons learned after doing hundreds of QuickBooks Online cleanups, and see how they can help you.

Lesson #1: Diagnose the books before starting the clean up

Let’s take a moment to imagine what it is like when you first take on a new cleanup client. What does your client think the cleanup looks like? They probably assume it’s going be pretty simple. With just a few fixes here and there, you’ll be able to “reconcile the books” (whatever that means to them), and just like that – it’s done. But the reality is that we often have a giant mess, and typically, we are not getting paid to diagnose the problems with the books.

I certainly wasn’t getting paid to diagnose the books when I was first taking on cleanup clients. Then I usually faced some big surprises during the clean up, and would find that it took way more time that I had planned for. Since I was getting paid by the hour, my clients didn’t see the value of working with me as they watched the hours pile on, and the price going up. Sometimes, because I spent so many hours working on these cleanups with no idea what I was getting into, the client didn’t even want to pay me at the end of the project once they got my invoice.

That chaotic approach to a cleanup project was not sustainable for me, and continuing on that way would have run my business into the ground. I knew I had to find a solution, so, the strategy that I came up with was to do a paid diagnostic review before I ever started the clean up. That was a huge takeaway for me, and became my biggest and most profitable lesson.

What is my paid diagnostic review strategy? Well, the first goal of doing the paid diagnostic review is to get a full scope of work before I ever do the clean up. The second goal is to get paid to assess the books. I decided to put together an extensive checklist of everything that I needed to review in QuickBooks to find all of the underlying problems before I began a cleanup. After my paid diagnostic review is complete, I put together a report of findings and recommendations to go over with the client. A paid diagnostic review gives me full understanding of the extent of cleanup work that needs to be done, and demonstrates the value of the cleanup services to my client.

Lesson #2: Stop trying to be a salesperson

This next one was a huge takeaway for me because I was never a salesperson. I was never going to be a salesperson. I wasn’t trained to be a salesperson. I wasn’t comfortable being a salesperson. I was struggling with how do I sell the paid diagnostic review? How do I sell the QuickBooks Online cleanup? How do I confidently ask for the money? That was very intimidating for me. So I decided to take the pressure off of myself. I don’t need to be a salesperson. I need to prepare a sales conversation. I need to be an expert or a specialist, like a doctor, doing a diagnosis and then recommending a service or a treatment.

What does that sales conversation look like with a client? What I normally would tell a client after we’ve talked about their issues is, “Here’s what I recommend.” Then I’ll recommend the paid diagnostic review or I’ll recommend the clean up. Then next in this sales conversation I will say, “The pricing for the service is…” and then I will tell them the pricing. Then finally, the magic phrase is, “Would you like to move forward?”. When you ask that of your prospective client, it takes all of the pressure off of you and off of them because they also perceive that you’re not a salesperson.

In this sales conversation, you’re not trying to sell them something they don’t need. By making a recommendation, telling them what the price is for that service, and then asking “would you like to move forward?”, you have an effective way of converting that prospect to a client without feeling like a salesperson.

Lesson #3: Get organized and follow a system

When I first started doing cleanups, I was so confused. Cleanups are really big projects to tackle. I was struggling with a ton of questions like: Where do I start? What do I clean up? What order should I work in? How do I even know when I’m done? So I put together a cleanup workflow. I broke everything down into steps so that I could work in order and not get overwhelmed. Here’s what that looked like, when I mapped it out on a flow chart.

QuickBooks Online cleanup workflow chart

As you can see in the chart above, I started with a signed service agreement and a paid invoice, went through onboarding, planning the cleanup, doing the clean up, communication with the client, resolving issues, reviewing my work, reviewing my team’s work, finishing the clean up, and then having a meeting with the client.

Ultimately, one of the key takeaways from systematizing all of that was that I put together a cleanup checklist to follow. There are many areas that need addressed when we’re doing a clean up. Some examples include doing your bank reconciliations, making sure that undeposited funds is cleaned up and going over the profit and loss accounts, balance sheet, accounts, inventory, etcetera. My cleanup checklist includes all that and more, and helps me make sure that I don’t miss a thing.


Now that I’ve shared my biggest lessons learned after doing hundreds of QuickBooks Online cleanups, I’d love to know some of your biggest challenges and lessons learned through working on cleanups. You can let me know by leaving a comment on this blog post, or the related video in YouTube linked here. Your comments help me know what topics you’d like to hear more about in future videos and blog posts, so keep them coming.

If you’d like to learn more about my paid diagnostic review and my approach to QuickBooks Online cleanups, I recommend my YouTube playlist: QuickBooks Online cleanup & diagnosis. Want a quick (and free) tool to get you started? Here is a link to get my free Smart Review Checklist so you can learn how to review your prospective clients books in 15 minutes or less. You can also visit my 5MB Academy to see a full list of my QuickBooks Online cleanup related courses and resources linked here.

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This post originally appeared here 5 Minute Bookkeeping