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Year End To Dos for Professional Service Firms

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With another year skidding to a close, it’s time for lawyers, accountants, consultants, financial advisors, insurance agents — really
anyone with a professional service business — to get started on those end-of-year tasks. You spend all year helping make others’
businesses run, now it’s time to put your own house in order. To make it easy, we’ve compiled this list.

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Year End To Dos for Professional Service Firms

  1. 1. 1Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms With another year skidding to a close, it’s time for lawyers, accountants, consultants, financial advisors, insurance agents — really anyone with a professional service business — to get started on those end-of-year tasks. You spend all year helping make others’ businesses run, now it’s time to put your own house in order. To make it easy, we’ve compiled this list. 1. Audit your website Turns out, your clients don’t like static websites — which is why the most effective sites are those that are watched and updated regularly. Here are some things to check. The basics Look at your website as if you had never seen it before and knew nothing about your business. Check these things: _____ Is your navigation clear and intuitive? _____ Is there a Contact Us link on every page of your website? _____ If Contact Us triggers an automatic email, review the email content. _____ Are your social media buttons in the same place on every page? _____ Is all site content up to date? Delete, revise or refresh. Make sure it works well on smartphones and tablets If you do nothing else to your website this quarter, do this. People aren’t just finding restaurants on their phones — they’re looking for tax preparation, insurance and legal representation. If your website won’t work on their smartphone or iPad, they’ll move on to one that will. ���� Take the mobile-friendly test. Copy and paste your site’s URL (the whole string that shows in the browser window at the top of the screen) into Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool.
  2. 2. 2Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms _____ Fail the test? You’ve got a few options. • Hire a web developer to change your existing website’s code or build a new responsive website. That means that the way its pages display will adjust, or “respond,” to the user’s screen size. Responsive websites use the same URL and code no matter what device the viewer is using. • Fix it yourself. If you’ve got the tech chops, take the time to make your existing site mobile-responsive — like by installing a WordPress mobile plugin or changing to a responsive WordPress theme. If you need to build a responsive site from scratch and aren’t quite up to that tech challenge, consider a mobile-first website builder like GoDaddy GoCentral. You can have a mobile-friendly site up and running in under an hour. Make sure it talks to search engines Search engines like Google are your best friend, since future clients will use them to find you. Learn how to make them pay special attention to your site — it’s well worth the time and effort. Conduct a website performance test Job No. 3 is to make sure your site isn’t actively turning prospects away. Most performance tests measure two things: resource loading and page speed. Together they constitute a huge pain point for clients in every industry. But you won’t know it’s a problem if you don’t look. Use one of the free test tools here to test your site’s performance. Do a security check It’s a jungle out there, with cyber thieves lurking behind every tree. ���� Got an SSL? If your website accepts or stores personally identifiable information, you need to encrypt exchanges between your site and your clients with an SSL certificate. ���� Blocking malware? With malicious software attacks on the rise, it’s never been more important to head off the embarrassment and potential liability of a data breach with a malware scanner. This will help close the gaps bad actors use to break in before they find them.
  3. 3. 3Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms Start a blog Blogging is a proven way to generate new leads for your business. By publishing helpful articles on topics of interest to prospective clients, you can reel in people who otherwise wouldn’t know about you. Linking back to your website in each post brings them in the digital door. Find out how to start a WordPress blog. Fire up Google Analytics (or ask a techie associate to do it for you) If you aren’t already using this tool, start now to find out what people are doing on your website. This can lead to small site adjustments that will make huge differences to your business in the new year. Have a WordPress website? Check your plugins, themes and extensions to make sure everything is current. If they have not been updated to be compatible with the latest platform version, look for alternatives. Outdated themes and plugins are a big security risk and can affect the performance of your website. What, no website? We won’t shame you. However, may we suggest GoCentral Website Builder? It automatically creates a mobile version of your site and comes with encryption, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing and lots more. 2. Get your financial house in order Prepare for your annual meetings with your tax accountant, lawyers or consultants now before the first flakes (real or synthetic) fall. Pro tip: Don’t wait to send bank confirmations, especially if your business has a December 31 year end. File an annual report, if required in your state This might take some investigation if you don’t already know whether it’s required of you. If you do have to file, do it before the end of the year to avoid late fees. Pro tip: Ask for a form, since this is easier and more efficient for you.
  4. 4. 4Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms End-of-year financial reporting If this is one of your least-favorite tasks, you’re not alone. Best to dive right in, working through the list top to bottom. ���� Get ready for tax time. A few big-ticket items: • Due dates for business taxes. • Send dates for 1099-MISC forms. • Important details about self-employment taxes. ���� Ask your accountants for a list of to-dos in advance Request any templates they’d like you to use and copies of last year’s working papers for reference. Ask for clarification on anything that’s unclear, including requests that look like they might be especially time-consuming for you. It’s possible either: a) They could get the same information from another source you’re providing or b) This schedule has value beyond the year-end audit (e.g. business analysis) Pro tip: If using both an auditor and an accountant, be sure to ask if there’s anything the tax accountant will need that the auditor hasn’t asked for. ���� Prep for your financial audit (if applicable) • Choose a point person for the audit (if it’s not you). This person should oversee the reconciliation of detail to general ledger account totals, including all bank accounts, accounts receivable, accounts payable and equipment lists. Here are seven financial calculators to help keep you on track. • Create an “auditor” file for regulatory agency correspondence (if any) and for copies of new or changed documents about fixed asset additions and disposals, debt agreements, leasing arrangements, lawsuits, complex transactions, technology modifications and major customers and vendors. • Report annual earnings to your shareholders (if any) • After the audit, ask your accountant for suggestions on ways to improve the process for next year.
  5. 5. 5Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms Revisit your business plan and adjust it accordingly Update your privacy statement, add new sales targets, and create / update policies for common issues such as unhappy customers. This simple act focuses your thoughts and ensures your goals align with your firm’s current state. Consider doing it once a quarter. Review your business structure to ensure it’s still a good fit Have you outgrown your sole proprietorship or other current legal structure? Scan your options here. If you decide to make a change, the first of the year is the time to do it. The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation. 3. Review your 2017 marketing plan There’s often a lot of enthusiasm when it comes to trying new marketing tactics. Banner ads! Link building! But with all the other hats you wear, it’s easy to forget to look back at what worked, what should be shelved, and what should be kept and improved. Tally up what you spent on marketing this year You’ll need this for your taxes. This will also serve as a starting point for next year’s budget. Your expenses might include: ���� Print materials (brochures, cards) ���� Your website/blog/domain name registration ���� Online advertising ���� Agency fees ���� Marketing staff salaries ���� Social media management ���� Professional memberships ���� Sponsorships ���� Trade show fees ���� Customer appreciation
  6. 6. 6Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms Clean up your email list This will not only endear you to the universe of weary email users, it will keep you off email blacklists. ���� Don’t have a list? Put your website to work building one now. Consider using a tool like GoDaddy Email Marketing to create effective subscriber emails. ���� Already have an email newsletter? Spend a few minutes reviewing your email analytics. Open and click-through rates can tell you what content readers really loved (and what they didn’t). Use this insight to plan more of what worked in the new year. Put on your party face Social media is uniquely effective in growing a business and here’s why: unlike other forms of marketing, it’s a two-way conversation. You can interact with and actually learn from clients … What do they love about what you’re doing now? What could you do to serve them better? ���� Already using social media for business? For those who have active business profiles: • Freshen up your imagery for the new year. • Use Facebook’s built-in analytics tool to see what kinds of posts are getting the most attention so you can do more of them. ���� Haven’t started yet? If you haven’t be using social media to promote your business, it’s time to dive in (or delegate this to a staffer). At the very least, create a Facebook Business Page. Review your local listings Local business listings are often the first search results to appear when someone Googles a term like “car insurance,” “IT troubleshooting” or “tax return prep.” Make sure your address, phone and hours are up to date in all these listings: ���� Google My Business ���� Bing ���� Yelp ���� Better Business Bureau
  7. 7. 7Find more tools to manage your business at GoDaddy.com. CHECKLIST Year-end to-dos for professional service firms Don’t have time to manage all your local listings? Look into a tool like GoDaddy’s Local Business Listings to manage all your online listings from one convenient dashboard. Evaluate professional conferences and groups Start checking out dates, renewing memberships and making reservations. Apply for one or two speaking opportunities to build your professional reputation. Business cards looking shabby? Time to freshen up. Read this post for DIY tips. If you’re like most businesses, your fiscal year ends on December 31. Make sure you’re not stuck in the office frantically pulling files while everyone else is out celebrating — start early. Just follow this list of to-dos, ticking them off as you complete them. Then enjoy the end of the year with clients, friends and family.

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