The 2023 Guide to Client Onboarding for Accounting Firms (2023)


  1. What Happens during Client Onboarding?
  2. What do Clients Want During the Onboarding Process?
  3. What Should a Client Onboarding Package Include?
  4. Compliance, Clarification, Culture, Connection: the 4 C's of Onboarding
  5. Why Firms are Automating the Client Onboarding Process

What Happens during Client Onboarding?

Client onboarding is the process of bringing new clients into your firm. It’s an important part of growing your business because it helps you to establish a strong relationship with your clients and build trust in your service.

Client onboarding begins before a contract is signed and continues after a contract has been signed. Here are some things that happen during client onboarding for accounting firms:

  1. Client information gathering
  2. Client interview
  3. Project planning
  4. Establishing financial expectations
  5. Setting up systems and processes
  6. Entering data into the CRM system

A well-designed client onboarding process will help your clients become more productive and successful with less effort from your team, which means more time for them to focus on what matters most: their business.

Who is responsible for client onboarding?

Depending on the size of your firm, the person in charge of onboarding new clients can be the Practice Manager, the Client Manager, the Business Development Person or the Administrator.

In small firms, the person who has the best relationship with the client will often be responsible for onboarding. If you're working at a medium-sized or large firm, there's a good chance that someone on your team will take over this task after you've been assigned to a new client.

Often, however, it's the responsibility of one of your more senior colleagues in the firm. For example, if you're working with a partner or senior associate on a new client, they'll probably be in charge of handing off everything to you when they leave for an appointment or meeting.

In any case, make sure that whoever takes over has all the information necessary in order to answer any questions your clients might have about their taxes and accounting needs — so it's good practice to always keep them up-to-date on what's going on with their files as well!

How long does client onboarding take?

Onboarding can happen at different times depending on how long it takes for both parties to get ready. In some cases, it may only be a matter of hours or days before your new client is ready to go live with their first task or project; in others, it might take weeks or months before they feel comfortable enough to start using your platform regularly.

Client onboarding process workflow

TimelineDelegation of AuthorityWorkflow CreationBillingAccount ManagementBusiness Development
Week 1Direct Debit Mandate- Update Firm's teams on New Client Acquisition - Close Onboarding Job task in Practice Management SystemNew Client invoicing in accounting softwareClient's social media connectionUpdate pipeline with new client's status
Week 1Gather Client HMRC DataAllocate client's Account ManagerClient's birthdayMake Thank You call / Send Thank You gift to referrer
Week 1Update Firm's Practice Management System with client's jobsSend Welcome Card and Onboarding PackageUpdate clients email's list with client's email
Week 2Check AMLUpdate Firm's Password System with client's passwordOnboarding meeting
Week 2- Send professional clearance letter- Send GDPR agreement to client
Month 1Month 1 Call (Progress check)
Month 2Month 2 Call (Progress check)
Month 3Month 3 Call (Progress check)

What are the first steps in the client onboarding workflow?

The first step in client onboarding is identifying what information you need from them. This includes things like their contact information, banking details and previous tax returns.

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The next step is to create a welcome package for them which includes all of this information. Using this information, you can then transfer it into your accounting software so that you know exactly where everything is stored.

Next, you need to perform a background check on the client to make sure that they are who they say they are and don’t have any outstanding debts or criminal records against them:

  1. Information about the client’s profile (proof of identity and address, PSC Register, Certificate of Incorporation)
  2. Accounting software access
  3. Online banking, credit card, and loan accounts
  4. Account reconciliations performed most recently
  5. Previously filed tax return copies
  6. Organizational or incorporated documents copies

If there are any issues here, then you should speak with them directly and make sure they understand the situation before proceeding further with the onboarding process.

The third step is setting up automated tasks like email notifications and reminders. These tasks allow both parties to stay on top of deadlines and provide crucial reminders about specific events such as meeting dates or payment due dates.

Accounting firms face the challenge of ensuring new clients quickly understand how to operate effectively in their environment. Clients juggling a number of tasks and stakeholders, need assurance that their new accountants will be there for them throughout the business life cycle.

The 2023 Guide to Client Onboarding for Accounting Firms (1)



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What do Clients Want During the Onboarding Process?

The onboarding process can vary depending on the size of your firm and whether you're dealing with an individual or business client, but there are some things that clients want to see in any onboarding process:

  • An introduction to key staff members
  • An explanation of how they will be billed (including invoices)
  • Training on how to use accounting software or online portals

But mostly, clients want to feel confident in their choice of accountant. In other words, they want to know that you have experience and knowledge of the industry. They also want to know that you understand their business model and goals and that you have the right skill set to accomplish those goals.

What's more, clients are looking for someone who will be a good fit culturally as well as professionally — someone who will work well with them and provide value while maintaining an efficient workflow.

What Should a Client Onboarding Package Include?

A client onboarding package is a collection of documents, forms, and other items that help new clients get set up with your firm and understand their responsibilities as clients. There are many different components that can be included in a client onboarding package. Here are just a few examples:

  • Welcome letter from the partner or senior manager of your firm (congratulating them on joining your firm and introducing themselves)
  • Your business card so they have easy access to contact information if they need it right away (like if they have an urgent question).
  • Letter from the CPA who will be working with them (introducing themselves and asking if there's anything they can do to help)
  • Client agreement form (explaining how they should expect to work with you over time and outlining the billing process)
  • A folder with all of the documents they need to fill out during the first meeting (e.g., tax forms). This makes it easier for both parties to stay organized during paperwork-intensive processes like tax season or year-end reviews.

Compliance, Clarification, Culture, Connection: the 4 C's of onboarding

You’ve landed your first client. Now what?

While this is a major milestone, it’s just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship with your new client. The first few weeks are about getting to know each other and setting the foundation for future success. It’s also a time when you can set the tone for future engagements, so it pays to do things right from the start.

There are four key components of client onboarding: compliance, clarification, culture and connection. Let’s look at each in turn.


The CPA industry is obsessed with compliance, which means that even small firms have to put in enormous time and effort to ensure that they're doing everything right. Compliance is an important part of client onboarding because every firm has a different set of compliance requirements depending on their industry and state regulations. You may already have an established protocol in place, but if not, start by creating a checklist that outlines each action item required by your firm.

For example, if you specialize in estate planning, you will likely require your clients to complete the necessary forms prior to starting work with them.

(Video) Tax & Bookkeeping Workflow for 2023

New clients will need to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), review policies and procedures and sign contracts. These documents should be presented at the outset of the onboarding process so that they can begin working with you in an informed manner, without having to ask questions later on down the road.


Once you've gained compliance, it's time to clarify key elements of working together such as how often they'll be billed and when payments are due, what services they can expect from you and what they should expect from themselves (e.g., keeping up with transactions or performing periodic reviews). This is the best way to avoid scope creep in the future and ensure that everyone is on the same page.


The next step is helping clients get comfortable with your culture — whether that means providing them with an overview of our company or understanding how each party works best and how they prefer to communicate with each other (i.e., email vs phone vs text). As well as learning about each others' cultures so there aren't any surprises down the road if one party doesn't want


Your clients want to feel connected to their accountant. They want someone who listens to their concerns, who cares about their financial well-being and who will protect their best interests as if they were their own family members.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or take time for small talk during your initial meetings — these are opportunities for building connections that will go a long way toward creating long-lasting relationships in the future.

The 2023 Guide to Client Onboarding for Accounting Firms (2)


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Why Firms are Automating the Client Onboarding Process

A survey of accounting firms conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) found that client onboarding is one of the top challenges for firms. In fact, just one third of the firms surveyed said they were satisfied with how they handled client onboarding.

Accounting firms are embracing new technologies that can improve the client onboarding process, and make it easier to deliver more value to clients.

If you’re not sure why you should be automating your client onboarding process, here are three reasons to consider:

  1. Increased efficiency and productivity
  2. Improved client satisfaction
  3. Improved employee retention

The benefits of automating the client onboarding process are clear:

  • The automation of paperwork and compliance tasks reduces the time it takes to complete the process, and increase the chance that all relevant information is captured at the start.
  • Automation also allows you to capture data more accurately and consistently, which provides you with a better understanding of your clients' business, their needs and how they are performing. This in turn helps you build better relationships with them, which is essential for retaining their trust and loyalty.
  • Automation also helps reduce errors and omissions, which can be costly if you need to re-start a new engagement because of information not being captured or incorrect documents being sent to HMRC or Companies House.

A successful client onboarding program can help you stand out from the competition, build trust and generate referrals. Here are some ways to automate the process:

  • Automate the first meeting. Your first meeting with a new client should be as painless as possible. Make sure they're comfortable, introduce them to your team and get them started on the right track with automated reminders and checklists.
  • Set up automated reminders for recurring tasks. Set up automated reminders for recurring tasks like bill payment reminders or quarterly reviews via email or text message so you don't miss anything important.
  • Streamline the invoicing process. Create a simple payment portal that allows clients to pay online or submit expense reports from their smartphone or tablet so they don't have to remember another password or log in multiple times per day.

The 2023 Guide to Client Onboarding for Accounting Firms (3)


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How do I onboard a new client to my accounting firm? ›

Sample Accounting Client Onboarding Checklist
  1. Get agreement signed in Corvee.
  2. Follow client on social media.
  3. Add client email to newsletter.
  4. Add client birthday to calendar.
  5. Add passwords to an app like 1password.
  6. Schedule follow up monthly meeting.
  7. Get bank access.

What is the correct order of onboarding clients? ›

Step 1: Identify the need. Step 2: Understand the goals. Step 3: Determine the value. Step 4: Create the options.

Why is it important for accounting firms to optimize their client onboarding process? ›

A smooth onboarding process provides the best possible start to the relationship between an accounting firm and a client. If you make a great first impression during accounting client onboarding, the client will trust your firm more, which in turn helps the relationship survive in the long term.

What are the goals for client onboarding? ›

The ultimate goal of your onboarding process is to set your customers up for long-term success with your product, right from the very start. The truest measure of a successful customer onboarding process is whether your customers log back into your product in the days, weeks, and months after that first use.

What are the first steps in the client onboarding workflow? ›

The 6-Step Client Onboarding Process

Contracts and payments. Client welcome package. Kickoff call. Onboarding questionnaire.

What questions should a bookkeeper ask a new client? ›

Here's what to include in your questionnaire:
  • Is the client currently using bookkeeping software? ...
  • How many employees do they have? ...
  • Do they have inventory? ...
  • What is their sales volume? ...
  • Are they reporting sales or use tax? ...
  • How many vendors do they pay each month? ...
  • How many bank accounts do they have?
Apr 29, 2022

What are the 5 C's of onboarding? ›

These components provide the best onboarding practices you can follow while hiring the latest staff into your workforce. The 5c's stand for compliance, clarification, culture, connections, and check back.

What are the 4 phases of onboarding? ›

4 Phases of Employee Onboarding
  • Phase 1: Preboarding. Once you've accepted your offer letter and you're starting off day one at a new job, there's a lot to learn. ...
  • Phase 2: Onboarding and welcoming new employees. ...
  • Phase 3: Training. ...
  • Phase 4: Transition to the new role.

What are the most important steps to successful client onboarding? ›

How to Onboard New Clients
  • Identify customer pains and solutions. ...
  • Define big-picture campaign goals. ...
  • Agree on mutual deliverables. ...
  • Gather details. ...
  • Send a welcome packet. ...
  • Schedule a discovery call. ...
  • Collect information about their internal process. ...
  • Ask for the client's definition of success.
Dec 15, 2022

What are the top three keys to a successful onboarding program? ›

There are three keys to a successful strategic onboarding program: people, culture, and milestones and tasks. A consistent, and repeatable onboarding process requires few adjustments and benefits all stakeholders involved. Plus, you're more prepared to set your new hire up for long-term success.

What are the most important parts of the onboarding process? ›

Here are five essential components of onboarding to implement at your organization.
  • Start (But Don't Stop) With Logistics. ...
  • Show Them How Things Actually Work. ...
  • Make It Personal. ...
  • Take the Time to Go Beyond the Basics. ...
  • Establish Real Relationships.
Jul 26, 2021

What you would do to make an effective onboarding process? ›

What You Need to Know to Create an Effective Onboarding Process
  1. Welcome Message.
  2. Make a List of Everything an Employee Needs to be Successful in Their Role. ...
  3. Establish a Framework for the Onboarding Curriculum.
  4. Establish Communication Channels.
  5. Involve Management Teams.
  6. Streamline Paperwork.

What are the 5 key requirements for setting goals with clients? ›

Below are the 5 criteria of SMART goals that should give you the best chance of success.
  • Specific. Be clear about what you are aiming for — your goals should include specifics such as 'who, where, when, why and what'. ...
  • Measurable. Set goals that you can measure. ...
  • Achievable. ...
  • Realistic. ...
  • Time-related.

What are the 5 smart goals examples? ›

Examples of SMART Goals
  • Studying. Simple Goal: I need to study more. ...
  • Writing. Simple Goal: ...
  • Reading More Books. Simple Goal: ...
  • Mastering Emotions. Simple Goal: ...
  • Exercising More. Simple Goal: ...
  • Improving Your Diet. Simple Goal: ...
  • Becoming More Productive. Simple Goal: ...
  • Time Management. Simple Goal:
Oct 14, 2022

What are the five key steps in order of the onboarding process? ›

5 Steps to a Successful Employee Onboarding Process for New Hires
  • #1: Sending an offer letter.
  • #2: Early onboarding for the new employee.
  • #3: Welcoming New Hires on the first day.
  • #4: Orienting and Onboarding New Staff in the First Week.
  • #5: Employee Engagement and Team Building.
Mar 10, 2022

What is simple client onboarding process? ›

Client onboarding process (7 steps to success)
  • Proposal, contract and payment. ...
  • Client onboarding questionnaire. ...
  • Assign the client and get the project rolling. ...
  • Have a client kickoff meeting. ...
  • Provide a welcome package. ...
  • Checkup call. ...
  • Refine and improve the process.
May 12, 2021

What is client onboarding lifecycle? ›

For many companies, client onboarding and client lifecycle management (CLM) are two separate and distinct processes–where onboarding is viewed as a process to get the client's information, perform KYC checks, verify information, and get a person set up with an account login.

What are the 3 questions you would ask to the client customer? ›

Here are the top 5 questions you'd ask your customers
  • What can my company do to better serve your needs?
  • How satisfied are you with our products/services?
  • What value do we provide?
  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • Why did you choose us over the competition?

What are the first three questions you would ask a client? ›

The Organisation
  • What is their company culture?
  • What is the decision-making process?
  • Who are the most challenging people in their organisation and what impact do they have?
  • What are the challenges in your clients' business right now?
  • Who are all the decision makers and influencers?
  • Who else should you be talking to?

What are the six most important questions to ask your client before conducting a successful report design? ›

Good design begins with the right questions.
6 questions you need to ask your new client
  • What do you want the project to achieve? Clarify scope and goals from the off (Image credit: Getty Images) ...
  • Who is the target audience? ...
  • Who makes the decisions? ...
  • What do you want to keep? ...
  • What do you like? ...
  • What makes you different?

What is a 30 60 90 onboarding plan? ›

Summary. A 30-60-90 day plan outlines the first 90 days of a new team member's employment and familiarizes them with company policies, team work, and goals. This action plan helps your team members check off essential items as they adjust to their new work environment.

What should be included in onboarding checklist? ›

The onboarding checklist should include the recruitment process, new employee orientation, introduction of all aspects of the role to the employee, job training, goal-setting, introduction to company culture, meeting other employees and a serve as a guide to help the new hire get adjusted quickly and become a ...

What are onboarding techniques? ›

"Onboarding" refers to the processes in which new hires are integrated into the organization. It includes activities that allow new employees to complete an initial new-hire orientation process, as well as learn about the organization and its structure, culture, vision, mission and values.

What questions should I ask during onboarding? ›

A few questions you should ask on this milestone are:
  • “Do you see yourself working here long term?”
  • “Is there any training you feel like you need?”
  • “Do your manager and coworkers communicate well with you?”
  • “What did you think of our onboarding process?”
  • “Do you feel like you fit in?”

What is onboarding flow chart? ›

It helps to get new hires accustomed to their tasks and responsibilities while getting an understanding of the various systems and workflows in the company. An employee onboardng process flowchart, therefore, is a diagram that visualizes the process of onboarding new employees.

What are the most common mistakes during the onboarding process? ›

7 Popular onboarding mistakes to avoid
  • Zero entry-level training. If onboarding is taking less than a day, that's a problem. ...
  • Overloading your new hires. ...
  • A total lack of pre-boarding. ...
  • Not addressing generational gaps. ...
  • An unstructured onboarding process. ...
  • Unclear goals and expectations. ...
  • Negative (or not) feedback loop.
Aug 16, 2022

How do you ensure a great onboarding experience? ›

The 16 Steps To Onboarding Best Practice
  1. Provision employees before they arrive.
  2. Get paperwork out of the way.
  3. Get the team involved (and aware)
  4. Share important first week information.
  5. Assign a buddy.
  6. Live and breathe your employer brand.
  7. Create an epic welcome.
  8. Get immersed in the culture.

What are the 3 P's of goal setting? ›

3 Ps of Goals - Professional, Personal and Physical - Alden Mills.

What are the 4 P's of goal setting? ›

When establishing goals, it is important to remember the Four P's of goal setting. They need to be positive, personal, possible, and prioritized. When you are creating goals, remember to make sure that they are positive. This means that you focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid.

What are the 5 R's of goal setting? ›

Avoid simply focusing on setting resolutions and turn your attention to the “five Rs” of resolutions: results, reasons, reflections, resources and responsibilities.

What key performance objectives do you have for 2023? ›

12 Examples of Professional Smarts Goals for 2023
  • Take a course to sharpen your skills. ...
  • Improve your public speaking skills. ...
  • Research other departments. ...
  • Build your professional network. ...
  • Research a competitor. ...
  • Improve your time management capabilities. ...
  • Boost Leadership Skills. ...
  • Reduce Stress to Increase Productivity.
Nov 18, 2022

What are 2023 career goals? ›

Get a raise, get a promotion and improve work/life balance are the three most popular 2023 career goals for US workers. These findings are based on a survey by MoneyPenny of 1,000 workers across ages, genders and occupations.

What are the six W's of a SMART goal? ›

Be specific. This is a mission statement for your goal rather than a list. Think about the 6 W's (Who, What, When Where, Which, Why) and identify how this goal will be accomplished.

How do you onboard an accountant? ›

5 Effective Ways to Onboard an Accountant
  1. 1) Determine How Onboarding Success Will Be Measured. ...
  2. 2) Discuss Communication Expectations. ...
  3. 3) Meeting Format. ...
  4. 4) Education. ...
  5. 5) Document Frequently Ask Questions.
May 9, 2020

How do I get my first client as an accountant? ›

How to Find Your First 10 Accounting Clients
  1. Ask Friends and Family for Referrals. ...
  2. Use Online Ratings and Review Sites. ...
  3. Focus on a Niche. ...
  4. Get Involved with Social Media Groups. ...
  5. Target Startup Businesses. ...
  6. Embrace Content Marketing. ...
  7. Partner With Other Professionals. ...
  8. Arrange for Barter.
Dec 20, 2022

What is onboarding in accounting? ›

Client onboarding is the process of welcoming new clients into your accounting firm and progressing as efficiently as possible to a rhythmic working relationship.

What steps would you undertake prior to onboarding a new client and why? ›

Here is a simple six-step checklist to ensure a successful onboarding program.
  • Welcome the client. The client needs to feel welcome right from the start of the relationship. ...
  • Collect data. ...
  • Clarify expectations. ...
  • Communicate internally.
Oct 1, 2019

How do accountants introduce themselves? ›

The key point to a self-introduction for an accounting interview is to be precise about the strengths and achievements you mention. Give examples of what sets you apart from the other candidates. You can start with: your work experience, skills sets, key strength, and then finish with your career objective.

How do you usually onboard new members? ›

10 Tips for Onboarding a New Team Member Successfully
  • Clearly articulate the work scope, objectives, and key responsibilities. ...
  • Give direction about how to spend the first week. ...
  • Set expectations about the work schedule. ...
  • Set expectations about communication methods and timing. ...
  • Introduce them to the team.

What is a beginner accountant called? ›

A junior accountant is an entry-level position in an accounting firm or department. A junior accountant's duties include posting journal entries, updating financial statements, maintaining accounts receivable and accounts payable, paying monthly payroll, and preparing financial reports.

How much does a client accountant make? ›

Jobs in, ranging from £32,500 to £137,233. Jobs that pay more than the average (£43,908).

What onboarding should include? ›

"Onboarding" refers to the processes in which new hires are integrated into the organization. It includes activities that allow new employees to complete an initial new-hire orientation process, as well as learn about the organization and its structure, culture, vision, mission and values.

What is an onboarding strategy? ›

The concept of strategic onboarding involves the continuous onboarding of employees a long-term strategy to keep employees engaged and relevant for new positions within the company. It can even prepare them for leadership positions in the future.


1. Webinar: How accountancy firms can perfect the client onboarding process
(JE Consulting)
2. Create a great client onboarding process to WOW your accountancy clients
(The Accountants' Growth Club)
3. QuickBooks Online (QBO) - New Client Checklist to help with Onboarding New Clients!
(Kathy Grosskurth)
4. Best Accounting Firm Software for Workflow & Client Management
(Financial Cents)
5. Client Onboarding 101 | Tips with Angelica Renaud
(Bryce Tubbs - Virtual Accounting Strategies)
6. Quick New Client Onboarding: 1040 Return Automation
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