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Have you ever

Has anyone been dumped by a client before the job has started but after an engagement letter, fee quote etc has been signed?

I chased the client again this week to find out where the books were. Client has emailed to say the book keeper wants client to use her accountant as the books are a mess and she needs help.  I need to speak to them to find out whats gone wrong.

My question is, whats reasonable to bill them for time to date - or should I write it off?

I've had 2 client meetings, numerous calls, got my professional clearance, appointed as HMRc agent, set up files,  completed MLR forms, risk assessments etc.

Im a bit miffed at the lost time - somewhere between 5-6 hours.  I'd happy absorb the cost if I was getting the accounts and tax work but Im not :-( (and perhaps I dont want it if its a mess anyway...)

Any suggestions


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09th Mar 2012 14:29

Not a client worth having

If the client agrees to change accountants based on their book-keeper's preference then they are not worth having.

You can try billing for the time to date but it will doubtless be an uphill struggle as you have not actually done anything for them yet. Always a difficult argument to have.

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09th Mar 2012 15:03

Letter of engagement

What does your letter of engagement say about billing?

We give just the one free introductory meeting. Funnily enough we tell them them that in the unlikely event of . . . .  (just as you have described) . . . . . we reserve the right to charge them for any advice, accounts planning or preparatory work undertaken at the rate of £X per hour.

The one example we had was where the client's co-director and husband turned out to be a chartered accountant but was a bit rusty. And I thought her copious note-making was simply diligence on her part. 

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09th Mar 2012 16:10

Invoice them anyway

You have nothing to lose, and providing you don't bill them for a silly amount they may just pay up. 

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09th Mar 2012 16:12

Payment on account

Try to take a payment on account or set up a direct debit at the first meeting -that should cover your costs in the future. I agree with Roland -it's an uphill battle otherwise

Malcolm McFarlin


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By Jimess
12th Mar 2012 09:56

Mention it in client meeting

I have billed fairly small amounts for lost admin time on a couple of occasions.  I tend to tell the client that once they agree to come on board and we start the admin work that entails, we reserve the right to make a small admin charge if they later change their minds, depending on how much work has been done.  In truth I don't always apply it depending on the circumstances.  A couple of times I have successfully billed and received admin costs £50 on a sole trader and £75 on a company where I felt that I had seriously been taken for a ride.  Most of the time I accept that clients have the right to change their minds and take that as par for the course. The ones that have been billed are the ones that have come back time and time again with questions about their business record keeping and then a couple of months down the road changed their minds - so in effect I have charged them for the advice they they were getting. 

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