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woman talking to tradesperson | accountingweb | Hiring a client - is it a good idea?
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Hiring a client: Mutually beneficial or too risky?

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Hiring your clients for personal projects can help you both, but it’s also worth considering the possible consequences of blurring the boundaries of your professional relationship.

22nd Jan 2024
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This dilemma of whether to use your client for personal projects was looked at on Any Answers when Beancounting asked for advice on whether or not he should ask a client to do a job at his home

“Over the years I have given much work to clients, mostly small jobs for self-employed tradesmen and in the vast majority of cases there has been no problems,” he wrote.

When a bigger job came up, Beancounting was unsure whether they should continue his usual practice of giving work to their clients. 

They said, “I do have some reservations, mainly around what happens if something goes wrong – will our professional relationship be affected?

“The flip side is if I give the job to one of their competitors without even asking them to quote, and they find out, will that cause issues in itself?” he continued. 

Client collaboration 

Some of the Any Answers community encouraged Beancounting to give work to their clients as a way to support both their businesses.

Regular commenter Mr_awol wrote, “I do prefer to use clients, not to gain a discount, but more on the basis that if they’re doing well, I do well, and if they’ve got no work, I don’t get paid.”

However, he also said that issues can arise with asking clients for a quote and then not using them. “It can be embarrassing if they then come in for a meeting and see the new wall/drive/extension/heating/website/etc that you asked them to price up – but then used someone cheaper.” 

Another AWEB member, Open all hours also agreed to giving work to clients. “Our office needed £40k spending on it and there was no hesitation in using clients. That said, the builder and joiner have the best reputations in our area,” he wrote. 

Crossing the line 

While some may be confident about giving work to clients, other community members would rather not take the risk. 

AWEB member, Polyglot was firm in their decision to not give work to clients. They said, “One of my clients is good with IT/software and would be able to do some IT improvements I need. But there is a fine line, which can be easily crossed. I personally wouldn’t even use this as a life or death question.”

Another member, Capitalised agreed because of the growing risks associated with giving bigger jobs to clients. “I would say that sounds too risky to me. Too much can go wrong. Small jobs are unlikely to matter since objectivity and conflicts of interest are less likely to be called into question. Larger jobs are better not tested,” Capitalised wrote.

Finding balance 

Della Hudson, speaker, author and business coach for Minerva Accountants spoke about her own experiences and shared advice on what to do in this situation. “It is always my policy to give my business to clients where appropriate,” she said.

Hudson stressed how important it is to understand when to involve clients: “I want to support their business but it mustn’t be at the expense of my own. I’m clear that I don’t want reduced rates but I do want a good-quality job.”

However it is important to recognise that not every circumstance may be suitable. “Sometimes it’s just not appropriate so I have no qualms about going elsewhere. It’s a business relationship after all,” she said. 

Play fair

Mark Lee, mentor and business development speaker for accountants, shared tips on how to manage the situation if you do decide to use a client. He said, “If you engage a client to work for you, do ensure you treat them in the same way as you want them to treat you. So pay on time, don’t negotiate hard on fees to the exclusion of any other factors and treat their staff well.”

He also advised that it is good to keep in mind that not using a client may also cause issues. “Remember that your clients rarely know which of their competitors are your clients as well. So many of the same issues can arise if you instead use a non-client to provide services that a client could have provided for you.”

A careful and transparent approach is therefore needed and boundaries need to be set to ensure that the professional and personal line is not blurred.

What is your approach to giving work to clients? Are you apprehensive or enthusiastic? Let us know in the comments below. 

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