“Did you file form 941 for quarters 3 and 4?”
I nervously shifted in my chair. I hadn’t felt this uncomfortable in years.
I offered with an awkward smile:
“Can I say ‘I don’t know’?”
The look in the eyes of the assistant helping with my taxes spoke to me:
“You poor, helpless sap. We’ll take care of this for you.”
How Did I Screw Up So Bad?
Last year, I hired a part-time employee for 3 months. My accountant recommended I use a payroll service, but I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to manage it myself using DIY payroll software.
I dutifully sent in all of my forms & payments. I even sent some forms early (!), thinking I was ahead of the curve. Payroll wasn’t too bad – so I thought.
The first warning sign came as a notice in the mail:
“You have a late penalty for payroll taxes in 2013. Please pay immediately.”
Wait a second…I didn’t have employees in 2013 – only 2014. I filed for 2014…didn’t I?
It turns out, you can’t file certain forms early – the correct forms for 2014 aren’t even available until early 2015.
The big warnings started coming when I was filing income taxes for 2014. My accountant alerted me that the IRS was missing several payroll forms.
I checked my bank account. I couldn’t find my payroll tax payments. Gulp.
Then, my former employee contacted me and asked if I had his W2 form, because he needed to do his taxes. I had forgotten completely. My reaction:
“W2? Oh…yeah…I’ll get it shortly.”
Suddenly, I was in dire need of an expert. Forms were due in 2 weeks, and I had no clue on how to properly fill them out. I didn’t know if I owed taxes, forms, or both.
I’m terrible with forms: I could spend all day working on tax forms, and I might not get them right. I didn’t even know where to send payments.
To add to the stress, I’m a freelancer with client work to do. My current project was already a bit behind schedule, and I was spending an entire day in a tax-induced frenzy.
I was ready to pay big amounts of money to make this problem go away, because every hour I spent doing taxes was money I lost in client work.
I Found a Professional
I called around town to various payroll services. The answer I got was always the same:
“We’re booked for 2 months.”
Finally, I got in touch with Jackie at a company called Paycheck Connection. She listened to my difficulties, understood the problem immediately, empathized with the stress I was under, and offered to handle my taxes that same day.
That brings us back to the story at the beginning of this post:
After 2 meetings, a few forms to fill out and a couple calls to the IRS on my behalf, Jackie and her staff told me “You’re set!”.
In approximately 2 hours, my problems were crushed.
I had to resist the urge to give everyone at Paycheck Connections a bear hug.
So instead of a hug, I calmly told them:
“I cannot express my joy.”
And I meant it.
Freelancer, Pay Attention…
As I was signing the last bit of paperwork to send off to the IRS, I realized that I had never discussed one detail with Jackie:
What was most surprising was that I didn’t care what the price was.
- I didn’t worry about the hourly rate Jackie charged me.
- I didn’t have time to shop around to see if I could save 10% with someone else.
- I just needed my problem solved.
Jackie answered the call and crushed the problem.
Your Clients Need a Professional
The stress and helplessness I felt trying to do my own payroll taxes is how your clients feel when they need a business problem solved by a professional. When your client needs a website or software built, it’s not always about finding a cheap solution.
Rather, their mindset is:
- They have a problem.
- They need it solved.
- So long as the price is within a reasonable bounds, they don’t care.
- They’ll pay more if they can guarantee the work is professionally done.
- They don’t care about your hourly rate.
Of course, not every client is this way. Some want the cheapest labor. Some don’t have an urgent need, so they can afford to shop around.
But certain clients just want their problems reliably solved, and price is less of a factor than you might think.
Be That Professional
This experience was enlightening for me, because I don’t typically get to experience the “client” side of a client/vendor relationship. I’m usually the one setting prices.
My challenge to you is to start looking at your clients a little differently: Instead of needing a WordPress developer, they need a problem solved.
Frankly, I didn’t know what anybody at Paycheck Connections “officially” did. Were they accountants? Assistants? Janitors? I didn’t care. They got my taxes done and charged a reasonable fee. A fee that, when factoring how much time I was going to spend on this problem, saved me money.
I’ll be taking a slightly different perspective when talking to clients from now on.
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