Getting real with expectations during tax season

It’s tax season, and if you’re working in the finance or accounting field, managing expectations becomes incredibly important this time of year. Deadlines, documentation organization, and other stressors can come up and become incredibly heavy for you as a money manager and for your clients.

As a professional, it’s important to look at the expectations you put on yourself as well as the expectations you put on your clients in order to provide a better and more aligned client experience. And let’s be honest, it will help you keep your sanity too.

2 Katelyn Magnuson Headshot

Katelyn Magnuson

Get real with yourself

First, when I manage expectations of myself, I look at how much I’m trying to take on. As an entrepreneur and multipassionate person, I instinctively want to do 17 things at once, but that can make anyone ripe for failure or falling short. To help manage this, I take the time to check in to see if each new idea is something I truly want to be doing right now, or am I taking it on from a place of fear and scarcity? If it’s truly something I’m excited about, I then ask myself if it’s something I can take on now either by myself or with the help of my team. I do the things I have room for now, pass things to my team if needed, or say no to the things that don’t feel aligned.

Get real with your team

My team and I only have so much bandwidth. If something isn’t time sensitive and will be an added stressor on my team, it’s important for me to check back in and see what I can do today to move one of my inspired ideas forward. Every day, I try to limit myself to three actionable steps I can take to move my ideas to the next steps. It could be as simple as replying to all my emails in one day, or write out the copy for a new service. The goal is to be realistic about what I can do in a day, communicate with my team on what they see is possible, and try not to push myself too far.

Get real with your clients

When it comes to managing expectations with my clients, my goal is to always under-promise and over-deliver. I’m contractually obligated to get back to my clients within 72 business hours unless otherwise noted. So nine to 10 months over the year, I aim for my response time to be under 24 hours. However, because of this exact time of year (tax season) I build in the three-day expectation to provide myself with a realistic buffer.

Before I clarified this communication expectation with my clients, they occasionally felt like I would fall off the face of the earth during tax season. I would become anxious, they would become anxious, and that isn’t a positive experience for anyone. By communicating clearly and setting the expectation clearly during this time of year, the experience becomes much less stressful for everyone involved.

Managing your expectations throughout tax season, as professionals and for our clients, can turn high-traffic, high-stress times of the year into much smoother months.

Katelyn Magnuson is the founder of The Freelance CFO.

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