Connecting with New Clients: A Story of Serendipity with Natalia OtaloraMar 27, 2023
I’m so excited to have my second bookkeeping client ever, Natalia Otalora, here today!
When I started my podcast and blog, the intention was not for it to focus solely on bookkeeping, which is basically where it is today. Instead, I wanted to tell the stories of my new clients, how these profitable businesses really do change lives, and how knowing your numbers helps you see that. I wanted to interview my clients at that time, and one of the very first people I thought of was Natalia.
It’s taken us over two years to actually get this thing scheduled, but we finally did it! Please welcome Natalia!
Katie: First of all, is there anything in particular you want to share, Natalia?
Natalia: Well, when you first asked me a few weeks ago to think about this, I didn’t think there was anything I wanted to share. And now, three weeks later, I have like this whole new thing, idea, and career path. A lot’s changed! In particular, I want to talk about this big project that I'm working on right now.
I've actually started putting together a membership recently. I've always felt that I could be that person with a membership set up, but then doubt would creep in. I mean, who am I to even do that? I wasn’t allowing myself to see that I could possibly create something that helps and serves others.
With that said, I am working on a community membership, and it’s going to start in April, so I’m thrilled about that.
My approach to my business has always been very aligned with what I feel my gut is telling me to do. I follow what my soul is pulling me towards, and I feel like a lot of us have not been able to create that connection with that inner guidance, so this whole community membership is intended to provide people with content and information and support to help us all get more in alignment with the things that really spark joy; the things that really feel like we're fulfilling our purpose.
It’s funny how everything comes full-circle, because one of the things that has allowed me to create this with peace of mind is the fact that I know my numbers. I know that I can actually handle this venture because I’ve worked with Katie for so many years, and I have saved enough money to give me that peace of mind and that space to create.
Serendipity in Finding New Clients
Katie: To rewind for everybody, Natalia and I met in 2012…but not through business. We’d actually both started CrossFit at the same time; we met at a CrossFit gym.
I like to tell these stories to show how clients and opportunities and connections come in very strange ways. I mean, who would've thought that joining a CrossFit gym is actually one of the biggest reasons I have a bookkeeping business?
So, my first bookkeeping client was actually the CrossFit gym, and that happened kind of accidentally. At the time that I was doing CrossFit, I was working at a CPA firm, and the owner of the gym asked if I could do the taxes. To do taxes, you need to have books, but he didn't have books, so I went through and did some unbillable time to catch up the books so that they could do the tax part. I continued to do the books off the clock, and then when I went to leave the CPA firm, I wanted him to stay with them for taxes. Because I brought the client in, I could have brought the client with me for taxes, but I didn’t want to. I just continued to do the books for him.
At some point, it became three gyms, but it was really one client. Then when I went back to my corporate job, I continued to do books for this one person part-time—so part-time that I would forget that I even did it.
I went in once a quarter and knocked out three gyms in about an hour, so it was just about four hours a year. I didn’t consider myself a bookkeeper. I didn’t even consider it a side gig. It's felt like a favor I was doing. I definitely wasn’t seeking new clients.
Then I ended up pregnant with my son, I got paid to quit that job, and then I was at home. And because Natalia was around, she knew all of this. I didn't tell her I had a bookkeeping business. She just happened to be a proactive person on the financial side of things; she was only six months into it when she came to me.
I hadn't yet taken on any other new clients. I just had this CrossFit gym, so my mind wasn't even totally open to freelancing and seeking new clients. I was like, “Gee, I don't know. I have a baby. I'm pregnant, and I don't know if I can help you. And Natalia just said, “Well, let’s try it out.”
My favorite thing, and the thing that I really wanted to make sure that we made space for today, was that one of my hesitancies when Natalia came to my table was, “Oh, I don't want to charge her. I want to give her a discount, because she's just starting this little creative business and she's not going to make enough money to pay for bookkeeping.”
Natalia: I love your honesty!
Katie: Can I share what your sales were at the end of the first twelve months we were working together?
Natalia: Sure. I don't even remember.
Katie: Natalia, in her first year of business, made six figures in sales by the end of the first year. So she definitely could pay for bookkeeping, and I didn’t need to assume that it was going to be something smaller.
I like that part of the story for everyone, because I think the bookkeepers who follow me now have me on a made-up pedestal of what this would've looked like for me in those days.
I always had a very healthy curiosity for seeing the behind-the-scenes of businesses. Looking at the books of the CrossFit gym was so cool and inspiring for me. But when taking on new clients, particularly when I took on Natalia’s stuff, there was hesitancy. Of course, there was also honesty in saying, “I don't know. Let me see. If you want to come over and show me what you've got, I’ll ask a bunch of questions and we'll try to figure this out.” And that sort of set the tone for the rest of our partnership.
Tech And Trust
Katie: Remember, this was 2016, so a lot of the technology has evolved considerably in the past several years. So when Natalia came to me, my initial questions revolved around how she was billing her customers, and at the time, she was selling on Etsy, using Squarespace for some transactions, etcetera. There were many different things, and they were all very new to me then, and they’ve evolved a lot over the past few years since.
It’s been a major game of catch-up. At the time, I put her on QuickBooks Desktop, which is something I wouldn't even recommend anybody use now, but it's what I had, and it worked.
However, as Natalia continued to enhance her processes and streamline things and branch out in different avenues with different offerings, the tech started to change.
And as she was evolving, I also started hearing about Xero, and I got really curious about how it might work for her and other new clients. There was something in Natalia’s books that wasn't working well in QuickBooks—I can't even remember what now—but I asked her if she would be willing to be the guinea pig on Xero. I asked if I could play with her data on there and and see how it worked, and we ended up really liking and sticking with it. Not all new clients would have let me do that!
I give all of that backstory just to show how sloppy it all started out, and to show what unexpected connections you can make with new clients in the oddest of places. It’s turned into such a healthy, balanced, long-term, equally beneficial relationship, I think.
Natalia: Definitely. I think if I had something to add to that, it’s that I always really appreciated that you were so honest with me.
A lot of times as business owners, when we have responsibilities with our new clients, we fear that if we are honest, those new clients may feel scared. And that is a possibility, but I think that when you have a record of being responsible and showing that you care about my company before you come to me and say, “Hey, I want to try this out,” I’ll have no doubt in my mind when I tell you to go for it. That’s how I felt with Katie.
Thanks For Sharing, Natalia!
Katie: I’m so grateful you came on today! Where is the best place to follow you?
Natalia: Right now, my website is going to be the best platform where I'm going to be sharing all of the new things, and that link can be found at the end of this post. I will be launching my membership in April, but there's also going to be a podcast coming out soon. I'm relaunching my podcast under a different name, and it's going to be composed of more solo episodes. There’s also the blog, and you can also subscribe to the newsletter on my website.
Instagram is another good one. You can find that link below as well. I’m @papelnco there, but it’s possible that the name will change soon.
Katie: We’ll definitely link all that out. Again, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story…and thank you for being such a big part of my journey and for trusting me all those years ago!
CONNECT WITH NATALIA:
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Learn how to take your bookkeeping skills and turn them into a business that allows you to replace (or surpass) your corporate salary, be present for your life, and profoundly impact your clients without selling your life in the process by joining Life by the Books (LIBBY).
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs).
To learn about the programs and get a peek behind the curtain, head to www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.
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CONNECT WITH KATIE: