The Toxic Loop of Doing It All Yourself

for bookkeepers libby Jul 17, 2023



Let’s talk about what happens when you fall prey to the toxic loop of doing it all yourself.

Maybe you’ve found yourself feeling like you need five times the clients that you currently have in order to make the money that you want. But in spite of this, you already feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of your business and trying to make sure your current clients are served to the best of your ability.

You’re stressed. You’re burned out. You’re struggling to meet your deadlines and to give your clients the highest quality work you can manage. You want to expand your business, but you feel like if you take on even one more client, the entire scale is going to tip over.

So what’s the solution?

It might sound counterintuitive—after all, you’re struggling to make the money that you want as it is—but the solution is actually to start hiring a team now.

Yes, now—before the cycle sweeps you and your business away.



Learning the Lesson

If you are the person who will hear me and immediately take the action I’m suggesting, then great. You're going to be able to alleviate a lot of the pain you would go through otherwise; a pain that most bookkeepers go through when they don’t work on hiring a team immediately.

But if you fall into the same category as 99% of bookkeepers, then you're probably going to learn the lesson of hiring a team too late the hard way.

So. All of the sudden, let’s say you have your first five clients. For the sake of simplicity of numbers, let’s say you're charging $300 each. This means you have $1,500 a month, and you're likely looking at that money from a place of desperation.

Money is something that we need. I'm not going to sugarcoat that or pretend it’s not true. Maybe you're in a position where you need that money to put food on the table, or you're in a position where you're really trying to get to a certain income mark so that you can feel safe cutting the cord on the job you no longer love.

Maybe you have a threshold in your head of $5,000 of monthly revenue in order to leave that job, so you’re thinking, “I want to hold on to every dollar of this $1,500 because I'm not sure where the next one's going to come from, and if I give any portion of this away right now,

I'm not going to get to my goal fast enough.”

You crunch the numbers: $5,000 a month, with $300 per client, means that you need roughly 17 clients. You tell yourself you’ll hit that number of clients, and then I'll start hiring a team.

This is a terrible position to put yourself in. I’m constantly coaching people through correcting this—and it can be corrected. This isn't a doomsday conversation, but it is an important conversation in order to understand your capacity and the toxic loop that you'll find yourself in when you do this.


Not Hiring, Not Thriving

So, you're not hiring a team. You have five clients, and now the pendulum has swung from desperately searching for clients to now wondering how to serve all of these clients without burning out, especially if you're in a position where you're already living a very busy life.

When you first start your bookkeeping business, you probably haven’t quite quit your day job yet. So look at it this way: When you’re trying to manage your full-time job, your kids, your relationship, health issues, errands, taking care of pets, seeing friends, plus these new five clients, all when you're brand-new to this? It's going to be extremely hard to do it all yourself.

You're going to start to get overwhelmed quickly, and yet, you still want to be making five times what you're making.

So. You’re stressed out. You’re capped out on your own time. You’re burning the midnight oil. You’re exhausted. You’re trying to work through that exhaustion, which means you're probably taking four to five times longer than these tasks really should take.

In order to really grow the way that we want to...we can't expect that we can do this all ourselves.



The Train Crash

When we’re just starting this journey, we have to be thinking in terms of, “There will be a team in place for this to be an actual business. There will be a team in place for this to be something that gives me life freedom, and there will be a team in place for this to really be sustainable.” Because if you're building a business where you plan to take on twenty-five clients and do it yourself, you are one incident away from everything falling off the rails.

All it takes is one disaster. All it takes is for COVID to happen, or a ravaging stomach bug to tear around your house for nine days, or an emergency surgery, or anything else unexpected in your life.

I’ve been through this. I have three kids, and we've definitely gone through throwing up for nine days straight because one kid gets it, and then three days later, the next one gets it, and then three days later, the next one gets it…I'm cleaning up vomit nine days in a row.

If I didn't have a team in place, if I didn't have documented processes, and if I didn't know that I needed to give myself a buffer of time for everything, then there would have been countless, times where things wouldn't have gotten done.

When you have babies, it's super hard, because every minute is unpredictable. And then when they grow up, you've got school schedules and cancellations of school and hurricanes and all kinds of things that make life highly unpredictable. You can plan everything for your one day to get work done, and your babysitter can end up sick.

For this to work, your kids have to be healthy, your babysitter has to be healthy, and you have to be healthy. And that doesn’t always happen, because, well…life, right?

This is when you may find yourself in this toxic loop, and the loop looks like this:

You don't have enough clients to start hiring a team. That leads you to not having enough team members to take on more clients, which leads you back to not having enough clients to start hiring a team.

The only way out of this is to recognize that one, you've proven your process. I'm not saying you should start hiring a team before you have a single client; I'm saying plan on hiring a team once you know you can take on more. And when you start hiring a team, you should do it in phases, but have the end goal in mind.

This is a whole module inside of my program Life by the Books. It's called Support, where we talk about how to bring support in through your team. We talk about how to start hiring a team, how to communicate, and how to be a good boss so that you actually get people who not only do good work, but stay with you.



Plan on Hiring a Team!

You may feel like you don't have enough clients to hire a team, but you also don't have enough team to bring on more clients. And if you stay in this loop, you might find yourself kicking out potential opportunities or not putting yourself out there because you don't believe that you have the capacity to bring people in.

So, I recommend working on hiring a team when you have proven your process, when you know that you can get clients, and when you see that this is going to continue. You have to put some faith into putting the person in there so that you have the structure to build on instead of getting 20 clients and then trying to figure out the task of hiring a team and training.



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). 

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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).  

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