There are so many details to track when running an accounting business, even if your operation is small. As an accounting firm, it's no secret one of the first areas you must wrangle is your client base. As the saying goes, your network is your net worth, and establishing a system for managing clients is an absolute must for businesses that want to scale up and grow.

While small organizations can make do with piecemeal solutions, cobbling together spreadsheets, file sync and share solutions, and other necessary business functions, there will inevitably come the point where an accounting portal software will become required. But what features should accounting firms look for to be successful when choosing a new client management software, and why are they important?

Give your clients "always-on" access

Maintaining work/life balance is the dream, but we've all encountered that one client that doesn't seem to have the healthiest boundaries. Choosing a client portal that integrates real-time client messaging capabilities will allow you to respond instantly. When you are offline, most chat applications also have automated chatbots backed by AI that can suggest helpful resources to your client.

Furthermore, giving clients access to their own dedicated portal allows them to login and check project status updates at any hour.

Easily access your files anytime, anywhere

File storage and management are absolutely crucial. Choose a portal that allows you to easily organize your file uploads and assets in a single repository accessible to all your team members. Get out of the singular hell that is digging through your email inbox, looking for file attachments.

Because you may want to control access permissions to sensitive files, decide whether you need a portal solution with the ability to define user-based access control. At the very least, you should have the ability to password protect individual files if you cannot set role-based access control.

Easy uploading

Save yourself time by choosing a portal that allows batch file uploading and drag-and-drop capabilities. Trust me now. Thank me later.

High-quality previews

No matter how on point you are with your file naming convention and organizational structure, sometimes it's still hard to find the correct document. Being able to access high-quality previews of your files will help you find the right asset faster.

Enhance your brand image

Deliver consistency in your client interactions with brand customizations. Choose features that will improve your client's interactions, and therefore overall experience, with your company. You don't want them to dread working with you.

Securely share files with a branded client portal

Easy collaboration is key. It's critical to choose a secure client portal that lets you share files easily and quickly with your clients. Email attachments allow only minimal file sizes, and they are easily lost.

You'll also want to look into collaborative features. The simple ability to add comments to documents really goes a long way in making feedback collection hassle-free.

To enhance your client's user experience, it's also nice to have the ability to customize your portal with your brand's logo. And it's also nice to have the option between hosting the portal on your own website or creating a custom URL if you want to keep your site architecture separate.

Don't use your project management software

Client portals are (and should remain) separate from your internal project management software. There's no need to bring your clients into the quagmire of sausage making. Project management is necessary, but it can be complicated and messy. Keep your client's experience clean and simple.

Collect eSignatures from key stakeholders

When sharing marquee documents like contracts, the ability to also collect eSignatures is an often overlooked but handy feature. No one — least of all your client — wants to go through the archaic dance of printing, signing, scanning, then emailing (or god forbid faxing) a document. It's time to join 2021.

Conquer your knowledge base and help desk

By choosing a portal that allows you to create and manage your knowledge base, you'll be able to better guide your clients, saving time responding to common questions that can be preemptively answered.

Advanced activity tracking

Gain insight into your client base by tracking their activities. It's convenient to know whether your client has opened your emails, downloaded an ebook, or responded to your last message.

Being able to track all of your intake form responses and invoices in the audit trail is also another feature that's vital to business operations.

Work across devices for on-the-go access

In the era of the, "digital nomad," accessing your portal platform across different devices may be a requirement for you. If dedicated mobile apps aren't part of the feature set, using a portal software that is browser-based will ensure you can login from your desktop, tablet, and phone in a pinch.

Automate workflows to save time

Although it always requires a bit of a learning curve, automation helps save time on repetitive tasks and standard workflows.

Don't just take our word for it

Workflow preferences are personal, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all client portal for everyone. However, choosing a client management software that is secure, custom-branded, allows easy file sharing, collects digital signatures, and tracks invoicing as well as other client activities will no doubt streamline your business operations. Take some time to think about the features you need and decide for yourself.

Modernize your client management

Portal is a client management app that delivers everything you need to run your SaaS business, including billing and invoicing, file sharing, eSignature collection, messaging, intake forms, and your knowledge base — all packaged in a single intuitive, seamless experience. Learn more about Portal here.