Despite the economic turmoil of the last few years – which is showing no signs of slowing down – it doesn’t seem to be putting us off setting up our own businesses.
This, in turn, is good news for small, independent accountants as “small businesses … cannot warrant a full-time, on-site accountant”, according to senior lecturer in financial accounting at University of Northampton Business School, Ewan Tracey. “Because of this, the accountancy profession has seen a rise in the number of small practices and independent firms.”
The trajectory may seem positive, but branching out on your own is not something to be taken lightly. Before you start picking out colour swatches and plants for your new office, therefore, you must ensure that you fully understand what working for yourself really means.
Being your own boss
You may love the sound of it, but do you really have the qualities required to manage your own practice? This includes being incredibly organised, motivated, diligent, confident, approachable and resilient – skills that not everyone possesses. Make sure you know, also, why you’re doing this – simply hating your old boss may not be the best reason to branch out on your own.
Compliance is crucial
First things first, you must be in the know regarding all the rules and regulations required for setting up and running an accountancy practice – and be fully licensed to do so (this includes an ACCA practising certificate). You must also be au fait with other industry standard guidelines and legal requirements, such as data protection and insurance – for both professional indemnity and everyday business cover.
Before setting up on your own you must have a potential client base that you can work from – either from existing clients, networking or a carefully constructed marketing campaign. These are relationships that will constantly need nurturing, too.
Along with business cards, a website and an effective logo. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from local business forums and hire your own set of advisers who can help steer you in the right direction.
Friends, family, Facebook, the postman – shout it from the rooftops if necessary. The more people know about your new practice, the more likely you are to gain clients.
In the early days, you must be prepared to sell yourself for lower than you are really worth as this is a great way to win work and positive word-of-mouth recommendations is worth much more than actual money at this stage. Once you’ve got your foot in the door and your name successfully out there, you can slowly raise your prices.
Never cut corners
When you hold yourself to high standards, your clients will do the same.
Hire the right people
An integral component to the success of your business, your employees should share your vision and be incredibly hard workers. Be selective at the application process and don’t settle for anyone you’re not completely enamoured with.
You’re not going to build a successful practice overnight – most take years – but the rewards can be bountiful. You will work longer hours than you ever have done before and you may have to skip holidays for the time being, but keep reminding yourself that this is not forever. Conversely, there is such a thing as taking on too much work, and although you may be loath to turn down any new business in the beginning, you don’t want to over-commit to projects you simply do not have the time to deliver, either. You probably will take everything personally, too, but that’s because this is your baby and nobody puts baby in the corner (ahem, you get our drift).
Yes, it can be hard, but setting up an accountancy practice can be incredibly rewarding – both financially and professionally. If you’ve got to the end of this and have not run away screaming, branching out on your own may well be for you and we’d love to help you on your journey!