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Post Info TOPIC: Starting a Practice – a Diary


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Starting a Practice – a Diary


I see posts here regularly about starting a practice and getting a first client and I know from experience how easy it can be to get discouraged so I thought I'd post up my own experience and let you make of it what you will.  It will either put you off completely or encourage you to keep going (I hope!).  Anyhow, for what it's worth, here it is.

Year One

15th August 2008 - How exciting! I've just formed my own limited company - Needham Accountancy Limited - and I feel great! I've spoken to my boss who is very supportive and has agreed that I will stay while I build up a clientele, even possibly allowing me to go part-time as Needham Accountancy Ltd gets bigger. I've been working as a bookkeeper / accountant in private industry for about 15 years and it's time to see if I can make it on my own.

10th October 2008 - Redundant! Credit crunch has hit us badly and this has led to my redundancy. However, nice boss has said that I can take my desk and chair and filing cabinet with me to help get my home office furnished. Also paid me a couple of months' wages even though I hadn't been there long enough to get actual redundancy.

13th October 2008 - Get four weeks temporary work through Hays Accountancy and decide to put it through the limited company. It's a start and at least I can raise my first invoice.

16th November 2008 - invoice my first "proper" client for a final VAT return.

December 2008 - hellish news. My best friend is diagnosed with cancer again. Prognosis not good. Going to be spending a lot of time caring for her and her children. However, also sourced my first big client (a local pub) due to very helpful neighbour who took my flyers and went out and distributed them to over 300 local businesses! Impressed by the "advertising" I subscribe to Yell.com.

March 2009 - Get another six weeks subcontracting work in London. However, my friend's illness is starting to take its toll. It becomes impossible to work full-time and be her carer so I take the decision to stop working for a while and care for her, while living off savings.

End-April 2009 - My friend has gone into a hospice. Her youngest boy (12) is staying with me and I can at least get some work done while he is at school.

31st May - 30th June 2009 - My friend has passed away (31st May). Organise the funeral and arrange for her youngest boy to move into my house. Convert office back into a bedroom. Workspace now very limited.

31st July 2009 - I end the year having had 8 clients, 3 of which were one-off jobs. Turnover is low but then again it's been a hellish year. Hey ho, things can only get better!



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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Year Two

August 2009 - Very cramped trying to work from home without an office and with foster child on school holidays. Dogs are a big distraction too. They didn't mind when I sat in the office but they do object to me working in the living room. I start trawling the job vacancies on the ICB website and pick up another pub for my portfolio of clients. I decide at this point to try and persuade regular clients to pay me a monthly stipend rather that being invoiced for "bit" work. It helps their budgeting and my cashflow.

16th November 2009 - I've moved out of the living room and into a small office. It is not possible to work from home although I'm not really big enough yet to afford the rent on an office. Nor am I big enough to afford the part-time assistant I seem to have acquired. However, I'm increasingly out of the office and someone should use it! It's not big and it has no loo (thankfully we get on well with the hairdresser next door!) but it is on a busy main street and the window is great for advertising space.

November 2009 - February 2010 - pootling along picking up a few small or one-off clients on the way. Constantly worrying about money and reach a low point at the end of February when I cannot pay my assistant's wage. I reluctantly tell her that I'll have to let her go and pay her the money as soon as I have it. She insists on staying, borrows her wages from her Dad and tells me that she has a feeling that things are just about to get better. She's an optimist, that one, and her optimism helped me through that low patch.

March 2010 - And she was right to be an optimist! March saw me trawling the ICB site again and picking up three new clients. Pressure immediately reduced on the cashflow situation. Not rich yet but not prepared to give up yet.

April 2010 - Form a link with a local accountant who I've known for a couple of years. He is willing to subcontract small amounts of work to us.

31st July 2010 - We've pootled along for about three months with no new clients but we've made it to the end of our second financial year. I say "we" because my assistant is an integral part of the team. We have increased the turnover on last year by about 150% (not difficult when it's low to begin with!) and have set ourselves a target for a 62.5% increase for the coming year.



-- Edited by Mad Liz on Thursday 21st of July 2011 05:22:07 PM

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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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Year Three

August - December 2010 - managed to pick up 12 new clients of varying sizes and needs and it's obvious that the name is getting out there. Was able to reward my assistant for her loyalty by paying for her to start her bookkeeping studies at college.

January 2011 - Wow! We completed 25 self assessment tax returns this month as well as keeping our usual monthly crowd happy!

February - June 2011 - Picked up another 7 clients in this period. Again, various sizes but mostly biggish. The cashflow situation is getting much easier. We can see that we will just about make our 62.5% increase on turnover and I'm able to take more out of the business myself, which is nice! We decide that we want a 40% increase on turnover next year. My assistant has rewarded my faith by passing all her exams with 100%. We persuaded our office landlord to extend our office and to give us our own loo so we can now swing a cat (if we had one!)

July 2011 - We are contacted by a firm in Yorkshire who wanted to work with us. What they are prepared to pay will enable me to make my assistant full-time. Our local accountant that we had links with is beginning to shut down his practice due to ill health and is gradually passing his clients on to us and we are involved in the UK start up of an already successfully Irish company and this should feed us a sizeable fee. It looks like we've already made the 40% increase. Oh, and we eventually get a proper sign to put above our shop window!

So, we're at the end of our third year and things are definitely moving in the right direction. It's been hard work but it has been rewarding. We now have clients ranging from several pubs to a film production company and it breaks down into 16 limited companies, 9 sole traders and 30 individuals for tax returns.

We have depended on the loyalty of these clients and couldn't have done it without their faith in us as a new practice.

Onwards and upwards for our fourth year!



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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That's a great story of success Liz, long may it continue! Sounds like you have a marvellous assistant, they are very hard to find!

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Excellent success  story

How did you get 25 self assessments

just like that !

 

Good Luck



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Fantastic reading, Liz - thanks a lot for sharing.

(Love the bit about the assistant - sounds like a great asset !!!)

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Tony

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Hi Liz

Hope you are well.


What Liz didn't mention is the sudden disappearence of accountants in St Albans in November 2009 ("I'm increasingly out of the office "). hence the reason for increase in self assessments in the following year.wink


Only joking, well done Liz, hard graft paid off.

Dalbir



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Wow Liz, I found that totally inspirational so thank you. Just starting out with ICB and hoping to gradually start my own business in the next one-two years as my children get older. I hope I can do as well as you seem to be doing now, I found it quite emotional reading your first year, you deserve every success, Maria.

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Mad Liz and Mad Maz

are you two related?

Dalbir


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From £20 plus Vat per client per annum; No more excuses for small business owners and their accountants in managing their books on spreadsheets.



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lol no but i guess being a bit mad doesn't do any harm

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Wow, thank you for sharing Liz, that was really inspiring. I was sorry to read about your friend, I am sure that she is very proud of your achievements. That has me all fired up now to carry on with my mailer.

Terri

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Thank you for posting that, and sorry to hear about your friend. You have spurred me on even more! xx

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Sam

LilyIris Bookkeeping



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Yes, thanks for sharing your diary with us. Lots of inspiration for those of us just starting out. Hope your business continues to grow. Update us on your progress soon.

Ray



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Thanks Liz, this is really encouraging.

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Lawason

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This is a great exercise in showing how businesses build up over time. Thanks for sharing Liz.

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So, an update!

Year Four

August October 2011 Just pootling along.

November 2011 major hassle! My assistant, who has been so helpful until now, has decided to move on. It didnt end pleasantly, unfortunately. Im sorry to lose her, but her recent attitude meant that her job became untenable. Fortunately a friend steps into the breach to keep the office manned while Im out. Hes able to turn his hand to basic bookkeeping too. Meantime, I start interviewing.

December 2011 I get a new assistant and in the nick of time! My accountant friends condition has deteriorated dreadfully and he can no longer work. His wife arrives at my office a few days before Christmas with files for 20 clients. Christmas is cancelled. Further conversations are held, which culminate with me apparently taking over a practice. I point out that I cannot afford to buy his practice and it is agreed that I will pay commission of 20% on any earnings for his clients for the next three years. From a commercial perspective its a bargain, but Im sad for my friend.

January 2012 With all the extra clients, we are incredibly busy. My boy reckons that he did not receive a home cooked meal for the whole of January. Hes probably right. My two assistants are working very hard and Im working until 11pm most nights. 70 tax returns complete by the end of the month.

February 2012 I actually get to go on holiday! Huzzah! Off to South Africa leaving my boy and dogs in the custody of an extremely good and very patient friend. My friend who stepped into the breach in November leaves us but my new assistant is holding the fort.

March 2012 My new assistant leaves me due to childcare issues. Yet another friend steps into the breach.

April July 2012 An existing client, who already has five companies that I work on, has purchased five more companies. Do I need to explain how much extra work there is?! I take on a senior bookkeeper with previous practice experience.

So the end of year 4 and, due to taking over my friends practice and an existing client getting even busier, our sales are up by 76% on last year!



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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Year Five

Year five saw us collecting several more clients but mostly it was a year of stability. Our sales went up by 18%. My two assistants both left at the end of June for other jobs. The senior bookkeeper was replaced very quickly and covered very well when my boy and I went on holiday to Marrakech in July. My boy is being the office junior for the summer and Im arranging a new junior via the National Apprenticeship Scheme.

Weve produced some celebratory pens to give to those clients and friends who have helped us along the way.

Generally, life is much better than it was when we started! Lets see what year six brings.



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd

lor


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very motivational!

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Thank you for sharing the diary Liz. 

It helps a lot for me as a very junior bookkeeper.

 

 

Have a great day.

 

Adrian 

 

 

 

 

 



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RE: Starting a Practice – a Diary


Very good read. Its has helped me realise that if I want to succeed I need to go for it.

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RE: Starting a Practice – a Diary


Fantastic, Liz. I found that really inspirational. What an awesome journey - full marks to you!
And

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Andrew


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Brilliant Liz

As a course advisor for promoting the ICB I am always being asked once qualified what can the student expect to gain with their new qualifications? I never promise that they will earn life changing money and soon be driving a porch, what I do say is regardless of what qualifications you gain it is down to their own self drive and determination to succeed, the importance of networking and contacting fellow ICB members or fellow Bookkeeping and Accounting professionals who have succeeded for tips and advice and of course using the resources that being a member of the ICB has to offer. The above is truly inspirational and if you don't mind I will be sending a link of this post to people who show an interest in becoming a Bookkeeper?

Well done and keep up the good work.

Dave


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Dave Campbell


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Dave Campbell wrote:

Brilliant Liz

As a course advisor for promoting the ICB I am always being asked once qualified what can the student expect to gain with their new qualifications? I never promise that they will earn life changing money and soon be driving a porch, what I do say is regardless of what qualifications you gain it is down to their own self drive and determination to succeed, the importance of networking and contacting fellow ICB members or fellow Bookkeeping and Accounting professionals who have succeeded for tips and advice and of course using the resources that being a member of the ICB has to offer. The above is truly inspirational and if you don't mind I will be sending a link of this post to people who show an interest in becoming a Bookkeeper?

Well done and keep up the good work.

Dave


 

More than happy for you tho link to it, Dave, if you think it will help.



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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You've gone Viral Liz lol.

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Spamkebab wrote:

You've gone Viral Liz lol.


 

biggrin



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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Spamkebab wrote:

You've gone Viral Liz lol.


 It is Dave Neil so maybe it should have read virus lol.

 

I think people need inspirational success stories and Mad Liz certainly has one of those, so lets spread the word of the Liz Gospel so others can see that there is a way forward with hard work and dedication.

Above extract taken from the bible of Dave page 2032 verse 16 Ahmenbiggrin

 



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Dave Campbell



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Absolutely fantastic Liz. I can't tell you how pleased I am for you. You've been through some tough time and sounds like some good times as well.
I've just read your diary whilst having a low moment as I am struggling to get my business going. It's for different reasons. I work full time as an Assistant Management Accountant and have worked in a finance capacity for close on 20 years. I want to do bookkeeping and accounts on a part time basis in the evenings and weekends until things build up enough for me to work part time. I have confidence issues which don't help and also have some skills gaps. I don't get support through work, if anything I don't think they are happy that I am doing this outside of work.

So far this year I have done around 5 self assessments for family and friends and have been helping a plastering partnership with using Sage Instants as they are converting from manual to computerised for the first time.

It's very up and down and finding work when you work full time is very difficult. I am qualified AAT and part qualified CIMA so have some study and also practical experience behind me but still I lack confidence. I would love a fraction of what your business has achieved and hope that after reading your diaries it will inspire me to soldier on.

Keep up the diaries. Found them very interesting.

Elaine

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lor


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viral...............................

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It's that time of year again ...

Year Six

Well, what a year it's been!  

Client numbers continue to rise.  New additions to the stable include a private ambulance company and a chocolatier!  

Staff wise - My number two who joined in June last year is still with me and hopefully will be for some time to come.  She's brilliant as practice management, diary keeping and staff supervision, as well as her work and she's taken a lot of pressure off me.  The apprentice who came on board in September 2013 had to be let go in April.  She was good at the work but not good at turning up, either on time or at all, and seemed to have a constant hangover.  She's been replaced by a temporary office junior and he will be replaced in September with another apprentice.  We also have a part-time MAAT who works a couple of days a week as a favour to me but I don't think she'll stay.  

Where we want to be by the end of September is me, my current number two, a new apprentice and a full-time someone who is either QBE or recently qualified MAAT/ICB/IAB.

The BIG news, though, is that we have to move out of our little office, which saddens us in some ways.  We've been here almost five years and it has served us very well.  However, two factors have influenced the move.  The first is that our landlord is renovating and converting our office and the shop adjacent plus the two upstairs flats into residential accommodation. The other major reason is that we need the space!  With three and a half of us working here it has become a nightmare juggling desks and filing space.

We looked and looked around and could find nowhere suitable, in terms of cost, location and office type.  But then our current landlord decided to build us a new office in the same complex!  The complex looks like this:

Complex

So, we will be moving from our main street frontage to an area 100 yards away down the back.  However, we will have three times the space and we won't have to change our address or clients' addresses at Companies House or HMRC, and we get to keep the same landlord which makes us very happy! Also, we will maintain our signage on the main street so it won't be difficult to find us!  Move in date is 29th August and we are ever so exited.  New desks, new computers, new staff, more space - we won't know ourselves!

Also very encouraging is that our bank has offered to finance the move.  We haven't needed to take advantage of them yet but it's good to know that they have faith in us!

Here's to year seven!



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Liz Needham FFA FIAB FFTA

Needham Accountancy Ltd



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Hi Liz!

Thanks for sharing your experience! Its given me the boost I needed! I am now having to consider an office and an assistant, and it is so scary! Reading your highs and lows has reminded me that we are fighters and that it will all come good in the end, with persistence and hard work.

Your success is well deserved! Long may it continue xx

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Well done Liz, and I'm sure your success will be an inspiration to many.  



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John



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I know it's an old post but I really enjoyed reading the diary entries. It is inspiring!

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Nicholas Ostheimer



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Are you going to read and put one line on all the 'inspiring' old threads? Could be here a while



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It would create newer threads to re-read. Bit of ancient history never hurt.wink Part of my plan to read every post on the Bookkeeping forum. Only 9 years to go.. 



-- Edited by Can You Read this? On Grunday 19th of March 2218



-- Edited by n ostheimer on Monday 19th of March 2018 09:07:39 PM

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