Four things to keep in mind when starting your accounting practice
1. Have you got the experience?
You may be freshly qualified as an accountant, with a strong independent streak coursing through your veins, and eager to break into the working life as your own boss. But this may be an error. It is recommended to accrue a good deal of varied experience as an accountant if your dream is to start your own practice.
Working for a large firm (one of the so-called Big 4 of PricewaterhouseCoopers, EY, Deloitte and KPMG, for instance) provides you with knowledge of best practice and niche accounting. Transitioning from a role in one of these firms to a smaller accounting firm, specialising in local clients, will give you experience in the dynamics involved in smaller clients, and a good sense of the variety of tasks that you can expect to do when you decide to open your own firm. Collecting experience will serve you well, and the time spent in these kinds of firms can serve to fire up the passion needed to strike out on your own.
2. Have you got the passion?
As a freelance or small business accountant, your clients will typically be small business owners or private individuals. This means that, unlike working at a large firm in which clients can seem more like faceless entities than collections of human beings, one of your primary skills is going to be managing personal relationships. There must be a strong empathetic streak running through you. Your work is likely going to have a large effect on the successes of those for whom you work. Passion for this kind of work – intimate, specialised, with a view to long-term connection – is indispensable, and will be the difference between failure and flourishing.
3. Have you got the financial position?
You may have the know-how, and the desire, but if you cannot afford to eat when you’re starting out on your own, success will never come. Starting your own accounting practice will require planning and prudence. You need to be confident that you can have some time to secure your first clients, and that you can afford the outlays on the equipment that you will need to do your job – a laptop, internet, accounting software, stationery, and so on.
4. Have you got the time?
For many, a great benefit of being employed as an accountant is the regularity and stability of the demands on your time – work hours are set, and everything outside of this is your own. This won’t be the case as you start out on your own as an accountant. Working odd-hours, late into the evenings, is likely to characterise the first chapter of this phase in your life, as you work to establish a reputation as a reliable and hard-working accountant for your clients. For some, this irregularity will be opposed to the life that they want to live – but if it’s not, then starting your own accounting practice might be for you.