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New Practice

New Practice

Hi All

I've recently posted on here with some queries on setting up in practice and getting practising certificates etc.  I've now got everything fully set up and have signed up 4 clients, one from a networking event and one is a neigbour who referred on the other 2.  I've been reading a lot of the old posts on here about those who were in a similiar position and have followed some of the tips on getting new clients with little success i.e. networking, mailshots, cold calling, postcards, connected with a former colleague who has also set up on their own for some advice and I registered with Choose your Accountant. 

I knew that this was going to be a slow process but now here I am on a Saturday night fretting about where my next client is going to come from and worrying about paying the bills (got redundancy money to see me through but I still worry anyway).

Sorry for being a broken record but just looking for any tips and advice to see me through.

Thanks all.

Bernice

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By Locutus
03rd Mar 2012 21:39

I was in a similar position ...
over 10 years ago. The practice I had been working at got into financial difficulties and made me redundant, so I decided to give the self employed route a go.

I knew it would be impossible to build up a base of clients in a short time (and at the time I didn't have a practising certificate) so I decided to give freelancing a go. I marketed a few hundred accountants ... I knew at least a few of them have temporary work for a few days a week and found most are quite happy to avoid the hassle and cost of going through an agency.

Over time, once the practice you work for knows you are good at your job and trust you, some will be quite happy to pass over some of the work they really don't want to deal with in-house, such as bookkeeping-type work.

Over time your contacts grow and you pick up more and more non-freelancing work, which is generally but not necessarily always at a better rate. Everything just kind of snowballed from there.

I've never really looked back since year 1 and couldn't imagine ever being employed again. I've never grown my 'practice' beyond just me, but am perfectly happy where I am and earning much more than when I was last employed.

Message me if you want a chat. Good luck and don't give up just yet!

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By khalm0
03rd Mar 2012 21:49

I am searching to get a practice certificate too. who did any of you guys get yours from? and was there a pre requisite?

 

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Democratus
03rd Mar 2012 21:53

Try this......

khalm0 wrote:

I am searching to get a practice certificate too. who did any of you guys get yours from? and was there a pre requisite?

 

A good starting point is the institute you qualified with.  They'll send you a membership bill every year to remind you who they are!!

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03rd Mar 2012 21:49

Bernice I set up in October - and it's been bloody hard to get going.  I now have a dozen clients, generally through the same sources as your four, but also a couple via my website (NB: Google places is a must - both the clients I got through my website chose me because I was closest to them on Google maps).

One thing I have done that has worked quite well is telemarketiing,  I have used a telemarketer whi specialises in accountants for the last two months with a degree of success.  I find this works best with tradesmen and one man bands so don't expect to get large fees from this, but I'm getting a steady trickle of leads.  A small number have already converted, and a few more want me to contact them again after the end of the tax year.

This is also one of the biggest problems/frustrations I've faced.  Prospects are interested in my services - but not now.  Quite a few are with someone who charges monthly, and, despite not being happy with their accountant, because they're near their year end that decide to stay with the incumbant for the rest of the year.  And then once past the year end they are loathe to move until the year end/tax return is dealt with.  Understandably they are concerned that if they sack their accountant before work is delivered their work goes to the bottom of the priority list.

Personally I think the secret is networking to get to know people you can either refer work to, or use yourself.  It's amazing how this can lead to referrals back.  You'll soon realise that you know a number of IFAs, web designers, business coaches (don't get me started!!), social media consultants, etc from networking.  And they all know a number of accountants.  So get referrals you need to give them something first.

I've just got an insurance broker I met through networking to sort my life assurance.  He'll land around £1k commission from this.  The very next day, a pal of his has bought a block of fees and can't cope - he wants to subcontract a load of it.  Can I help?  Er - yes please!!!  But there's no way in hell I get that call (yesterday evening - not even spoken to the other accountant yet so it may come to nothing) if I hadn't just done some business with him.  This insurance broker must know tens of accountants but he called me.  And there is only one reason why he called me rather than someone else.

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By BOD
03rd Mar 2012 23:13

Same here...

 

I'm a CIMA registered MiP and have recently started looking at practice again after some contracting... I did try some Networking before before but I din't get the impression that the people there were ever gonna buy my services...I know (heard since) that one has to think beyond the room friend of a friend etc but how many times do you have to run with that mentality before you get a payback....I get the feeling the people making the real money from Networking are the the people running the events.... 

 

I would be interested in knowing how telemarketing works for accountancy, do you sign up with an existing agency who deal with accountancy and get passed leads in your own area or is it it more involved than that, giving them a script, target client etc?

 

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04th Mar 2012 01:20

Networking was the best way that I grew my early business.  BNI was OK but costs about £400 and is not for everybody.  I think that the secret is regular attendance.  You do not get into someone's mind in the first meeting but if you see them every month you are in with a chance.  The best bit is that when you pick up some business for say £500 they continue coming back year in year out so could be worth £2.5k over 5 years.  You could mix in some contract / agency work to generate some cash whilst your client base is small.

I now have friends that are recruitment consultants and this is proving to be a great source of high value leads. 

 

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04th Mar 2012 09:59

I agree with Fred Smith.  To

I agree with Fred Smith.  To get networking to work you have to be a regular attendee.  This may sound corny, but don't try to sell services, go there to make friends!!

Once you get to know other networkers, and become friendly with them, they are FAR more likely to refer business to you.  Think about it - you probably know several people in many industry sectors (you will soon if you keep networking).  You have a client who wants a new website/discuss their pension/wants a logo designing etc.  Which web designer/IFA/graphic designer do you refer them to.  Answer - someone you think won't let them down, and if there's more than one candidate, it'll be the one who has passed you a referral, or the one you want to help most - i.e.: your mate.

For it to work you need to become someone who people are comfortable referring work to (you do this be demonstrating - or appearing in their eyes to demonstrate - competence), and someone they either owe a favour to, or would like to do a favour for

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04th Mar 2012 11:39

Networking Options

If you join something like BNI you should budget for at least £1,000 a year costs. Membership is one thing, but you have to pay for weekly breakfasts whether you eat them or not and it all adds up.

I have been a member of 3 different BNI chapters in the past and it was worth it for the good quality business I drummed up - I still have several clients from that period years later.

I hated it most of the time, however, as BNI is a magnet for some extremely dodgy characters. One of the IFA's who visited our chapter from one next door actually rang me angrily one day and asked why I wasn't giving him any business. I felt if I wasn't very careful with my answer my body would be found in a ditch shortly afterwards, but there was no way I would have referred him or any other disreputable type to my worst enemy. I did find some good people however, and those are the ones I referred to clients.

But we now have 4Networking and lots of other options. Several ex BNI people local to me have set up their own networking clubs locally to me and there are a good 4-5 other networking options.

Go for a visit to whatever you like the look of in your area and ask other members how long it took them to get business.

For example, I'm now a member of 4Networking. Total annual costs will probably be £1,000+. Advantages are that dishonest people seem not to want to belong, and there is no pressure to refer business to anyone. This creates a sociable atmosphere distinctly lacking at BNI. Disadvantage is that it takes at least 6 months for most people to get known well enough for referrals to start, and many people I regard as good quality business people have told me it was a year before their first referral. A way of reducing the 4Networking fees and getting known better is to volunteer for one of the organisational jobs - most of which are handed to accountants.

I regard it as an investment at the moment. Year 1 may be a washout, but by Year 2 I ought to start getting better known and generating business, which will become easier to get. As an impatient person, I might not last the course as I do hate to spend too far ahead of actually getting the work!

 

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04th Mar 2012 12:43

Networking is only one string to your bow
If I was to start up a new practice now I would do the following:

Website - a good quality website with decent organic ranking is vital and shouldn't cost more than £1,000 - you need to list on google places and all the other free sites. Make sure you get google analytics, and have multiple ways for the prospect to contact you. Also, you MUST have a facility for capturing the name and email address of visitors - give them something for free to encourage them to sign up and send them monthly newsletters etc.

Direct mail - get a mailing list (lots of good providers out there) preferably with phone details on. Try and target niche areas so you can make your letter specific to their needs and circumstances. Some good books are on amazon (Drayton bird is an authority on this) to help your letter get their attention. Send out about 50 letters a week and ALWAYS follow up with a call within a week to say "did you get the letter ....."

Referrals - one of the best ways to get work is referrals - banks, solicitors and financial advisers are the best for accountants (and clients too but you wont get many until you have some clients!). Arrange to meet with all the local professionals and tell them why they should refer you and give them something to pass to their clients and make sure that they know who you are looking for - don't say "anybody" because anyone means noone in referral marketing!

Networking - get out and about to local events, make sure you have a good elevator pitch that makes you sound different to everyone else and that is memorable. Again, be specific about who you want to work with and always follow up with those you connect with.

Telemarketing - this is a good way to get new clients fast, but you need to find a niche and make yourself attractive to them and you should get the above things in Oder (specifically the website) before you start.

Seminars - hosting your own or speaking at someone elses will give you a great platform to show what you can do. I know a log of people who have built successful businesses through this alone.

One thing that helps with all of the above is a good CRM system. In fact, I would say this is essential. We use ACT but there are lots of others.

With the right strategy and focus, and with great underlying service and ability, I think you could build a £1/2m practice within 6 or 7 years.

Hope this all helps!

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By BMary83
04th Mar 2012 14:40

Telemarketing

Hi All

Do any of you have any experience of using telemarketing?  If so, what was the conversion rate?  I obviously want one where I am only paying them for converting calls into actual meetings rather than paying them based on the number of calls they make.  Can anyone recommend a company and give an idea on costs?

 

Thanks

Bernice

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04th Mar 2012 16:29

May I recommend the article I wrote last month?

It's on AccountingWeb and there are loads of useful comments on it too:

How to get your first clients

In addition to covering some of the points discussed above, I also addressed some preliminary tasks that, if you do as I suggest, will ensure you won’t waste any more time, money and energy.

Regards

Mark

ps: I'm also more a fan of 4Networking than of BNI

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By BMary83
Viciuno
04th Mar 2012 20:48

Thanks for this

bookmarklee wrote:

It's on AccountingWeb and there are loads of useful comments on it too:

How to get your first clients

In addition to covering some of the points discussed above, I also addressed some preliminary tasks that, if you do as I suggest, will ensure you won’t waste any more time, money and energy.

Regards

Mark

ps: I'm also more a fan of 4Networking than of BNI

 

Hi Mark

I had actually already read this article actually.  Whilst I'm happy I've decided on pricing my services and the issue I'm struggling with is not being seen as "just another accountant" and what is more attractrive about me.  I did spend 3 years working in tax dept of a independent CA firm so I highlight this where I can, including on my website however am dubious about heavily promoting that I am a tax specialist.  1. Because it's no longer strictly true and 2. Because I don't want new clients coming to me with the preconceived idea that I am automatically going to save them a fortune in tax.

 

On some earlier posts I noted a few comments about offering something that entices new client's but aside from offering a sign up discount I'm struggling to think of something which doesn't cheapen the brand so to speak.  My Inst stiupulates that all advertising must be professional, I don't know if openly offering a sign up discount would be seen as unprofessional?

 

 

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04th Mar 2012 16:21

Not my way

I wouldn't set up a practice and then look for my first few clients. I started with a full time job, then had a part time job, then sub contract work. Now I am rushed off my feet with clients.

But it took a long time!

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By BMary83
Mikeyt
04th Mar 2012 16:53

Not my way either

petersaxton wrote:

I wouldn't set up a practice and then look for my first few clients. I started with a full time job, then had a part time job, then sub contract work. Now I am rushed off my feet with clients.

But it took a long time!

 

Unfortunately it wouldn't have been my way either but as I was made redundant that's how it worked out.  I'm currently looking for part-time and subcontract to tide me over but positions seem to be short on the ground.

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04th Mar 2012 18:14

Don't pay per appointment
I can see why you would want to pay for each appointment generated, however this can lead to you wasting your time with prospects who didn't really want to meet or change accountant but felt pressured to by the telemarketer.

Pay per hour can be derisked by agreeing that, if they don't get say 10 appointments in the first 80 hours you don't pay the full rate.

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pacta
04th Mar 2012 18:30

Underisked

dbowleracca wrote:
I can see why you would want to pay for each appointment generated, however this can lead to you wasting your time with prospects who didn't really want to meet or change accountant but felt pressured to by the telemarketer. Pay per hour can be derisked by agreeing that, if they don't get say 10 appointments in the first 80 hours you don't pay the full rate.

Isn't that effectively pay by appointment. They just have to get 10 rubbish appointments and then they have "underisked"!

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05th Mar 2012 09:46

It didn't quite come out how I meant!
Sorry Peter, you're right it doesn't sound attractive!

What I meant was, you give them a profile of the people you want to meet with, one of the criteria being they are willing to change if happy with the offer, and them set a target of x number of appointments.

We have had a lot of success with pay per hour telemarketing in the past, from what I recall we invested £4,500 and got new GRF of about £32k - which is a good return. admittedly if we had paid per appointment for the ones that signed up we would have paid about £1500 max but I suspect we would have had about 30 appointments that werent hot prospects

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05th Mar 2012 10:09

Break clauses

Maybe accountants need to agree a per hour fee but have break clauses if it's not going to plan.

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By BMary83
05th Mar 2012 16:23

Telemarketing

I think I've potentially identified one actually who offers a guarantee but I'm just awaiting some further information on this.  I definately feel this is my next port of all. 

Thanks all

Bernice

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06th Mar 2012 10:08

More resources on AccountingWEB

Hi BMary83 - I'm glad to see the AccountingWEB brains trust has come to your aid so comprehensively - there's a lot of good advice to digest in this thread alone.

However there is more, and Mark Lee is currently working on a Start-up in practice guide with us to help other members in the same boat. This will draw on a lot of the content that has already been published on the site.

Networking and telemarketing seem to have been the main focus of this thread, and you'll be pleased to know we have tag pages that collect previous articles and queries for both - just follow the links. Again, some of this will be compiled into checklists for Mark's guide.

For ongoing support, could I also alert you to our Start-up in practice group, which includes people who have started firms since 2009. The discussion group is a place where you can exchange first hand experiences with other practioners, and there are also some background articles about how they went about differentiating their firms when they started out.

Our marketing and practice management discussion groups may also provide useful support in these specific areas. I hope that the collected wisdom of AccountingWEB will help you get your firm off to a good start - keep in touch to let us know how you're getting on.

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06th Mar 2012 15:57

Stop

 

@Bernice - it seems to me you need to get this sorted quickly or face the likelihood of burning your redundancy and having to look for a crappy job with the risk of being booted out again.

Can I ask, how would you feel about giving up on this and getting a job?

If you are struggling to differentiate yourself then I can assure you the market will definitely not be able to. So, my recommendation is to stop all activities; if you are not perceived as different the market will ignore you.

Instead of sitting at home fretting you could decide to educate yourself on marketing a professional service company effectively - stop looking for quick solutions and magic wands, they don't exist.

Start with understanding Positioning and develop yours quickly. Here is a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positioning_(marketing) and I recommend Jack Trout's and AL Ries book along with Positioning for Professionals by Tim Williams.

Have a look at video 3 on our Website http://theaccountingfranchise.co.uk/orientation/ - it's only 7 minutes and could get you on the right path. 

Good luck

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

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By BMary83
Emily Yan-Miles
06th Mar 2012 17:10

Ouch!

Bob Harper wrote:

 

@Bernice - it seems to me you need to get this sorted quickly or face the likelihood of burning your redundancy and having to look for a crappy job with the risk of being booted out again.

Can I ask, how would you feel about giving up on this and getting a job?

If you are struggling to differentiate yourself then I can assure you the market will definitely not be able to. So, my recommendation is to stop all activities; if you are not perceived as different the market will ignore you.

Instead of sitting at home fretting you could decide to educate yourself on marketing a professional service company effectively - stop looking for quick solutions and magic wands, they don't exist.

Start with understanding Positioning and develop yours quickly. Here is a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positioning_(marketing) and I recommend Jack Trout's and AL Ries book along with Positioning for Professionals by Tim Williams.

Have a look at video 3 on our Website http://theaccountingfranchise.co.uk/orientation/ - it's only 7 minutes and could get you on the right path. 

Good luck

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

Hi Bob

Harsh words but I take your point. 

I have been looking into the online accountancy world however don't have any experience of putting this into practice.  Any advice greatly appreciated (apart from buying into the Crunchers Franchise)

 

Thanks all

Bernice

 

 

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06th Mar 2012 19:18

Harsh

@Bernice - I was deliberately harsh because I suspect (and I could be wrong) that you are too comfortable. By that I mean you can afford to fail for a bit. Hopefully, the words gave you some energy/determination.

As regards online - if you can't beat Crunch.co.uk then I can't see the point of you developing an online proposition.

To be blunt I'd suggest you take a long look in the mirror and ask is this really for you?

If it is then one option is to pay to learn what you don't know. And, then pay for others to do what you won't/can't do.

By the way, you can't buy Crunchers, you join.

Bob Harper

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

 

 

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By BMary83
06th Mar 2012 21:58

It worked

Hi Bob

Your comment certainly gave me some food for thought and a few ideas actually so thanks for your help.  Re: my ideas of how I differentiate myself from the norm, I hardly think "joining" a branded franchise is realising that goal either.

So you don't think it's worthwhile investigating the other online options such as Xero?  One of my client's, (who is in IT btw) uses this system and so far I have logged to his account to prepare his VAT return, however this involved him still needing to drop off bank statements and invoices etc.  I just wandered how others are actually putting this into practice.

 

All advice welcome.

Bernice

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06th Mar 2012 22:22

Free Agent/Iris Openbooks

Although Free Agent/Iris Openbooks is not perfect, you can:

raise sales invoices within the software,

upload bank statements, and

upload all vouchers.

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By BOD
06th Mar 2012 22:27

Scanning/Email PDF's....Post

 

I do wonder about online Accountancy packages too in terms of practicality and pricing. There are some fast double sided scanners on the market but I'm not sure they are common place just yet. I guess bank statements can generally be downloaded as PDF's but for most invoices I'd assume its scan/fax or post.... Mazuma seem to operate their model on paperwork being posted on a monthly basis but I wonder how that works when stuff gets lost in the post.   

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06th Mar 2012 22:43

I have a fast double sided scanner and it cost about £400 including VAT. If anybody is serious about running a business I can't see how they wouldn't get one.

Bank statements can be downloaded as csv, too.

Registered post is quite safe.

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07th Mar 2012 09:24

Xero

@Bernice - glad the comments helped.

The Crunchers branding is different to a traditional firm, which is a start. But, differentiation that makes a difference requires investment. My take is that is best doing this as a group of like minded people who share co-funded resources/knowledge on the basis we don't compete against each other. The franchise model works well.

 

Yes, Xero is interesting and we are exploring some services/proposition around this now. We are looking at a total package for ecommerce businesses where we do the Website and link it to Xero.

 

Here is our first one click here.

 

Bob

Crunchers Accounting Franchise

 

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13th Mar 2012 17:07

Confidence ?

Dear Bernice,

I don't know which institute you're with, but if you are unemployed and not feeling confident, it would be worth asking your local branch society secretary for a free or subsidised place at up and coming training events . 

Branch events vary but I do know people who've picked up work /jobs as a result .

I don't know the policy of every single branch of every single Institute , but most of the CIOT branch officers I know will squeeze a needy delegate in if they can find room .

Promoting yourself is really about being clear about your actual strengths . There are plenty of people out there who are looking for advisers to keep them out of trouble and minimise risk, for example which is perhaps putting a bit of a spin on your comment about not wanting to sell schemes.

If you've just been made redundant, you've probably had a confidence knock and might not be very good at seeing your strengths at the moment -perhaps a friend might be able to help you see yourself more clearly.

Best wishes and good luck.

 

 

 

 

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