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Practice Start Up/Career

Practice Start Up/Career

I qualified as ACA last year, member from Jan this year. Previously did AAT. I am currently working as a (unrecognised - pay/nor contract reflects it) manager for a partner in my current firm. Whilst i have enjoyed the challenge and change of the manager role, it's now becoming a little boring, as everything i do goes through the partner, i am unable to meet clients etc, and am starting to feel i have nothing to put in the effort for. Perhaps i should say also that over the last few months most of the work/letters/advice etc i've completed and passed to the partner has come back to me unchanged, ready to be sent to the client, so i feel like i'm giving the advice yet the partner gets the credit. I am at a crossroads and wondering what to do next career wise, whether to sit it out in current firm and hope a better position arises, to look for other jobs, or whether to start up by myself.

Starting up by myself appeals to me quite a lot, i like the flexibility of it, and i'm not afraid of the hard work as it will be worth it, to call it my own. However i believe i have to wait until i've been a member 2 years before i can get my practicing certificate? which is not so good. Also i'd be interested to know from anyone else who has started their own practice as to how much capital i would need to start up...roughly. I appreciate it's a bit of an unknown quantity. I currently have around £20k in savings, however am due to get married next year, so there's also potential house buying etc to consider in spending that money. Also, what other things would i need to think about, PII, getting new office equipment, software etc?

Any advice or comments on things to think about would be greatly appreciated.


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30th Aug 2011 13:29


woah there tiger. Get your pract cert (yes 2 years) and use the time to learn your trade properly.  You are barely qualified, I can assure you that you are still really green whether you feel like it or not.   You have a whole career ahead of you, the best time to learn is on someone else's time.  Speak to your partner about progression in the firm, (not about pay rises, that will come), but about what's going to happen in the next couple of years in terms of your learning.

If you really cant hack being in this role, work in industry for a couple of years, its a different world.

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By noggs
30th Aug 2011 13:55

I agree with the other contributor - although the minimum is 2yrs post qualified, I think it's more realistic to aim for 5-6 yrs time.  That's what I did and I really wouldn't have been prepared any earlier! 


Although your partner doesn't give you many review points etc, it doesn't follow that you're ready to strike out on your own.  A key area is face to face meetings with your clients, which you haven't had much experience of.  I would push to be included in all meetings and learn on the job!


Good luck


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30th Aug 2011 14:57

Management experiance

I started a practice from scratch on the second anniversary of qualifying (i.e. the barest minimum time allowable) Within 5 years I had 12 staff and was doing £500k fees. This is a great headline (and its true) BUT I had no management experience in actually running a business and boy did it show.


Okay, I learnt a lot on the job and survived long enough to sell the place to a larger firm at year 7, but if I had my time again, I would do 3-4 years post qualifying in practice and 3-4 years post qualifying in industry BEFORE I set up on my own.


You see, I learnt more in 18 mths working for an international retailer about running a business once I had sold up, than I did in 7 years of actually running one - and I did so without any risk, working only 40 hours a week and for fairly decent money.


If you really want to go it alone, it will still be there in 5 years, get around and see a few things first - you may even find a business about which you now know nothing which subsequently becomes your main focus - I did :)


Good luck





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30th Aug 2011 16:57


Steve - I forget about management at that point. No that's a painful learning curve - and for my then staff!


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30th Aug 2011 17:08

Useful advice

Thanks to all the contributors so far for some valuable advice from those who have gone down this route before.

I'm also going to cross-post this into Coach Carol's career advice discussion group as I'd be interested to see what she and other members come up with as far as personal development goes.



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30th Aug 2011 18:20

Walk before you try to run.

Just striking out on your own could be the best thing you ever did - but it could also be a total disaster. That applies whether you have 2 years or 20 years experience, but the less experience you have the greater the odds on it being the latter.

Get some experience, they don't say 2 years before you get your practicing certificate just to be awkward you know. That limit is there for a reason, because experience shows that 2 years is the absolute minimum amount of post qualification experience needed before you're safe to be let loose on an unsuspecting public.

In the mean time see if you can pick up a handful of private clients (decorators, plumbers and the like) who you can do at weekends just to see if you really do want to be in practice for yourself. Once you start fielding some of the daft questions you're bound to get asked (by HMRC as well as the clients) you might just decide that your own practice is not the direction you want to take.


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By Luke
to samelkin
30th Aug 2011 19:06


Spartacus wrote:

In the mean time see if you can pick up a handful of private clients (decorators, plumbers and the like) who you can do at weekends just to see if you really do want to be in practice for yourself. Once you start fielding some of the daft questions you're bound to get asked (by HMRC as well as the clients) you might just decide that your own practice is not the direction you want to take.

Whilst it seems a good idea to do small jobs, the ICAEW won't let you do private clients, such as those above, without a practising certificate so you'd be risking disciplinary proceedings which wouldn't help the longer term.

Otherwise I agree with the others, I did 4.5yrs post qualified in practice then 6 years in industry before going back into practice on my own.  I did a couple of years of getting back to speed with practice issues while I was still in industry and there are still times when I don't think I know enough after nearly 5 years of my own practice.  I would get some more practical experience under your belt before taking the leap.

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30th Aug 2011 21:02

Agree with the points raised above re experience however staying in your current role will give you greater experience of the operational side but will not give you anything with regard to some of the other skills you will require to run your own practice.  Skills such as client management, people management, sytems efficiency, marketing skills, pricing and scoping, opportunity spotting, training, client retention, adding value and so on and so on.  You will only gain most of these skills when you do actually run your own business and then it will be a very steep learning curve.

You ask about capital required to start up, this will depend on many variables - how much you require for your personal needs, working from home or renting / buying an office, software required, how aggressively you want to market etc.  The actual set up costs of a one man accountancy practice can be minimal.

You also ask about what else you need to know, yes you will require PI Insurance, you will need to familiarise yourself with your anti money laundering obligations and then register and operate, you will also need to register with the Independent Commissioners Office (www.ico.gov.uk).

My blog: Thinking of starting an accountancy practice may be of interest and give you some other areas to think about.

Hope that helps.

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By 97mwill
31st Aug 2011 19:02

Thanks, now for another related ish question

Many thanks for your comments, much appreciated.

Obviously it's not what i really wanted to hear, but i will take on board the advice given. I can understand why everyone is recommending a longer post qualifying stint in employment.


On that basis i have today looked around at various jobs that are out there, and have seen one which is a small firm looking for a portfolio manager, something i feel i'm basically doing already, as mentioned previously. This role gives the opportunity to look after the clients from start to finish, preparing accounts through to submitting the tax returns i assume. This style of working appeals to me, as as much as i enjoy the manager type work, tax returns, advice etc, i still enjoy preparing a few sets of accounts here and there. Looking at the role i think it would set me up for running my own practice 5/10 years down the line. Would others agree?


One question i would have, if i were to apply, would be if i introduced any friends/family of mine as clients could i then take them with me if/when i left? Is this a reasonable question to ask?


Again, any advice much appreciated.

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31st Aug 2011 19:57

I think that what you are doing is a great idea as it will give you a much better grounding into running your own business.

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20th Apr 2014 00:34

Practice start up advice needed

I have an AAT qualification in 2008 and  looking forward to start my ACCA soon.  However I do not have much accounts experience and know very little about how things work in a practice.

Just would like to know if I do complete my ACCA qualification, is this enough to start my accounting business.  I wish to start of with just completing VAT returns, accounts preparation and completing tax returns for small businesses. 

I'm currently working in retail that supplies catering food to takeaways.  I do occasionally visit a number of takeaways and wish to target them
as my portfolio of clients.

I am tempting to offer cheaper price and use my home as an office but am aware of the disadvantages.

Please can anyone offer me any advise on the cost that I am likely to encounter and whether it is profitable in the short term.  I do not want to take much risk and would like to expand gradually.  Roughly how many clients will I need to build up before it is worthwhile to commit full time.

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