The 31st March brought to a close my 3rd full year of trading and I finally feel I am getting there.
The first few years have been tough and a lot of mistakes been made, I got distracted a few times along the way with people who ended wasting a lot of my time with false promises etc. My initial plan on leaving employment was to become a portfolio FD but it didn't gain the traction I thought it would and appeared to be a bit of old boys club difficult to get into. So I went the practice route topped up with sub contracting. The first year was all about survival, I about managed but took a large hit on my earnings, my ever suportive wife chipped in working extra shifts at the hospital to help balance the household books, although this never really sat well with me. Year 2 saw my earnings go up but I got into a bit of a mess I had been saying to all work and ended up a busy fool, still working the 60+ hours per week but now with the risk of not getting paid, it was worse than employment.
This last year however I feel I made some great progress. After a lot of trial and error I had finally managed to package up my services the fixed price 3 tier offering was what people liked and it works for both sides well. I finally had enough money to put into marketing I have some brouchures and leaflets produced, re branded my image and launched the updated website. The graft I had put in with networking was finally paying dividends as marketers would say there was finally something coming out of the end of the pipeline. I had fairly modest aims for my marketing I basically wanted 1 new client per week, for that I needed 3 contacts per week to convert one of them. In the early days I would convert 9/10 leads as I was too cheap or over commit on service so I was happy to aim for 1 out of 3. The last 3/4 months things have went really well with sometimes up to 10 contacts per week, all with minimal marketing spend its as if someone has just flipped the on button on my website.
I am also getting the right sort of work now before my client leads were because I was too cheap now they are because I do a decent job and can give you some good results. I finally feel I have made the move from self employed to owning a business. Now I am finalising a business plan for year 4. As a good business advisor its shocking I have not had one before, but I am bad at advising myself. I have some strong growth forecast, not just client numbers but the right type of client. I am also aiming to do a lot better job for clients, the cloud stuff allows us to do this but also creates pressure on our shoulders. I am aiming for client accounts to be complete and filed within 3 months of year end and all tax returns done by 30.09.2017. There is no need to be filing accounts within a few weeks of Co House deadlines and clients using Xero etc expect things delivered more timely, this will also get me match fit for the coming on slaught of MTD.
I think that MTD will present an opportunity for me, not through ramping up fees for the extra filings as I hope to deliver these with a minium cost uplift. What I am noticing is an increasing trend from new clients I have taken from other firms, locally a lot of firms still rely on Line 50 as their bookeeping engine, with staff attending clients premises, manually entering data into laptops then taking it away leaving the client with nothing other than the VAT payable figure and a large accounts bill. These cleints are starting to see adverts for Xero and QBO and ask the question "is there a better way" and are starting to look eleswhere. This is my opportunity to shine.
The accountant who does things that way, because he did it last year is heading for a rough time IMO. I also feel that Senta will improve my service hugely. A big plus is it sepererates all client communications from your inbox, allowing you to focus on those first and then dip into into the none cleint crap a few times per day. The auto reminders are great, reminding clients to pay tax so have been very well received with some very positive responses. This is the thing I always wanted to do but never got round to it or forgot.
My year 4 so far is looking good I have a load of proposals in play and have a steady referral stream coming, its time to stop pissing about and get things moving. After 3 years hard slog I am finally enjoying what I do and I like being an accountant again as I had falling out with it in the last few years. I am hoping there are good times ahead and I certainly enjoying going to work each day with a passion about what I do, clients are also benefitting from a "happy Glennzy".
I have also managed to convince the wife to go part time now which she is delighted with.
Have a good weekend folks, its 20 degrees here in Northumberland and I am just about to pop to Seahouses for a 4 hour fishing jaunt off the Farne Islands.