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Help with client software protocol?

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Hi,

I’m in the process of setting up my own small accountancy practice - a partnership with just the two of us. We’ll be offering services to small businesses - sole traders, partnerships and limited companies. Our services include bookkeeping, year end accounts, Self assessment and corporation tax.

We’re currently waiting for our AAT licences to be approved.

I have a few questions regarding cloud software -

Do I need to sign up to more than one software company?

I’m going to sign up for Sage’s business cloud accounting which allows us to do our own accounts as well as a client management feature. This will also allow us to offer discounted prices for sage cloud to our clients. However I realise that some clients will already be using different software, for example Quickbooks. 

Is it a good idea to be signed up with several software companies? Obviously I would just do our own business accounts in one of them,    but signing up to others would allow me to offer client discounts.

Also do clients usually come to the accountant already using a particular accountancy software? Would we just log into their account? Would we suggest moving them over onto the software we use? I.e Sage? 

Any advice would be very much appreciated :)

Also, any advice on keeping clients lists organised? If they’re all using different software I’m not sure you can keep a list of all of them in Sage. Would I use a spreadsheet?

Thanks,

Michael 

Replies (13)

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By Matrix
12th May 2022 21:29

You only get significant discounts if you have a lot of clients on each software. So no need to “sign up”, you could just be the accountant on each.

I would concentrate on getting clients first but also consider where your strengths lie so you could use it in your advertising. There is loads of work out there. Good luck.

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By MCV71
12th May 2022 21:50

I offer services to small businesses too. I haven't "pledged allegiance" to one accounting brand in insolation, I just have accountants' access to whichever my clients use.
I started off with running the business alongside my day job and it just grew and grew, you will be surprised how quickly word of mouth helps grow your business before too long! All the best!

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boxfile
By spilly
13th May 2022 00:01

I wouldn’t advise any clients to change software that they were already using. Some may be open to change if they are dissatisfied with their current product, but most have invested time and effort to learn the software and so will be reluctant to switch to something else. Just get ‘accountant access’ to their current product.
Software companies want you to sign up and push their products but they might not be the best fit for all clients. We find it easier for clients to manage their own software - we don’t want the hassle of invoicing them monthly for it, and the net income from it is ridiculously small.
You might want to consider using a client management product. We use Selestial HQ, but their are other like Senta and AM out there. Spreadsheets are great to start with but a proper system will manage emails, documents, allow you to set reminders, make notes etc. Really handy when a client disputes things!
And don’t forget to get your engagement letters and ML watertight. Good luck with it all, and remember that preparation is really important so build some costs for that into your quotes.

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By Leywood
13th May 2022 07:10

Why sage cloud?

One offering cuts your chances of new clients down. I don’t dictate what software my clients use. Would not make them move unless their system really was broken.

Many clients still use desktop, some use bespoke software.

Most important thing for you to do now, if you haven’t already, is to get a carefully/professionally drafted partnership agreement in place, even if you are best friends or close family and think you will never fall out, because you will.

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By rmillaree
13th May 2022 08:39

Practicably speaking to offer decent service you will need to partner up with several suppliers. We probably use more sage than others but for volume transactions sage really is iss poor compared to xero. So we tend to guide clients to software that suits - trust me when i say if you have employees and you force them to use sage for volume stuff it will drive them up the wall. Sage is also really poor at amending anything or dealing with certain basic stuff example doing reverse charge stuff correctly on sage will add material time to the job. Even what should be billy basic on sage can hgo wrong - its more stroppy than a 3 year old kid who cant get the seat they want on the bus when it comes to "bank imports" - completely ridiculous when you consider thats basic - heck you cant even import sales/supplier invoices okm that "must" be coming soon but that coming soon has been around since day 1.

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By JD
14th May 2022 09:36

Given the questions you are asking can I respectfully enquire what experience you may have from working in a small practice. If it is minimal you may find it an invaluable experience and an opportunity to see how you can innovate/do thins better.

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By nickr
15th May 2022 07:18

You can sign up with say Xero, Quicbooks, Freeagents as an Agent and they will give you discounts. For example Quickbooks if you register as a Pro Avisor you can get a licence for 50 Users at £3 each for three years.

Do not become an exclusive Sage user only it will not work. clients will use whatever package they want. Accountants have to adapt accordingly.

Secondly use something like Tax filer for tax returns and year end accounts.
Accountancy Manager or Senta to manage the workflow.

Plus you need to consider PAYE / CIS.

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By williams lester accountants
15th May 2022 09:41

A lot of replies here saying don't limit yourself to one brand of software.....i have to disagree with that to some extent. You need to take into account how competent you, your staff and your clients will be at using any software, so it can pay to limit your options. We only offer Xero & QBO as options, if a client does not want to use these, then they go elsewhere, but the savings in training time are significantly less with only 2 options, and we have 2 Xero specialists and 2 QBO specialists, so it makes it more efficient to limit to just these 2.

So, if you think Sage only is for you, as you know it inside out and don't have time to learn anything else, then that should work. The big players (Xero, QBO, Sage etc.) have enough users to more than fill any small practice, plus you will get clients with nothing yet in place, so if you can train them up efficiently in your chosen offering, then they work the way you want to work and create more efficiency, more cost and time savings and greater discounts for you in having more users on one platform....

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Replying to williams lester accountants:
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By adam.arca
16th May 2022 13:06

Personally, I disagree with this POV. Which goes to show there is no right answer to the question.

For me, we're accountants not software handholders and, as accountants, we should be confident in our competence to use any software as we know double entry and have a high level understanding of how bookkeeping entries hang together (but granted we won't always have a good handle on every individual quirk within a particular offering).

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Replying to adam.arca:
By Charlie Carne
19th May 2022 11:00

I'd broadly agree with William Lester, especially as you're doing bookkeeping and not just year-end accounts. It's not about being competent to use any software (that's easy); it's about being super-efficient at doing the bookkeeping very fast and accurately and using a single system every day will improve those efficiencies enormously. If you had more staff, then some could be expert at one package, with others expert in another, but there's only two of you, so fewer options will be more efficient for you.

As others have said, there are plenty of potential clients around so, if someone wants to use software that you aren't expert in, then politely decline their business (unless they will be doing the majority of the bookkeeping themselves and you just need to extract reports).

And I would definitely get a practice management package from the very start. Look at Accountancy Manager (lots of great features and relatively simple to set up) or Pixie (fewer features but even more user-friendly than AM and great for a small practice) or Senta (much more complicated but allows more customisation). This will save you so much time and it's much easier to get proper systemisation set up from the start than trying to shoe-horn it in later.

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Replying to adam.arca:
By williams lester accountants
19th May 2022 11:00

I disagree with you adam, it is not competence which drives efficiency, it is familiarity with the workings of the software.

Personally i have not used Sage 50 for a good few years, so although i once knew it inside out, it would now take me longer to remember where all the things i need to look for are.

Efficient processing is the starting point to savings and more automation due to familiarity will drive our costs down and profits up. Meaning we can serve many more clients be rejecting those who use other software.

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Replying to williams lester accountants:
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By adam.arca
19th May 2022 12:35

I don't disagree with either you or Charlie as it really all depends on what you're trying to achieve: are you trying to be a bookkeeper or an accountant (and I know you'll say both)? The Revenue assume with MTD that all accountants are first and foremost bookkeepers whereas we all know that not to be the case, at least historically, and I'm near enough to retirement that wild horses wouldn't drag me down that route.

But even were I to be working significantly into the MTD era (so about as late as 2040 the way things are going), I wouldn't personally be looking to major on doing client bookkeeping or being their voice on the end of the support phoneline: those will never be profitable offerings IMO.

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FD4Cast
By James Power
19th May 2022 11:51

You could try my Practice Manager / CRM software built in Google Sheets - Clients, Tasks, Reminders, Timesheets, Invoicing, etc.

https://fd4cast.co.uk/product/google-sheets-client-task-timesheet-manager/

All products deeply discounted for any AccountingWeb reader.

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