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Market research before setting up

Sole practitioner

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Good evening

I'd like to start my own practice but before I do I'd like to carry out some research to see if it has "legs" so to speak. 
The practice I worked mostly had local clients, they didn't have a far reaching niche. 

Did you do any research when choosing your location, or did you setup in your home town, nearest city?

It's not ideal to set up far away from your home but also not sure I want to set up in the village I live in either. Some separation is always good right?

There are a few towns, cities and villages within easy commuting distance. At the moment I'm looking at local populations, number of registered companies and the number of accountants operating in the area. I know this is basic so but if there are more robust statistics I can use I'm all ears.

I seem to recall around 18% of people have to submit a tax return, obviously not all these use an accountant. I can't find any stats on how many use an accountant or not.

It would be great to hear your stories and if you have any useful stats about the market or your practice you are willing to share. 


Replies (7)

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Scalloway Castle
By scalloway
10th Aug 2020 08:10

I live on an island so my client base was constrained by geography. I am also a member of UK Business Forums and I got a few enquiries from posters there. However I made a policy decision that I wouldn't take on a client I would never meet in the local Tesco.

Having said that I have been treasurer of various bodies and we always use local accountants. The only contact we have with them is handing over physical documents. Evereything else is done online.

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Replying to scalloway:
Hallerud at Easter
10th Aug 2020 13:03

You are not, perchance, in the Hebrides, I spent a fair few weeks up their during my apprenticeship ? (I think in total about 11-12 weeks)

Edit-Just twigged you are up in Shetland- the only person I know up there is the local RSM partner in Lerwick and I have not seen her since circa 1987.

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Replying to DJKL:
Scalloway Castle
By scalloway
10th Aug 2020 13:30

Irene is still the partner. I haven't spoken to her for a year or two myself. As far as I am aware she is still going strong.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
10th Aug 2020 10:26

As a direct opposite to scalloway, i deal with people all over the UK although tend to pick up clients in my home county simply as its easier to target a website at a geographic location.

I actually tend to avoid working for people I know locally and might meet in the local Waitrose (its posh here) as you never know when you might want to sack someone.

You can do it your own way.

That said, appalling time to start, the main leads you are going to get is people who are skint looking for discount fees plus there are lots of people out of work or going to be in 12 months time. Its the bleakest outlook for bean counters for a while, albeit there could be a huge amount of extra work with MTD for income taxes on the a big silver lining.

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By Beancounting
10th Aug 2020 10:16

If I were starting from scratch I would open an office, maybe a virtual office, in the most important commercial centre within striking distance of your home. I would make sure I quoted top end fees from the word go and provide the best service I could. Its all too easy to end up with a lot of clients not really paying enough, and have to take on staff to deal with essentially low margin work. Far better to grow more slowly but be adequately rewarded for your time.

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By jon_griffey
10th Aug 2020 10:49

There is a school of thought that you should set up in a town that already has lots of firms of accountants - I suppose on the basis it proves there is a lot of business there. However I would say to strongly consider setting up where you have local roots - clubs you go to, friends, lots of people locally you went to school with etc. However probably half of my clients are nationwide so location isn't as important as it once was. Is it a bad time to set up or not? It is hard to judge. On the one hand lots of businesses are going to the wall but that also means that lots of people who find themselves out of work will use it as the push they needed to set up their own businesses - so it could be very good for accountants.

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By Slim
10th Aug 2020 11:16

I tried to drum up some business in my old rural village (pop 10,000-15,000) without any real success, it was a very slow burn maybe if I had an office front and a bigger marketing budget it would have been quicker to grow. It had 3 accountants with proper offices and 5 working from home.

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