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No practice experience?

No practice experience?

Didn't find your answer?

I am one off those who went into practice without any practice experience.

I gained little I know about the practice world from AW and to be honest from easy to use software like TaxCalc, VT and Moneysoft. I was also a franchisee for less than a year.

I do have a prac cert, don't know how! Glad I got one.

I am sure I have some gaping holes in my experience of the practice world.

My question is if you are/ were in the same position as I am, how did you go about gaining skills/knowledge and experience of the practice world.

Please note I will not respond to any questions on which way I will go on accy franchise. This thread is not about franchise good/bad. Though it can be said that one way practice skills and knowledge can be gained is through a good franchise.


Replies (32)

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By Ken Howard
18th Mar 2013 12:10

I've got "gaps" despite 30 years practice experience

I really wouldn't worry about any "gaps" - the fact that you are aware that you don't know it all is good enough.  Just never make any assumptions - always check & research every single thing to make sure that you're not missing something obvious.

Never been easier to research now that we have Google.  A couple of decades ago, you had to rely on a full set of Tolley's tax manuals and a copy of the Accounting Standards so research and double checking was a lot harder and time consuming.  Now you can get a damned good overview of something you're unsure about within a few minutes of googling, even if it's just to put your mind at rest.

I'm in my 30th year in practice and still don't know as much as I think I should know.  Within the last couple of months, by pure coincidence I now have two limited company clients who own yachts - never in the past 29 years have any clients had a dinghy, let alone a yacht.  I just made sure that I was non-committal about tax/BIKs/VAT etc when the clients first told me about their plans.  Then I went away, did a bit of Googling and now I can give them answers now that I know what differences exist re Yachts and what pitfalls to watch out for.

I'd also make sure that you do as much CPD as possible - I go to all the local half day CPD courses whether I think they're relevant or not, more for keeping my mind open and keeping aware of "funnies" even if I've no clients affected at the moment.  Even though I've made a set in stone commitment never to act for farmers, I still go on the occasional farming tax course (every 2-3 years), just in case - you never know what an existing client may get into or what their family may be involved in, and just maybe some farming tax advice may be needed - or at the least, enabling me to highlight something peculiar as regards farming land etc.

At the end of the day, whether you've a month, year, decade or longer in practice experience, you'll never know it all.  After all, you could spend a lifetime working in a single practice - you only have exposure to their clients - still possible that you have no experience in other type of business or tax cases at the next practice down the road.  


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By FirstTab
18th Mar 2013 12:29


Thanks Ken - a great response. 

CPD is an area I need to take up. 

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By Paul Scholes
18th Mar 2013 18:22

You get experience from....experience

Hi - I gained my Practice Experience from working in a practice for X years till I felt it was time to head on out, doesn't mean though that my PE was good or bad or better or worse than working in another practice.

So, as long as you can do the technical stuff and know how to get on with people, your practice is what you make it.  Sorry but not sure what else to say.  Which bits of PE do you not think you've got?

By the way, I'm puzzled by you having a Practicing Cert but saying that you have to take up CPD, does your PC not require you to do CPD?


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By Number Juggler
18th Mar 2013 18:53

On a positive note
Perhaps having little or no practice experience is an advantage.
The technical requirements remain the same, but in terms of organisational and management issues you can “make it up as you go along” rather than setting out with preconceived ideas of how a practice should be run. That way you end up managing your practice in a way that suits you, your staff, and your clients, rather than just assuming that you should run it in the same way that everyone else runs theirs.

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Replying to Duggimon:
By MissAccounting
18th Mar 2013 19:58

Make it up

Number Juggler wrote:
Perhaps having little or no practice experience is an advantage. The technical requirements remain the same, but in terms of organisational and management issues you can “make it up as you go along” rather than setting out with preconceived ideas of how a practice should be run. That way you end up managing your practice in a way that suits you, your staff, and your clients, rather than just assuming that you should run it in the same way that everyone else runs theirs.

You make an interesting point in bold....

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By petersaxton
18th Mar 2013 19:42


which way will you go on accy franchise?

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By sparkler
18th Mar 2013 20:22

Accounting Web is so useful

Just to say I thought Ken's response was excellent.  I have often skimmed over the CPD courses in areas I thought were irrelevant to my practice - but having read his reply, I think I might now take a little more time to review them.

I have to say that I have learned a HUGE amount from the very valuable contributions on AWeb. I worked in a Big4 practice for several years - but that gave me no experience at all of the small limited company accounts and tax returns that are now my specialism.  Any Answers has answered many, many questions for me - and five years into my practice, I now even feel confident enough to answer a few myself!

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By petersaxton
18th Mar 2013 20:39


I agree about AccountingWeb. I don't think that I could learn too much without practical experience nowadays but quite often I try to solve problems and issues that people raise on AccountingWeb by going away and researching them.

I have a background similar to yours (a lot longer with my own practice now though!) and it took me a few years to be confident in basic tax issues although amazingly my best subject in exams was tax!

I've signed up for Bloomsbury Professional Online

which is very good value for money and I'll do more and more research using it.

I've also signed up for Bloomsbury Tax Planner Interactive


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Replying to mumpin:
By sparkler
18th Mar 2013 22:18


petersaxton wrote:

I agree about AccountingWeb. I don't think that I could learn too much without practical experience nowadays but quite often I try to solve problems and issues that people raise on AccountingWeb by going away and researching them.

And it is because of such contributions that Any Answers is so useful.  It's a bit of a challenge too, to find out answers to tricky questions - although can be addictive and eat into the working day!  

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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
18th Mar 2013 20:42

Agree with sparkler

I have found AWeb to be a great source of information, support and humour (BRING BACK GEORGE!).

I qualified in a medium sized practice then worked in industry for 16 years before starting my own practice. I had a huge learning curve both in terms of technical knowledge and how to run a practice.

My technical knowledge is ok, in the areas I'm unfamiliar with I'll defer comment until I have been able to carry out research.

There also specialist areas where I just won't take the work on.

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Replying to fawltybasil2575:
The triggle is a distant cousin of the squonk (pictured)
By Triggle
18th Mar 2013 23:16


Nothing to add to to thread but.. .

Kent accountant wrote:

I have found AWeb to be a great source of information, support and humour (BRING BACK GEORGE!).


It's people like George (and certain other members who really, and I mean really, know their stuff) who add real value to this site. 

I know he has issues with another member but surely a couple of week's ban is enough?


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Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
18th Mar 2013 20:44


@Peter - I signed up last year and have found it to be very useful.

I looked at the tax planner a few months ago and your comment will probably make me have another look at it.

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By petersaxton
18th Mar 2013 21:00


The Tax Planner has big gaps in it which they are working towards filling but for the price it's good value even now


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By Old Greying Accountant
18th Mar 2013 21:13

ACCA district societies ...

... are good for free CPD.

Next one for West Surrey is a joint one with CIOT on the budget, 15/04/12 in Guildford, speakers from Chantrey Vellacott tax team.

The Croydon one is 17th April, again joint CIOT with same speakers - these ones are not free though, they will cost you the princely sum of £12.50 (inc VAT)

I see there is a free one on RTI in Bromley 16/04/13, speaker from SAGE

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By ShirleyM
19th Mar 2013 09:22

I would also like to know ....

... whether you have made a decision, FT.

This is rather like those damned frustrating shows where the public vote and then they keep you waiting ages before they tell you the results. They think it builds tension, but it only builds frustration and annoyance.

C'mon FT. We've tried to help. Put us out of our misery and give us the results, please.

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By Flash Gordon
19th Mar 2013 09:35

There was a public vote?!

You mean I could have rung in and cast my vote for whether FT threw away a fortune or not?! ;)

Oh hang on, we did all vote but Simon Cowell, sorry I mean FT, told us we were all wrong and he was picking the act that couldn't sing, couldn't dance and that the public hated.

It's a bit like if the producers of the original Dallas had run the whole 'who shot JR' story but then hadn't told us who it was after all. We feel thoroughly cheated. 'Fess up FT, have you gone for it or not, that's all we want to know...

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By Steve Holloway
19th Mar 2013 10:10

I had been out of practice for 10 years ...

when I started out on my own and during by absence something called self-assessment had been introduced!

I echo much of the first post although I am but a babe in arms having only done 12 years service! Insecurity is your friend in that you must always make bloody sure that everything is researched both before and after a client meeting. I undertake CPD religously and always scan AWEB both for areas I haven't worked on before and those to confirm that I do indeed know the answers. I will also contribute in areas such as IR35 where I think I have good, well tested knowledge to share.

I think the biggest hurdle to being in this game, particularly as a sole practitioner, is dealing with the uncertainty that you might be doing something incorrectly which might (a) Make you look stupid and (b) Cost you or someone else a lot of money. It is this insecurity which makes you a good accountant though as you will work damned hard to avoid a or b at all costs!

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By petersaxton
19th Mar 2013 17:00

How dare you!

Shirley and Flash

You have no right to know what FT has decided!

FT asked for help and advice and many people gave it in an attempt to help him. He accused them of "having an agenda". Obviously he can't understand that some people try to be helpful. Look at it from FTs point of view. What good will it do him by being polite and considerate? Will it get him the money he needs to pay TaxAssist? Will it get him extra clients? Will it double his charge out rate? Will it reduce his weight? Will it get him the woman of his dreams?

FT must have been reading the post by Mark Lee:


“What the research suggests though is that relationship building is not enough (any more). This is because it’s what everyone else is doing. The standard approach is so commonplace that every accountant seems to be just like all of the others. This is boring for prospects.

Stand-out accountants

Accountants who stand out have more chance of winning the work. And one proven way to stand out is to adopt the challenger model”

Obviously FT has read the article and see all other accountants being helpful and friendly and he's wanting to stand out from the crowd.

Mark Lee, originally I thought you were talking rubbish, but I salute you for your conversion!

We'll all be losing clients who are fed up with the nice guys and who will flock to the selfish.


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By Old Greying Accountant
19th Mar 2013 21:20

It is boring now ...

... keep harping back to past threads.

This queston was about ways of getting experience, skills and knowledge in the practice world.

It is really hard to pick out the gems from those kind enough to respond to the question amisdst all the pointless diatribes.

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By Pine Martin
19th Mar 2013 23:29

Learnin by experience is the only way

Everyone starts with no experience of running their own practice. It's a learning curve which every new business faces unless we are daft enough to buy a franchise)in which case its not really "your" business anyway.

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By Old Greying Accountant
19th Mar 2013 23:39

Yawn ...

... :oO - time for bed before my brain turns to mush.

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By FirstTab
20th Mar 2013 06:43

Efficient practice management
Thank you for the response.

As this thread outlines technical knowledge can be gained in various ways. The area that I struggle with is efficient practice management. This as most people will know can bring significant time savings.

By efficient practice management I mean clear and efficient systems. This could be for areas such as

Inflationary fee increases cycle

deadlines management

maintenance of clients records

cycle of self assessment returns

electronic filing system

reminders cycle

And so on

How can this be achieved as a solo? I have not come across an off the shelf package that I can adapt. Have you?

Lets also not forget the important area of effective marketing. As most people will know they are many companies willing to take the money but the difficulty is finding one that results marketing cash outflow as an investment and not an expense to be written off. Again how do we find a good marketing company as solo?

I agree AW is excellent. It also has its limitations in that understandably not many would give away competitive information.

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By Flash Gordon
20th Mar 2013 07:22

Don't see the point of the question tbh

If you're going with TAA (so sorry to go on OGA but it is actually relevant) then you have to use their systems and their, well their everything from you've said, so what does anyone else's view matter (particularly when you've said our views are irrelevant anyway).

If you're not going with them then surely by now you have a system that works for you? Your last post (6.43am) says you're really only interested in the systems side of this discussion. Fair enough, we all know systems are vital. But, if I'm being brutally honest, why should anyone on here give you free advice on how to improve your systems when you don't give anything back? You act like you want our advice then you throw it back in our faces. Me, I use Outlook mainly and a Word document that's not really working as well as it should. So I'll adapt it till it does work the way I want it to. Create your own ways if you can't buy something. Or spend a fortune paying TAA to get their systems then leave them. But don't expect something for free if you're not willing to give anything back.

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By petersaxton
20th Mar 2013 07:51



I use Outlook Tasks for miscellaneous tasks. Once thing I don’t like about Outlook is it doesn’t allow subcategories or grouping. If I have 100/1,000 tasks and I want to give them a reminder I can’t change the reminder date in one go. I have to go into each task and change the reminder date.

You could use programs like those offered by VIP Quality Software which have subcategories

but then you wouldn’t have interaction with emails.

I have spreadsheets that keep track of year ends, deadlines and when I chase for each client but I also use Digita which has a very comprehensive Practice Management program which I hope to fully utilise soon. Iris has software that helps you to manage tasks, too.

I was using a checklist that helped with my Digita Accounts Production and Digita Corporation Tax programs but they significantly changed!

Over the weekend I was doing a set of company accounts and I made notes of what I did and what I was considering from asking for the data, getting it, reviewing it and working on sales invoices, sales ledger reconciliations, preparing bank account analysis, credit card data, expenses paid personally, extended trial balance, journals, fixed asset register, reconciling the balance sheet items, doing the work in Digita Accounts Production, doing the work in Digita Corporation Tax, back to entering the tax journal and dividends in the extended trial balance and Digita Accounts Production including any disclosure if overdrawn director's loan accounts, getting the OK from the client, sending the finalised accounts and tax documents, submitting to Companies House and HMRC, sending confirmations to client, sending invoices, adjusting WIP and getting paid. I'll expand on it to include the standard emails using FastFox until I can practically not physically have to show somebody what I do.

I was looking at the TouchStone Business System and was impressed until I realised it cost US$149 per month!

I don’t think you will ever get an off the shelf package you are 100% happy with. I always prefer to do things my way - subject to any improvements advised by others!


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By ShirleyM
20th Mar 2013 07:55

You can't buy a finished system off the shelf

There's lots of software that will help, but you have to set it up to suit your procedures, and then, if necessary, improve it over time.

I imagine everyone else, like myself, developed their own. It takes hard work and determination, but it pays off by giving more efficiency and quality control. If I had waited for someone to provide me with systems ... I would still be waiting!


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By petersaxton
20th Mar 2013 07:59



I think you have to try different ideas and see what works for you.

I’ve had a significant increase in new clients recently and most were from recommendations but a few were from searching on Google. If I have the time to do some marketing I have a lot of ideas but I don’t think I would do any aggressive marketing as I would prefer to leave it to potential clients to find me. I would send out useful information in email newsletters, twitter, and even paper letters and leaflets letting people know I was around but I wouldn’t phone people trying to get them to switch accountants.

I will also improve my communication with current clients in an attempt to offer a better service and provide more services.

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By Paul Scholes
20th Mar 2013 08:04


Please don't take this the wrong way but, on the "efficient practice management" stuff, we have been down this road many times now and my response, again repeated, is to do what's right for you.

The way I run my business today, is significantly different to how I ran it 5 years ago, it develops and matches my & my client's needs, which never stay still and which is why, you won't find a text book or "off the shelf" piece of software to do it for you.

If you can do tax & accounts and can handle relationships with clients then the rest is going with your gut and personal preferences, ie there are many ways to peel this apple.

PS: Soorry to press you but, as I asked above, how did you have a Practicing Cert without doing CPD?

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By petersaxton
20th Mar 2013 08:10

Weird comment


“I agree AW is excellent. It also has its limitations in that understandably not many would give away competitive information.”

I think this highlights your biggest failing and what Flash alluded, too.

You seem unwilling to give help except very minimally.

You also seem very paranoid and think everybody is wanting you to fail.

I don’t think anybody sees you as competition. You mentioned that you didn’t have any practising experience before setting up on your own. I did and I found it difficult enough!

I don’t think it helps your cause by having your room hidden away on the upper floor of an anonymous office block down a side street.

Your biggest advantage is your website but I think you should update it regularly. I am determined to change my website this summer!

Helping people gives pleasure and satisfaction. Not everything in life is about money. There’s plenty of clients to go round.

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By FirstTab
20th Mar 2013 08:46

My CPD is the minimum required by ACCA.

What I meant was I need to shift gears on this area.

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By ShirleyM
20th Mar 2013 09:14

Why bother!

I know I am being blunt, FT, but you seem to want easy solutions for yourself, and are always eager to benefit from the hard work of others. What do you give in return, besides criticism and disdain?

Despite this, you are regularly given extremely good advice (especially by Peter) but you ignore it, or criticise it, and (as Paul so eloquently points out) post exactly the same question 12 months later. 

At the end of the day, we can try to help, but you need to help yourself, too. I honestly don't know why I, or anyone tries to help you. It is a really frustrating experience, which is why I think things get heated at times.

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By thomas34
20th Mar 2013 10:41

Tyre Kicker

Please don't encourage him all of you hard-working and generous folks. This is the chap that around a year or so ago admitted that he sometimes posted questions to which he already knew the answers. I may be dumb but can anybody tell me what one gets for the vast sums of money that you might pay a franchisor that cannot be obtained a lower cost elsewhere?

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By levelheaded1903
22nd Mar 2013 18:55

Try to plan
... A bit. I for one, suffer from the worst crises of confidence ever imagined. But, when I manage to get a lot of CPD scheduled in to my working week (when I can) I then feel that I'm doing my best to keep up that makes me feel sooooo much better!
I echo the sentiments of Ken, you can never know everything, and it is much better to be humble in this regard, as you will then be more likely to check facts, and " feel" your way. I also read AW religiously, and by doing this, you come across areas that, especially in a small practice, you will not have come across before.
Peter makes a great point about it not being all about money... Of course we all have to earn a living, but the "odd" time I've been able to help my continuity partner or perhaps help with an answer on AW this can increase your confidence enormously!

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