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Want to start from scratch by myself, any advice?

Want to start from scratch by myself, any advice?

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Hello guys,

I have recently turned 22 (M) and from the UK, I have finished my AAT Qualifications but not yet MAAT and my Computerised Accounting Qualifications.

I had completed my AAT in 2013 but I have still not managed to land a job in the accountancy sector, I did work voluntarily in a practice for a few months. After frustrating attempts to get an accountancy job I started the Computerised Accounting course to keep the dream alive as a lot of the reasons I was not being offered even an interview was because I did not have enough experience or I was over-qualified.

This course was me basically willing to start lower than my qualification and work my way up, after the course was completed I landed a job in a credit control team for a major car rental company in the UK & Europe. However it looks like this job role has a very short ceiling and I believe I personally can achieve better than this. 

This is where I came to this website as when I was still studying and could not find a job in the sector, I can recollect my tutor saying "If no one is hiring you, go and find your own clients". Is this possible? I do have a good memory of what I have learned from both my qualifications so can this be done? has it been done with just an AAT qualification?

I believe that I have the ability and nous to do this but I do not know where to start, I am willing to work evenings and weekends around my current job (Looking forward to it in fact) to get this up and running. I have worked with customers on a daily basis from when I was 16 from various jobs to know that I am a "people person" which can go a long way to attracting clients and keeping great customer relationships. I am not worried about how much I will be earning from this at the start and I even have some start-up funds available to at least get the ball rolling. 

I would like to hear what the rest of the community think about this and any advice will be helpful.

Replies (21)

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By petersaxton
10th Dec 2015 15:54

Lack of experience and knowledge

The problem you have is that you don't have the experience or knowledge to set yourself up as an accountant. You could get work as a bookkeeper. You should keep trying to get work in public practice so that eventually you would have the experience. Study for a professional qualification such as ACCA.

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By Bungo
10th Dec 2015 16:22

Seems too soon

I would probably keep plugging away with the job applications to be honest.  Sometimes it takes a while to get the first break but once you have the first one it will get much easier.

I am about to start up by myself and it is daunting for me and not a decision I have taken lightly - and I have been a fully qualified accountant for over twenty years (but as an employee in large companies). 

So no, to me it just doesn't feel like a good move at age 22.  I would go and work for a practice myself for a few years if there were a realistic chance of somebody wanting to take on a 45 year old with no practice experience. At least you will be more appealing to most employers in that way.  Persevere and good luck.

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By petersaxton
10th Dec 2015 16:38

Bungo

I think the main problem you will have is discussing tax matters face to face with your client and giving them confidence. I have worked for large firms of accountants and large businesses with also less time in small businesses and small practices. The tax side of things took a while to feel confident about. I'm sure it will take some time to understand the tax issues using basic research but the face to face contact would be the trickiest.

Thanks (1)
By Moonbeam
10th Dec 2015 16:45

I like your attitude

However - It definitely is not the right time to start up on your own.

Real life work is quite a lot different from your studies, and you should consider at least taking ICMA or ACCA next.

It is tough getting work out there and unfortunately credit control experience isn't much use to you in getting more relevant work. But now you are in a big company you should consider asking someone in Finance that you trust whether it would be possible to move sideways into a trainee accountant role. I did that years ago and it was easier because my employer already knew me.

What you ideally need is to work under a qualified accountant - and there should be lots of those working for your current employer.

OK, perhaps for lots of good reasons that's a no go area.

What about your social life - do you belong to any sports or other clubs? Who do you know there or elsewhere who knows someone looking to take on a trainee?

My most interesting job for an employer came about because I was a volunteer for Meals On Wheels. I happened to be partnered up with the finance director of a large company in Central London. When he got to know me he invited me to work for him. There was no interview!

You have the sort of chutzpah that will help you find the right job. Keep trying and I promise you there will be the right opening. I understand your frustration, but you will succeed.

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By shogun
11th Dec 2015 11:14

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

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By cparker87
11th Dec 2015 11:18

When you quit

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

 

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 11:30

I'm sure he will

cparker87 wrote:

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

If you send him a load of money.

Thanks (1)
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By cparker87
11th Dec 2015 12:14

I'll start

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

If you send him a load of money.

 

I'll start my bid at 0.3x

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 12:22

Not me

cparker87 wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

If you send him a load of money.

I'll start my bid at 0.3x

I've got enough clients as it is.

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By cparker87
11th Dec 2015 12:47

Different clubs

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

If you send him a load of money.

I'll start my bid at 0.3x

I've got enough clients as it is.

 

You're in the wind down club. I'm winding up. 

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 13:01

True

cparker87 wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

petersaxton wrote:

cparker87 wrote:

shogun wrote:

sorry to be harsh but nowadays I  wouldn't encourage anyone to try to set up a small accountancy practice. Even though it may sound exaggerated, I would say it is a dying industry. There is hardly any job satisfaction or appreciation any more helping people to save tax with the government closing all tax loopholes - we are seen as a necessary evil as we have become tax collectors and bearers of bad news as taxes are going up all the time. There will be a time (don't know how soon) when people will not need or want to pay an accountant, especially with cloud bookkeeping software and the "abolition" of tax return, because they will get no value by using an accountant - at least accountants will not be able to charge decent fees. Only the larger practices will survive I am afraid because they can command higher fees as they deal with larger clients who can afford. Small practices will not be sustainable economically not least because of the lower fees but when one takes into consideration all the hassle from all parties and given the government's tendency to shift more and more work down to us and away from them.

When you hang up your calculator send me your client list. 

If you send him a load of money.

I'll start my bid at 0.3x

I've got enough clients as it is.

You're in the wind down club. I'm winding up. 

So true. I wish I could wind down gracefully.

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By shogun
11th Dec 2015 11:32

Why, do you find it difficult to get clients? 

 

 

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 11:54

Two types

shogun wrote:

Why, do you find it difficult to get clients? 

There's two types of accountants: Those with plenty of clients and those with not enough clients.

I wonder if there's a correlation with some other quality.

 

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By shogun
11th Dec 2015 12:09

couldn't agree more

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 10:51

It's not as bad as that

The main problem I see is that people are trying to start up a practice with very little knowledge and experience. I spent years in various roles before I started up on my own. I was speaking to Paul Scholes last night who is successfully using online bookkeeping. He's getting clients to do as much as they can and he keeps an eye out for any problems. I'm sure if he wanted more clients he could get them but he's gearing down for retirement.

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By Ben Lauritson
11th Dec 2015 12:57

Starting from scratch

Hi Rahman8R,

Just under 3 years ago I was in the same position as you - AAT qualified and struggling to find accountancy work and so, like you, I considered going self-employed.

I won't advise for or against this option (since ultimately only you can know what's right for you), but I'll share a few things I learned as a result of my attempt at setting up as a bookkeeper:

- Going self-employed isn't just about doing the work itself, there's also a whole world of marketing and self-promotion which you need to deal with (either by yourself or with professional assistance). I thought it would be enough just to set up a website, hand out some business cards and attend a few business networking events, but you really have to be persistent and know precisely whom you're targeting with this sort of work.
- There's a lot involved in actual book-keeping or accountancy that can't be taught in the classroom, hence why practical experience is so essential (although I appreciate one reason you're considering this is the difficulty you've had in finding an employer to give you the experience in the first place). After my stint of self-employment I had an employed book-keeping job; while my AAT knowledge gave me a good grounding it didn't prevent me from making mistakes (though I was at least able to fix them when they were pointed out to me). In an employment setting where my work was being reviewed, this wasn't anything serious. But if you're in a self-employment situation with nobody but yourself to review your work...

I hope I haven't painted too drastic a picture there, I'm certainly not trying to put you off going self-employed, but just advising that there's a lot more to it than it might seem from the outset. If you are set on going for it then I wish you the best of luck - even though self-employment didn't work out for me, it was still an experience from which I learned a lot. Nonetheless I do think the advice offered by the other posters is worth considering also.

As I said though, best of luck whatever you choose :-)

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By petersaxton
11th Dec 2015 13:04

Bookkeeper

Going self employed as a bookkeeper is a lot different to being self employed as an accountant. If somebody has limited knowledge and experience I would think they should start off as a bookkeeper.

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By Ben Lauritson
11th Dec 2015 14:09

Agreed

petersaxton wrote:

Going self employed as a bookkeeper is a lot different to being self employed as an accountant. If somebody has limited knowledge and experience I would think they should start off as a bookkeeper.

Now that you mention it, that was another thing that I learned more about through experience than I did through my study - the distinction between those two roles and what's involved in each one.

I agree that starting off as a bookkeeper is a much safer option all round.

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By Yesican
12th Dec 2015 15:52

Bookkeeper
Start off as a bookkeeper, network with accountants who can give you bookkeeping up as well. If you get such gigs take every opportunity to learn from those who have been around for years as experience cant be taught.

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By simjim
12th Dec 2015 22:40

What sort of Bookkeeper / Accountant would you be?

 

My experience of bookkeepers and accountants is they fall into two camps - those that help the business and those that hinder it.

If you think you can be the former - go for it.

Most small businesses don't want "clever" tax advice; they want clear straight forward information that helps maintain and grow their business.

 

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By RajD
13th Dec 2015 12:32

Start when clients find you

I think you should only go into practice if you have clients coming to you. 

You have two options - 

1. Get trained by an experienced professional

2. Go it alone and learn on the job. 

With number 2, expect a baptism of fire, long long hours and serious hard work. It is much harder but can be more rewarding. But, you have to have clients coming to you e.g. friends, family, social groups. Going out and finding work will get you into trouble in my opinion as you are selling something you don't know if you can do. 

If people ask you, you can decide if you might be able to do it and accept or decline - less pressure to give yourself time to learn. 

I learned a lot more when I started my own practice but I wish I still had a more experienced person to turn to sometimes. 

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