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What advice would you give your "first year in practice" self?

What advice would you give your "first year in...

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I'm about to set up in practice on my own having been an employee in practice for many years.

I know there will be a lot of learning "on the job" but I was wondering if members had any tips to help me hit the ground running. Paraphrasing all those "letters to your 16 year old self type" books, what advice would you give yourself in your first year in practice?

Thanks in advance!

Replies (13)

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By memyself-eye
10th Sep 2011 22:48

forget most of what you learnt

being self employed is different. No certainties, no one to fall back on.

Learn to say 'get stuffed' to almost everyone EXCEPT your clients. 

Thanks (2)
By Old Greying Accountant
11th Sep 2011 00:05

Following that ...
start as you mean to go on, price jobs sensibly as you will soon run out of hours to do the work and not be making enough margin to employ helpdon't be over-flexible with your time, as again you will run out of "you time" quite quicklySpend a bit of time getting systems in place and use them, whilst it may seem pointless with only a few clients, as you grow it will be necessary, and makes it easier for staff as and when you need them.

Thanks (3)
By Flash Gordon
11th Sep 2011 08:24

Go with OGA's advice

Very sound advice & not much more to add.

Thanks (1)
By dbowleracca
11th Sep 2011 08:45

Great advice from OGA
OGA had given some very good advice above, particularly about systems. Make a habit of documenting how you do each routine task, and you will then find it easier when you employ someone as they will know what you expect.

One thing I would suggest is to think about what type of clients you want, and what services you will provide to them, and then what makes you different/better so that clients will choose you.

Good luck with it all - nothing more exciting than starting on your own!!

Thanks (3)
By Ken Howard
11th Sep 2011 09:13

Plan for 5 years away

Start with how you want your practice to look like in 5 years and work backwards.  Don't do anything that would jeopardise how you want it to be.  I.e. if you don't want to do payroll or book-keeping long term, then don't take it on at the start.  If you want a few staff in 5 years, then set up systems today that will work for a small number of staff rather than too simple systems (or nothing at all) that you can cobble together for working on your own.  When you first start up, you'll have the time to write up your systems and work instructions - use this time wisely.

The worst thing you can do is panic at not having enough clients - then you tend to take on "undesirables" whether people you don't like, people wanting a cheap job, work you don't like, or whatever.  It's short term gain and long term pain.  These will sap your energy and enthusiasm.  Start as you mean to go on, with clients you like, client's who'll pay what you want, and for work you enjoy doing.  

Thanks (2)
By Owain_Glyndwr
11th Sep 2011 14:36


Some of the above is, I feel, unrealistic.

Whilst it might not be ideal to take on the kind of clients you dont want long term, the reality is that most new start ups need to earn any way they can.

Also, unless you have some recognised area of expertise, it is unlikely that a new start up will be in a position to be able to specialise for many years.


Thanks (1)
By Cardigan
11th Sep 2011 11:26

Thank you for all the advice.

Not panicking about having no clients and pricing jobs sensibly will be the biggest challenge. My current practice have been undercut by sole practitioners who are charging "crazy prices". I worked out that some were earning just above minimum wage.

The advice about systems is good. I was thinking of doing this as lack of systems in my current practice is one of the things that drives me insane. Finding more efficient and effective ways of doing things is one of my strengths which I hope to exploit.

Thank you again for your advice. It's my first question although I have been reading AWeb for years. In the past few months while I've been making my decision to go out on my own, I've found very valuable advice on the forums.

Thanks (1)
By SteveOH
11th Sep 2011 11:46

Make sure you keep coming back, Cardigan

As you say, you've been reading Aweb for years. But now that you've taken the bold step forward, just keep asking questions in this forum. We're here to help.

The only advice I would give is to resist the temptation to take on anything and everything in the first few months. I did that and found that I was spending a lot of time working and not really earning much. If you have some capital behind you, I would concentrate on getting the right type of client for you.

Good luck. I guarantee you'll have fun; along with a lot of hard work.

Thanks (1)
By Old Greying Accountant
11th Sep 2011 13:43

Can I just ask where you are?

You can pm if you prefer.

Thanks (0)
Replying to petestar1969:
By nigelburge
11th Sep 2011 19:18

Very good luck to you.

The advice above is excellent - well done on taking your first steps in being self-employed. Once you do it, you won't ever go back to being employed again.

Thanks (1)
By FirstTab
12th Sep 2011 07:42

Keep asking questions

Never stop asking questions This may be just to get feedback, learn from others and for you to make a decision which way to go. Never think you know it all.

Don't buy in to sweeping statements like excellent client service. Try and think what this means. What makes excellent customer service.Read a great book titled Clients 4 Life - endorsed by ICAEW.

In the end go with you think is right even though it may be against the grind.

Good luck.



Thanks (1)
By Steve Holloway
12th Sep 2011 08:40

Get your fees right

It has taken me ten years before I am entirely comfortable with where I am pitched ... which is in the middle where I belong!

Thanks (1)
By nigelburge
12th Sep 2011 09:31

"Don't buy in to sweeping statements like excellent client servi

"Don't buy in to sweeping statements like excellent client service."

But don't ignore it either!! Funnily enough, clients value a good service that they can trust much more than cheap fees. Even simple thing like always returning telephone calls asap are very much appreciated. Those that just want cheap fees always turn out to be a right royal pain in the rear although you will probably have no choice but to take some of these on at the beginning.

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