Dear Nick: I feel like packing it all in and sailing into the sunset

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Nick Elston
Speaker and coach
#TalkingAnxiety
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Life can be lonely as a sole practitioner and these anxieties are exacerbated by unappreciative clients and long working hours.  

Speaker and mental health coach Nick Elston lends a helping hand to a stressed sole practitioner who wants to leave the profession.

The dilemma

Dear Nick: “I am a sole practitioner and have been for eight years. I am completely stressed, working seven days a week for, yes, reasonable money but for very unappreciative clients. I feel like packing it all in and sailing into the sunset and then finding a completely unstressful job that at the end of every day I can leave work at work and go home and forget. 

“I feel like a complete failure at the moment. I don't want to discuss with my family as I don't want anyone else worrying. I can't describe it but I feel like I am in a constant state of anxiety wondering what the day is going to bring and what is going to go wrong.  It means everything takes so much longer as I just cannot focus.  It is affecting my health I know and I am not sure how much more I can take.”

Nick replies

I’m really pleased you took the time – and no doubt courage – to write. Your story completely resonated with me, even as someone from outside the accounting profession. I have labelled myself an ‘unnatural entrepreneur’ after a whole career spent being the best second in command that I could be.

Self employment is tough, tiring, frustrating and anxiety generating; however, to most of the outside world, we are believed to be ‘living the dream’. That in itself compounds our stress and confusion with a massive dose of imposter syndrome, as we then start to question where we are going wrong.

I’d really love to know your ‘why’ for starting out on your own. Often it’s the first thing we lose sight of. For example, when I first went self-employed I topped up my income (of £0!) by working for a supermarket delivering groceries for 30+ hours a week.

My ‘why’ was to have more time at home and have more personal freedom. After spending a full week doing my thing, then 30+ hours for the supermarket, quite the opposite happened. I lost touch at home and was constantly working. Because I never had my pricing figured out I was earning hardly anything after everything was taken out.

I craved the ‘simple life’ of employment again. And if I’m honest, not one month goes by where I don’t want to press that big red eject button and shoot off back into a simple job. However, the element that I missed was this: I had lost control of my ‘why’ and didn’t take time to lay the foundations. I just hit the ground running… and running… and running.

I spent around a year working two or three jobs flat out but not reviewing my business. I worked under the (wrong) assumption of doing more and more and more. It actually had a negative impact on my mental health to the extent I quit everything and took a step back. It was only then that everything came together, and this would be my advice to you too.

  • Stop
  • Take a step back
  • Get to know your ‘why’ again
  • Question everything you are doing right now – does it need to be done?
  • The stuff that needs to be done – can it be outsourced?
  • Your customers – do you need to sack some of them?  Seriously.
  • Review your pricing structure to ensure it matches your worth – again be prepared to lose customers.
  • As for the way forward – where do you want to go?  What do you want to achieve?
  • Only when you have done all of this – GO!

Only you will know if what you are doing will make you happy. Maybe you haven’t even asked yourself if you are doing this because you want to, or is it something you have always done?

In terms of managing anxiety, my top tips for you would be:

  • Never assume: anxiety comes from the thought of doing something, not the doing it – try not to predict negative outcomes.
  • What do you love to do? Schedule recovery time – every day – to ensure you are being positively distracted from the business and your busy-ness.
  • Share your challenges: I appreciate you find it hard to talk to your family but I believe a trusted outlet would really help you right now – eg consider hiring a mentor, coach or a counsellor, even if it's temporarily, to get you through this period.

As a Country Music fan, I love the quote from a Gary Allen song called ‘Every storm runs out of rain’.

Sometimes, when we are going through these periods of life we lose hope, we lose inspiration and we feel that the ‘storm’ will never end. But it will end. Everything passes. And you will be stronger and more resilient for this experience.

I strongly recommend seeking professional medical advice or using resources such as Mental Health UK as an urgent resource if you feel that you need it.

About Nick Elston

nick_elston

Nick Elston is one of the leading inspirational speakers on the subjects of anxiety, mental health and wellbeing - from an experience sharing perspective - and delivers his talks to stages, corporates, boardrooms, factories, universities, schools and events worldwide. 

For more information contact: [email protected]

Replies

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30th Jul 2019 10:04

Relax, we all feel like chucking it in, its amazing what 3 letters can do to a profession M.T.D.

Thanks (6)
30th Jul 2019 10:11

The writer could very well be describing me and my practice at the moment. And yes, I do think that MTD has played a big part in this.

Thanks (9)
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By tedbuck
30th Jul 2019 10:17

I can fully sympathise with the writer. Trying to cope with an accounting practice is bad enough but adding on the complete inability of HMRC to do things right or respond to letters (Busy with Brexit you know) the compliance burden of FRS 102, the continual hassle of GDPR and all the other rubbish which the Government thinks is necessary to raise more money in fines to throw away on daft projects. Not to mention MTD a multi million £ burden on the taxpayer in retraining and coping with a new system which delivers exactly the same information as the old one did. With MTD fot SA and CT to come I think sailing into the sunset is a jolly good answer.
But what a way to ruin a productive economy - strangle it with red tape and regulation - just like the EU although, by all accounts, HMG gold plate the rubbish anyway.
I didn't read that the ICO had fined itself for failing to comply with its own rules. Typical!
Sunset sailing is really looking good - now which country hasn't got MTD?

Thanks (11)
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30th Jul 2019 10:19

Well said Nick. In trying their best for their clients (some of whom don't deserve such devotion), too many accountants end up having a negative impact on their own lives.

Everyone has a right to balanced and fair relationships. It's okay for an accountant to say "Stop! This isn't working for me", to put themselves and their own lives first, or at the very least on the same footings as the needs of their clients.

As a profession we need to get better at standing up for ourselves and our own priorities and goals. The right clients will understand.

Thanks (4)
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30th Jul 2019 10:20

So true. You are definitely not alone and I think a lot of sole practitioners are feeling this way at the moment.

I think Nick's point about considering sacking some clients is spot on. It does tend to be the same few that cause the most stress and getting rid of them can really ease the burden if you can afford it financially.

Secondly, if you are earning reasonable money, then there should be no need to works seven days a week. The more you respond to emails at weekends, the more clients expect it. It is no surprise that stress and anxiety comes if you never have a chance to physically and mentally switch off.

Thanks (3)
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30th Jul 2019 10:23

Firstly you have to look at your level of take home pay. Up to £25k it's a doddle. £25k - £50k you have to put a bit more effort in to it. £50k and above you will get stress. So you find a level of income that suites your stress levels. Some people can take more stress than others. This is not restricted to the Accounting industry.

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to johnjenkins
30th Jul 2019 18:09

I'm not sure I agree with that. I am on six figures and live a very stress-free life. I play golf or tennis pretty much every day in summer, about the most stressful thing in life is taking a bogey at the first hole.

I think it can be done. I regularly sack clients, in fact the last one was on Monday. As you will see from my MTD posts, I don't take any pratting around drivel from HMRC.

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to mr. mischief
31st Jul 2019 08:55

Maybe you're the type of person that what other people call stress, you call normal working life.
I used to take everything in my stride now I pick and choose. I finish work at 15.30, have Fridays off and have regular holidays. It hasn't always been like that though. Most people (in any industry) have to work really hard to attain the level they want. Yes, with some it does come easy, but not many.

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By rmcouk
30th Jul 2019 10:32

I hope you are encouraged by the immediate, sympathetic support from colleagues. I don't know if you are a member of one of the Institutes but may be worth seeing if you can participate in a local discussion group and see if you can gain practical support in that way. It is always frustrating that we often worry about clients' affairs more than they do!

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30th Jul 2019 10:35

I posted this back in October 2016 https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/community/blogs/feelingthestrain/depression

I am/have been quite a regular contributor to AccountingWeb over the years but on this subject, even now, am not comfortable saying "it's me!" hence the fact that my profile name isn't my regular name!

Last year I saw a counsellor week in week out for about a year.

He was great.

It became more of a work training session rather than anything else with me talking and talking and coming up with plans of what I needed to do and then the following week reporting back. He'd ask me the questions that I needed to be asked and every single week when I walked out of his door I felt lighter than when I went in.

It made no difference to him whether I made any changes or not but I felt accountable to myself and it made me rationalise things and start to change my approach to work and life in general.

Even now, if I were to feel under strain in, say, October, I can just give him a call and go and spend an hour stepping outside my life and analysing things.

Have I completed the "journey" yet, hell no, but in regard to the MTD aspect (which definitely was the jolt) I'm feeling there are benefits in the way we are working now which are allowing me to accept that:

1. I am the master of my destiny if I choose to be.

2. There is an escape if I want it and the first one is to learn to say "no" to people and remember that I can resign from a client anytime I choose to if it gets too much or they are expecting too much.

Another tip as well - when something goes well allow yourself to take a moment on your own and give yourself a little fist pump and scream a "yes!" inside yourself. Learn to feel the positives and dilute the negatives.

Thanks (4)
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30th Jul 2019 10:43

This year's extra fun - MTD, re-enrollment for quite a lot of my payrolls, the new reverse charge VAT rules for subbies. I could scream too. And now I have an ICAEW practice assurance visit because I clearly have nothing better to do.... retirement is an attractive option. They will break quite a lot of us soon.

Thanks (4)
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30th Jul 2019 10:46

I totally sympathise with the guy, because I kind of feel the same. Since HMRC stopped access to their CT account/tax portal it feels every Feb/March when you have time to recharge the batteries, review client files, or just generally catch up there has been some new issue that needs consideration (RTI/Auto Enrolment/GDPR/MTD etc.). The job is hard enough itself never mind these added burdens.

It feels most of these changes are aimed at hitting the small practitioners. I think HMRC considers us cowboys at best, and rogues at worst. They are not in the real world, and have no idea the work that goes into getting returns submitted. When (not if) MTD is extended I am giving up. I would guess only 15% of my clients are using a computer. I am trying to move a few over, but again it is time needed.

Excellent advice from Nick regarding pricing, and binning a few clients. If you are good you will replace them, also do not sell yourself cheap when you take on any new clients.

Thanks (4)
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By mkowl
30th Jul 2019 10:51

Interesting points being raised and there are definitely times when you look to the future and a life without the constant updates on what we do. I would just like those that sit in Ivory Towers to experience a 12 month period in the real world - perhaps they would appreciate our concerns

Thanks (4)
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30th Jul 2019 10:51

I work on my own from home with miminal overheads,using an accommodation address at the local business centre. I can make a good income and have a lot of leisure time keeping my turnover just below the vat registration threshold.
I don't want to get any bigger because I would have to take on employees and increase fees with all the hassle it entails. I left a partnership 15 years ago taking my best clients with me. It was tough at first but just a case of getting computer systems set up and working more efficiently so I could do everything singlehandedly. I can imagine it is tough starting from scratch with no clients and it would be far better building up a practice in your spare time while employed elsewhere and breaking off when you have enough clients.

Thanks (0)
30th Jul 2019 11:15

I think many can empathise with this, and not just the accountancy profession either. Legislation and big brother is crippling many of the nations professionals out there, no matter what the industry.

For me dealing with this stress is all about management. (stating the obvious I know) I do still work considerably more hours than your average Joe. However it is still better than a few years back despite all the red tape in recent years.

The three points that made the difference were:

1 - Learn to say no (especially new work)
2- Remove problem clients (disengagement)
3 - Have one day off at the weekend

Point three can still be a bit variable but it is worthwhile to make that effort for a day off (if needs be work to 8pm on Saturday?). An hour or two on Sunday's dealing with emails etc doesn't count as a days work though.

Age doesn't help either I reckon. (30's back then, 4o's now and 50's I reckon yet another cull and hopefully free up a full weekend.) All to ease off the potential stress just to keep things going.

Finally, as you are bending over backwards to keep other people happy, quite often I ask myself now 'would they do the same?'

Cynicism, yet another development in ageing.

Thanks (3)
30th Jul 2019 11:29

First world problem. You could be out on a building site in the rain, head down, [***] up laying bricks and contemplating after 30 years whether the doctors warning that if you don't give it all up and find a different occupation you are going to end up racked with pain for the rest of your life and have no pension provision.

Toughen up

Deep breath and crack on.

By the way you are nuts working those long hours. Put your fees up 35% and 35% of the clients will leave and you can just work Monday to Thursday for the same PBT and spend the weekend exploring places on Easyjet before a no deal #brexit means you can never leave the UK again....

Try Seville to start with that's nice.

Thanks (3)
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By dlapish
30th Jul 2019 11:33

I see that this 'cry from the heart' resonates with many of us in this community. I am myself in the process of winding up my own sole practice for many of the reasons mentioned concerning the increased regulatory burdens.

However, despite all the challenges SPs have tremendous experience and technical know-how which can be monetised in lots of different ways. A couple of options to consider:

1. Trade down to become a top-end bookkeeper. Good bookkeepers are really hard to find and small to medium sized accounting firms would love their clients to use one to get their records digitised and in good order to plug into their accounting software. Talk to a few firms and see if you cannot work in partnership with them as a freelancer. There will be lots of opportunities for lucrative add-ons ("Need to set up a pension scheme? I can do that!").

2) Consider a move to employment in the charity sector. There are lots of small to medium sized charities out there who need experienced full or part time individuals to manage the whole back office, including finance. Pay might not be top end but the hours are often flexible and you rarely take work home with you.

Think outside the box. There are certainly ways to make a decent living from your knowledge, experience and qualifications without all the stress of having the buck stop on your desk.

Thanks (3)
30th Jul 2019 11:46

I think we have the best type of work because of the flexibility it offers.

I do not relate to the problems in the article. Not of all of us have the skills to run a practice. My advice to the person would be best to move on and found alternatives like employment.

MTD is not a huge issue as it is made out to be. After the set up, it should be okay.

Thanks (2)
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30th Jul 2019 12:02

I understand all of the pressures and frustrations which are being voiced and I have also been a victim of all of them - to cheer myself up I wear a sweatshirt bearing the legend "I am an accountant of course I am crazy do you think that a sane person would do this job?! We need view the emotions through a lens of objectivity viz. accountants, generally, are well paid (perhaps not as well paid as we should be - particularly after bad debt write off [the perennial curse of the profession] and good pay has a stress package attached to it. Also when we entered the profession we all knew that times were changing and that the pace of change would accelerate with the advancing digital age - it is too late to complain now. We have to balance the fiscal fruit with the devil of digital development - stated simply, in my case, I have to stop whingeing and get on with it or perish.

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By NewACA
30th Jul 2019 12:10

I think it is all about what sort of accountancy firm you have developed.

If you:

- get your pricing right (both you and the client are clear on this)
-have a good marketing system to get good well paying prospective clients, putting you in the position of telling poor prospective clients you won't act for them (doctors, small-time lawyers, window cleaners, subbies, flat management companies etc etc avoid like the plague).
-provide a very good service
-make clear to clients where the boundaries lie in a number of ways, including when you work, but also letting them know the quality of the records can severely impact on price to ensure you get paid properly for sloppy records.
-have an efficient practice using good IT systems to do everything quickly (that doesn't equate to Xero or other online bookkeeping by the way)
- never spend more than 70% of your time of chargeable work, you need at least 30% for all the other stuff everyone complains about (as well as strategic thinking).

You will be able to relax, have a good work life balance regardless of MTD and other new things) and get well paid (say £75k+ a year bottom line profit before tax - in the south-east region).

You if aren't getting the above results, you aren't doing what I describe above.

This also assumes you aren't doing a significant amount of bookkeeping as that is of much lower value work (your fees don't include say more than 25% bookkeeping work).

Thanks (0)
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30th Jul 2019 12:15

The problem isn't MTD etc etc it's just that when you're a sole practitioner you can get in such a habit of taking on work, and having more tasks put on you, that eventually you hit the wall.

The key skill as a start up sole practitioner is learning to say "no" or, alternatively learning to delegate to others e.g. get a freelance bookkeeper on board to help - the literal cry for help if you like!

Best overall advice in my opinion is to get yourself someone you can talk to.

That might be a fellow practitioner, a good friend, a counsellor (or if you prefer then call them a coach!).

When we talk often the problems that can feel paralysing don't seem too bad and you start to see the wood for the trees.

The strongest person is the one who admits to themselves or others that they are feeling weak.

Thanks (1)
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By NewACA
30th Jul 2019 12:47

I think it is all about what sort of accountancy firm you have developed.

If you:

- get your pricing right (both you and the client are clear on this)
-have a good marketing system to get good well paying prospective clients, putting you in the position of telling poor prospective clients you won't act for them (doctors, dentists, lawyers, window cleaners, subbies, flat management companies, micro charities etc etc avoid like the plague).
-provide a very good service
-make clear to clients where the boundaries lie in a number of ways, including when you work, but also letting them know the quality of the records can severely impact on price to ensure you get paid properly for sloppy records.
-have an efficient practice using good IT systems to do everything quickly (that doesn't equate to Xero or other online bookkeeping by the way).
-get rid of clients that do (or expect you to do) everything last minute, or are generally annoying).
- never spend more than 70% of your time of chargeable work, you need at least 30% for all the other stuff everyone complains about (as well as strategic thinking).

You will be able to relax, have a good work life balance regardless of MTD and other new things) and get well paid (say £75k+ a year bottom line profit before tax - in the south-east region).

You if aren't getting the above results, you aren't doing what I describe above, or are a new practice still developing your firm.

This also assumes you aren't doing a significant amount of bookkeeping as that is of much lower value work (your fees don't include say more than 25% bookkeeping work).

As someone above said, we are not all cut-out to be business owners. Just because you are a good accountant, doesn't mean you'll be able to do all of the above I mention (eg: developing a great marketing strategy - which is crucial to developing a great practice -has nothing to do with accountancy skills).

Thanks (0)
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30th Jul 2019 12:25

It was a reason why I moved away from Practice. My first role was great (trainee through to qualified), the clients were trained well to provide information in a timely manor and we pretty much avoided the severe peaks and troughs of Practice.

My second role was terrible, absolute chaos clients not properly managed, constantly fire fighting, low staff morale and useless senior staff who refused to allow proactive attempts to wrestle control back from clients and get them 'trained'

3rd role was better, but worked in the unglamorous management accounts, VAT returns, day-to-day work for clients role (low margin work so constant time pressures), a colleague went on long term sickness, I ended up working 6 days a week, 12 hours a day for joys of partners moaning at me (because heaven forbid they should actually pay me for my work).

Work in Industry now, have a good work life balance so can't complain. It helps I like cheap ugly cars and for me my dream holiday was spent in a hammock at some grotty hostel in Cairns (backpacker days), what is important is that I identified what makes "ME" happy and stuff other people turning their noses up at my lifestyle.

Thanks (1)
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30th Jul 2019 12:53

As a sole practitioner with an office at home, the original letter could have been written by me. I have often thought of applying for a job in a supermarket filling shelves. However my great saver has been gym membership - go and take out the stress on the machines or leaping about in a class - all great fun. I now refuse to look at emails Saturday afternoons or Sundays. I do some work at the weekends but not to the knowledge of the clients. Am now considering sacking a couple - not yet brave enough but hopefully it will come. To the original writer I would say - put yourself first

Thanks (3)
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By NewACA
30th Jul 2019 13:00

Removed, duplicate of above.

Thanks (0)
30th Jul 2019 13:16

For anyone that feels like that I have great sympathy.

I do not feel like that though. I am a sole practitioner, have grown substantially from nothing to 5 staff fairly rapidly.

Difficult to give advice here, but:

Don't take it personally

Ditch problem clients (or just increase your price so much that they go or they swallow the increase)

Don't work for peanuts

Don't let your clients manage you (don't respond to emails over the weekend or answer your phone)

Set your boundaries with your clients early on when you engage them and never do favours unless you know the clients very well and you charge them good fees already.

Stress is often self-imposed. The more helpful you try and be the more certain individuals take advantage. Try and disassociate yourself emotionally from your clients.

They are just clients NOT friends or family

Thanks (6)
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30th Jul 2019 13:26

I have worked in small practice for years and have run my own practice now to 7 years. I have complete sympathy with the comments listed above. The IT and compliance burden gets harder each year and the "instant gratification" culture leads to more and more demands on us to respond almost instantly. Personally I don't feel my Institute understands the profession at the "small practitioner" level and so provide little support or advocacy. In theory I agree with "sitting back and accessing your business" but will constant client deadlines it is often hard to get your head above water long enough to focus on this. Personally I have plans in place to improve things but it is not an overnight fix and it will never be the lovely job it was 20+ years ago.

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By Ciccia
30th Jul 2019 13:56

I have been a sole practitioner for 36 years and completely sympathise with the writer. I have had 2 long weekends off in the past 6 years, taken on extra staff but still working 7 days a week and 14 hour days most of the time.
I cannot sleep at nights for thinking about filing dates for PAYE, VAT, CT, Companies House, Pensions etc. I spend hours on the phone every week trying to speak to someone in any department of HMRC without holding on (the record for me was 2.04 hours just a few weeks ago) for ages. Answering emails! I will not even go there.

So, keep your chin up. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Thanks (2)
30th Jul 2019 14:37

I would add one further thing.

Often it is not work that causes the stress, the underlying reason often is the fact that you have to pay the mortgage, pay for the kids, pay for the car, the holiday, the boat!

This causes the feeling by many that you have to keep clients happy no matter how bad they are. Stress is often related to your financial position.

You have to try and detach work from you! Difficult to do when you have bills to pay.

It's not only sole practitioners that feel stress, many employed people feel the same.

I think it is very important to have another outlet apart from work. A passion that takes you away from work and helps you put things in perspective.

Things are very rarely as bad as your mind imagines them to be.

Thanks (1)
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By tedbuck
30th Jul 2019 15:46

Very interesting all these replies and many different reasons for what seems to be a general frustration.
My own ace frustration factor is HMRC who just do not want to know questions from the profession or the taxpayer. I have one case - letter in March - no response
another letter in May -still no response (this one copied to the SA complaints- no response there either) So now I am going to write to the new chancellor with copies to the others on the way. What do you think - any response? I'm not holding my breath. Bet you could all replicate the situation?

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30th Jul 2019 18:24

I sympathise with anyone in any field - including getting paid £500k a week at Real Madrid - who feels very stressed, unable to sleep properly etc.

In self-employed accountancy, overall I would say the 2 main problems are:

1. The gits who run HMRC and
2. The gits who run HMRC.

That's because we are not totally in control of this, unlike problem clients for example where we can just write and say good bye.

As you'll see from my post earlier in this thread, I am not stressed at all. Some tips on dealing with HMRC, an area where I think I spend very little time compared to most folk in this thread:

1. When you call them, if you are not speaking to a real person within 5 minutes, you hang up. If HMRC can't be arzzed to answer the phone that is their problem not yours.

2. Create standard HMRC letters you can dash off in 1 minute flat - see my MTD one in an earlier thread for example. Just knock it out and cc the client. The client knows you've done something, it's taken you 6 minutes in total - 5 on the phone plus 1 doing the letter - and the ball is in HMRC's court.

3. By doing this sort of thing and similar things, over time you end up with clients who know you are a good guy and that HMRC senior management are useless toss pots. So they don't blame you when HMRC are being useless toss pots.

4. Use the Agent Account Manager service to resolve cases where HMRC are being useless and there can be negative impacts for your client. The AAM service is very good.

5. Make formal complaints - mark the letter COMPLAINT CASE - and also compensation claims - where HMRC really are being rubbish. Over time in my opinion HMRC mark your agent record as "Do not mess with this guy!" which is a nice place to be.

Take as much control of the relationship with HMRC as you possibly can. Being in control of anything reduces stress levels.

And take time in EVERY DAY - at least an hour - to do something that you love doing, with no mobile phone within 100 metres of you.

Thanks (2)
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30th Jul 2019 18:35

The article supports my view that compliance work can be draining (these days I only work on a project basis which has different challenges). Nick has given some great advice. I suppose one question would be is the writer able to take a drop in income in the short term? If so it strikes me that a refocusing of the practice towards the most enjoyable work/clients would be really helpful.

The writer sounds like he/she is too busy to step back from the nitty gritty -and bearing that in mind I think it's essential to seek help from someone to help them see the wood from the trees.

If the writer is an ICAEW member, I would recommend that they get in touch with CABA who provide a range of support to members including (I believe) time management & dealing with stress.

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to David_Lewis
30th Jul 2019 20:26

I tried CABA when I was working more than full time with client deadlines and staff to pay whilst also having to care for my father in the last few years of his life. I know CABA don't have a magic wand but they were really no help at all in my case I'm afraid.

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30th Jul 2019 19:10

To get replies from HMRC I have had to engage my MP , threaten court action or speak with senior officials. Recently HMRC back dated a letter to me when my MP became involved. I am spoken down to by HMRC staff , clients expect miracles and I have no one to turn too. Now I am being bombarded by Staff,Clients and HMRC with demands. MTD is a nightmare - most clients are between 50 and 70 just over the VAT limit with no Computer or IT skills and certainly have no funds to pay me to keep all their books.As soon as I sell my house and business I will be gone. After 40 years in a career I love HMRC have ended it overnight. I am under the doctor for depression and do HMRC give a damn. They don't answer the phone or reply to letters , they fail to collect taxes as they should and are in a complete mess - its dreadful for all the hard working taxpayers in the UK who pay tax for this [email protected] service.

Thanks (1)
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30th Jul 2019 19:10

To get replies from HMRC I have had to engage my MP , threaten court action or speak with senior officials. Recently HMRC back dated a letter to me when my MP became involved. I am spoken down to by HMRC staff , clients expect miracles and I have no one to turn too. Now I am being bombarded by Staff,Clients and HMRC with demands. MTD is a nightmare - most clients are between 50 and 70 just over the VAT limit with no Computer or IT skills and certainly have no funds to pay me to keep all their books.As soon as I sell my house and business I will be gone. After 40 years in a career I love HMRC have ended it overnight. I am under the doctor for depression and do HMRC give a damn. They don't answer the phone or reply to letters , they fail to collect taxes as they should and are in a complete mess - its dreadful for all the hard working taxpayers in the UK who pay tax for this [email protected] service.

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30th Jul 2019 21:21

When I was feeling stressed, frustrated with HMRC, feeling uanapreciated etc etc I used to have a look at the photo of my grandfarther on the wall. He was a miner. 6 days a week. 12 hour days. Only saw the sun on a Sunday. Lived in a 2 up 2 down terrace with toilet in the garden. Died yound as a result of a mining accident.

That is hard. Being an accountant in practice is a doddle compared to that. When I realised how lucky I was then I shook myself out of the despondency.

Sack your difficult clients. Work 5 days a week. B******s to HMRC (tell them that), educate your other clients, show them how valuable you are to them (if you can;t do that then your buggered), put their fees up 10%.

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By mkowl
31st Jul 2019 07:51

Interesting to follow this discussion. It was around this time 12 months ago that the pressure cranked up, with a series of events, business and personal that were wrapped around a QAD visit and the follow up. It forced me to make several fundamental decisions eg withdraw from audit. My turnover has taken a temporary hit, though it was matched by a similar fall in costs, but in terms of my mental well being priceless. Definitely recommend the going to the gym, phone is not taken in and marginally less painful than the 90 minutes watching Sheffield Wednesday

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to mkowl
31st Jul 2019 19:58

As you’ve binned off audit, have you thought of binning off your regulator?

I made the jump 10 years ago and have never regretted it for a minute.

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31st Jul 2019 09:15

There is a lot of great advice on this thread, so well worth picking out the bits that work for you.

You are definitely not alone in how you feel and there are many here, me included, who suffer/have suffered from clinical depression.

As we all travel through life it's about finding our own path which is entirely unique to ourselves. But we don't need to travel on our own. Life is not a destination, it's a journey and there is no point going through all this **ap if we don't enjoy the ride.

The work stress is never ending so for me the key is having a great life outside of work.

For you, only you know, so I wish you all the very best on finding your path.

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31st Jul 2019 09:30

I think the advice is great and I try to enjoy my time away from the office. Where my difficulty is waking up every morning mulling over how on earth I get people over 55 ( retirement age ) who are totally computer illiterate , have not a clue about anything more than rates of vat and a basic understanding of what can and can't be claimed to put their records onto a complex system like Sage or Xeroand when they do try to get complete rubbish. Spreadsheets are not the answer as they are not really what MTD was ever about and do not translate to quarterly Accounts plus they are not fool proof and the bridging is not tried and tested. We are talking of a one man band who works hard earns enough to get by and cant really afford to pay an Accountants or a small group of family who have banded together which brings them into the realms of VAT. In addition what's needed for VAT is completely different to other taxes and VAT periods do not coincide with year ends. In many cases clients would be keeping two sets of records and having to completely change the working methods after 40 years.

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to GHarr497688
31st Jul 2019 09:38

I disagree with most of that.

I made a spreadsheet that does quarterly accounting. Links to HMRC via vital tax. All works easy and the clients love it. ( you can have a copy if you want [email protected].i
uk)

If you are turning over enough to be over the vat threshold, it ridiculous to say you cant afford to give an accountant £300 a year to cover your tax return.

Anyway, if you are registered for vat you really ought to be a limited company, so when you get it all wrong HMRC don't bankrupt you

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to Tom 7000
31st Jul 2019 09:48

Yes I've seen quite a few of these so called wonder sheets and have to say I am not very impressed. Lots of Accountants are jumping on a band wagon of " this is fantastic " , how you get to a £300 fee is beyond me . To encourage a situation where clients spend money to become limited with more compliance costs and then to say this is to infer it saves paying VAT if things go wrong , what sort of message does that send out ?

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to GHarr497688
31st Jul 2019 10:26

Well my wonder sheet was designed by A Chartered Accountant and Registered Auditor and ICAEW committee member (me). It was re engineered by an excel wizard who was one of the lead programmers at the Defence research establishment (called QinetiQ now) to improve functionality and look. It has been checked by the 20+ various qualified accountants here and half a dozen other accountants I have given it to for free and is probably used by 400 of the clients 2500. It seems to have worked ok over the last 15 years and we give it to the clients for free.

The message that it is sending out is that it is your duty as an advisor to provide the best possible advice to your clients. This includes limiting their liability as far as possible. Once the clients grow above the vat limit then I would suggest its a good idea for them to incorporate. Remember these people are just trying their best. They are not expert sales directors or finance directors. They are going to make mistakes whether business or tax related. What happens if a customer bounces a payment for £250k and it takes the business down. Do you really want to explain to the guy that he is going to lose his house as well.

Anyway must go just scheduling this afternoons golf... because as it says in the post... all work and no play...

You can still have a copy if you want one to play with it, there's some instructions too on how to use it and how to use MTD :)

Well how much do you charge your small sole traders for doing their tax returns? We are usually in the £300 + - £50 depending. Do you think that's not enough?

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to GHarr497688
31st Jul 2019 12:29

Your comment to Tom 7000 denigrates his spreadsheet solution whilst you have not even actually looked at it.

You must have special powers to ascertain how good something is without even looking at it so please share how you do it. I'm sure we would all love this special power that you magically possess.

Tom 7000 has been kind enough to share it free here on A/web and having actually got a copy (and actually looked at in detail) it is excellent.

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to North East Accountant
31st Jul 2019 19:16

Its not directly aimed at Tom but I am not spending another second looking at yet another spreadsheet, Tom also may have got a better response with a less arrogant response.

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31st Jul 2019 17:54

One of the most valuable tips I learnt from Accweb was to ditch the clients who cause you grief .
The test being that if they ring you, you see their name and think... oh no..not him! = get rid of them.
You also need to decide on the type of client you want to have.
If you want a peaceful (although not particularly lucrative life) then go for the subbies (get the refund into your client account so you know you will be paid).
Dont give free advice
Read indomitable's comment and follow it to the letter.
Get out more... thats not being unkind but go to networking events but not only to network.
£75K is a dream for us South West in the country types.

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By roddism
31st Jul 2019 19:26

Wow - what a very good article.

I have been feeling exactly like this for the last 5 - 6 months and thought I was the only one and that it must be me that has a problem - clearly not.

What really infuriates me is unappreciative clients and those that simply won't answer the phone once you send them an Invoice. I know payment upfront is key, however within last last 5 weeks 2 clients have gone off the radar and signed up with new Accountants that have not even sent a professional letter to take on these customers.

With all the HMRC changes and pending changes together with customers behaviour can be very testing at times. Reading this article has been very comforting for me to know I am not alone with the way I feel.

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to roddism
31st Jul 2019 19:33

Do you know who will be the biggest losers - HMRC as all the good people will get out and HMRC will have rogue Accountants who file anything then disappear. The tax gap will increase rather than decrease.

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