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Creating the firm that works for you: thriving as a sole practitioner

26th Apr 2024
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Bright was created in 2021 when Thesaurus Software Ltd. and Relate Software Ltd. decided to join...
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Of the over 40,000 accountancy practices in the UK, more than 80% have less than four employees. In fact, the median registered accounting enterprise has between 1-2, suggesting there are lots of sole practitioners - both freelance and full time - working with clients up and down the country.  

And that makes sense. Working as a sole practitioner can grant you both the freedom to choose your own clients and the type of work you take on, and the flexibility to work when and where best suits you.  

But it’s not without its challenges, and thriving out there on your own, without the security of a bigger firm behind you, takes considerable work and dedication. So, when setting out as a sole practitioner, how do you go about creating the firm that works for you?  

Here are our top tips for succeeding as a sole practitioner in the UK.  

Specialise your services 

First things first, setting out as a sole practitioner gives you a chance to identify what you’re best at - and use it to your advantage. Take some time to determine your niche. Ask yourself: what’s your expertise, what work do you enjoy most, and what experience do you already have to build upon?  

Then, think about the target market you can offer those services too. There are many ways you can segment your ideal client base - whether by geography, size, sector, or service. Spend some time considering who they are, what their challenges look like, and how your specific experience could help solve them.  

Establish a unique brand identity 

Once you’ve considered the above and have a clear idea of who your target audience are, you’ll need to develop a strong personal brand that hones in on that niche and really speaks to the clients you want to work with.  

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t be all things to all people - and that ‘personal brand’ simply means setting out your values, professional skill set, and unique approach, and then mapping it to the types of clients you can help support.  

There are many frameworks you can use to help structure this (a value proposition canvas is a good place to start), and it’s also worth speaking to people to conduct some market research about what’s missing, and what you could offer that uniquely plugs that gap.  

Balance work and life 

The accounting industry has always struggled to maintain a healthy work-life balance, but when you’re a business of one, prioritising your own health and well-being is fundamental. To succeed as a sole practitioner, you’ll need to do everything you can to prevent burnout and establish a way of working that sets you up for sustainable, long-term success.  

Start by setting out the ways in which you intend to develop a firm culture - even though it’s just for you - that encourages and enables you to maintain a healthy balance. That might involve strict working hours, being clear with your communication preferences and boundaries (read more about how to enforce client boundaries, here), or factoring in the need for time off each year into your pricing matrix.  

Document your intentions, and check in against them regularly to keep yourself on track.  

Invest in continuous learning 

Continuous professional development is more than just a buzzword: it’s critical to staying ahead of the game, particularly when you’ve set out on your own.  

Whichever path you’ve taken to arrive at being a sole practitioner, you’ll know how much the accounting industry is subject to change and will continue to evolve in future. Although it can be tempting to pack your diary to the brim with client work, make sure to time-box a certain number of hours a day, week, or month that you dedicate to continuous learning.  

Make a point of staying on top of the latest regulation, developing technology, and industry trends - and don’t shy away from participating in, or creating, networks with others where you can share that knowledge and learn from other examples, too.  

Leverage technology for efficiency  

We’ve saved the most important point until the end. In 2024, there is absolutely no way you can succeed as a sole practitioner without leveraging technology to your advantage. And nor should you have to.  

If you actively invest in technology that can help you streamline your processes and make you more productive, the end result can only look like delivering better services to your clients. And, by embracing accounting software, cloud-based solutions, and automation tools that take care of your repetitive tasks and manage your client data securely, you’ll have more time to focus on doing the work you genuinely care about.  

At this point, it’s useful to go back to your ‘why’ and remind yourself of the reason you’ve set out as a sole practitioner in the first place. Unless your motivation is intrinsically linked to manual data entry, let tech do the heavy lifting - and watch your life become easier.  

With multiple solutions designed to save time and streamline processes, the Bright software suite is a good place to start, wherever you are in your sole practitioner journey.  

Click here to book a free demo of our solutions with one of our product experts. 

Setting yourself up for long-term success 

The above steps are designed to help you thrive as a sole practitioner by creating a firm that really works for you, aligned with your values, skills, and expertise. 

It’s important, too, that you keep yourself open to building relationships along the way - with professionals like lawyers, financial advisors, or business consultants - so that you can develop a reliable network. The benefits of having professional connections are two-fold: you’ll expand your referral opportunities, and be able to offer clients more comprehensive services in return.  

Regardless of the specific approach you take as a sole practitioner, being clear about your value proposition and delivering on your promise is key to ongoing success. Offering exceptional value helps build trust and loyalty with clients, meaning they’re more likely to refer you to others. That way, you can keep growing in the way you’d like. Click here to book a free demo of our solutions with one of our product experts

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