From Making Tax Digital to GDPR, sole practitioners have had an unprecedented amount of change thrown at them. But Elaine Clark from Cheap Accounting doesn’t think sole practitioners should call it a day just yet.
It’s been a nightmare for sole practitioners over the last few years to keep up with the regulatory change, not least the “overlaying negative noise” out in the profession at the moment, Clark said ahead of her ‘Surviving as a sole practitioner’ round table at Accountex this year.
It’s hard to argue with her. Whether it’s the timeline uncertainty of Making Tax Digital or technological disruption or compliance burdens, sole practitioners in particular have seen fees squeezed and working hours strained. It’s led sole practitioners like tony lecart to fume: “Only larger firms will be able to manage this piece of nonsense.”
Such is the stress of running a practice, ICAS assistant director of practice Jeremy Clarke relayed to AccountingWEB that practice owners are beginning to ask “why do I bother.”
Exit strategies are even spilling over on to Any Answers as of late, with AccountingWEB member PatriciaRr being a recent example of a sole practitioner taking retirement over the increased stress and regulatory burden.
Likewise, the negative tone and language often found in thought leadership blogs has exacerbated sole practitioners’ stress levels, according to Clark. “If I see another blog telling me that I am doing stuff wrong and I should be doing stuff this way, otherwise I am useless, I shall scream.”
While Clark advises overwhelmed sole practitioners to break from the shouting and noise of social media, for some sole practitioners the inescapable noise is far closer to home: unappreciative clients.
This sole practitioner stress was no better illustrated than an Any Answers post from last summer. The frazzled member detailed how unappreciated clients had driven them into feeling like as “complete failure” and dreams of “sailing into the sunset” where they can mentally clock off at the end of their shift.
So, how can sole practitioners dodge unneeded stress? For Elaine Clark it’s all about managing your clients before they manage you.
“We get into a habit of allowing clients to put stress on our shoulders because they're providing information late, regardless how many times we ask for them,” she said. “It's always the same ones. It puts the accountant under undue pressure to meet the deadlines.”
That’s why you should make sure clients own their problems and you own your problems, Clark said. In order to do this she recommends having a regular checkpoint set in stone every year, where you evaluate whether you actually enjoy working with the client.
“If clients aren't prepared to work with you and it is causing stress, it's time to say I'm not the accountant for you. With the amount of time and effort you're spending with that client, you can go out and get some more clients. It's better to work with clients that actually value the services.”
Importantly, what Clark wants the sole practitioner attendees to learn from her Accountex roundtable is that despite any regulatory burden “we chose to set up our own business, and they're our business, and people don't tell us how to run them.”