The Bookkeeper Q&A: Louise Ball, Eleven Accounts Services
In a brand new monthly interview series, Zoe Whitman speaks with Eleven Accounts Services’ Louise Ball, and finds out why she left a successful career in nursing to start a bookkeeping practice.
I’ve known Louise for about a year now. She joined our community of bookkeepers shortly after starting her bookkeeping practice, Eleven Accounts Services.
She’s recently been nominated for an award and I was keen to catch up with her about her inspirational past 12 months and to find out more about how she made the leap to a completely different career.
You weren’t in bookkeeping before, tell me about your background.
I started my nursing training when I was 19, I went into acute medicine and then worked at a specialist hospital as a chemotherapy nurse. After I started my family, I thought about my future career and found that it wouldn’t be possible for me to progress any further in nursing if I chose to only work part-time hours. I didn’t want to work full-time or to work shifts around the children so I found myself frantically searching Google trying to find something else to do.
I didn’t have a clue. I came across Ideal Schools and the ICB and bookkeeping qualifications and learning that I could become a certified professional - which was really important for me - I started my training to see where things would go.
How did it feel to leave the nursing profession?
It was hard because as a nurse I felt secure and I knew that I always had a job. I was on a good salary, I liked meeting people and helping people. Leaving that was hard, but I’d lost my passion and I felt ready to move on.
Bookkeeping’s completely different! What appealed to you when you came across that course online?
It’s the organisation. I’m learning that it’s not always black and white! But there are rules, there’s control. It’s different to how I felt in nursing. The structure and accuracy is quite satisfying.
Did you take on clients straight away?
After I did my level 2 qualification, I went to the ICB conference as a student. I got chatting to somebody who said she was looking for bookkeepers locally to me and she offered me a trainee role. I started working for her part time, and still doing some shifts nursing.
As time went on, I did less nursing and more bookkeeping. When I had my practice licence and felt confident to, I dropped the nursing and took on my first two clients.
How did you build the confidence to go it alone?
I felt I needed to know what I was doing before taking on my own clients. That time in the bookkeeping practice gave me the confidence that I knew what I was doing.
When did you take on your first client
I took on my first client in January 2020. It felt a bit strange, but I soon got into the swing of things. I chose to take on a client using Xero which I’d learnt about in the bookkeeping practice. It felt important not to take on something messy or which was difficult.
How does your practice look now?
I have 15 monthly clients in a range of different industries. I feel I have the control I was looking for, I have the flexibility I need around my children, I work four days a week, and I’ve matched my salary plus a little bit more.
What’s next for you?
I’m waiting to pick up the keys for my new office this week, and I’m starting to subcontract some work so I can grow the practice.
Do you miss nursing?
I do and I don’t. I feel I picked a good time to leave with the pandemic, but that decision also left me with a huge amount of guilt. At times, I have expected to be called out of retirement which would have been very difficult around my young children. I’ve done what I can for my local area setting up a community group.
I don’t miss putting on my uniform and doing a nursing job in a hospital but I do miss helping people so I got my nursing pin number reinstated so I could start vaccinating in my “spare time”. I’m doing my bit, but it’s not made me think I want to return to nursing.
You were recently shortlisted for an award, how did you feel about that?
I was absolutely shocked when I found out I’d been shortlisted for Accountancy Personality of the Year, and it’s taken a while to sink in. I’m rather embarrassed about the whole thing but to get good PR for your business, you have to put yourself forward for things like this. I thought that if there’s ever been a year that I’ve done something a bit different, it would have been this year.
You’ve made a huge success out of changing direction, what advice would you give to people in unrelated professions who want to move to bookkeeping?
In every job there are transferrable skills. People have said to me that all that nursing training is wasted, but it’s not, I’ve learnt so much from nursing that I use in day-to-day life as a bookkeeper. It’s definitely doable.