Becoming a self-employed accountant gives you the freedom about when and how you work, as well as who you work for. Setting out on your own is an exciting opportunity, but how do you get started?
We’ll look at how to become a self-employed accountant by looking at the following areas:
- Become a qualified accountant
- Set up your business
- Notify HMRC of your tax status
- Get insured and licenced
- Find some clients
Become a qualified accountant
To become a qualified accountant you should either hold a degree or have gone through a period of training in an authorised accountancy practice. Training with a firm can take between 3-5 years and involves exams through a professional body as well as gaining practical experience with client accounts.
Certain types of accounting work, such as auditing or probate work, might require separate qualifications. Do your research to ensure you are qualified and legally able to carry out this kind of work before you offer it as a service.
After you have your qualifications, you will be able to apply to a professional board for a practising certificate so that you can set up a public practice. Once you have the practising certificate you will be able to use the title Chartered or Certified which can give a more professional look to your services.
There is a range of qualifications and professional bodies you should look into for starting your own practice, such as:
- AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians): the qualifications the AAT offer is the minimum you need to start a general career in accountancy.
- ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants): ACCA qualifications allow you to become a qualified chartered accountant, for a full range of accountancy services.
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
- Association of International Accountants
It’s a legal requirement that anyone providing accountancy services is registered with a recognised supervisory body, such as the ones mentioned above. Your business will be monitored by the body and also you’ll have to comply with their standards.
You should always keep abreast of changes in industry standards and professional regulations too. This includes data protection legislation (as you’ll be keeping information about your clients) and anti-money laundering laws.
Set up your business
Register the business
To take the first step to set up the business, you need to choose your structure. Will you be a sole trader, a limited company?
For accountancy services, a limited company may give off a more professional image, as well as giving you limited liability for any debt associated with running the business. But being a sole trader is a simple structure to manage, with less legal obligations.
Next, choose your business name, and register it with Companies House.
Nowadays, it’s simple to work remotely without having to meet clients face to face, so you could operate from home without an office, with little equipment. Consider if you’ll need to purchase the following items as part of your start-up costs:
- A computer or laptop
- Back-up hard drives
- Accounting software to make life easier for you and your clients, such as Countingup.
- A printer and paper
- Postage costs
- Storage cabinets
- An additional telephone line
You can learn more about how to plan for managing startup costs in this guide.
Notify HMRC of your tax status
If you choose to be a sole trader, you’ll simply need to register as self-employed with HMRC as you’ll be managing your own taxes.
If you have chosen to trade as a limited company, you’ll need to register with HMRC as an employer (as you’ll act as director and employee in the business).
Get insured and licenced
It’s always wise to get insurance for your new accounting business to protect you in case accidents happen. There are various covers you can get as a self-employed accountant, but we recommend you look at:
- Professional indemnity insurance – protects you against claims made by dissatisfied clients if you are accused of professional negligence by making a mistake.
- Public liability insurance – protects you if a member of the public makes a claim if they were injured in dealing with your business or your work caused property damage.
- Business interruption insurance – provides financial assistance for lost revenue if you can’t work in your office because of fire, flooding, or other eventualities. You’ll need separate cover if you are unable to work due to illness or injury.
Superscript offers excellent business insurance cover for affordable prices.
Find some clients
After taking these steps, you’ll be ready to start trading — so now, you need to find clients. A good place to start is to reach out to your existing network of friends, family and acquaintances. These people might need your services themselves or know someone who does, and it’s been found that 92% of customers trust a referral from someone they know.
You’ll also want to create a professional website that potential clients can visit to find out more about you and your business. Websites builders like WordPress or Wix have free templates you can use to create a simple website.
Here are some marketing methods you can use to spread the word about your services:
- Offer vouchers for a free half-hour of your time for referrals or new clients.
- Use digital marketing techniques such as local SEO for finding clientele in your area, and content marketing to show your expertise.
- Use social media, especially LinkedIn to connect with other businesses, potential clients and other accountants to build credibility.
- Attending events in your chosen specialist industry.
- Use offline marketing such as flyers, business cards or newspaper and radio ads.
You can learn more about how to market an accounting business here.
Streamline your new services with Countingup
Countingup also makes it easy to link to client accounts and get instant access to real-time financial data. With the software automating time-consuming tasks like invoice creation and categorising, reconciling bank accounts, and tax estimates, bookkeepers have the ability to get more work done in less time. As a result, you can take on more clients while still maintaining top-standard service offerings.
You can save your practice time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software. It’s built specifically to help you manage your self-employed and sole trader clients.
The app automates time-consuming bookkeeping admin for your clients so they can focus on running their business—and send you accurate, structured data to work from. Countingup’s accounting software is MTD-compatible and full of features for you to efficiently review and manage client accounts with direct access to their real-time organised data. Find out more here.