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I have been running my own practice now for just under 19 years. There has been a lot of learning during that time — some about me and some about the business. The good thing is that I can pass on my learnings to you as accountants and bookkeepers to save you time, effort, money and stress.
Tips for managing your business
1. Manage your time.
When I first started working for myself, I didn’t keep a note of all the hours I worked, including travel, so in reality I was working longer hours than I realised. I now keep a track of all my hours worked and I find it very useful.
What I have started to do recently is complete a time log which shows exactly how I’m spending each hour of my working day. This isn’t for billing clients, it’s for me to be able to see how I’m spending my time so I can identify any time wasters or work that I’m doing that I can delegate. The surprising thing I’ve found is the amount of time I spend replying to emails!
Maybe you’re the same? This time management blog has lots of tips to help you create more minutes in your day.
2. Manage your money.
Sometimes it’s easy to neglect our own finances as we’re so busy looking after our clients. I’ve met a few accountants with overdrawn bank accounts in my time! Sometimes all of our energy has been used up helping and advising clients that we run out of steam with our own finances!
Use accounting software so that all of your finances can be kept up to date. You need to review your income and expenditure at least weekly to check that you’re on track and regularly reconcile your bank account.
3. Manage your money mindset.
Just because you’re an accountant/bookkeeper, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ve got a good business head and a positive mindset. It’s worth doing the work and checking in with yourself that you are open to receiving money and making profits.
That’s why I run Money Mindset workshops to help people find peace around money and break free from money troubles for good.
When I first started my practice I got in touch with my governing body, the ACCA and asked them how I should price. They said, “It’s up to you” – not the most useful comment! I’m glad to say they’re more helpful now.
Pricing can be a tricky area as it can push our buttons if we don’t value the service we’re offering. You may find looking at my pricing blog useful.
5. Invoice regularly.
It surprises me greatly that sometimes when I take over a client, the previous accountant has to send their final year end invoice. They are still not billing in advance!
It makes a big difference to both you and your client if you ask for your invoice to be paid monthly. The client knows where they are and it’s good for your cashflow – a win-win situation!
6. Follow up on non-payment.
It’s no good invoicing regularly if you don’t keep on top of these monthly payments. Don’t assume that the client is going to set these up.
7. Get rid of time wasters.
Over the years I have heard so many times about clients who waste your time, either by not giving you the information or paying late. My experience is that it’s easier to get rid of time wasters when you’re more established; when you first set up, you’re glad of any clients!
But you’ll definitely regret it, as I have in the past, if you don’t get rid of time wasters eventually as these types of clients don’t change and they suck up your energy and time.
I’d recommend taking some deep breaths and either emailing or ringing them to say you’re letting them go. It’s not easy but I tell you it’s a relief afterwards!
Review your time log and see if there is anything that you don’t need to do.
Can you delegate any administrative or bookkeeping tasks to free you up to run and grow your business? Again, this is easier when you’re more established as your cashflow is better but what I will say is that it’s essential, otherwise you’ll be run ragged!
9. Take regular breaks.
You’re not superhuman so pace yourself. You can see from your time log that you’re putting the hours in, but you’ll be much more productive and happier if you give yourself permission to stop. Get your holidays in your diary at the beginning of the year so that you don’t become fully booked with work and client meetings. You deserve it!
10. Ask for help.
As well as the administrative and bookkeeping tasks that you can delegate, there will be items on your list that you don’t know how to do. To run your practice successfully you’ll need to have a good website, social media presence and a computer that does what you want it to do. Pass anything over that isn’t your skill set otherwise you’ll be wasting time and energy.
You want good, reliable employees or sub-contractors working for you. Help them and train them to be better — but if it’s not working out then let them go.
Don’t be held back by the people who are supposed to be helping you.
Try and get systems in place so that your practice runs as smoothly as possible. Again, this will be easier as you become more established and can afford to pay for the software.
13. Niche or not.
I deliberately take on clients from all sectors and with all statuses as I like the variety. I recognised this when I was working for Moore Stephens on their French property desk.
I never knew if I was going to be speaking English or French! But you may prefer working with specific groups of clients. In the past I’ve had several Gun smiths on my books, but this wasn’t a deliberate plan on my part.
14. Be authentic.
It’s very easy to think that you have to act in a certain way as an accountant/bookkeeper. I will say that you’ll find it a lot less stressful if you just be yourself. Some clients and colleagues won’t come to you but at least you end up with people who are happy to work with you as a person.
My blog on Knowing Yourself asks some key questions to help you do just that.
Choose the networking groups — either face to face or online — that resonate with you. Attend at least one session before you join so that you can see if you feel comfortable. Also remember this is work so assess whether the financial cost and time spent is worthwhile.
Don’t just keep going because it’s nice to have a chat and a break from the office! You can meet up with people from the group separately; you don’t need to pay a membership to do that!
16. Website and social media.
Think of ways that you’re different from other accountants/bookkeepers and use this on your website and social media. Unless you love this part of your business and you’re good at it, I would definitely say delegate it, otherwise you won’t get the best results and it will be yet another task to fit into your day.
17. Get a coach/mentor
Think about what you want to achieve in your business — set goals. See who is out there successfully doing what you want to and ask if they offer these services. It’s important to check that they’re a good fit for you as you’ll need to be completely honest with them. Trust is crucial!
My blog detailing how a mentor can help you succeed will give you more information.
Make sure your CPD provider does what you want, and they have a website that’s easy to navigate.
I’ve noticed a big difference since joining the 2020 Innovation Group. I can access all the webinars and notes easily, and the staff are accommodating if I have any queries.
19. Know your deadlines.
As an accountant/bookkeeper you have so many deadlines that it can be difficult to keep track of them. Choose a system to automate these deadlines and make your life easier!
Lots to take in and obviously, you’re not going to put these all in place overnight. It’s good to have guidance, though, and have something to aim for! A coach or mentor may be able to help you reach your goals. Good luck!