Here is a case study provided by Jane Pole FIAB AIAAP about running her own bookkeeping practice. She also gives advice for anyone looking to become a bookkeeper or start their own practice.

Q: How did your bookkeeping career begin and what made you choose bookkeeping as a career?

As a child I use to pretend I had my own businesses and would write down the costs of service, customer’s details and then add the takings up for each day. I also had one of those old fashioned green phones where I would pretend to take bookings. I’ve always liked numbers. I knew one day that would become a reality.

I decided after taking my bookkeeping qualifications I would open my own business in offering Bookkeeping and Accountancy Services. I was already self-employed as I had ran my own cleaning business which was quite successful. I decided while I ran the cleaning company I would fulfil my dream of being a bookkeeper and maybe one day qualify as an accountant. I decided to close the cleaning business and start my career in accounts. The first year was especially hard as you have to find the clients and keep them. The one thing I found especially difficult was getting clients to pay you. I did not mind chasing but the relentless excuses made having a life difficult so I applied for part time positions so I could have a combination of being paid a regular salary each month and my income from being self-employed.

That plan did not work as I was offered full time work and I accepted this. I still ran my bookkeeping business but not on the scale it was originally on. I do have more clients but mainly sole traders and very small businesses which is manageable around my full time job. I really enjoy my job and the bookkeeping business is something I enjoy doing so it never feels like I am doing work.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacle in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle is managing the two together and being able to support my clients as much as possible without my full time position taking over. It’s all about finding the right balance and making sure when taking on a new client you can fulfil what they need from you. I have had to say no to potential new clients because it’s all about time and whether you can be there for when they need you.

My current full time role is working for a company that sells kitchens, bedrooms and appliances. I am the only one in the accounts department so I undertake everything from payroll, VAT returns, accounts preparation to trial balance, sales invoicing, purchase ledger, sales ledger, asset management, bank reconciliation, order placing (Shopify Software), basically everything using Sage and Brightpay software. I am also the go between for employees and the directors so am always on hand to sort any issues. It’s a very intense stressful role but one I undertake because I like being in control and I believe I can make a difference.

Q: What has been your most significant success, or the moment you’re most proud of (professionally and personally)?

My biggest success is having the confidence and the ability to succeed. It’s not all about being able to do the job – it’s about building relationships and maintaining relationships. People skills are so important as well as having business sense and being willing to adapt to the many situations you find yourself in. I have so many challenges which I’ve overcome by my sheer determination to be the best I can be.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

My plan for the future is to continue my studies. I am currently doing Level 4 AAT and the Level 3 Diploma in Payroll Management. I hope after these qualifications it may propel me to a higher position and the benefits that come with a higher position. I will continue to run my bookkeeping business as this is something I thoroughly enjoy doing.

Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone looking to become a bookkeeper or start their practice?

My advice to anyone thinking of starting a career in bookkeeping is:

Join a professional body that supports you. The IAB have always been there for when I needed them. All the latest information is available, as with bookkeeping and accountancy things are always changing, so be prepared to spend time adjusting to new policies, allowances and changes in legislation. Continuous professional development is so important so always invest in it.

Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from other professionals. Starting out can be an exciting adventure but also daunting so never be afraid to speak up and ask. Build your confidence as this is what clients will want from you. Clients need to feel comfortable and confident in your abilities to do the job so think positive, be confident and stand tall.

Go for it – it is such a rewarding career.

Jane’s practice is called JP Bookkeeping Services – www.facebook.com/JPBookkeepingServices/.