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How to Start an Accounting Practice

Even something as devastating and world changing as a global pandemic can have a silver lining. For many, the disruption of their ‘normal’ work life has pushed them much closer to acting on an idea they may have had for a long time but never acted on: starting their own business. This is as true for accountants as anyone else. But, while they might be great with numbers, running a business is something new. How to start an accounting practice? That’s the big issue we are going to take a much closer look at here.

Accountant in office

The Increasing Demand for Accounting Services

Accounting professionals certainly have the financial skills to start their own accounting practice, and the demand is there. Even those who were once reasonably sure of their ability to handle their own accounting needs have had that confidence shaken by the pandemic, and are increasingly turning to accounting professionals to handle their personal and business finances where they might have done things themselves before.

Busy accountant

Working remotely is something else that has become almost the norm in the face of global pandemic restrictions, and not every business intends to ever make a full time return to ‘business as usual’ in a physical office.

This does make starting an accounting practice easier from a logistical point of view. You’ll no longer necessarily have to find physical office space, and you’ll be far less limited in the scope of clients you can serve. You can, for example, serve businesses in London from a home office in Manchester, and if you follow the best practices when answering the challenges posed by the question of how to start an accounting business do very well.

Whether you choose to open a remote accounting practice, a physical accounting business or a combination of both, there are still lots of challenges to meet, especially in the digital era when the demand for accounting services is increasing, so is the competition.

Is Starting an Accounting Firm Really the Right Choice for You?

The stability of a regular income and employer-provided benefits such as retirement plans are the key advantages of working for an accounting firm. Many accountants, on the other hand, resent the constraints of working for someone else:

Employees are focused on completing specific tasks on time, whereas entrepreneurs are engaged in generating a consistent stream of revenue to keep the business healthy.

Employees have little influence on the strategic plans and goals of an accounting business, whereas entrepreneurs define their own goals and choose the right way to achieve them.

Busy accountant
Business Meeting at Cozy Cafe

Employees might receive performance bonuses on occasion, but entrepreneurs can directly profit from their hard work and creativity, which for many makes their work far more satisfying.

Sounds good right? But not everyone is cut out for the life of a small business owner. As an accountant, you’ll have plenty of advantages over others doing so – you understand all the financial aspects of doing so far better for example, as the chances are good that you have already helped others set up their LLC, or advised them on the best fiscal setup to maximize their profits, minimize their losses and stay on the right side of the tax authorities.

But being an entrepreneur comes with its own set of unique challenges. If you want to move ahead with the answer to how to start an accounting firm, it will help to understand the soft skills you’ll need to succeed, which are different to the excellent professional accounting skills you already possess.

Are You Cut Out to Be an Accounting Business Owner?

To be a successful accounting business owner or entrepreneur, as we mentioned, you will undoubtedly require a strong set of basic competencies that will enable you to actually do the work. Despite the fact that many people have similar skills, not all of them are cut out to be business entrepreneurs.

The fact is that successful business people are all very different, even if they essentially work in the same specialty (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs), but there are certain characteristics that they all seem to have in common that anyone starting their accounting business should have or make an effort to develop.

Personal Qualities

The first step is to assess your own personal qualities and establish whether you possess, or will be able to acquire, the attributes of a typical successful entrepreneur’s mindset.

Optimism: An entrepreneur’s ability to think positively and optimistically is essential. This ability to be positive will aid you in navigating the inevitable bumps in the road.

Initiative – Is it possible for you to perceive the “big picture” quickly and solve problems on the spot?

A Strong Desire for Control – Do you enjoy being in command and shouldering responsibilities?

Resilience – Can you pick yourself up and keep going when things go wrong or don’t go according to plan?

In the office
Busy accountant

Interpersonal Skills

When dealing with clients, customers, business contacts, and suppliers as a work from home small company owner, your interpersonal skills will become more crucial than ever. Rather than just being a faceless employee of an accounting practice you will be the face of the business, at least at the beginning, and you’ll need some good interpersonal skill sets, including all the following:

  • The Capacity to Listen — While being able to speak and ‘sell oneself’ is necessary for an accounting business owner, the ability to listen is much more crucial.
  • The Capacity to Appear Trustworthy – Do you believe in treating others with respect, fairness, integrity, and truthfulness while interacting with them? If you want to establish any form of business, you must be viewed as honest, transparent, and trustworthy, but this is especially true in accounting as people will be trusting you with their money!
  • Creative Thinking Skills – You might not think of accountancy as very creative, but you will need to be.  Your creative thinking skills will become more crucial than ever before if you are self-employed, without a manager or a “leader,” and all business choices are yours alone to make, at least in the beginning.

The Ability to See ‘The Big Picture’ — A successful entrepreneur or accounting business owner must be able to look at a problem from a variety of angles and yet come up with unique solutions.

The Ability to ‘Spot a Trend’ — An accounting business owner must be able to expand their ‘reach’ by recognizing trends, opportunities, and ‘gaps in the market’ that they may exploit.

Not everybody who asks how to start an accounting business will have all of these ‘traits,’ but the good news is that if you work hard enough, you can develop them. Need some inspiration? Find out how the founder of the Pearl Lemon Group, Deepak Shukla, started his own businesses via this free resource for would be entrepreneurs.

Accountant calculate the cash bill.

How to Start an Accounting Firm: The Basics

If you have determined that starting an accounting business is something you want to do, the legalities, from a financial standpoint, is something you will already be very familiar with. As we mentioned earlier, this gives you a big advantage over other small business owners, but there are lots more things that will need to be done that you might not be as familiar with. Here we are going to take a step by step look at some of the most important.

Handsome bearded man studying documents at work

Market Research

Before you answer the question of how to start an accounting business by doing just that, you need to have a clear idea  of just who you intend to serve. For a startup accounting firm, competing on price alone is rarely a good idea.

Aside from the fact that there are plenty of competitors, mainly online and sometimes offshore, who will be willing to undercut you however much you charge, the fact is that people have a natural suspicion of those who charge too little for their professional services.

Even if they do not know too much else about accounting, people do know that it takes a lot of work, education and dedication to qualify as an accountant, so if they were really good, why would those who have gone to all that trouble charge so little if they are as good as they claim.

Offering locally specific, or niche accounting services, is one way that startup accounting businesses can differentiate themselves and still charge what their services are worth. To do that now, you’ll need to perform some market research, both to determine if the market for your accounting services is really there, and, if so, the demographics of the people in the market for those services.

There are a number of tools you can make use of to perform basic market research. And usually all the following are market research methodologies experts recommend to startups – including accountancy startups:

  • Surveys – A method of obtaining information from a target audience by questioning them. Because of the variety of possible question types and options, surveys are the most versatile and widely used.
  • Interviews – This type of market research is more intimate, allowing for more in-depth investigation and extensive discussion and explanation.
  • Focus groups – A focus group is a group of people who meet in a room to discuss a specific topic. There’s also an organizer who keeps track of the conversation using the checklist questions and tries to get some insights. Although this is a basic idea, it can be difficult to execute well.
  • Social media listening — Because of the vast amount of information available on social media, this strategy is very beneficial. Because it’s unedited and spontaneous, you can be confident that such information reflects just what a person cares about.

All of this is, of course, time-consuming, but well worth the effort. However, because you will be wearing a lot of hats as a new accountancy practice owner, investing in the services of a good marketing consultant is well worth considering too.

Portrait of happy female accountant sitting at her workplace and laughing.
Photographer Setting Up Website

Your Business' Online Setup

Whether you choose to operate your new accounting business as a remote concern, or will have an office to work from and meet with clients in person, you are going to need to establish a strong web presence from the start.

Although a lot of this will involve marketing (more on that later) the technical foundation for your website is very important. It’s essentially your digital storefront, and will need to appeal to both your prospective clients and the search engine bots who will determine where to place it in a web search for your services, which is, by the way, how over 80% of people now begin their search for accounting services and accountants.

When it comes to the website itself, making use of a web builder service is an option that an increasing number of startup business owners choose as these allow them to get a website up and running reasonably quickly and are often simple enough for the non-technically inclined to manage and update on a day-to-day basis. Some of the best choices you can make include Wix, Squarespace, and, if you are willing to put in a little more work, WordPress.

These web builders help a lot, but you will still need to put in quite a bit of work. You need to ensure that you’ll be found in those web searches, so you’ll need to undertake keyword research to figure out just what terms your target audience is using to find the services you are offering, and then ensure that you add content that makes proper use of them.

Web designer working on website

Accounting Business Website Basics

The days of your website serving solely as a digital brochure for your business are long gone. Many occupations can now be found on a website, including:

Businesswoman Standing And Leading Office Meeting Around Table

Get found – To help you get found online, your website should be search engine optimized.

Build trust – Your website is an important part of establishing trust. When someone visits your accounting firm website, it must validate their problems. Your website must perform in the way that your prospective clients require and expect, in terms of things like speed and security.

Educate – Your website should instruct visitors on how to identify their difficulties and obstacles.

Inform – Once someone has found you and has placed their trust in you, you must inform them about how you can help them overcome their difficulties.

Nurture – Before making a purchase, individuals may need to return to your website several times. To nurture them through to the sale, get their email address and continue to generate great content that is appropriate to their stage in the customer journey. Subscribing to a newsletter, phoning you, or making a purchase on your website are all examples of conversions.

In today’s world, your customer’s journey begins with online research. People are making their own decisions about whether they want to buy from you before you even realize it. You need to establish a presence during these early stages of research, and accomplishing each of the tasks listed above will assist you in doing so.

Make Sure Your Website Tells a Story

The fundamental purpose of your website should be to be able to tell a story right away. What you can miss when it comes to website storytelling is that the tale isn’t about you. The tale has to be the same one that your customers and prospects are telling themselves. They must recognize themselves in the story, which begins with their difficulties, problems, and issues that they are unable to resolve. You need to show your website visitors right away that you understand their concerns and that there’s a strong possibility you can help them solve them.

Create a Guided Website Journey

Your website should walk your visitors through the buying process and assist them determine how to proceed. You don’t have to cover everything on your homepage, but you should assist the visitor in taking the next step. Consider what you’d like your visitors to do when they arrive at your homepage. What actions and next steps should they take in order to discover the answers they seek?

When it comes to navigating visitors around your website, design is a natural consideration, but keep in mind that SEO, content, and strategy must all be implemented simultaneously. Many people believe that, rather than the other way around, web design should revolve around SEO.

The homepage is frequently where a visitor’s initial impression of your website is formed. These days, long, scrolling websites are expected, so consider your homepage elements as a journey. Don’t try to jam everything above the fold; instead, allow users to scroll down.

Consider incorporating the aspects listed below to help your new accounting business offer browsers a journey that is more likely to lead them where you want them to go: hiring you as their accountant.

Vertical shot of professional web designer prepares new sketch on laptop computer, wears casual clot
Office meeting and discussions

The Initial Promise

The objective of the promise headline, which appears above the fold on your webpage, is to demonstrate to the visitor that you understand their problems. You must create a promise to them that will solve their problems.

Calls to Action

A call to action (CTA) is a visual or text message that encourages visitors, leads, or customers to do a certain action. CTAs assist customers in navigating the customer journey and advising them on next steps.

You can use a prompt to request more information, book a consultation, or receive a free report as your call to action. Make sure it’s relevant and useful – while the days of people blindly signing up to receive emails from you are gone, people still want to be directed to beneficial activities and resources that will help them solve their problems in return for the contact information they now know to be very valuable.

Trust Elements

On your accounting firm homepage, you should feature things that generate trust, such as logos of current customers or testimonials for your visitors to read. Do you have any accolades or reviews you’d like your viewers to see? Place them on the homepage to make them easier to find.

For many accounting practices, this is nearly a content category because reviews, case studies, and testimonials should all be part of your continuing content creation efforts, but once you have them, use them to establish trust and social proof.

Asking web designer to add design elements for presentation
Smiling Indian Writer Using Laptop Computer, Sitting At Desk In Home Office

Constant Content

Having often updated material from your website on your homepage is a smart idea. Place a current activity blog or social feed on the homepage, for example. It’s a terrific method to show your firm is active while also keeping the homepage information fresh.

Also worth considering? In exchange for an email address or a lead, people can get premium content through a content upgrade. This is a crucial component of your website’s conversion. If people download the content, it indicates that they are interested in what you do. Take advantage of this opportunity to provide them with additional good information in the future so that you can nurture them all the way to the sale.

The idea is to make the upgrade, such as a checklist or eBook, particularly relevant to the blog post or content in which it appears. You can then nurture them via an email campaign or something similar (find out more about that by following Deepak’s example here)

Essential Services

Create boxes that display your primary services and fill them with roughly 100 words of content apiece. You’ll probably have complete pages or parts of your site dedicated to each of these main accounting services, but by displaying them on your homepage with descriptive content, you’ll gain some additional SEO value as well as catch your human visitors’ attention.

These are just the basics of website creation for accounting businesses. Along the way, as your business grows, you’ll need to learn more – and working with an expert may help – but to get started these are all solid strategies.

Asking web designer to add design elements for presentation
Choosing marketing strategies at meeting

Marketing Your New Accounting Firm

Any business needs to market itself, and, for the most part these days, that marketing will be primarily online. However, for a small business owner, like someone who has taken on the challenge of how to start an accounting business, finding the time to do so can be hard, given that you are also responsible, at least at first, for almost every other aspect of the business too.

Working with a digital marketing agency is something small business owners often opt for, but if your initial budget does not allow for this you can get started with the following basics, and then consider enlisting extra help as your business begins to grow.

It can be overwhelming to do everything on your own, especially with so many social media strategies, advertising networks, and internet marketing tools. However, if you want to save money and try your hand at DIY digital marketing for your accounting business, here are some suggestions. ‍

Begin by changing the way you talk about your company.

Is your message received well when you talk about your company and what you do, or does it elicit quiet and awkwardness? Or boredom? Even if you don’t have the funds for branding or video production, you should prepare an elevator pitch.

In less than 8 seconds, a compelling elevator pitch captures someone’s attention by starting with an inventive tale or anecdote and then moving on to how your product or service solves the problem.

‍Improve Your Search Engine Optimization

‍Many business owners overlook their website as a marketing tool because they don’t know how to change a page or what content they require for SEO. As a new accounting business owner, this simply means that you must overcome a challenge.

You’ll need to learn how to conduct keyword research and develop content for your website, but once you do, updating your website content will just take time.

Earn Some Buzz

Earned media occurs when your new accountant firm receives free publicity from the news, blogs, or other content creators simply because it is doing something exceptional. This was taken a step further by one website. ‍ You can contribute news tips and stories to Help a Reporter Out. If your organization has done something noteworthy, all the more motivation to speak with a reporter and give them something to write about. ‍

For accountants, hitting HARO around tax time is almost a no-brainer, but as finances are so complex, and people do worry about them all the time, there are usually lots of requests for the advice of an accounting professional, and if you offer yours it will be both great marketing and an excellent way to better establish yourself as a trusted, knowledgeable professional.

Adult man with a phone in her hands, remote work, office, small business, office culture
Businessman explaining company strategy to entrepreneur working at marketing project

Create an Email Marketing List

‍Email marketing is another low-cost option compared to pay-per-click campaigns and even targeted advertising. It does, however, necessitate some special skills.

An opt-in form strategically placed on the front page of a website is the most common way that websites do this. Other websites provide a sign-up form at the bottom of the page, and exit pop-ups with sign-up forms capture email addresses.

Whether they’re visiting your website, it’s critical to ask visitors and prospective clients for their email addresses. You’ll need this email address to send marketing communications directly to their inbox once you have it. Because most individuals check their email on their phones, do email marketing right and it’s almost as if you’re chatting to your consumer directly.

Email marketing makes it easy to communicate with your audience, and there are even more techniques for beautifying your emails so that they are responsive on all devices and lead to sales-generating clicks.

Let’s Talk Accountancy.

Get in touch today, so we can discuss your accountancy needs,
your business, your hopes for the future and
just how Pearl Lemon Accountants can help you.