Claire's Journey Begins

Claire felt an enormous excitement wash over her as she sat at her desk.  This was the first day of the rest of her life.  Having recently been made redundant, Claire decided that the time was right to start her own business.  She had been in finance for a number of years, and with a new baby, bookkeeping seemed like the right choice for her.  She could work from home around little Lucy, and the startup costs were low.

After only a few days, Claire had her first potential client.  It was a friend of a friend, Stuart.  Claire knew that she had to prove herself.  Not just to her potential clients, but to her family and to herself too.

Stuart sat across the desk from Claire with a huge lever arch folder full of papers.  As Claire thumbed through invoice after invoice she was both excited and nervous.  Had she done the right thing?  She had only ever worked in large finance departments and had never dealt with a plumber like Stuart.  Any time Claire had dealt with invoices they had all been filed neatly, not like this.  Some of these looked like they had been on Stuarts van floor for months.

Her thoughts were broken with Stuarts words.  “How much?” he asked.  Claire moved around a little in her chair.  She knew that this had to be a success.  A little research had shown Claire that other local bookkeepers were charging as little as £12 per hour.  Claire really wanted her first client.  “£10 per hour” she replied.

A few days later, Stuart had signed the letter of engagement and given Claire the ID she had asked for.  Claire now had her first client.  The real work could start now.

Meticulously, Claire removed all of the invoices and receipts from the huge lever arch folder, and began to organise them on her desk.  Some were difficult to read having faded in the sunlight of Stuart’s dashboard.  Others seemed to be for family shopping.  She wondered if she had bitten off more than she could chew.  This was going to take forever.

Hours passed and Claire finally had the papers in an order that she could work with them.  She felt a satisfaction with the work she had done so far, but knew that it was nowhere near complete.  She spent the next day inputting the data from the paperwork into her new computer.  One by one she entered the figures.  By the end of the day she was left with just a few invoices that she had to ask Stuart about.

Claire couldn’t believe that she was finally getting there.  She had her first client, and things were going well.  She had worked more hours than she had expected, but it was worth it.  She was working for herself and her family now.

The next day Claire spent going through pages and pages of bank statements.  She knew that it was part of her job to reconcile it, but she didn’t know where to start.  There were payments for McDonalds and Pizzahut.  The supplier payments never matched the invoices.  And what were all these cash withdrawals.  Surely if she asked too many questions then Stuart was sure to think that she didn’t know what she was doing.  What a mess!

Finally, a week later and Claire was finished.  She had tackled her first client’s books and she had won.  Victorious, Claire started to add up her timesheet.  56 Hours!  She couldn’t bill Stuart for all that. “Of course” she said to herself, “he’s my first client, it was always going to take me longer.”  She decided that rather than have that awkward conversation with Stuart, she would bill him for just half of those hours.  A better bookkeepers would have done a quicker job anyway.  She had a client, losing a few hours didn’t really matter.  Did it?

I wonder just how many of you can relate to Claire?  Leave a comment below.

6 comments

It's inevitable that you will under quote the first job, no matter what pricing method you use. There's no prior history or experience to rely on. One thing I've learnt is that you can take the initiative in year 2. Give Stuart 3 different coloured box files - red for expense invoices/statements, blue for sales invoices/quotes, and black for bank items, and other stuff he doesn't want to read, such as HMRC correspondence or public liability documents. Tell him to empty his life into these boxes daily, and the cost will be £1 a day, as mate's rates can't extend into a second year. But if he insists on keeping his records as sun tanned coffee mats, then the bill will be the time sheeted cost to sort out - probably double. Guess you can call this dual pricing of sorts; client either opts in or out. By checking the boxes after quarter 1 you will know where you stand.
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I definitely can relate to Claire's experiences, I'm yet to secure a client. It's like a roller coaster ride, your chuffed you could have a potential client then it hits you.... Where on earth do you start! I had to let a client go as he wanted a years worth of Bookkeeping brought right up to date for his self assessment in Jan. He said that normly he would scan all the receipts in Dec (once he found them!) to his accountant £450 later it's all done for him. I could not compete with his accountant at such a late stage, well that's how I felt. Maybe I should of accepted the job, but it just didn't sit well with me instead I offered my bookkeeping services for next year on a monthly basis, we'll have to see what happens there. Well done Claire, I just hope when my turn comes around I'll be able to come out the other side just as you have!
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Yes I too can relate. Same situation as Emma too, no clients as yet as just starting out. Hoping and crossing fingers and toes I have my pricing right - reading all the advice I can get and hoping I've gone the right direction - time will tell!
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I also had a similar situation. My first client gave me six months worth of invoices, bills & statements to sort out. We had agreed a monthly fee for the on-going work and an hourly rate for the initial work. Like Emma, the initial work took a bit longer than planned, and I only billed for about half of my time.
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My first client experience was very similar. The doubts over how much to charge. Recording hours. I felt guilty invoicing my first client as I enjoyed the experience too much to class it as work. I spent some time revisiting my training material and learning some new excel skills whilst carrying out the job. I knocked these hours off the job. Eventually I invoiced for what I thought was a fair amount. My client was thrilled as I charged only a third of what he paid a chartered accountant the previous year. So grateful was I that he took a chance on me that three sets of subsequent accounts down the line, I am still charging him the same amount.
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