Can I be a Self Employed Bookkeeper?

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There's a myth doing the rounds.  If you're a great bookkeeper you will have a great bookkeeping practice.

It's the rock that many a good bookkeeper can perish on.  Just because you're an amazing bookkeeper, doesn't mean you can have an amazing bookkeeping business. 

The reverse also holds true, just because you're not an amazing bookkeeper doesn't mean you wont have an amazing bookkeeping business. 

You do need to have the skills and confidence to complete any work that you undertake.  I'm not suggesting you can rock up without any experience or qualifications, but you don't need to be amazing.

Running a bookkeeping practice requires so much more than just being able to do the work.  

Unless you can market yourself effectively, there'll be no work to do.  If you can't price your services properly, you won't be in business long.  If you can't set goals your business will end up going round in circles and dying a slow, painful death.

Before you start your practice, think about the skills you really need and whether you have them, or can build them.

Here's the reality of running a bookkeeping practice.

Personal sacrifice

You’ll probably not have as much free time as you once did.  The business will consume much of your time when you’re working on it, and your thoughts when you’re not. 

Sometimes it can be difficult to be fully present with family and friends when you’re trying to start or grow your practice.  When you're not working in the business, you're thinking about it.

Financial insecurity

Many people think that they can start a bookkeeping practice on a shoestring budget.  While it may not take as much money as other businesses, you will need money.

Marketing, software, computers, website etc.  They all cost. The more financially stable you are, the easier it will be to get off the ground. 

Much of your income will need to be reinvested to grow the practice.  Spare cash won't be filling your pockets, for a while anyway.

Loss of company perks 

Paid holidays, company cars, pensions, sickness benefits.  These will all be a thing of the past when you become self employed. No one will pay you when you’re sick, or on holiday any longer.  You will need to prepare for this in advance and ensure that your finances can cope.

Pressure on close relationships 

Starting out is stressful.  That stress can carry over into your personal relationships. Unless they have taken a similar path, your family and friends probably won’t understand that stress. 

You may even have to fend off helpful suggestions to just go back to a ‘real’ job.  Even just checking emails in family time, or replying to a Facebook post about work can lead to frustration.

Isolation 

The buck stops with you.  Even when you have staff, they’ll not share that burden that you alone will carry.  The stress of finding clients, doing the work and growing the business. 

Add to this the pressure of trying to achieve a previous salary, whether real or self imposed, and it can be enough to rock even the most grounded person.

This post is not intended to put you off starting a bookkeeping practice.  It can be an incredibly rewarding, and lucrative business.  If you decide to take this path, though, do it with your eyes open.

I'd love to hear the experiences of bookkeepers who are running a practice.  How was it for you at the beginning?  How many of these challenges did you experience?  Did you expect them?

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