If you’re in the accounting field, you might consider starting your own accounting firm. Taking this step would allow you to separate from your current employer and gain more work flexibility. It could also be more profitable since you’ll be in control of the company’s finances. And you might even get the benefit of managing a growing team of employees.
If you’re considering starting your own accounting firm, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Master your credentials
First, you’ll want to round out your credentials so that prospective clients will take you seriously. If you haven’t already, apply for the CPA exam and become a certified public accountant. Becoming a CPA will build your reputation, help people take you more seriously, and attract more clients. It will also broaden your skillset and help you perform better.
It’s also a good idea to have practical accounting experience under your belt. If you’re fresh out of college, or if you’ve never worked for a company in an accounting capacity, pick up a part-time or full-time job so you can learn the ropes.
Create a business plan
Even if the business idea sounds clear in your head, take the time to write a business plan. This is your opportunity to flesh out your idea and describe various aspects of the business. It will be an indispensable tool as you seek to become competitive in your local market.
In this plan, pay close attention to the following:
- Products and services. What kinds of accounting products and services are you willing to offer? Is there any kind of accounting work you won’t do?
- Target audience. Is your accounting firm primarily focused on companies or individuals? What income level are you hoping to serve? Are you looking at one specific industry, or will you be more of a generalist?
- Competition. What other accounting firms are operating in your area? These are your top competitors; if you want any hope of standing out, you’ll need some way to differentiate yourself. What is it that makes your firm different? Why would someone choose your firm over another?
- Profitability. Next, you’ll need to think about how your business is going to make money. How much are you going to charge for your services? Will you have employees? What will your margins be?
- Growth. How will you grow your business? Are you hoping to stay small or develop into a larger firm? If you’re interested in growth, how will you find new clients? For example, will you invest in marketing and advertising or focus more on referrals and word of mouth?
Develop the brand
With a business plan in place, start developing a brand. If you want the accounting firm to remain small, you can structure the brand around your personal brand. Otherwise, you can come up with a prestigious-sounding name for your business, along with a logo and the rest of your visual identity.
What is your business’s personality like? How is it different from the competition?
Create a digital presence
With a good understanding of the business, you can start creating your online presence.
- Website. Every accounting firm needs to have a website. It serves to build visibility and attract traffic, but more importantly, it allows clients to research you before enlisting your services.
- Social media. You’ll also want to claim profiles for your brand on multiple social media platforms.
- Networking. Don’t forget that you can also build your brand’s presence with the help of networking (including in-person networking). Spread the word of your firm’s existence.
Build a portfolio
Next, put together a portfolio of your background and work. In the early stages of brand development, this can function like a resume, showing off your credentials and experience. Later on, you’ll want to include client reviews and testimonials—as well as a list of clients you’ve served in the past.
Land your first client
If you’re just getting started, your first major hurdle to overcome is landing your first client. After serving a client well, you’ll have a good chance of gaining a referral and growing your business one satisfied client at a time. You’ll also have reviews, testimonials, or case studies to tap into as marketing materials. The trick is to find that all-important first client.
The easiest way to do this is to start professional networking and utilize freelancing platforms. Meet a lot of people and inquire about their accounting needs. Sooner or later, you’ll find someone with accounting needs who’s willing to take a chance on a new firm. You can build momentum from there.
Starting an accounting firm from scratch
Starting an accounting firm from scratch isn’t easy, but it could be a viable and rewarding career path—especially if you’re already passionate about accounting. Be prepared to be adaptable since your initial plans may not work out; as long as you remain responsive and flexible, you can find an approach that works.
Craig Lebrau is the CMO of Media Insider, a Wyoming-based PR company that aims to disrupt the way companies communicate their brand in the digital era.
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