How I went from AAT student to company director in 1 year

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Being your own boss, working when you want, and not being a faceless minion, is something many people dream about. Samuel Harrison MAAT AATQB did it in 1 year; we found out how.

Samuel Harrison, Director of SH Accounting Solutions, went straight from being an AAT student to launching his own business. The main step in between was applying for his MAAT status to become an AAT Licensed Accountant.

The best thing about running his own business, says Harrison, is that he calls the shots and works whenever he needs and wants to.

“But the worst thing is that you have to make all of the important decisions and, if you’re anything like me, I sometimes worry I’ve made the wrong decision somewhere,” he adds.

Harrison says he knew from a very early age what he wanted to do. “I was always good at maths at school and my uncle was an accountant,” he says. “He showed me the ropes and then I got some work experience at a local accountancy practice.”

He was working as a supervisor at Sports Direct when he started studying AAT in 2010, at the age of 20. Within three years he’d passed his level 2 and 3.

“I then took a couple of years break from studying; working hard and gaining experience in an accounting practice,” he says. He resumed his studies, level 4, in 2016 and finished in 2017.

Read more about the courses available from AAT.

Making the leap

In February last year, Harrison took the leap and set up on his own practice.

“I saw a few emails from AAT about the Be Your Own Boss event and signed up to the course,” he notes.

He did, however, have a few reservations.

“I suppose the main thing everyone thinks about when setting up on your own is that you have to pay the bills and if you have no clients, you don’t have enough money to live,” he says. “I started self-employment as something of a side-hustle, while working at an accountancy practice and gaining further experience.”

Read more on what you need to do before going self-employed.

Harrison found that the event gave him a few helpful pointers and practical tips on everything he needed to get his business up and running.

Starting out as the boss

“I gained my first few clients through reaching out to friends who had businesses, to see if they needed an accountant,” he says. “I used social media as well.”

After Harrison completed the Professional Diploma in Accounting, he applied to become an AAT Licensed Accountant. Applying is simple and you’ll receive help and support from AAT to help you run your business and ensure you’re compliant.

“The biggest advantage of having a licence with AAT is that you’re recognised as a licensed accountant with one of the biggest accounting professional bodies in the UK,” he says.

“It took me around eight years in total to get my licence but I did take several years out when gaining experience at an accounting firm.”

Thinking of becoming self-employed?

Harrison, who now has over 60 clients in the IT, construction, photography and advertising industries, says he would advise any other students thinking about launching their own business to get some work experience first.

“If you haven’t had any experience working in a practice, I’d recommend maybe working at least a day a week,” he advises. “If you’re an AAT student, I’d also recommend the Be Your Own Boss events or webinarsto get an idea of what’s required when planning to start a business.”

AAT runs a wide range of events on a regular basis, and the Be your own boss events specifically focus on how to set up your own practice, providing you with tools and guidance to hit the ground running.

In summary

Running your own accountancy practice may seem like a distant goal, but when you break it down into manageable steps, you can make it happen sooner than you think. It started for Samuel Harrison with an AAT Be your own boss event, which laid out the steps towards self-employment. He transitioned slowly, keeping his full-time job alongside his new start-up until he was financially ready.

He now has over 60 clients. And as an AAT Licensed Accountant, Harrison has access to 18 AAT services from bookkeeping through to payroll, corporation tax, internal audit and forensic accounting.

If you’re an AAT student wondering how to take things to the next level, we’re here for you. Get in touch about becoming a licensed member and running your own business today.

Further reading on starting your own business:

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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