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Where AAT can take you: Becoming self-employed

AAT Licensed Accountant Will Blower got his start as an apprentice before taking the plunge into self-employment. After launching in 2020, his growing firm, Realise Finance, now provides accounting services to over 100 clients.

Will Blower launched his accounting firm, Realise Finance, when he was just 22 years old – and when the UK was in the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The AAT Licensed Accountant took the plunge into self-employment in July 2020 and has since grown his business and taken on a part-time staff member to help with administration work. 

“I thought that clients would need help at that time, so it was a good opportunity for me,” he explains. “I had a handful of clients to begin with and we’re now at over 100 clients. The growth at the start was slow, but the end of last year was massive for us – I think it was a combination of Covid-19 and our reputation getting out there a bit more. I haven’t spent any money on advertising – Google ads or Facebook ads or anything like that. I wanted to develop a good reputation and grow that way.” 

In the first few months after starting his business, Will worked with some other small accounting firms as a subcontractor to ensure he was still earning money, but the Peterborough-based accountant now has enough clients of his own to keep busy. 

Around 85% of Will’s clients are based in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, which enables him to meet his clients face-to-face as often as possible. 

“My selling point is the personal side of accounting and my clients like that. That’s why they’ve come on board,” he says. “We can automate things for them, but I’ll still be the adviser that’s there for them. I want to make sure my clients feel like they’ve got someone to go to and they don’t feel worried about running their business.” 

Flexibility and freedom 

Will has an office space, but often spends time working remotely, from a coffee shop or other meeting space. 

“The best part of the job, for me, is the flexibility and freedom to be able to work anywhere,” he says. “It works really well. Every day is different. One day I could be meeting a client at a coffee shop or going out to visit a client, and on another day I could be in the office doing accounting work or working on the business. It’s really varied.” 

Looking to the future, Will has plans for expansion. 

“We’ve got the capacity to bring on more clients,” he says. “Later on this year, I’d like to bring on an apprentice to do AAT training, and that will give me the opportunity to bring on even more clients. 

“A lot of the time, people move to us because they’re not happy with their accountant – they can’t get hold of them or they don’t reply to them. I want to make sure that I keep that personal touch with my clients. If we had too many clients then there would be a risk that we couldn’t offer that, so that has to be at the core of the business.” 

Starting out 

Will was introduced to AAT through his career coach at school.  “It wasn’t like I always wanted to be an accountant – I actually wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to go to university.”  The option to study and earn money at the same time appealed to Will. 

“I got into accounting through the apprenticeship route,” he says. “I joined a local firm and I got a lot of experience between junior level and partner. That was my first step into accounting.”  After completing his AAT qualifications, Will then moved to an audit/accounts role at another accounting firm, where he was able to take on more responsibility. 

“Right from when I started out in accounting, I’d help out my uncle with his self-assessment, as I was ‘the accountant in the family’,” Will says. “So from that, I thought, ‘you can do it yourself’ and I looked at the steps I’d need to take to go out on my own. I needed to qualify with AAT to have a good regulatory body behind me, so that was my first goal. Qualifying with AAT was a big achievement for me, because it meant that I could do all of this.” 

Getting his AAT licence was a smooth process, he notes, and he felt confident that AAT were there to help with resources and advice if he needed it. 

Having secured his AAT licence, it was onto the “scary part” of making money and establishing his firm and its credibility, Will explains. “I was quitting a nine-to-five accounting job with a salary and I didn’t know how many clients I was going to get. That was definitely the most difficult part of the process.” 

Although he had some income from his subcontracting work, it wasn’t guaranteed and he worked hard to ensure he got his business off the ground. 

“You have to be brave,” Will says. “Put yourself out there. When you work in accountancy, at the start, you’ll be given jobs that can be quite easy and when you complete them you’ll be given more of the same. You have to ask to get more experience with things you aren’t sure of, so you can get a more well-rounded skillset. Put yourself outside your comfort zone because it helps you to grow.”   

Will’s advice 

“When you work in accountancy, you’ll be given jobs that can be quite easy and when you complete them you’ll be given more of the same. You have to ask to get more experience with things you aren’t sure of, so you can get a more well-rounded skillset. Put yourself outside your comfort zone because it helps you to grow.” 

“Later on this year, I’d like to bring on an apprentice to do AAT training, and that will give me the opportunity to bring on even more clients.” 

Further reading:

Hannah Dolan is AAT Comment’s Content Editor.

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