The benefits of starting your own business

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Imagine being able to work the hours you want and concentrate on the areas you enjoy with the clients you choose.

One of the biggest advantages of going self-employed, or setting up your own business, is the freedom to dictate both your working conditions, and the direction you want your career to take.

Getting started with your own business

While you need relevant experience to qualify as an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper or Accountant, you might be able to set up on your own sooner than you think.

Take Brandon Yeadon, who started studying for his AAT Level 3 qualification just four years ago at the age of 44. He is now running his own limited company, employing two people and meeting the needs of some 150 clients.

“I skipped AAT Level 2 because I already had some basic accountancy knowledge,” Yeadon said. “But while I was aware of the AAT licensing programme, I didn’t necessarily expect to take that route so soon after qualifying.

“However, I was offered a great opportunity by one of the accountants I was working with part time during my studies.

“She was planning to move abroad and offered to spend 18 months working with me to help me get the experience I needed to get my licence and be in a position to run the business when she left. It’s been an incredibly steep learning curve, but also a hugely rewarding experience” he said.

The licences

AAT offers two types of licence for AAT professional members looking to set up a business or provide services on a self-employed basis: AAT Licensed Bookkeeper and AAT Licensed Accountant.

Which licence suits your needs will depend on your qualifications and experience, as well as the services you wish to offer.

If you are keen to start offering services as soon as possible, for example, you can apply for Associate bookkeeping membership, or AATQB status, and become an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper initially – with the option of becoming a full member (MAAT) and applying to be an AAT Licensed Accountant once you have the relevant experience and qualifications under your belt.

It’s one way to start earning money even as you complete your studies, and could also help you get a job, as your initiative is likely to impress prospective employers.

Applying for a licence

Applying to become an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper or Accountant is easy.

The first step is to check out the information online and download the AAT Licensed member application form, then follow the guidance on how to complete the form.

As well as the relevant qualifications, you will have to prove a certain level of experience in each of the areas you want to work.

“While studying with AAT, you learn how things work in an ideal situation,” Yeadon said.

But in reality, things are rarely ideal!

“That’s why you can’t get an AAT licence without being able to demonstrate at least some experience.”

Building your business

Becoming an AAT licence holder does not just give you the right to offer self-employed services. It also gives you access to lots of resources designed to help you develop a successful business.

These include networking opportunities, free helplines, discounted CPD resources and the opportunity to use the AAT licensed member logo on your website and business materials.

So whether you are setting up as a sole trader, or planning to launch a business, there is plenty of support available.

Just remember you will need a wide variety of skills to be successful.

“The qualities you need to run your own accountancy business include good administrative skills, excellent people skills, a thirst for knowledge, and a good head for all the different types of software you need to use,” Yeadon said.

You also need to be prepared to work very hard.

“Working for yourself means you can mould the business around your other commitments,” Yeadon added.

“But it works both ways: you have to be flexible too. When something comes up, you have to be committed enough to be ready to drop everything and deal with it.

In summary: Yeadon’s 5 top tips

  1. Don’t rush into it. Having your own practice is highly rewarding, but the decision to set one up should not be taken lightly.
  2. Be prepared to work long hours. Running your own practice is brutally demanding and requires total dedication and a broad range of skills.
  3. Take advantage of AAT networking and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events and resources.
  4. Find a mentor. I was lucky enough to have two strong mentors, which has been a huge help.
  5. If possible, have the funds in place to support yourself for a year or so while you build up your business.

Take your first step to getting licensed by checking out the Be Your Own Boss support online.

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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