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What steps do I need to take to become a self-employed accountant?

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Self-employed accountants typically earn £52,000. Perhaps more importantly, 90% are satisfied with their jobs and work/life balance. These findings from the AAT Salary Survey 2021 show that becoming a freelance accountant has the potential to be a very rewarding move.

But whether you’re an experienced accountant ready to go it alone, or considering retraining as an accountant to launch a new freelance career, where do you start? We’ve gathered some answers to help you on your way.

Want to change career to freelance accountancy? Get the right qualifications

If you’re not already in the profession, you’ll need to get qualified. Kickstarting your freelance accountancy career is easier than you may think.

Kaplan has been helping people train for success for over 70 years, and we can offer you a choice of routes into accountancy. We provide training for all levels, and have four study methods to suit your lifestyle: OnDemand, Classroom, Live Online, and Distance Learning.

The minimum recognised qualification in the UK is AAT. You don’t need any previous qualifications or accountancy experience to begin. Once you’ve gained your AAT Level 4 you’ll be able to offer your services as an accountant.

Already have some accounting skills? The more you learn, the more you can earn

From this stage, it’s worth developing your skills further. With Kaplan, you can progress through the qualification levels with ACCA, CIMA, or ACA ICAEW. That way, you can provide a broader range of accountancy services from bookkeeping through to payroll, tax and audits, as well as advising clients how to improve their business’s finances.

You’ll need practical experience

Alongside your qualifications, you’ll need relevant on-the-job experience. Prospective clients will want to know you can deliver what you’re promising, so it’s essential to have practical skills to back up your knowledge.

If you can highlight your hands-on accountancy credentials from a previous role, great! But if you’re just starting your journey, it can be hard to get paid work before you’re qualified. Look into part-time roles, internships or volunteer work in a finance department to gain a practical understanding of accountancy systems and methods.

Or how about an accounting apprenticeship? Apprenticeships aren’t just for school leavers. You can have a degree or been working for years and still start an apprenticeship. Whether you’re brand new to accounting or have some experience, an apprenticeship lets you gain on-the-job knowhow, while simultaneously studying for your professional qualification. If you’re aged 16 or over, live in England, and not already in full time education, it’s a great way to gain more accounting experience.

Don’t overlook the legal side

When you start working for yourself, you’ll need to set up as self-employed. You’ll also need to comply with industry standard guidelines and legal requirements before you can offer accountancy services.

These include anti-money laundering regulations, registering with HMRC for your agent services account, and being registered with and monitored by a recognised supervisory authority such as AAT, ACCA, CIMA or ICAEW.

You must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office as you’ll be holding personal data on your clients. And as even the most established firms can make mistakes, you’ll need Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect you against claims for professional negligence.

Attract more clients

When it comes to freelancing, the internet is your best friend. You’ve probably created a website, but is it working hard enough for you? As well as your contact details and information on the services you offer, include testimonials from clients and former colleagues.

Join accountancy forums to raise your profile and connect with fellow professionals – they’ll be a source of advice and might pass on clients they’re too busy to handle.

Above all, start networking with other firms in your area. Local business owners often support each other and use each other’s services. Find out about business groups near you. Or join a co-working space where you’ll meet others who might need your services.

Then sell them more services

It’s often easier to increase the revenue from existing clients than to find new ones. Once you’ve proven your worth by doing a good job in one area, offer to bring your expertise to something else.

So if you’ve balanced their books by keeping track of revenue and expenses, offer to advise them on strategic business decisions. You could project profit margin increases and investment returns. Or pitch them on tax planning.

There are a lot of options. And the more qualifications you gain, the more services you’ll be able to offer. So keep progressing through your qualification levels to expand your earning potential.

Take your first steps to freelance accounting

Becoming a self-employed accountant has a lot going for it. As well as the flexibility and freedom, you could enjoy more variety in your work. It’s a choice that could suit you if you’re seeking a new direction, or simply want to use your skills to be your own boss.

Your qualifications, portfolio of work and your reputation will be your calling card. Concentrate on building them and you’ll be on the path to a successful freelance accountancy career.

Ready to take your first steps to being a freelance accountant?

Explore the popular accounting qualifications to get started or progress to the next level.