The range of services you decide to offer your clients will depend on:
- your own training, expertise and interests
- how many skilled staff you employ, and what they are qualified to do
- the nature of your clients - private individuals will require a different range of services to businesses
- the size of your clients - generally small businesses require a more basic range of services than large concerns
Many accountancy firms find that much of their workload consists of preparing accounts. They may also undertake a certain amount of audit work and offer taxation services to both private and business clients. You might also decide to offer services such as:
- business services including payroll, book-keeping and VAT
- investment business
- general business advice and support - including advising businesses on the requirements of pension auto-enrolment for their employees
Audit, insolvency, probate services and investment business are all reserved areas and you must make sure you are properly authorised to handle such work.
It is likely that you will make contact with specialist consultants such as tax and VAT experts so that you can offer your clients a 'one-stop' service without having to do all the work yourself. Try to establish who has a good reputation locally and how much they charge.
You might decide to outsource some routine work so you can spend more time providing higher value services for which you can charge more.
Making Tax Digital
The introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) by HMRC will mean that businesses will have to keep digital business records and submit quarterly returns to HMRC based on those records.
From April 2019 MTD will apply for VAT purposes only to any business with a turnover above the VAT threshold. Once the system has been shown to be working well, the scope of MTD will be widened beyond VAT, although this won't be before 2020.
The increased record keeping burden imposed on businesses as a result of MTD may provide opportunities for accountants to offer bookkeeping services more widely so that business owners can get on with what they do best - running their business - and leave the burden of the MTD record keeping to their accountant.
In any case, you will have to familiarise yourself with the requirements of MTD and make sure that you are able to use the necessary software packages that your clients decide to install.
The right image
It is important that your business premises projects the right image if your clients will be coming in to see you. (Some accountants prefer to visit their clients in their business premises or homes instead of in the office.) Although you do not have to spend a fortune it makes sense to make sure that all public areas and your meeting rooms are smartly furnished, clean and tidy. It is also important to provide a pleasant working environment for your staff - make sure that rest areas and toilet facilities are well maintained. Your staff are also an advertisement for your practice and will be more prepared to co-operate with requests to be smartly turned out if they feel that you have their interests at heart too.
Of course, if you decide to offer online accountancy services only, your website will be your 'shop window' and you'll need to make sure that it is professionally designed and easy for clients to use.
Advertising your practice
Whatever the nature of your practice, it's vital that your potential clients know about you and the services you offer.
There are a number of things you can do to promote your practice:
- establish relationships with local solicitors, independent financial advisers (IFAs), banks and other professionals to benefit from referrals
- play an active part in your local business community
- contact local accountancy firms if you offer expertise in a particular field
- if you decide to target a certain trade or professional sector, for example, nursing homes, offer to speak to them on a topic of interest when they next have a function
- have leaflets printed advertising your services and send them to any potential clients
- offer your services at a discount to local associations and clubs, or free to local charities
- set up your own website describing what you can offer. Why not include local news items or useful business information
- participate in online business forums
- start a blog to highlight developments in the business world that might affect your clients
- advertise in local directories. The ICAEW, ICAS, Chartered Accountants Ireland and the ACCA all maintain online directories of accountancy practices
- pay for advertising on websites offering online training in business studies
- join LinkedIn so you can keep in touch with other professionals
- sign up to a smartphone app that lists accountancy firms and the services they provide
- use social media like Facebook and Twitter to showcase your accountancy services and get referrals
Don't forget to check that any advertising you propose to do complies with the guidelines of your professional accountancy body.