Start A Bookkeeping Service Part 2

In part 1 we talked about starting a bookkeeping business working from home. In part 2, we talk about exactly how to set that up.

You can choose to be self-employed or set up a company. This is a simple decision. Self-employment is the way. The reason is that you will not have to pay tax until much later. That is really important when you are starting a new business. Cash is king as they say. Whilst you build up your client list, you need to conserve as much money as possible. If you were to form a company, any money you pay yourself in remuneration you will need to pay tax on there and then.

Another consideration is why you would want a limited company. If you were a retailer or someone supplying and selling other people’s goods, then a limited company is probably vital. You will be buying these goods on credit, hoping to sell them to make a profit. If, for some reason, the goods do not sell (maybe a competitor our prices you or a better product comes along) you may have to sell them at a loss. You could end up losing not just money, but your house! If you are self-employed, that is exactly the situation you do not want. Whereas selling a service such as bookkeeping, involves mostly your time.

The next thing you need to consider is your trading name. You have two choices here:

1. Use your real name

2. Make up a name

Both have pros and cons. Using your real name will invoke trust. You are displaying a degree of confidence in that you are happy to be exactly who you are. On the other hand, creating a trading name will let you advertise what you do. For example, ‘ABC Bookkeeping Services’. However, the best way is to combine both concepts. If your name was June Smith, then name your business June Smith Bookkeeping Services. Perfect. You are saying who you are and what you do in one go.

Do you need a logo. The simple answer is NO. Don’t waste your money. Your logo will be meaningless to most people unless you have a huge marketing budget, and even then you would be wiser to spend that budget on selling your services not your brand. Yes, so many marketing gurus talk about brand being everything, but it is a waste of time, effort and money for something as simple as a bookkeeping service.

So, your name IS your logo. Choose a classic font everytime you use it and people will remember you. Do not use any fancy fonts. It must be legible and clear. That is all you need to know about logos.

Now, what for most people, is the hardest part of all. Getting customers! It is the same problem for everyone. Where are your customers? Well I can tell you exactly where they are: everywhere! The fastest route is to contact all your local accountants. More and more businesses are starting. There is almost an exponential  growth going on. In these recessionary times, people (like yourself remember) are thinking about an alternative to the 9-5 job. And what is the first thing they need to do? Ask questions, get advice and maybe get some training. Part of the group of people supplying those services are, you guessed it, accountants.

Open a spreadsheet (or a notebook) and start with the Yellow pages. Enter the contact details of all your local accountants. You could also include bookkeepers. They may be in competition with you, but if they are overstretched, it may just help you get started. You may have to accept slightly less money, but it will get you on the road to success.

First off, write an introductory letter. I have found in business one of the most powerful words is ‘introduce’. Your first sentence should say something like: ‘I would like to introduce myself to you. I am June Smith, and offer a local bookkeeping service to accountants’. For this marketing letter, the accountants are your target market, not their clients. You do not need to say too much, certainly do not mention pricing, but say you would be happy to arrange a visit to talk about the posisbility of working with them. End with a call to action, such as ‘I will telephone your office in a few days to arrange an appointment if that is OK with you’.

Now, there is one more vital thing. Experience. Do you have any. If you have years of experience, say so, eg. ‘I have 20 years bookkeeping experience to TB’ – feel free to use abbreviations like TB for Trial Balance, you are speaking your target markets’ langauge.

What if you have no experience. No problem, you will have taken some bookkeeping course and have a qualification right? (if not, do it, you will find it much harder otherwise). So now the line is ‘I am a fully qualified bookkeeper to level 3 and a registered member of <insert some bookkeeping association here>’. That should do the trick. If you have experience and qualifications shout about both of them. Anything that can add trust will win you clients.

Send your letter. After a day or two (do not leave it too long) if you have heard nothing back, telephone your list. Persistence is everything. When you phone, ask them about their business. Don’t talk about your own unless they ask. Make them feel you care. Ask them what problems they have with bookkeeping. If they give you any indication of a problem, jump on it and say you can help them.

Follow these steps methodically and you will start to build your client list.

In part 3 we will talk about going direct to clients. Far more lucrative, but requires more effort, as you would expect of any business.