Earning a degree in accounting gives you the background necessary to launch your own business. Working for yourself requires both discipline and dedication, but if you have that entrepreneurial drive, you can get started on the road to running a successful accounting firm.
Start With a Plan
A business plan is an outline of the structure, purpose, marketability and financial potential of the firm you plan to start. In addition to providing a blueprint for the future, your plan shows potential lenders what you believe your business can achieve. Since you’re likely to need help with startup costs, it’s important to have something concrete that details what the money will be put toward and what kind of returns can be expected. Putting together a solid business plan requires market research, an understanding of industry trends and knowledge of the financial needs of potential clients.
Pick a Niche
Market research reveals details about the target audience for your services and can help you choose whether to offer a broad range of services or focus on a particular specialty. If you do decide to operate within a niche, choose something that’s in demand locally. You might cater to other entrepreneurs, offer tax preparation services for middle class families or provide financial planning for large businesses. Specializing allows you to set yourself apart as an expert in your field and stand out from the competition by providing services that they don’t.
Get Settled In
When you’re first starting out, your house is the most logical and economical place to have an office. Home offices don’t have the overhead of commercial space, and chances are you already own some of the furnishings and technology that you need. If possible, use a room with its own entrance to design a professional office space away from the bustle of the house. Check the local zoning laws to make sure you’re allowed to practice out of your home, and find out what kinds of insurance you need to operate legally.
Use Targeted Marketing
To get the types of clients you want to work with, you have to cater your marketing methods to reach them where they are. Traditional direct mail and newspaper advertising may be beneficial when announcing the initial launch of your firm, but most people these days pay more attention to the Internet than to print ads. If your ideal client is a young professional, busy executive or freelance worker, chances are they’ll use a search engine to find an accountant. Establish a professional website and get your firm listed in local directories so that you appear in their search results.
Make Smart Hiring Decisions
You might not be able to afford employees right from the start, but as your firm takes off, it won’t be long before you need a little help. Look for smart, capable people to handle the tasks necessary to keep the firm going. It’s best to choose employees with skills that can shore up your own personal weak points. Whether you need help with marketing, customer relations or data processing, hire people with a solid background in the areas you don’t feel comfortable handling yourself. Clever, forward-thinking employees can help your firm continue to grow in the long term.
Once your firm is up and running, you’ll find a rhythm and structure that works for you. Set reasonable hours, focus on the types of clients that you are most comfortable working with and make adjustments to your plan as necessary to keep you on the path to success.