Starting out - no clients!

luckylorna Registered Posts: 2 New contributor 🐸
Hello everyone. In July this year, I reinstated my AAT membership, then obtained my MIP licence. I paid quite a lot of money towards my membership fees, licence, insurance etc..then advertising my services. I am in the AAT's MIP driectory, a local advertising booklet which gets delivered with the Royal Mail, and many small advertising directories on the internet, as well as, I purchased an answer machine, SAGE software, had business cards made up which I handed out to friends/family (to pass on), and write to local businesses, then
I was so optimistic, as I am extremely keen to start working for myself, doing something that I love. I currently work part-time in a Management Accounts position, and was hoping to build up a small business around my part-time job, and my two young children, for example, quarterly VAT returns, small business accounts, etc.
I currently look after the books for my family's business, and do family's tax returns, and gain much enjoyment from it.
My aim was to start small, then expand my business over a few years, so I can give up my part-time job. By that time my children would be at school, so I could work from home.
So far, apart from family, I have had just one person contact me about my services, and that was for 6 days work to help the client catch up with some inputting.
I have had the "promise" of work from friends and "friends of friends" who run their own businesses, but due to the recession, they are struggling for work themselves, and have enough time on their hands to do their books, and can not afford to pay anyone.
I am starting to worry how I afford next years membership and licence fees, as my part-time job pays for food, bills etc, and I was really hoping to earn enough money self-employed to pay for fees/more advertising etc.
It is a vicious circle, as I would like to attend AAT seminars/workshops, but again, I cant afford to pay for them at the moment.
I am also thinking - is it worth it??? If I renew my licence, I could face another year of no business.
I dont know if it is the area I live in, or the economic climate, or whether I am doing something wrong, but it seems like no one really wants a bookkeeper in the town/area I live.
I would really welcome some advice as to how other people got started, and if they too experienced a similar thing to me.
I am also starting to wonder whether AAT will grant me my licence with no clients/experience. Everything seems such a vicious circle. I am bitterly disappointed, confused, wondering if it has all been worth it. Advice very much needed and appreciated.
Regards, Lorna


  • Jon_1984
    Jon_1984 Registered Posts: 186 πŸŽ† 🐘 πŸŽ†
    Hi Lorna

    No direct experience to share (I work in industry) but we occasionally see AAT's/CIMA's etc. going door to door on the industrial estate we work on dropping in CV's and a quick introduction to try and gather some business up. I would suggest trying the smaller estatess made up of 4 or 5 units in converted barns that house smaller businesses etc.

    It is a hard time out there but many SME's are still in business - good luck.

  • T.C.
    T.C. Registered, Tutor Posts: 1,448
    When I started out (about 12 years ago) most of my work came from word-of-mouth. I also found that alot of work came from "the ad in the shop window". This was a good way to get local clients. I don't take on many new clients now, but the ones that come to be tend to be friends of existing clients. When you do get more clients, and you will, keep your prices sensible, do a good job and you will be surprised, work will come in steadily. Whereabouts are you based? That also makes a difference.
  • burg
    burg Moderator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    I set up my business in 2006 doing some part time bookkeeping (around my job) for a local bookkeeping company. This has proved invaluable.

    I did all the Yell adverts etc but have since stopped this as it was poor value for money.

    I gained 2 clients over two years at about Β£1,500 a year for the adverts. Not a great return. I have also gained 1 client from a mail shot, 1 from a parish magazine and 2 from free online adverts.

    I have around 55 clients. Around 35 of these have been from the bookkeeping company I started doing work for at the outset. Everything else is word of mouth.

    Really what I am trying to say is, from my experience, I wouldn't bother with Yell. You can get a far better return on more locally based adverts at more reasonable rates.

    Learn to be passionate about your business and tell everyone about it. The more people you tell the more people there are to recommend you.

    I went full time self employed in June and have gained over 50% of my clients since then.
    People will want to speak to you. They may phone around and get 10 answer phones and think why bother to leave a message/ring back. Either be able to answer calls or have someone to take messages as this can stop people ringing around.

    As has been previously suggested the area you are in can have a reflection on the method(s) to use. Many people have had different experiences but most on here do not advertise with the likes of yell as the return is so low.

  • Vonni
    Vonni Registered Posts: 63 πŸ’« 🐯 πŸ’«
    Hi Lorna

    Don't lose heart you will get there. I advertise in 2 local monthly free trade magazines, booking 6 months block adverts to gain a discount and pay around Β£800 a year. Over a period of 18 months have doubled my client base I provide mobile, landline and email contact details and get all sorts of enquiries - some I cannot take on so I pass them on to my sister who is also a MIP. I then follow up by providing my new clients with an extremely competitive fee and prompt service followed up with around 6 business cards for them to recommend me.

    I agree that advertising with Yell does not appear to be productive. Shop windows can be cheap but not always productive but it's definitely worth trying you would be surprised how many people read them!

    Always have a batch of business cards to hand where-ever you are this has always stood me in good stead - pub, restaurant, on a bus, supermarket car park - you never know who you may bump in to or get talking to.

    Last and not least regularly attend your local AAT branch meetings and network.

    Good Luck
  • Londina
    Londina MAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 814
    Lorna do you have your own website? a page in the major social networking? a Linkedin?

    These kind of online adversiment make you more popular than the usual
  • Louise_Mottram
    Louise_Mottram Registered Posts: 1 New contributor 🐸
    Hi Lorna
    I am in a very similar situation to yourself, although I have not yet begun to set my business up. Could I ask what you have had to do to set up as a MIP?

    Thanks for your help
  • peabrain
    peabrain Registered Posts: 4 New contributor 🐸
    good for you for doing so much, I got my first client by volunteering, they were so pleased they asked to keep me on and offered to pay me. this has led to a few more similar clients. I also got a subby through a friend of a friend (conversation in a pub i think) and this to has branched out.
    I was worried about the costs but remember all membership fees, training etc are allowable business expenses, i anticipate offsetting my first year losses against my PAYE deducted from my p/t job.
    i would just say make sure everyone you know is aware of your services as you never know when someone will mention needing the services you are offering
  • luckylorna
    luckylorna Registered Posts: 2 New contributor 🐸
    Thank you all

    I would just say a big thank you to those who kindly replied to my thread, regarding having no clients.

    I have found your comments very helpful, and I have started "making myself known" a bit more now.

    I also nearly took on a voluntary post as a charity treasurer, but in the end I decided against it, due to not being able to attend meetings on certain days due to my p/t job. However, I feel more optimistic now, and am eagerly waiting for something similar to come up.

    Thanks again

  • shadeofblue
    shadeofblue Registered Posts: 64 πŸ’« 🐯 πŸ’«
    Hi Lorna
    I just wondered if you would share an update with us, have you taken on any clients yet?
    I hope you havent given up on being an MIP. Would love to hear about your progression
    Rachel xx
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