Accounting is a popular and dependable occupation, with plenty of opportunities, as well as the possibility of a long career. However, the business management skills and financial acumen that you acquire in this profession also lend themselves well to managing your own enterprise.
Indeed, many accountants often develop into senior management positions, either as CFOs making the transition to CEOs, or as administrators taking over struggling businesses. Therefore, taking the leap into entrepreneurship is a logical step, especially as you will already possess a wealth of relevant experience and an active network of high-calibre professionals to draw upon.
The key is to understand how you can transfer this knowledge and expertise into a functioning business model. This means identifying a core product or service that you are going to offer clients, and then focusing your energies on generating leads around it.
What Are Some of the Best Small Business Ideas for Accountants?
There are numerous ways to achieve the latter; you may rely on relationships you have already developed with previous clients, or you might make a clean break and rely on your marketing plan. The former, however, can be a little trickier.
Generally, it's a good idea to focus on an area or sector in which you have previous experience and authority, but through which you can also stand a chance of competing. You should also offer something unique that your rivals do not; for example, if you didn't like certain things about the way your previous employer did things, emphasise to potential clients that your company does things differently. If you spotted an opportunity to do things better, then promote them as your value proposition.
If you're still looking for inspiration, however, we can help. We've compiled nine potential ventures that any qualified accountant can establish; all you have to do is consider which one best suits your background, and can be marketed effectively.
Here are our suggestions.
Note: Depending on your location, some of the services described in this article may require the acquisition of additional licensing or certification on your part.
1. Tax Preparation
If you have a background in tax management, then a personalised tax preparation service could be a viable starting point.
Many businesses are unaware of the numerous breaks and benefits that they could be missing out on when filing their taxes, which means that you can offer free consultations to small businesses to drum up custom. You can also manage the core tax affairs of smaller companies, especially if you have a Rolodex of existing leads.
As a small firm, you can also promote the angle of personalised service. This can allow you to target high-net-worth individuals as potential clients, as you will be able to dedicate all your time and resources to ensuring a high level of customised tax management.
2. Real Estate Appraisal
As discussed, transitioning from an accounting background to self-employment is all about identifying which industry your finance skills match up with best. If you have a background in real estate, property valuations, or asset management, then you could consider carving out a niche for yourself in the world of real estate appraisal.
Real estate is a notoriously cyclical sector, of course, but you can mitigate the effects of bust periods by reverting to traditional accounting or bookkeeping services as an income source. During boom periods, you can then reap the assorted benefits. After all, a healthy real estate market means that homebuyers and businesses will have money to spend to assess their potential investment, and you can even specialise in a particular area of real estate to maximise your impact and your value.
3. Remote Bookkeeping
Although it is a fairly basic service for a chartered accountant, the fact is every business needs a reliable bookkeeper to understand its cashflow and make sound decisions. While there are many software tools available for businesses to try and manage their books themselves, an experienced accountant is always an asset.
There are ways to stand out, too. Take advantage of the digital nature of today's recordkeeping by offering your bookkeeping services remotely. There are numerous videoconferencing options available that can help you build a close relationship with remote clients and, given the outlook for business in the near to mid-term future, this service could prove lucrative. This is an ideal proposition for those who are looking for a lower time commitment while still wanting a stable income.
4. Financial Consulting
Sometimes people and businesses end up with more money than they know what to do with. Therefore, given your money management expertise, you could create a financial consulting service to advise businesses and individuals on what they can do to invest, save, and spend their money wisely.
As with several of the propositions on this list, the success of a consulting firm depends on your ability to attract clients. If you don't have existing leads, then you may find that a lot of your time isn't spent consulting, but actually chasing down that first client. After all, if you are going to be telling people or startups what to do with their money, then they need to trust you. Therefore, to make this business work, you need to convince clients that you are the best at what you do.
With this in mind, it's a good idea to specialise in one area. For instance, you may have a lot of experience working with and advising small tech startups. If this is the case, then it's better to market your services in this field rather than to, say, trust fund recipients who are looking to invest with equity firms. At first, it is better to present yourself as an authority in one niche rather than a jack of all trades, as this will allow you to build your reputation.
5. Finance Software Tutoring
While many businesses see the value in hiring an expert to manage their books, some companies feel more comfortable taking on that challenge themselves. These startups still need advice and guidance, though, and you can turn a profit by teaching people how to use financial tools to their benefit.
It's not just startups that need guidance, either. Large accounting and professional services firms regularly conduct graduate and school leaver intakes that require intermediate and advanced levels of training, particularly on Microsoft Excel. Therefore, there is a wide pool of potential clients; all you need is the ability to convey complex information to students, an in-depth knowledge of the software in question, and the ability to secure contracts with the firms in need of your services.
If you have a knack for explaining concepts well, you can also create a passive income stream for yourself by teaching and selling online courses. Leila Gharani is an example of how this can work, having quit her financial consulting job to teach Excel courses on Udemy, attracting a six-figure income in the process.
6. Collection Agency
Few things are more frustrating to business owners than rendering services to a client and not receiving payment. Beyond that, few enjoy the task of chasing down these overdue accounts and finding a way to collect what is theirs. However, if you have the skills and dedication to pursue these delinquent payments, you will find that you can recoup a worthwhile fee for your efforts.
It's worth noting that there are a lot of misconceptions around this profession. It is not about intimidating the entity that owes your client money, or turning up at the debtor's premises with a mandate to confiscate assets. Rather, it is about following paper trails, tracking payments, and making sure that services stop if invoices go unfulfilled. While it might also mean making a lot of unpleasant phone calls and dealing with some unhappy people on the other end of the line, you will be providing a necessary and valuable service on behalf of your clients – and be getting paid well in the process.
7. Notary Public
As a chartered accountant, you are a trusted and licensed financial expert, so why not build on this, undertake further training, and start a notary business? While different regions have different qualification requirements, the process rarely requires a time investment of more than a month.
Once qualified as an official notary, you can authorise documents and charge a set fee for your services. Indeed, notary services are a legal requirement in many personal and business transactions, so if you have an existing network of trusted clients, the transition can be quite smooth.
It's worth bearing in mind that, in the future, blockchain technology may make the services of a notary redundant, but there is a very long way to go in regard to the regulation surrounding such a development, and this concept is merely speculation at this point. Therefore, a notary business is still a smart move for those looking to diversify.
8. Mortgage Reduction
A mortgage reduction service is a great idea if you have experience managing loans and dealing with financial institutions, but not a lot of capital. With this approach, you can help individuals and businesses renegotiate their mortgage to find a better monthly rate, and charge a fee based on the results you get for your clients.
A commission-based model can be stressful, but if you are driven, motivated, and target-oriented, it can be a good personality fit. After all, the more money you can help your clients save, the more money you will make. You will need excellent negotiating skills, a thorough knowledge of loan and financing rules, and patience when dealing with clients who may be in a tight spot financially. However, with these skills and a confident approach, you can build a thriving business and gain access to a broad market.
Alternatively, if you do have a lot of capital available, then you might consider starting a microfinancing company. These businesses help individuals that are looking to start their own business, but are struggling to access funds from a traditional lending organisation such as a bank or credit union.
This doesn't necessarily mean that your investments will be risky; after all, there are dozens of reasons why bank managers may pass on a loan. The economic climate of that region may mean that banks are not in a good position to lend, or the entrepreneur in question may not have access to a bank account. The good news for you is that this doesn't make their business idea any less viable or interesting.
It also means a great deal of flexibility on your part. You could lend directly to promising startups or, if you don't have enough capital, use your forecasting and predictive nous to help clients secure a loan from venture capitalists or other financial institutions. You could demand a flat fee for this service, or even receive equity in their business.
Of course, there is a lot of risk involved in such a venture, but if you are looking for a challenge and you have the necessary resources, the requisite knowledge of lending laws, and the ability to spot an opportunity, then the reward could be well worth it.
Accountants are highly qualified and highly knowledgeable professionals, and yet many dedicate their energy and time into driving billable hours for their employers. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but few occupations are as well suited to going solo, and it is a shame not to take advantage. Given the diversified skillset of modern accountants, this doesn't have to mean starting yet another accounting firm, either; as the suggestions on this list illustrate, there are a wealth of potential sectors where your expertise could be put to use.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, too; there are countless sub-niches that can be explored, while the digital revolution has created opportunities that are still yet to discovered. All you need is the drive, dedication, and willingness to go alone, and there is no restriction on the kinds of success that you could achieve.
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Additional content by Sion Phillpott.