We’ve interviewed a number of practice owners now, to see how 2020 has affected them and explore how they work. This week we’ve turned the tables to focus on the one topic that’s been central to every case study so far – your clients and prospects. 

We want to find out what their top considerations are when choosing an accountant. How important is advice, technology and cost? Why do they stay with you – or leave? We spoke to three freelancers, each with very different experiences of 2020, to find out.

The Social Media Consultant

Amy Lainchbury social media consultant

Amy Lainchbury owns Tasty Comms, providing social media strategy and management to the hospitality industry. She works with restaurants and events companies, taking care of their content, social media channels and paid advertising. She lives in London with her husband, where they rent part of their home on AirBnB. Safe to say, 2020 hasn’t been kind. 

Amy’s accountant wishlist

Amy’s very happy with her accountants, a practice owned by her friend’s brother. She particularly appreciates their tech-forward approach. “They’re really up-to-date with tech. They’ve recommended and taught me how to use Xero, GoCardless and ReceiptBank so far. I do also sign off the YE accounts via a portal which is really simple.” 

  1. To be able to ask them questions any time.
  2. For them to use the software I use.
  3. To advise where I’ve done things wrong – not just fix it.
  4. To occasionally have some banter!

 “I do ask for advice. The last time was about income from AirBnB. They’re really helpful and have gone above and beyond in the past. This is definitely something I’d look for in any other accountants.” 

A dream job becomes a scramble to survive

Amy spent 2019 following the Gelato Festival around the globe, reporting from multiple locations across Europe and the US. This year, she’s not even sure where her passport is. 

“The impact has been devastating. I had a whole year of events work lined up, worth about 30k and it disappeared overnight.”

“Financially, I struggled hugely, then somehow managed to take on work in other sectors – struggling to learn new skills while desperately trying to get work. Mentally it was horrible. I hated not contributing to the household and felt totally useless, like everything I’d achieved so far was meaningless.” 

The Physiotherapist

Edwin in action during a Stevenage FC vs Forrest Green FC match Edwin Knight Physiotherapist

Physiotherapist, Edwin Knight, is usually seen pitchside at national and international sporting events. He works with many teams including rugby’s Wasps and Bears and has travelled the world as Lead Physio to Spain’s national women’s lacrosse team. He lives in the Midlands with his wife and three young daughters.

Edwin’s accountant wishlist

Edwin is also happy with his accountant, a local practice he found through a recommendation. “They always have a very personal, friendly approach and I have a review every year. My documents are submitted through a portal and I get friendly reminders regarding any updates or changes I need to be aware of.” 

  1. A personal, individual approach.
  2. Efficiency and adaptability in managing my accounts.
  3. Friendly phone reminders chasing me when I’m late filing information (very often the case).
  4. Reasonable charges for the services offered.

From rugby pitch, to hospital bedsides

With the cancellation of all sporting events and lockdown preventing home visits, Edwin experienced a 90% reduction in work and income. Luckily, he’s maintained strong links with the NHS over his career, working periodically in local practices and hospitals. Most recently, Edwin’s duties have involved teaching people to cough in a safe way, minimising strain on abdominal and intercostal (rib) muscles.

“Like most people I had increased stress about where my income would come from during the initial lockdown. But having a friendly and contactable accountant made this much easier. The advice offered was invaluable and placed me in a much better position prior to the start of the second lockdown.”

The Tech and Finance Writer

Elizabeth Jones freelance copywriter

Elizabeth Jones is a freelance copywriter, specialising B2B content. Her clients are primarily in the technology and finance sectors and range from start-ups to multinational banks. Once jumping between London’s ad agencies, Elizabeth now works remotely from her canal boat.

Elizabeth’s accountant wishlist

Elizabeth is looking to change her accountants after 11 years. “I haven’t had a review in all that time, even though my life has changed substantially (moved abroad, came back and became a landlord), which is crazy – and the fee has rocketed. I’d happily pay even more if it meant I got some personal advice, perhaps broader than just my business accounts too.”

  1. FreeAgent or similar – must have time tracking, invoicing and live bank feed.
  2. Video call reviews annually or when my circumstances change at all.
  3. An online portal to sign and access my documents.
  4. Ideally not much more than £2000 a year, unless I can justify the value.

“I don’t need the personal touch for tax submission and payment reminders though… I think people worry that automation is impersonal. I don’t care!”

“I get computer-generated reminders to insure my car – I wouldn’t want a human tasked with that, so why would I with my taxes? I want the human to explain the taxes and give advice specific to my circumstances.”

One of the lucky few

“I consider myself extremely fortunate to work for clients that haven’t been adversely affected by the pandemic. In fact, between March and August my work doubled – lots of long nights rewriting articles due to new announcements from Rishi. There’s definitely guilt that goes along with that, that people are suffering when you’re doing ok.” 

Government support for Ltd directors… dare we ask?

It didn’t seem fair to take up our freelancers’ time without allowing for a well-deserved rant. “We fall through the gaps,” explains Amy. “So we’re not entitled to anything and don’t qualify for UC,” explains Amy. “I did take a bounceback loan, but it’s not at all fair that debt is the only solution.”

“Companies with staff are being helped – which is great and necessary – but the disparity is mind-boggling and heart-breaking.”

“It’s a real kick in the balls that there’s been this narrative that the government’s really supportive of entrepreneurism and now it’s like an f-you. “We’ll happily stay on top of your four types of tax, but it’s far too difficult to stop your business going under.”

“It feels like being punished for working for yourself. Like you’re an annoying stone in the government’s shoe rather than a contributor to the economy.”

Elizabeth agrees, “Although I haven’t needed any support, it’s really unnerving to know that if your luck runs out, there isn’t anything, even SSP. It doesn’t feel like being forgotten, along with corporation tax and IR35, it feels like being punished for working for yourself. Like you’re an annoying stone in the government’s shoe rather than a contributor to the economy.” 

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