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Post Info TOPIC: Where do you start with new clients?


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Where do you start with new clients?


Hello everyone,

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment and was hoping I might be able to get some advice from you all... I have recently qualified and still need to sort out my practice license & liability insurance. I plan to make bookkeeping my full time employment eventually, I now feel thoroughly underprepared with how to get this off the ground. I would like to note that I am not practising until my licence comes through. I have some questions in my mind that I was hoping you might be able to help me with:

1) if any potential clients warns me that they have been trying to do their own books with no previous experience or guidance on how to do them correctly and the paperwork is very messy... I am anticipating this to be quite a challenge! If you came across this what would you do to bring their accounts into order?

2) If a client has not used any software and mostly use excel to record transactions or a written ledger of some sort - would you expect to continue with this format or would you insist on using software?

3) If they say their husband/wife/partner had been doing the books for a couple of years with some experience - would you go back over any of the previous work done to check that everything was correct.

If any of you have any advice on where to start with unmanaged books and how best to deal with them I'd be so grateful, even if you have had your own experiences I think all newbies would appreciate your feedback. Do you have a rough guide from start to finish on getting off the ground with each client?

I would also welcome any checklists or questionnaires you might use when you meet a client for the first time to establish what they are looking for in a bookkeeper, client engagemeant letters or any other documentation you use or find helpful!

I do hope I haven't asked anything particularly stupid, I guess just knowing what to do from start to finish would be helpful so I don't make a fool of myself!

Thank you all in anticipation,

Martin.



-- Edited by Martin S on Thursday 31st of January 2019 01:24:55 PM

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Martin.



Master Book-keeper

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Hi Martin
Well done on qualifying.

Who with in the end?

Just so you know you are not being ignored - today is the LAST day of SILLY SILLY SILLY Season so all quiet on here. Normal service will resume after everyone has got well oiled just after midnight (assuming then sleep is caught up on, so it might be Saturday!)

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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



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Hi Joanne,

Thank you,

I finished and got my level 3 with the IAB, and Im a member with the IAB and also with AAT, Im not sure which one to get MLR supervision with so until I decide or get advised by someone on here Im still a member of both orginisations, for this year at least,

I realised it was the last day of silly season so Ive waited till now to ask for help,
Im frightened to death to make the leap into this whole new career as Ive been a chef my whole life, but Im really fed up with it now, its so physically demanding, and the company I work for is mentally challenging although I can still run rings around the young uns
I know if I dont make a change soon, before I know it 5 years will have passed, Ill be 5 years older and kicking myself that I didnt make a move now, Im just so scared to do it, its probably an age thing and because I know my job inside out and this is something new, I keep trying to convince myself I wouldnt have passed all the exams if Im rubbish at it, although I know when I do finally leap Ill learn more probably in the first 3 months than I did in 3 years of studying lol! I think thats the same in all jobs though really.

Im really looking forward to gathering a load of knowledge, help & advice from everyone on here, its a great forum.



-- Edited by Martin S on Thursday 31st of January 2019 01:27:11 PM

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Martin.



Master Book-keeper

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Hi Martin
A quick one to flush out a bit of info to help further.

Is it the level3 diploma? Or just the level 3 computerise thingy?

Where are you up to with the AAT? Have you done all of level3? Or level 4?

Would you consider working in a practice to gain experience?

Or purely self employed? Up to Trial balance (TB) only? Or I presume delving into Accountancy territory (ie beyond TB) but just for sole traders?

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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



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Hi Joanne,

With the IAB I did level 3 manual bookkeeping and level 3 computerised bookkeeping exams and while I was waiting for the results (3 months) I started doing the AAT level 3 diploma but it was very similar to the IAB on the whole, I have to admit it was slightly more detailed in places and I wished I'd gone down the AAT route from the beginning but that was my fault from not doing my research good enough

I'd really only gone down the AAT route after finishing IAB because I'd heard a lot of accountants from whom bookkeeping work can come from have never even heard of IAB, so in my mind I thought right I need AATQB after my name then I have more chances of work coming my way, then I found out that if you're a MIAB (which you can apply for after passing level 3 and I had & did) that it qualifies you to join the AAT as a AATQB, So I did that, hence why I have membership with both at the moment.

So since I got membership with AAT I half gave up carrying on with the course as the end result would be the same, & what I was learning was almost the same, I do still go through the work books regularly and do mock exams of both associations to keep my eye in until I get up and running.

I didn't really want to go and work in a practice, but yes I want to be self employed & purely a bookkeeper going up to TB only.

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Martin.



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Welcome Martin

I think you will find it a really friendly forum here. I hope you can pick up a lot of information along the way.

In terms of the IAB and AAT, I qualified with the IAB many years ago and I am now FIAB. At the time it appeared to be the best option but in later years the AAT route proved very popular and there have been times when I wished I had gone that way purely as it was better recognised. Many seem to say that IAB is better suited to Self Employment with AAT more favourable for practice.

Saying that, I have outsourced work from two local accountants and I have also worked in practice for one. At no time have they ever questioned my IAB qualification but they have all been more interested in my experience.

In terms of your questions, I think these are all things that you will find come easier the more potential clients you meet and the more work you take on. If you do meet with people who have been trying to do their own books badly or books are in a poor state then you have a ready made reason for charging to bring things into order.

The software question can easily be solved with reference to MTD. We will soon be in a situation where we have no option but to maintain records digitally so taking on a new client is the perfect reason to move them onto software now.

Try starting by marketing local small businesses and tradesman or speaking to people you know who have businesses. If you have a particular interest or hobby this can be a good source of new work (eg sports clubs, playgroups etc). With your current trade, perhaps you have more experience than most of restaurants/ cafes so this could be a good option.
Most taxi drivers are self employed, if you can get one, many more often follow.

My one piece of advice which someone wisely gave me was not to feel like you have to take on every potential client you meet. Sometimes, the work may be out of your scope, the client may wish you to work in a way you don't feel comfortable or you may simply not have a connection and feel that you couldn't work with them. I have only ever turned down a handful of people who have approached me but I have never regretted doing so.

Best of luck and I hope it all works well for you

Valerie


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Hi Valerie,

Thank you very much for your advice, I will certainly take that on board, and targeting in particular my trade may well be a good start as I do know it inside out and for about an 8 year period I did it from the other side as a sole trader in a fish & chip shop.

I think ill gain more confidence after gaining the first couple of clients, but I still feel I need some kind of checklist or to know what questions to ask a potential client at least in the beginning , so if anyone following this thread has any kind of list or documentation that could help me I really would appreciate anything you can offer in this area.

Thanks



-- Edited by Martin S on Saturday 2nd of February 2019 10:35:52 AM

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Martin.



Master Book-keeper

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Martin S wrote:

Hello everyone,

Hi Martin, and welcome to the forum.

1) if any potential clients warns me that they have been trying to do their own books with no previous experience or guidance on how to do them correctly and the paperwork is very messy... I am anticipating this to be quite a challenge! If you came across this what would you do to bring their accounts into order?

Rebuild the accounts, starting with the paperwork I have then using bank accounts etc.

2) If a client has not used any software and mostly use excel to record transactions or a written ledger of some sort - would you expect to continue with this format or would you insist on using software?

Spreadsheets are fine imo, though as I tend to do the bookkeeping for my clients I use VT. Only had one where the books were handwritten and I just redid the whole lot in VT at my own expense (they were wrong in some aspects of VAT so I just found it easier). Today, I wouldn't entertain handwritten books, although we have a poster called Julie, whose boss does handwrite the books and they are meticulous.

3) If they say their husband/wife/partner had been doing the books for a couple of years with some experience - would you go back over any of the previous work done to check that everything was correct.

Not for a previous year no, unless I found anything that would make me doubt it, then I would "have a word".

If any of you have any advice on where to start with unmanaged books and how best to deal with them I'd be so grateful, even if you have had your own experiences I think all newbies would appreciate your feedback. Do you have a rough guide from start to finish on getting off the ground with each client?

I think iit will differ with each client, so there isn't really a one fits all plan. That will come with experience imo.

I would also welcome any checklists or questionnaires you might use when you meet a client for the first time to establish what they are looking for in a bookkeeper, client engagemeant letters or any other documentation you use or find helpful!

One of my downfalls is I don't have a questionaire, so can easily miss a pertinent question. One thing I would include in an engagement letter for a Ltd Co is a personal guarantee from the Director(s) There used to bw a LofE on this site that I may still have, I'll see if I can dig it out. Ideally though you should tailor your own.


I would also like to add that extra caution should be applied to cash based businesses (I see Valerie mentioned taxi drivers) That's not to say they will fiddle, but it's easy enough to do.



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John

Any advice given is for general guidance and professional advice should be sought applicable to your circumstances.



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Hi John,

Thank you for adding your experience, I really appreciate taking on the valuable knowledge youre all willing to share with newbies like me, its priceless,

If you were to have a questionnaire what kind of questions would you be asking? Im guessing this would vary dependent on the kind of business the client is in?

If you come across a bookkeeping letter of engagement you could share that would be great as Ive never actually seen one, so Id then get an idea what to base my own on.

Thanks again.

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Martin.



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Hi Martin
Just doing a bit of a bullet point type response (as despite January being over, its now a short turnaround for the VAT period, its month end, start of the month and year end for a few of mine - does it ever stop?!)

  • AATQB membership and AATQB licence are two different things. The former is achieved by getting to a specific level of the exams and then to be able to quote those letters you pay a membership fee. Note - quoting letters after your name does not entitle you to use such in 'advertising' your business. Licence covered below.
  • I wasnt aware of the fact that the you could get exemption to hold AATQB statuts via the IAB process, although I was aware that you could get exemptions from (SOME, but certainly not all of) the AAT exams. Hence why Im surprised by the former, but happy to stand corrected if that is the case. Page 5 has the current exemptions in the exams for anyone interestedhttps://www.aat.org.uk/prod/s3fs-public/assets/Exemptions-for-AAT-Accounting-Qualification-AQ2016_6.pdf
  • Licence - you will need one from either the AATQB or the IAB (see below re HMRC) to be able to advertise your services and act for clients. That MUST be the first thing on your list to cover off. Ensure if you get the licence from them that you ask them to cover you for MLR (membership of AAT only does not give you the licence nor the MLR cover)
  • HMRC - if you decide not to get a licence/MLR cover with the above then you absolutely MUST get MLR cover via HMRC before you start taking fee paying clients. Failure to do so is on offence which can result in a lenghty prison term and/or fine.
  • I agree with Valerie in that experience means a hell of a lot to Accountants, but without any the backstop is the examination background you have (it gives them comfort that you are not clueless and differentiates you on your CV). That said, I started out as QBE (Qualified by experience) as have a few others on this site. Experience differ quite widely but its about finding your 'hook' if you want work from them.
  • I agree with John re his cautionary words' re texis and will expand on that. I therefore in part disgaree with what Valerie says about working in an area you know - in your case,ie relating to the hospitality industry.Im not saying dismiss it out of hand, but I think more caution needs to be included (see below).
  • Agree with the wider advice about asking people you know - that alone is THE best way of expanding your business. Once you get one client then ask that client if they know of someone wanting a bookkeeper and so on. Ive NEVER advertised and grown my business entirely that way.
  • Your specific Qs - I will answer in a separate thread, to keep it being too long!
  • Totally agree with Valerie, fab advice - dont just take on everything that comes your way. Ive learnt that I dont want to deal with certain sectors as they are just too much hard work and moan about their invoices. General rule of thumb for me -if I get on well with them, I like their business idea and they are open to suggestions then I will go with it. Even if they are mega lucrative some are just not worth it as they are PITA!
  • Dont ever undercut the competition. Against AAT PETH rules anyway, but if a client is just looking at how much your bill will be rather than what addd value you can bring then they can go and finder the even cheaper bloke round the corner. Dont ever un-sell yourself. I have a 'I wont get out of bed for that rate per hour' and base it on that (whether that is an hourly rate or a fixed fee quote!)
  • No such thing as a stupid Q btw
  • Checklists. I set up a pile of these when I first started but havent actually used them for years and made a point of not sharing them for a couple of good reasons. One being that setting such up is the best way to make you learn quickly about how to deal with things/getting it wrong helps you learn even better. Plus I like to challenge folk (do it to the students I help, rather than just giving them the answers like so many others do, sorry!). So your challenge - set up a list, get say 10 things on it, share it on here and the regulars could maybe add a few things - headings or such to get you re-started. I will add a few things to your 'pre onboarding clients list' to get you started. (below). Oh go on as Im feeling generous I will start (note, just start!) the client onboarding list

Cafes/restaurants -biggest issues (not insurmountable, but caution needed):-

- cash based - therefore prone to inspections for EVERYTHING. HMRC get involved in one type of tax eg VAT and often bring their mates from payroll and CT to do inspections.

- Larger than usual employee turnover - a right royal pain in ther derriere if you are doing their weekly payroll and very tying (think what happens when you want to go on holiday). Regular new starters and regular leavers, overtime issues, tips issues (TRONC scheme) and more. Also employment of illegals in there.

- VAT. Complex issues for food - eat in v takeaway. Issues using companies offering delivery on their behalf or 'incentivised' booking processes through 3rd parties.

- Often close one business down on day one and re-open on day 2 (so difficulty in paying your invoice if you are not careful. Plus then MLR reporting given the anti-avoidance position.

- General day to day issues with recording data incorrectly (even with a fully clued up till system).

- Tips (as I mentioned above)

NB - I dont mention these to fully put you off. As I said, just a caution and Ive given some hints in here as to what you need to read up on in case you do decide to go down that route.

Business set up/pre client onboarding

  • Apply for practice licence
  • Get MLR (may be part of the above)
  • Decide what software you will be using (look at VT)
  • Decide what business structure are YOU going to trade under
  • Apply for HMRC agent status
  • List of pals you will ask for intros
  • Create your MLR paperwork for when you do get clients
  • List of 'MUST READ' items pre any client take on eg the WHOLE VAT guide and all the add on guides for industries you are interested in for starters (seriously boring but I promise its the best place to start. But bear in mind its only GUIDANCE and not LAW)

Client on-boarding

  • Name, address, dob of individuals
  • Name, address, legal status of business
  • if above = Ltd - date of registration, country of registration, registered address/trading address/any trading names/shareholding/directors/who does what in the business/HMRC UTR number/VAT registered?.......just a start 9some from companies house, some you need to ask, but ALWAYS verify all given Co house not updated immediately

.......

Dont be overwhelmed by the info requried. Just take your time to work through the lists... Start a new post and lets see how we get on.



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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



Master Book-keeper

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Martin S wrote:

Hi John,

Thank you for adding your experience, I really appreciate taking on the valuable knowledge youre all willing to share with newbies like me, its priceless,

If you were to have a questionnaire what kind of questions would you be asking? Im guessing this would vary dependent on the kind of business the client is in?

If you come across a bookkeeping letter of engagement you could share that would be great as Ive never actually seen one, so Id then get an idea what to base my own on.

Thanks again.


Hi Martin

NEVER EVER EVER share letters of engagement. These things should always be draft by the legal bods and any changes checked as folk who do not understand the law do not understand that one small tweak can change the protection it offers and may render it null and void.

This is an easy one anyway - as part of your membership/practice licence from AAT/IAB you will have access to their own LOE's on their websites (or phone them and they will email you) They often run to about 25+ pages in total as it covers a variety of scenarios and then you can strip out the services you do not wish to offer as it needs to be adjusted for each client. Care not to strip/change standard clauses for the reasons above.



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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



Master Book-keeper

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Hi Martin
If you are doing bookkeeping up to TB then some of these Qs may be irrelevant as you will only get folk doing their own bookkeeping if you are acting as their Accountant/going beyond TB. (EG if you are doing a sole trader tax return then THAT is beyond TB).
If under the terms of your licence once you have got it that it allows you to go into the realms of accounts/tax for sole traders, then re-post once you have your licence and those Qs can be commented on in addition to Johns.
Martin S wrote:

1) if any potential clients warns me that they have been trying to do their own books with no previous experience or guidance on how to do them correctly and the paperwork is very messy... I am anticipating this to be quite a challenge! If you came across this what would you do to bring their accounts into order? Agree with John, rebuild, but ensure they know and you quote it in! That said only go back as far as the last year end AND make sure you get the advice of their existing Accountant given you dont want to be changing anything they have done as prior year end adjustments. Some Accountants will suggest you just start from where the messy client left off and they will sort the back-mess at the year end process.Get the customers authority to speak to the accountant.

2) If a client has not used any software and mostly use excel to record transactions or a written ledger of some sort - would you expect to continue with this format or would you insist on using software? Do what the customer wants/instructs. You could possibly show them that use of software will be quicker and result in a lower bill. But I am never prescriptive about what type of software I use as it needs if they have strong views (even if I dont like it like most of the cloudy carp!). VT is a great bit of kit and cheap as chips. Bear in mind - do you work at the clients and the software is theirs? Or do you work from home and the software is yours (you may charge them a licence fee so the licence is theirs. Do they want access? Have they just used excel as its cheap/the only thing they know or just works very well for them - aint broke so no need to fix it (as it does for where Julie works). If you are not comfortable using excel - turn the business down (per Valerie's comments)

3) If they say their husband/wife/partner had been doing the books for a couple of years with some experience - would you go back over any of the previous work done to check that everything was correct. This is the role of the Accountant. As such bear in mind we are not auditors, but we do often need tosave them from themselves then i would say yes. You often get a flavour by doing certain sense checks which then dictate how much you need to check/change.

If any of you have any advice on where to start with unmanaged books and how best to deal with them I'd be so grateful, even if you have had your own experiences I think all newbies would appreciate your feedback. Do you have a rough guide from start to finish on getting off the ground with each client?

I would also welcome any checklists or questionnaires you might use when you meet a client for the first time to establish what they are looking for in a bookkeeper, client engagemeant letters or any other documentation you use or find helpful!

I do hope I haven't asked anything particularly stupid, I guess just knowing what to do from start to finish would be helpful so I don't make a fool of myself!

Thank you all in anticipation,

Martin.



-- Edited by Martin S on Thursday 31st of January 2019 01:24:55 PM




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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



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Hi Martin

Great advice from all of the people who replied to you as always

I had just typed a lengthy reply myself and was just about to post when I noticed Joanne had, how can I follow that!biggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrin

Just one thing, have you thought about if potential clients also want you to do their tax compliance work, I think you might find that a lot of small businesses these days expect to have both their bookkeeping as well as their tax matters dealt with by the same person.



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Doug

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Master Book-keeper

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Leger wrote:
That's not to say they will fiddle, but it's easy enough to do.

Hi John

Not specific to cash based business but...work on the basis all folk will try to, lets just say, get more from the taxman than they should, then you are better on your guard to stomp on the 'fiddles'wink

Cynic, untrusting ex banker? Moi?



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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



Master Book-keeper

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Artois wrote:

Hi Martin

Great advice from all of the people who replied to you as always

I had just typed a lengthy reply myself and was just about to post when I noticed Joanne had, how can I follow that!biggrinbiggrinbiggrinbiggrin Ahhhhhh thank you Doug, but see below

Just one thing, have you thought about if potential clients also want you to do their tax compliance work, I think you might find that a lot of small businesses these days expect to have both their bookkeeping as well as their tax matters dealt with by the same person. Oh bugger, I knew I had missed something! Came into my head and went as as rapidly. I need sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes agree - sole traders generally want a one stop shop, although some of the big turnover sole traders are happy with a bookkeeper and an Accountant.

Martin - you would do well to go after the small Limited types. Then you get the Accountants doing the rest (and always ask the Accountant 'is there anything I can do differently' - they love that and you learn loads!




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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



Master Book-keeper

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Cheshire wrote:
Artois wrote:

Just one thing, have you thought about if potential clients also want you to do their tax compliance work, I think you might find that a lot of small businesses these days expect to have both their bookkeeping as well as their tax matters dealt with by the same person. Oh bugger, I knew I had missed something! Came into my head and went as as rapidly. I need sleep!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes agree - sole traders generally want a one stop shop, although some of the big turnover sole traders are happy with a bookkeeper and an Accountant.

Martin - you would do well to go after the small Limited types. Then you get the Accountants doing the rest (and always ask the Accountant 'is there anything I can do differently' - they love that and you learn loads!


That was the first comment I meant to make, after seeing Valeries comment, so missed it too.

That said, your advice in the last paragraph is even better.



-- Edited by Leger on Saturday 2nd of February 2019 03:31:47 PM

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John

Any advice given is for general guidance and professional advice should be sought applicable to your circumstances.



Master Book-keeper

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.



-- Edited by Cheshire on Monday 4th of February 2019 12:55:12 PM

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Joanne

Fallows Hall Ltd

Winner - Bookkeeper of the Year 2015, 2016 and 2017

Thoughts are my own/not to be regarded as official advice,which should be sought from a suitably qualified Accountant.



Veteran Member

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Thank you everybody for your help and advice, theres certainly a lot of collective knowledge between you all, and theres certainly a lot to think about, it looks a bit overwhelming on a first read, I suppose the best approach is to chip away at gathering al the info required on the list and do it correctly, good idea about going for the small limited types at first, I guess this would be an easier approach till I gain more experience and knowledge over time.
Sorry Ive not been on to thank you all earlier, Ive been off line most of the week with man flu.



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Martin.



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Martin

Just one thing I would advise - there are numerous groups on Facebook for Bookkeepers, very friendly and helpful,
so don't be afraid to have a look at those, lots of advice is always forthcoming.

Eunice

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