Starting your own tax practice can be intimidating. First, there’s building up the courage to venture out on your own. Then, there are the other finer details that come with starting a business.
One thing you have to decide is if you are going to find a commercial space or work out of your home. If you have little start-up capital, you’ll likely choose to be an at home tax preparer. You might choose to do this until you can save enough money, or you might just enjoy working out of your home. Not sure where to begin? Check out these strategies for starting a tax practice at home.
1. Know the law
If you haven’t already, you should join an area CPA association. They can provide you with some resources about practising in Australia and what you’ll generally need to start your business. You’ll also be able to meet people who have done what you are trying to do, so you’ll be able to ask questions and get advice. There could be a fee to join, but the value of the help and information you’ll receive will likely outweigh any penalties you might have to pay for not following the law.
In addition to the information you need to know about being a CPA, you’ll also need to research the ins and outs of running a business from your home, including how it’s different from simply working from home. One of the biggest factors in determining that is having a room set aside specifically for business.
2. Create a business space
You’ll need to make your home office look more professional than someone who just works from home, as you’ll likely have clients coming over. To that end, choose a space that is closest to a door so clients don’t have to go through your house to get to your workspace. Alternatively, create a special entrance off of your office to separate the two.
Once you have a room selected, you’ll need to furnish it with the standard office gear, including a desk and chair. Be sure to take your time with these selections, since you’ll be spending a lot of time there. Consider a sit-to-stand desk to take a break from sitting and stretch your legs while working. Do your research to find the best ergonomic chair you can to avoid back issues. You’ll want to buy chairs for your clients, too.
Other furniture you’ll need includes a computer, printer and phone. You should get a phone line separate from your house and run a different line for an Internet connection to make sure your family’s usage doesn’t interfere with your business. It will also help keep your connection safe from security breaches.
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3. Get supplies
Obviously, you’ll need the standard pens, printing paper, notepads, staples and paper clips. Save some money by purchasing supplies in bulk. And, of course, don’t forget your calculator!
As a new business, you also need print marketing materials (such as business cards and brochures) to help spread the word. Don’t forget folders and report covers to help your customers, especially when they come in with a shoe box full of papers. They will appreciate it when you return their documents organised in a tax folder. Clients also will remember that when it’s tax season again — and tell their friends.
Don’t forget your digital assets. Make sure you have a great website to promote your business, as well as social media pages to reach your audience. You have limited resources, so do your research to find out which social media platform your audience prefers to make the most of your time.
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4. Spread the word
The best way to get your business off the ground is to spread the word. Pin brochures or business cards to bulletin boards at area libraries and grocery stores to let people know about your service. Start a referral program giving people a discount for sending more business your way.
Volunteer your services at local senior centres. While this won’t generate any revenue for you, it will showcase your skills and commitment to the community. People like to work with people who give back. In addition, the senior clients could recommend you to their younger friends and family.
You can also offer to speak to area groups to answer any tax preparation questions. Or write a column for the local newspaper addressing common tax issues. Both will help establish your expertise and build brand awareness.
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5. Follow up
Put together a tax preparation checklist to send to clients each January so they can organise their paperwork. Be sure to include an easy way for them to schedule an appointment with you, like a QR code that will take them to your website.
Following up isn’t limited to clients. Keep in touch with those contacts from the professional association you joined. This will help you stay on top of changes in your industry. It could also lead to more referrals should they have clients moving to your area or need help with a topic in which you specialise.
Getting organised and ready to start up your business is just as much work as running the business itself. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. The key is to do your research to make sure you’re not overlooking anything. Hopefully, these strategies help point you in the right direction.
Do you have any other ideas? Share them in the comments below.