Christine Aplin faced a number of challenges when she founded Caplin Bookkeeping but with a little help from industry peers and software solutions, she was able to capitalise on a changing market landscape. Here’s what Christine had to say.
“My background is in banking, where I spent 19 years. After taking a bit of time off, I realised that I didn't want to go back to corporate life. The idea of running my own business was very exciting and I decided to look at bookkeeping as it felt like a natural progression, given that I'd done a lot of financial analysis over the years. After completing a course with the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), I set up Caplin Bookkeeping in 2017.”
Services that fit with clients' needs
“There’s a perception that bookkeepers only provide data entry, but that’s just one of a number of services available. The work I do for each client varies substantially. Some clients want me to handle all of their bookkeeping while others like to be quite hands-on and might be looking for me to handle their payroll or chase invoices. I’ve got to be very open and flexible with clients from the start and ensure that I’m fitting in with their business requirements and not being too prescriptive.”
“I believe that, as bookkeepers, we have to make sure that we’re the right fit for a client and if that isn’t the case, we should help them find what they’re looking for - and sometimes that’s an accountant.”
“Accountants tend to handle tax advice, whereas bookkeepers don’t - and I’m quite happy that that’s the case!
"As a bookkeeper I need to know how a client’s pricing works, how their costs are broken down and how they get customers. I think bookkeepers tend to have closer relationships with their clients than accountants do because of this closer understanding of how their businesses operate.”
Location isn’t a boundary anymore
“While I primarily work in the Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire areas, I have clients all over the UK. With cloud accounting software, I can to maintain client relationships regardless of location."
"I had a big advantage when I established my business because I started using cloud accounting software right away. I didn’t need to migrate loads of clients over as part of Making Tax Digital as I knew it was coming."
Referrals are key
“I'm a big believer in informal networking and how that can lead to referrals. I thought when I started Caplin that I might be able to get one or two clients through referrals, but I was amazed at how brilliant people are at recommending our services. It shows just how vital it is to build rapport with clients, whether in person or remotely!"
“It’s not only important to establish relationships with clients but also with peers. I've had a number of referrals from accountants, and I've recommended clients to accountants too.”
”I get a lot of value from linking up with organisations such as the ICB and attending events like the FreeAgent roadshows. The roadshows are not only a great way to meet the FreeAgent team but they also provide an excellent opportunity to network with other bookkeepers who are always willing to provide advice and share knowledge. These events make me feel like I’m not on my own and that gives me a warm glow!”
Visibility for clients
“FreeAgent is very simple to use, not only for bookkeepers and accountants but also for business owners. The visibility that comes with FreeAgent makes clients’ lives much easier, and that makes my life easier too. The software provides my clients with a clear overview of their finances - something that other solutions don’t do as well."
“All of the clients I set up on FreeAgent mention how easy it is to find the aspects of their accounts that they’re interested in exploring.”
“For example, I have one client who used to have an accountant rather than a bookkeeper. While the accountant used a desktop accounting package, the client had no visibility of this and wasn’t getting any real benefit from the software. When she approached me, I immediately got her set up on FreeAgent and she was just blown away! Now she can instantly review her estimated Corporation Tax and any aspects of her accounts that she wants to see.
“The support that FreeAgent provides - whether it’s technical help over the phone or the amazing infographics and written content - is fantastic and was a big draw for me. It makes me feel like I’m important to FreeAgent and the written content really helps my clients get their heads around some of the more complex aspects of owning a small business in the UK.”
“I think that the bookkeeping industry is as strong as ever because there will always be people looking for someone to support them with their finances.”
“Artificial intelligence is a big area of opportunity that I see as a real plus for bookkeepers. As the technology gets smarter and handles more and more of the data entry work, I’ll be able to expand my services and do even more for my clients, such as advising them on legislation and anything that may affect their businesses.”
Advice for fellow bookkeepers
“If I was to give advice to anyone thinking about starting their own bookkeeping business, I would suggest you begin with a strategy. Consider how your pricing will work, whether you want to work with clients in specific industries, how you plan to market yourself and what will make you stand out. Knowledge of accounting software solutions is a fundamental part of this. Consider what you and your clients are looking to get from the software you put them on. Chances are, if you’re getting the right data and resources you need, your clients will too.”
Find out more about Caplin Bookkeeping here.