How Niall turned his love of numbers into a flourishing bookkeeping practice
Niall had to re-evaluate his career after his wife became ill, so he turned his dream of running his own business into a reality.
“When my wife became ill and I had to leave my role as a Bank Manager with NatWest, I wasn’t sure what I would do in the future when it was time to work again.
I had come to enjoy being at home with my young family doing school runs, helping teach my daughter to read, enjoying dinner together etc., and wasn’t prepared to give up all the positive things I had gained from stopping work.
In the past I had often liked the idea of running my own business, but never had an idea (or indeed the energy!) to do anything about it. The idea of bookkeeping appealed to me, as I always enjoyed numbers and had touched on the subject when I studied for my business management degree, albeit nearly 20 years ago.”
“I liked the prospect of being able to work flexibly and from home, so I could still do those school runs and help my wife on her path to recovery.
I could also see clear scope for growth in the future, while also starting small to ‘find my feet’.
I remembered how much I enjoyed helping my customers in the bank get their finances in order, and would like to think I was pretty good at it.
The conversations I had with business customers were always the most rewarding, as I could learn about their individual businesses.
I also remember often banging my head against the wall when they often didn’t have a clue about some of their most basic finances!
When I was first doing my research on how to go about training, I tracked down a former NatWest colleague, who had left many years ago to set up their own successful bookkeeping practice. I found him really helpful and he spent a long time explaining what I needed to do and I was surprised how nothing seemed too much bother. I can now see, from being a member of the bookkeeping community, that this is very typical of bookkeepers in general as they always seem happy to help each other out.
Initially I completed a free Level 1 introduction to bookkeeping through the Open University. When looking for training providers for the rest of my studies, I researched thoroughly using my usual cost/benefit analysis method (you can now see why I might have the analytical brain for bookkeeping!), and Training Link seemed to offer the best value and also had really good reviews.”
“I began my training with the ICB Level 2 module in October ’22.
Initially I really struggled to get my head around double-entry, despite having covered it 20 years earlier, although not really understanding it then either. After some time (and going over it repeatedly), the penny started to drop.
I managed to complete level 2 in just over a month and went straight on to level 3.
Whilst this might sound like it went very quick and easy, within that time I failed a number of the Training Link assessments on the first try.
I always found that the assessments were more tricky that the actual ICB exam, and appreciated the rigorousness of them. I ended up achieving a distinction for Level 2.
Again, at Level 3 I had the same regular failings of the module assessments and mock exams, but was really pleased to pass all my ICB exams with a score of 95% or more (again, achieving a distinction).
“In all, I managed to complete both modules within 4 months, typically doing around 2 hours a day during weekdays, but still enjoying weekends and school holidays as free time with my young family.”
“Following my completion of Level 3, I applied for my practice licence with the ICB, which I received around the middle of March ’23 and “Niall Dewson Bookkeeping Services” was born!
I have now created my website, which I found much easier than I had envisaged, especially as someone who is really bad with tech.
Whilst I was now qualified, I didn’t really know how being a bookkeeper would work in practise.
My first client was a friend, who I offered to help for free whilst I found my feet and familiarised myself with the software. She chose Quickbooks as her software provider, so I quickly took their training modules to boost my skills. I also arranged a call with Xero and began the same with them. It felt important to me that I feel really comfortable with the different types of software before going live. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it all was to use.
I have also been studying the ICB Level 4 Self-Assessment Tax Returns course with Training Link. Once again, I have been finding the modules very challenging, but I have a suspicion that the exam will be ok.
My plan now (end of March ’23) is to complete all of my Self-Assessment, Quickbooks and Xero studying, and then throw myself into finding more clients. I already have a number of leads and I’m confident that I should find a few more to start with and be able to build in line with my confidence.
In the future I aim to be a full-time bookkeeper and offer a variety of services to a diverse range of clients. I would consider building the business further by employing staff, as one of my strengths as a Bank Manager was my people management skills.”
If you would like to get in touch, check out my website here!
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Perfect if you want to work as a self-employed bookkeeper. When you pass the exams you can apply for your ICB Practice Licence.
- ICB Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping
- ICB Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping
- ICB Level 3 Diploma in Payroll Management
- ICB Level 4 Self-Assessment Tax Returns