Georgia Duffee owns the dynamite one-woman accountancy business, Benedetto Accounts & Tax, named after economist Benedetto Cotrugli who wrote the first manuscript on accountancy in 1458. She is committed to constantly streamlining her business processes to attract better clients, keep up with the ever-changing economic landscape and create a business that gives her the life she wants.
How did you get started in accountancy?
I did a careers quiz at school, which had come out with either accountancy or horticulture as options. I love gardening but felt accountancy would leave me with more options, so I went on to study AAT at college. After college, I got a job as an Accounts Assistant in my hometown, Southend-on-Sea in Essex.
How did you start your own business?
I’d been considering it for a while as I’ve always been driven and hard-working. I put in a lot of extra hours for the company I was then working for and decided I needed to change my work/life balance for my happiness. The Real-Time Information (RTI) change was happening about the same time in finance, so I saw a significant opportunity for businesses and the UK economy and me to pioneer these changes and get ahead of the curve.
How have you changed your business strategy over time?
Your life changes, the economy changes – it’s an ever-changing landscape, so you have to keep evolving your plans and goals. Never stop adapting your business and finding out why things are working or not – it’s something to embrace.
You’ve got to keep setting boundaries – it’s good for clients too. I need to have an identity outside of accountancy. I can be there for my family and live life without feeling guilty. This is one of the best gifts of being self-employed.
How do you work with clients?
I see myself as a partner to my client’s businesses, and I take time to educate my clients to help them feel in control. It’s fantastic to get the gratification when the plan we’ve put in place for the works. I’ve had clients cry on the phone with happiness. I love helping people follow their self-employed pursuits.
But by loving what you do, it’s easy to overwork. In the beginning, you work so passionately and are so happy just to have any clients that it’s easy to over-deliver. Scope creep can be a huge problem, and it was for me. I created an in-depth spreadsheet with every single service I offer and the costs and priced everything correctly. I explained to the clients for who I’d been over-delivering that I had been offering added value, but it needs to be charged for going forwards. I lost a couple of clients but became more profitable, and it made work less stressful.
I’m very upfront about pricing, and I’m good at quickly diagnosing what the client needs and saying how much it will cost to complete the work and checking if the client is happy with that. You shouldn’t be worried to talk about pricing; it’s what we’re in business for. Late paying clients don’t deserve to be with you. They are jeopardising the time you could be spending with other clients. You don’t want to be working with people who don’t respect that. I send reminders and charge a late payment admin fee, and if it is ongoing, I tell a client that I can’t continue to work with them.
Georgia’s advice for streamlining your business and getting better clients:
- Automate as many tasks as possible by creating email templates and using Google Forms.
- Have a set onboarding process.
- Look at all your business activities and ask what value they add to the business and client.
- Time block your diary to manage calls and meetings.
- Spend one hour a day replying to emails.
- Focus on time management now so you can put all your energy into whatever task you’re doing.
- Go paperless.
- Be the face of your brand in your marketing and on social media.
- Have a monthly client newsletter covering frequently asked questions.
- Pick up the phone with other freelancers to support each other and compare business strategies.
This article was originally published in Freelancer Magazine Issue 3. Get Freelancer Magazine delivered to your door or inbox.