As part of National Careers Week, we interviewed Kirsty to discuss the importance of lifelong learning, her bookkeeping journey, and being honoured as a Companion of ICB
Practising since 2009, Kirsty is the founder and owner of Kirsty’s Counting Services in Cambridgeshire. You may know Kirsty as an active member of the ICB community and Cambridgeshire branch chair of nearly 10 years. Kirsty is also regularly called upon to appear on ICB TV and has spoken at the Inspire Tour and the Bookkeepers Summit.
Although Kirsty has been in business for a while it wasn’t until 2012 that she began to go full time. "At that time, running my practice and needing to put more hours into it coincided with getting a redundancy package from a previous job. I’ve now been full-time for nearly 10 years!’’
Losing bookkeeping clients
It has not been easy, however, and in the last 12 months, Kirsty lost three clients. "I ditched one awkward one, but I lost two other clients quite unexpectedly. There was someone whom I had as a partnership, and I helped keep their business growing after their father died. But their business grew and the accountant who did the year-end for the partnership set up a new limited company and started doing the bookkeeping. Another client moved to Peterborough and changed to a local accountant.’’ Kirsty of course remained professional and ensured smooth handovers because, "you never know how things will work out."
Attracting new bookkeeping clients
Part of a bookkeeper’s journey is dealing with losing clients, and Kirsty is no exception. However, a successful bookkeeper also knows how to gain clients, which Kirsty did swiftly after. ''In the space of a few weeks of losing those clients, somebody said 'I'm in the need of a thorough bookkeeper, have you got any space?' So, I of course said yes! I had been chasing him for a VAT invoice on behalf of another client and he appreciated my determination. I gave him a nice chunky price and since then he’s expanded his business and I have two other referrals from him!’’
Growing your bookkeeping practice at your own pace
"My practice is like salvation. It’s like my own little baby’’
Clearly, Kirsty has developed her professional resilience over the years as her practice has evolved. "My practice has grown on its own. When Toby, my son, was little I used to take him to school, go to assemblies, pickups from after school club whilst working, so it’s been tough! I split up with my husband six years ago, so I am on my own. As a result, my practice is like salvation. It’s like my own little baby.’’
"I’m definitely a ‘complete finisher’. And there’s always something to do in a bookkeeping practice.’’
ICB bookkeepers provide an exemplary service to their clients, because they're passionate about helping businesses succeed. During the interview, Kirsty shared how it’s a personal challenge for her to hand over the most accurate set of accounts. "Not too long ago I handed over a set of accounts to my fellow ICB member, Terry Ramm from Capella Accounting, and it’s like my own friendly challenge to give him the most accurate set of accounts possible. I’m definitely a ‘complete finisher’. And there’s always something to do in a bookkeeping practice.’’
"Doing Level 4 will open doors for my practice and allow me to provide extra services. If I can keep my services in house, I can do the work my way and ensure that it is done to my standards.’’
Kirsty has continued her lifelong learning journey by enrolling on ICB Level 4 courses to offer services such as self-assessment, year-end accounts, and Corporation Tax.
By completing Level 4 modules, bookkeepers can expect to grow their practice and gain more clients, offering a wider variety of services to their clients.
"I was inspired at the 2020 Bookkeepers Summit, having thought for a while that I should do Level 4 courses. I took all of Level 3 recently (the bit I was missing after the syllabus revision a few years ago) which was a kind of revision and I was also prompted by my (older) sister who was going through ICB qualifications for the first time.
"It was interesting to see it through fresh eyes. Doing Level 4 will open doors for my practice and allow me to provide extra services. If I can keep my services in house, I can do the work my way and ensure that it is done to my standards.’’
"There is a huge market out there for self assessment, especially with Making Tax Digital coming’’
Bookkeepers working together
Another part of an ICB bookkeeper’s journey is being part of a community, and not going it alone. After many years in practice, Kirsty has decided to bring in her sister, Fiona Fowler MICB, to help her grow her practice.
"Fiona is doing the Level 4 Self-Assessment module so we can offer a complete service in my practice. I can do the bookkeeping, corporation tax and year-end. She can do the self-assessment. There is a huge market out there for self-assessment, especially with Making Tax Digital coming.’’
"Every day is a school day in bookkeeping. Having the branches and having a cohort of different bookkeepers to speak to, who are in different stages of their bookkeeping journey, is really beneficial’’
"Without the ICB community, life as a bookkeeper would be awful! Just being able to ask questions to our fellow bookkeepers is great and it can be via WhatsApp, Facebook groups, email, anything.
"We have an ICB Cambridgeshire Branch WhatsApp group, and we chat there a lot. Some people in the group have only just qualified, others have been in practice a long time, and it is nice just to be able to say, ‘how do I do this?’ or ‘I have this client…’.
"The ICB community has grown so much in the last 13 years, new bookkeepers are really lucky to have this support network."
Recognition and awards for bookkeepers
"Becoming an ICB Companion was such a shock that the rest of the evening at the LUCA Awards was a blur! I danced to Mr Brightside of course, it’s compulsory."
We rounded off the interview by talking about Kirsty becoming a Companion of ICB last year. Kirsty was shortlisted for Small Practice of the Year and Branch of the Year, but she went home with an unexpected prize.
"Becoming a Companion was such a shock that the rest of the evening was a blur! I danced to Mr Brightside of course, it’s compulsory. I am not a Fellow nor have I completed Level 4 qualifications yet, so I didn’t ever dream it would be given to me, but it’s amazing to receive - a real honour.’’ If you ever become a Companion of ICB, we also expect you to dance to Mr Brightside!
Kirsty appears in our Women in Bookkeeping webinar which aired as part of National Careers Week and International Women's Day. You can watch the recording on the ICB Youtube channel:
If you would like to advance your career and become a bookkeeper, or if you would like to enrol on our Level 4 courses, visit our Study & Qualifications page. If you already have recognised bookkeeping qualifications, then visit our Membership page.