ICB Content Editor Graham Hambly caught up with the Luca Award-winning Student of the Year Nicole Atkinson MICB PM.Dip

Who is your employer and how long have you been there?

Myself! Atkinson Accounting Services, established June 2019.

Let’s start at the beginning - what made you want to be a bookkeeper?

Being made redundant at the end of my second period of maternity leave. I had been a project manager and was unable to find a part-time role with enough seniority to pay nursery fees. I wanted a flexible career that I could grow as my children grew and that I could take further once they were at school.

Once you decided on bookkeeping what made you sign up to ICB?

I did lots of research into the various associations and their training partners. I quickly discovered ICB; they seemed to be the best fit for both studying and ongoing membership, and then I looked into their training partners. Ideal Schools had some great feedback and their materials were attractively priced, so I gave them a call. I spoke with Sheila and she was so informative and friendly. Happy to offer advice on the most appropriate path for my needs but no sales pressure at all. After I’d signed up, my first materials arrived within a few days.

You study with Ideal Schools. Have they been supportive?

Ideal Schools have been fantastic; this is my first experience of distance learning and I would definitely recommend them. Responsive, supportive – no question was silly or unimportant. I even got support out of hours with an assignment that I struggled with; they really care about their students. The Facebook community is also a great network for students. The fact I will continue to study with them speaks volumes.

How are you getting on with your studies? Have you found the exams hard?

I have completed all but one of my exams – I signed up to 11 in total. It’s only that I’m struggling for time as I’ve started working that has slowed my progress. I did find I had to get back into the exam mentality – I hadn’t studied or taken an exam for 15 years and you do need to read the questions carefully to understand what is being asked in the exams. Definitely take the mocks and go through the feedback.

Any tips for students?

Fully understanding each module before moving on is important. I used the planner at the front of each folder to set realistic targets for completing each assessment and allowed a day's wiggle room. I often studied when my children were napping or in bed, and that doesn’t always go to plan. It also gave me an extra boost when I was ahead of my schedule. Also, have a set area where you always study with minimal distractions – I was just at one end of the kitchen table, but I quickly got into study mindset when I sat down. My family knew what it meant when I was sat there too!

What is your favourite subject?

My favourite was Self Assessment Taxation – I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect and the practicality of the module. 

Tell us a bit about your practice

I provide bookkeeping services for local businesses. I have four clients at the moment with a further two coming on board in the New Year. They are a fairly even mix of bookkeeping for local businesses and projects to sort out neglected accounts. I work three school days when I have childcare and usually two or three evenings a week.

Looking to the future, what are your aspirations?

I’d like to complete at least the FRS105 (Financial Statements for Micro & Small Businesses) Level 4 module so that I can offer a full range of services. Ideally, I’d like to build up my number of clients over the next year and expand my knowledge. I’ve got it in my head that I might study further when my children are both a school, perhaps to study tax further, but we’ll see! 

Were you surprised when you heard you had been nominated for a Luca Award?

I was both surprised and absolutely delighted that I had been nominated – it made all those hours and evenings worthwhile! The Summit and the awards ceremony were brilliant.

2019 SOTY at the Luca Awards

Nicole at the 2019 Luca Awards sitting beside fellow award winner, Scot Vanden Akker from Ideal Schools 

And to finish - what is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Only look back to see how far you’ve come

I think my current favourite is ‘only look back to see how far you’ve come’. I’m always focused on working towards the next goal and I’m not always very good at taking stock of what I’ve achieved.