Are you struggling to balance work with being a mum? Read how Natasha Baker and her friend Esther Guy retrained as accountants and gave up their jobs to set up their own successful accountancy business.
What do you do?
I’m an accountant and I set up accounting4contractors (A4C) with my friend Esther late in 2012 – we offer cloud based accounting and payroll solutions to freelancers, contractors, interims and small businesses.
How did your career change after having children?
I worked as Head of IT Projects for a well known recruitment company (I gave them over 20 years of my life!).
I had my son six years ago, and took a full year off on maternity leave, returning to work when he was a year old. I was ready to go back to work at that point and he settled well into a local nursery – but this meant long days dropping him off as the nursery opened at 8am, and I picked him up at 6pm.
I chatted to my friend Esther about the juggling (she has three daughters) and not having a work-life balance (my life was like a military operation) and we came up with a plan to change our destinies – enrolling on an accountancy course to begin part time studies while still working.
We started our college course together, building our business plans along the way, and with the support of husbands, children, family and friends we passed all our exams. The rest is history!
What is A4C and who do you help?
We’re an accountancy practice. Our client businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and cover multiple sectors, including lifestyle, health and beauty, trades, retail, banking, engineering, IT, finance, healthcare and more. We work with sole traders/freelancers, partnerships, single directors of limited companies, and small businesses.
Our services vary but we offer inclusive fixed fee accountancy packages and we also run weekly/fortnightly/four weekly/monthly payroll services to help small businesses comply with HMRC Real Time Information reporting legislation (avoiding monthly penalties from HMRC).
What makes you different from other accountants?
Our biggest selling points are that we’re not stuffy. We’re real people who like talking, and we get to know our clients and their businesses – oh, and our support is unlimited so there are no hidden extras.
We give our clients free access to Xero cloud based accounting software and we’ll even schedule calls outside traditional office hours if that’s what our clients need.
How do you work around your family – what does your average work day look like?
A normal day in my life starts at around 5.30am (yes, really!). This is when I get to work ON my business rather than in it. I’m usually found sitting at my laptop at the dining table with a cuppa – being away from my desk helps me to stay focused on marketing activities to help grow the business.
This window of ‘me time’ lasts until around 7am when my son wakes up. Then I put my mum hat on and we go through the usual shower/get dressed/teeth brushing and breakfast routine before we sit together so he can read to me. He goes to breakfast club two mornings a week so that I know I can schedule calls or allow travelling time for client visits.
We walk to school at least three mornings a week and I can be back at my desk for 9am. Then its all about ‘doing’ the accountancy and payroll work – time management is vital so I can meet deadlines and provide a great service until I leave my desk again at 3pm for the school run and after school activities.
I try to make sure that any task that could be achieved with a six year old nearby is left until later in the day as I might manage a few more tasks before the day ends.
Our evenings are a bit of a mix depending on workload, but that tends to be when we join networking hours such as #surreyhour on Twitter, or we’ll post on Facebook or surf LinkedIn if we sit on the sofa for long enough!
Why do you love owning your own business?
We love the fact that we’re able to make things work around family life – we work really hard, but we also know that we can have downtime and it feels like we’ve got that work-life balance that seemed so hard when we worked for others.
We no longer have the familiar feeling of guilt either – we go to assemblies, sports days, open afternoons etc – because we can!
What’s the hardest part of running your own company?
It can be scary at first, and there’s a lot to learn, but if you’re prepared to work hard and learn lots it will pay off!
And the best?
The freedom and lack of guilt!
Who inspires you?
I think my inspiration comes from my mum who died 27 years ago – she packed a lot into her life and was always busy juggling work, sport, friends and family.
I certainly got a lot of my parenting tactics from her (I hear her voice in me!) but I know that determination and strong principles are characteristics that have given me the fighting spirit and strength to go it alone in business and in life.
What’s your best piece of financial advice for contractors or small business owners?
- Identify what you’re good at – let others take the strain in your weaker areas as that will help you grow your business.
- Make sure you know the financial health of your business so you can spot opportunities to increase profits.
- Pay the tax you have to pay without paying more than you need to!