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Becoming Self-Employed has given me a better life!

Leisa Turnbull, 39, is a self-employed bookkeeper. She lives in Horsham, West Sussex with her husband Andy and two daughters, Jessica 12 and Katie 9.

My CV Makeover
THEN…customer service manager. I spent 15 years working my way up. I loved the job, but not the long hours away from my family.
NOW…self-employed bookkeeper. I’ve built up a great customer base of small businesses. I work four days a week and school hours only, but still bring home a decent wage.

BUSINESS IN FIGURES
Launched: July 2011
Average earnings: £30,000
Costs: £1,300 (£700 for certification, £600 for optional 
exams in self-assessment and payroll management)
Exams: £200
Practising licence and ICB membership: £178
Insurance: £240
Laptop and software: £700
Web design: £700
Web address: thesussexbookkeeper.co.uk

THE IDEA
I was acting head of customer service at G4S and was tipped for the full-time role, but was already working 40 hours per week. A promotion would have meant getting full-time childcare which I didn’t want. A friend had recently been made redundant and set up her own company, which inspired me to go self-employed. It would giving up a salary of nearly £50,000, but after searching online I noticed bookkeepers earned a good hourly rate (about £20). I had knowledge of accountancy and because a lot of my friends ran small businesses I knew there was a demand. I talked it through with Andy and the girls and explained it would mean tightening our belts, and they were all behind me. We took in foreign students to help make ends meet, and Andy, who worked at a prop company and whose earnings were on a par with mine, was actually given a pay rise. I found a home study course that was accredited by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, enrolled in April 2011, and then I resigned from my job.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
I completed the home study course in just two months (it can take up to 18 months) and sat my exams to become a certified bookkeeper. I also set up a website as I felt this was important for finding clients. A friend recommended a web designer, who encouraged me to include a blog with insider tips on bookkeeping, to bump up my Google ratings. Becoming self-employed is very straightforward – you just have to inform HM Revenue & Customs within three months or you incur a penalty. I took out insurance and indemnity insurance to cover me while working in clients’ offices. This came to £240 per year. I also got a practising licence for £78. I left my job in July 2011 and, based on a recommendation from my web designer, I got my first client at the beginning of August. I may have lacked experience but they felt that a good character reference was just as important. From then, I picked up a new client every fortnight or so, mainly through word of mouth. My clients now range from garages and playgroups to carpet fitters and party planners.

WHERE I AM NOW
My time is split between my home office and working with clients. The beauty of bookkeeping is that you can work as much or as little as you want – I work four days a week and only during school hours. Since I’ve started I’ve doubled my earnings month on month and earn around 60% of my old wage.

GLITCHES
confidence has been my biggest hurdle. Luckily a lot of my friends are self-employed, so whatever I’m going through they can say, “Don’t worry, we’ve been there too.”

MY TIPS
Remember: any sacrifices you make are not hardships – they’re short term strategies to change your life for the better.

BECOMING SELF EMPLOYED
Go to: https://www.gov.uk/topic/business-tax/self-employed for all you need to know about setting up, tax and national insurance.