Q&A with Elaine Clark of CheapAccounting.co.uk on the launch of the revolutionary
Name Your Price Accountancy Service
Q: Can you explain a bit about Name Your Price?
I like simple things and I like things to say what they do in the title. That’s why Name Your Price pretty much does what it says on the tin. It gives freelancers, contractors and small business owners the ability to get the Accountancy Service they want at the price they want to pay. They tell us what they want us to do for them and their budget for the work. If the business owner has been fair, and realistic about the work being achievable for the price then it’s a win:win for both them and us; they get their work done and we acquire a new client.
Q: How did the concept come about?
It was actually on the back of the interview I did with Richard Hattersley of AccountingWeb about Accountancy Fees [Fee debate: Should accountants lower their prices?]. CheapAccounting.co.uk entered the online space some 10 years ago when Cloud was just something people saw in the sky. At that time we were one of the very first to offer low fixed fees driven by the use of an online system which I happened to have written myself. The accountancy space is now crowded with online firms offering fixed price rigid services.
So it’s time to do something different yet again if I want to maintain my disruptive guerrilla marketing model.
Q: What types of services are covered by Name Your Price?
Pretty much any accounting or tax services that someone may need; anything from answer some queries through to people who find themselves in a mess needing their tax affairs brought up to date and put back on track.
Q: Do you think clients are sophisticated enough to cope with Name Your Price?
I find that pigeonholing clients is best avoided. Users of accounting services come in all shapes and sizes. There are those that need complete handholding right the way through to the sophisticated accounts savvy client who can do most, if not all, of it themselves. In the volume market that we operate in, we are seeing a “new breed” of client who, often with the help of Cloud Accounting, get the accounts pretty much spot on. They’re just a little afraid of the final step of pushing the button to file the accounts with HMRC through the software and want someone to give everything the once over before it’s committed to the authorities. They do not need the rigidity of the traditional year end accounting service.
Equally the less savvy client or those new to business may have limited budgets which do not stretch to a full service. If they are prepared to do some of the work themselves, with guidance, then we can add the value as and when they need it. Either way, clients are certainly sophisticated enough to know that they want value for money although there does seem to be a huge gap between what is perceived as value for money by the client and the value many an accountant perceived they are worth.
I guess it is like a piece of art; someone can see the beauty in a painting and will pay a fortune whilst another may class it as ugly and worthless.
Q: How do you see the future of Accountancy servicing the volume compliance market?
The word is changing and many do not value the work of an accountant especially when they can find out information from the internet themselves for nothing except for the investment of their time. For those who do want specific advice they can just tweet @HMRCcustomers for an answer although I’ve not tested out the accuracy of the responses. If HMRC had their way accountants would disappear entirely. Not only that but Cloud Accounting gives people the opportunity to become more experienced in managing the financial affairs of their business including tax. Put these together along with the plethora of new entrants to the unregulated accountancy space can only mean a continued downward push on compliance fees. It’s competitive out there and will become even more so.
Q: What are the top three challenges out there?
- Keeping up to date with technology and how it can be used to drive streamlined services to clients at a price that they want to pay.
- Managing the ever changing tax landscape and informing clients of the impact of these on their businesses.
- Staying abreast of the Making Tax Digital hokey cokey until such time as HMRC face up to the lack of tangible benefits derived from the MTD implementation as well as realise that the recent IR35 public sector workers changes mean that they cannot staff the project.
About Elaine Clark
Elaine Clark started her career in accountancy at the age of 16 having been told by her school that she would never amount to anything in life! For Elaine that was the best thing to happen as it made her determined to prove the school wrong; which is exactly what she has done throughout her career. Having qualified as a Chartered Accountant at the age of 21 with KPMG, she went onto a successful career with blue chip organisations but took the brave decision to give that all up in 2007 when she launched her own online firm of accountants under, what she describes as, the marmite brand of CheapAccounting.co.uk.
The brand built upon Elaine’s business and academic experience in technology and internet computing and she became one of the first accountants in the UK to use Cloud Accounting systems for clients; a system that she designed and developed herself.
Elaine has built up a formidable reputation in the accountancy world winning several awards, making numerous radio appearances as well as frequently being asked by national newspapers, magazines, professional bodies and websites to provide expert commentary about tax, finance and other issues relevant to micro businesses in the UK.
Elaine says “I seem to have built a reputation in the accountancy space for being direct and straight talking; I just say it how it is. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea but then you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I’m just happy to have pleased some people who I’ve either helped with their accountancy needs or helped them to launch and develop their own Accountancy Practice into a very successful business. They’re pleased. I’m pleased. What else is there to say?”
Elaine has recently launched Name Your Price which gives freelancers, contractors and small business owners the ability to get the Accountancy Service they want at the price they want to pay.