The Initial struggle
"Who is the new CA that these people have hired? Let me see how he takes my work", these words were clearly said to me by a senior member when I made my first client.
"Sir I am much junior to you to take your work. It's just that management wanted another opinion, that's why they hired me" I replied patiently.
Soon he had some closed-door meeting with the management and I was shown the door.
Not all CAs are like him, but yes it's a dark secret that you are going to meet such people who are insecure.
This was my first experience as a Practicing Chartered Accountant. At first, I was thinking of quitting practice, but I decided to give myself more time and soon things were on track. I got my first one after one month. Being bound by the Institute's ethics we cant advertise. So, the only way to get work and expand is through your contacts and goodwill.
There was a problem with the infrastructure. I first took a furnished cabin whose rent was very high and in a couple of months, it eroded much of my savings as I had to pay security too. My mistake was that I didn't do much research. Then I had to shift my office.
You have to make sure that your office is in an area that is easily reachable. There should be proper parking space in front of your office and the location and your office should not be shabby. Your office will most probably your first meeting point with the client and it's going to create your first impression.
As they say, "Beggars can't be choosers". So when you start your practice, you cant choose whether you want to work in GST, TDS, or bookkeeping. You just can't afford to say NO. So you have to read and learn a lot. Your first impression should be of a confident man. The client will only recommend you to others if he or she is satisfied with your services. So you need to have a circle of people to whom you can ask your queries. Attend as my seminars as you can, engage with your seniors, your peers. Clear your doubts. Learn anything you can. I remember I took a bookkeeping assignment in busy software when I didn't know how to operate it. I watched videos, asked my peers, and soon I was comfortable.
Learn to accept mistakes. Mistakes are bound to happen when you work. Being a Chartered Accountant, people expect perfection from you, but we are humans too and mistakes can happen. Accept that, apologize and don't repeat it. There is an idiom "Confuse them if you can't convince them". This idiom should not be followed. To win the trust of your clients, you have to be clear about the task that you are going to perform.
Avoid Unethical practices
I was told to sign a stock audit report which was fake. The client offered me Rs.30,000 for it. My answer was NO. I don't want to be known as a professional who can do anything for money. My concise is clear. But out of desperation some people often say yes to these things. Remember, you are not only tarnishing your image but also of your parent body which gave you this recognition. Never indulge in any unethical practice.
There's another issue of hiring employees. After you take up assignments, you need someone to assist you. It's not easy to get articles as they normally prefer established names. Also, you have budget constraints which makes it difficult to hire experienced staff. In my case, I started with fresher graduates along with experienced part-time. You need trustworthy sharp-minded people who can work with you for a long time. This in itself is a challenge.
Other pertinent issues
Practice looks lucrative, but if it's not hereditary then you will have to struggle a lot initially. Some clients will come and get their work done but won't pay you or will pay you, lessor, as promised. You have to be patient. The right people will eventually come to you. Then there's an issue that you train someone in the job and they would leave you as soon as you give them some major assignment. You have to deal with it.
You will make mistakes. It's not a cakewalk to start a practice. But your patience and persistence will sail you through in your tough times.