Ali Edwards

This is my story

I am a Certified Bookkeeper living in Sevenoaks and a mum/wife with two little boys and a commuter husband.

I run a bookkeeping business based at home supporting local small businesses, charities and clubs with their financial and payroll requirements.

The primary focus for setting up my business was to allow me to work in a job that I enjoyed whilst also being around for my family whenever they needed me. I love numbers and people and bookkeeping combines both. The flexibility of my hours means I can always do the school runs, but I can also sing in a choir and lead runs for a local ladies jogging group.

In a nutshell

  • Name: Emily Chandler
  • Company: Chandler Bookkeeping
  • Established: 2014

I am AICB – Associate of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers.  I have a licence issued by ICB to offer services in bookkeeping, accounting and payroll services. ICB is the largest bookkeeping institute in the world. It promotes and maintains the standards of bookkeeping as a profession through the establishment of relevant qualifications and the award of grades of membership that recognise academic attainment, working experience and competence.

What was your career background before establishing your book keeping business?

After graduating from Edinburgh in 1999 I joined a graduate training scheme with Accenture in London and trained as a management consultant. I had a happy eight years travelling the country and helping businesses become more effective through large scale software implementation. By the time I became I pregnant with my first son I was working in HR management – long hours and high stress. After maternity leave I went back to work part time and quickly realised that for me this was going to be a challenge – part time mummy and part time HR manager meant that I found it hard to be great at either role. Son number two followed and I decided that I needed to change my life. I took a gamble, resigned from my job and enrolled on a distance learning course to qualify as Certified Bookkeeper.

Four and a half years later and I am fully qualified and run a part time bookkeeping business from my spare room!

How long did it take you to complete the necessary qualifications before you could go into business?

I started the distance learning course when my son was in pre- school and therefore I was limited to studying 4 mornings a week during term time. I finished the qualification a year later and then took some additional modules to allow me to offer a broader service to my clients. I studied at home although had to travel to a local assessment centre to take the exams required to qualify.

How easy do you find it to juggle work and family commitments now that you are busy with your business?

I would describe my working style as compressed…. I work 3 hours a day on average and when I say work… I mean I sit and don’t move for 3 hours at a time. I get a lot done within that time frame because I have to! The nature of my working style means that I can flex my hours whenever I need to – sometimes taking a day off to go on a school trip and other times working 10 hours straight to help someone finish their year end accounts by the deadline.

Where do you find new clients?

Word of mouth. I don’t advertise as I know my capacity and I get enough work by targeting the right places. I do regular bookkeeping for clubs, pre-schools and small businesses which means I get a lot of repeat business without constantly needing to look for new clients.

What’s been the biggest surprise about setting up and running the business?

I was surprised at how easy it is to do. You do have to be brave…. resigning from a company which I had worked for since graduation and which provided me with a good salary and benefits was scary. However – I immediately felt liberated and empowered to go out and make my own future. I knew what I needed and what my family needed to make it work and just went out and did it!

What advice would you give to another Mum thinking about doing the same?

Do your research. Make sure you really know what you want to do and it is something you will enjoy. Setting up your own business is not for everyone, but changing your career is. You may want a local part time job where you can leave everything at the door when you leave or you may want to do something completely different like work outdoors or with animals. Know what will make you and your family happy and then just go and do it!