How to become a self-employed accountant in the UK or abroad

laptop, coffee and notepad on desk

If you fancy working for yourself then becoming self-employed is the obvious answer. But how do you do it?

Get an internationally recognised qualification

It might sound obvious, but you’ll need to have an accountancy qualification to get set up as an accountant. Two of the most popular accounting qualifications are AAT (awarded by the Association of Accounting Technicians) and ACCA (awarded by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

With the evolution in technology, the world is getting smaller and new horizons are being opened up to accountants. For those looking to experience life in a new country, access to international careers may be easier than you think.

AAT and ACCA are internationally recognised, so your skills are applicable to many regions.


The AAT qualification is the minimum required for a qualified accountant. It’s popular because you don’t need any experience or previous qualifications to do it. Once you’ve completed the AAT Professional Diploma (Level 4) you can join AAT as a member in practice (MIP), and can start working as an accountant.


If you have previously studied AAT, some of the material corresponds, offering you exemptions from the first three papers of ACCA. ACCA allows you to become a qualified accountant, and you will be able to provide a full range of accountancy services, including audits and tax, as well as advising clients how to improve their business’s finances.

Get accounting experience

Alongside your learning, you should get experience in accounting. It can be hard to get paid work before you’re qualified, but even volunteering roles give you a chance to build up your experience and get familiar with the systems and methods you’ll be using.

Remember to check all legal and financial requirements

When you are qualified, and have a few years of experience, you’re ready to set up by yourself. But before you do, you must take into account the legal requirements that go with setting up your own practice:

    • Tell HMRC as soon as you start working for yourself, and obtain a unique agent code from them.
    • It’s a legal requirement that any person, or firm, providing an accountancy service in the UK must be registered with and monitored by a recognised supervisory authority. Approved Supervisory authorities include AAT and ACCA. However, you do not need to have this in place if you are carrying out basic accounting activities, such as bookkeeping.
    • You must notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as you will be holding personal data on your clients.
    • If you are trading in the UK, you should buy Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). It’s a type of insurance that will protect you against legal action taken by your clients in the case of mistakes.


Once you’re set up, you’re ready to go…

Let people know about you

Once you’re set up you need to market yourself to attract clients. You’ll need to be creative as the traditional ways of getting customers don’t work any more. Networking, social media, a good website and creative online advertising can help you expand your client base.

Get to know others in the industry because they can help pass on your details, should they not be able to take on a new client.

Get smart cloud accounting software

This allows you to login and connect to the client, cutting down on unnecessary face-to-face meetings. Also, questions can be asked and answered, in context. Cloud software allows automatic data entry and daily bank reconciliation, as well as making payroll so much easier.

Create service bundles

Most small businesses want certainty around their expenses. Hourly billing doesn’t give them that. Try agreeing on a plan where you provide specific services for a monthly retainer. This often includes write-up work such as, providing reports, day-to-day assistance posting transactions, managing bill payments, account reconciliations and advising on business growth.

Want to go freelance and become your own boss? Feel free to check out our accountancy courses – both AAT and ACCA.