Les Howard is a partner in vatadvice.org; a specialist VAT consultancy practice. Les works mainly with charities and churches, enjoying the indirect difference he and his team are making on others lives.
Let’s see what Les has been up to:
What is your name and what do you do?
Les Howard, VAT Consultant – I work mainly with Charities and Churches.
How long have you been freelancing and why did you decide to become a freelancer?
I worked in a small management consultancy business and wanted to broaden the work I was involved in.
What strategy do you find most effective for attracting new clients?
Most enquires come from regular referrers. And those enquiries tend to be better than those that come via our website.
What app or social media platform could you not run your business without, and why?
We use MS Teams and Xero with Work Flow Max for our integrated CRM, time records, invoicing, accounting.
Do you research prospects before a call or meeting? If so, what information do you look for?
We do research before initial client call/meeting. The information varies depending on whether it is a one-off job or long-term client. In both cases, clients are usually charities.
Details of their activities and income streams; indication of future plans.
What do you do to help maintain positive mental wellbeing?
I currently work part time and protect my non-work time quite well.
I belong to a Church and enjoy the support of that community.
I have a stack of books to read.
Is being a freelancer what you expected? Do you work more hours (or less) than you had first anticipated?
It was unknown at first. Probably the unexpected thing was the burden of admin and regulatory work, such as anti-money laundering, insurance, etc.
What are the most common objections you’ve had from potential clients? How did/do you overcome them?
We don’t have many objections – we are in a niche field and enjoy a good reputation.
Some ask for a lot of work whilst not wanting to pay properly for it. We are secure enough to stand our ground.
When we do work for next-to-nothing, it is our choice as a way of serving, perhaps a charity struggling for cash.
Have you ever turned a prospect away? If so, why and how did you do it?
Last week. The contact thought our fee was too high yet wanted some input. The matter was much more complex than they had appreciated and thought we could give an easy answer.
I simply invited the contact to find another firm.
Are your motivations now the same as they were when you started freelancing?
No. At first it was to do work beyond the narrow scope of the business I worked for.
Now, I spend most of my time advising Charities & Churches; there is an indirect impact to support their clients. We are changing lives!
What is it about being a freelancer that you most enjoy?
Over the past 5 years, the freelance ‘me’ has grown to a team of 7. I love being part of the team.
And, interaction with clients; some of whom become personal friends.
What do you enjoy the least about being a freelancer?
Very little now. We have out-sourced the stuff we don’t like.
What one thing do you wish you had known before you became a freelancer?
How much work is involved to be the entire business.
What is your ONE top tip or piece of advice you would offer to other freelancers?
Get a group of supportive people around you. Give them permission to ask any question and to offer any advice, even if you choose not to implement it.
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