My darling sister, Hanneke Barlow, has been running her own accounting business for a few years and has had incredible success so far. She approached me last year to redesign her logo, corporate identity and website to grow her business even further. It was such a pleasure to not only work with my sister but with my fiancé, Sean Campbell – my favourite web developer, of course. Sean has been building some incredible websites, including my own, and I am beyond proud to see the growth in his own freelance journey. Since the launch the www.digitsaccounting.co.za website this weekend, Hanneke has signed three clients already. Success!
As a small business owner myself I am moving all of my tax and accounting work over to Digits Accounting from February 2018 to alleviate all of the stress and admin from my schedule in order for me to focus on my creative work more fully. Having a professional in charge of your accounting is non-negotiable for any business in order to succeed long term and finding a trustworthy accountant can be daunting. As creatives we often overlook the importance of accounting and we try to do-it-all ourselves to save money.
The simple truth is that paying a professional accountant to take over will ultimately save you money and allow your business to run professionally, smoothly and allow for a successful, sustainable future. With Digits Accounting your package is tailor made to suit your specific needs and you can control how much you will be doing yourself (with professional guidance) and how much you will be handing over to her to alleviate some of the admin and pressure.
Hanneke Barlow kindly agreed to some interview questions to help us gain insight into her business as well as some tips for anyone running their own creative business.
- Short bio and list of your studies and experience.
I am a left-brained, yet not so typical accountant. My (dare I say) first love is building and doing business and I have found the best way of coupling my love for accounting with my inmate entrepreneurial spirit. The birth of my beautiful daughter set my priorities straight and I started my venture which has evolved into a tailored tax and accounting service for successful, creative entrepreneurs.
I completed a BAccounting degree at the University of Stellenbosch after which I worked in the corporate industry as an accountant for just over 5 years. I craved flexibility and the chance to provide a service above and beyond the norm. Lots of hard work, sweat and tears, and two years later, here I am, the incredibly proud owner and director of DIGITS. I already serve around 20 clients and am now vigorously branching my focus to expand into the niche I found in successful, creative entrepreneurs. For my full portfolio of clients, feel free to visit my Linkedin page www.linkedin.com/in/hannekebarlow.
- What motivated you to start your own accounting business?
Standing at the creche gate, annoyed that the gates aren’t opened before 07:00 so I can get to my super important job, always worried about how late my 1 year old was making me. Wanting to swear at the teacher phoning to say my little girl is running a fever and I need to come and fetch her… I was so consumed with making a living that I completely forgot that I had one chance at making a life for my child. My super important job seemed less and less worth it and I made the bold decision to quite my job and get my life in order. I posted a very amateur ad on a local community Facebook group offering freelance accounting services. OH MY WORD. The response was incredible. I landed a permanent contract with a group of companies that literally changed the way I think about business and I count myself incredibly lucky to watch how impact and support far outweighs their profit goals and am learning from them every day! From there without any attempt at marketing my client base just grew at a rapid pace. I had to build a plane whilst already in the air and recently had to take a step back to reflect on what it is that I want to achieve and how I will achieve that.
Do you have any accounting tips for people with small / big businesses?
The turning point in my career as a business owner was when I was spending every last second of my day trying to get a piece of work in, chasing money became a wicked cycle. I had to stop letting my business run my life and rather build a business around my life. The key was to not sell myself short. Find what sets you apart from your competitors and then charge what you’re worth. Deliver above and beyond what is expected and make a client’s experience of working with you, one that is professional and outstanding. Stop selling yourself short.
Secondly, stop trying to ‘do it all’. Hand over to professionals where required. The money you need to cough up to have a professional handle a specific aspect of your business determines how your overall client experience turns out. A turning point in handing over tasks and not trying to control every aspect of running and setting up a business for me was when I heard a client comment that Warren Buffett made a statement that comes down to something like this: If you earn R500/hour and to employ someone at R300/hour to do that work does not equal a loss of R200/hour. It results in a gain of an hour’s work that you don’t have to do yourself. Meaning the equation in real terms mean that paying R300/hour for someone to do work for you, actually equals a saving of R200/hour as well as R500/hour you are now able to make with your time freed up. Paying R300/hour can make you R700/hour if your average rate was R500/hour.
Thirdly, do your research when looking for an accountant to serve your business. Look for a like-minded person. Consider what exact pressures you would like for them to take off your shoulders and communicate that effectively.
Are you able to sign clients that do not live in Johannesburg?
My entire revamped business is setup as a virtual service. I even have a South African client in Canada! Technology plays the key role in providing such a virtual service. So the question really is how comfortable prospective clients are with technology and making use of that to support a fully functional accounting and tax system.
How has the brand redesign and website affected your business so far?
I am so incredibly blessed. I had this vision of owning a pretty, feminine and all around beautiful brand. Your professional approach to designing this for me met the vision I had to an extent I did not know existed! I literally have clients signing up with me because the brand resonates so well with them that they feel like there is just no other option than having me as their accountant. It serves as a confirmation that I would ‘get them’.
Where to from here if someone would like to sign with you?
As I am in the incredibly blessed position to narrow my client base down, I have a limited number of spots open per service that I provide. These are filling up fast, so if you are interested, let me know and I’ll get the process started asap!
If you are frustrated with your current accounting systems and feel like 2018 is your year to fully take charge of your business, visit Digits Accounting for a quote and chat to Hanneke Barlow to find out if this will be the right fit for you. I can highly recommend. Her professional advice has been undeniably valuable in my own business and I am so relieved that she will be taking over all of my tax and accounting come February 2018.
This incredible website was one of many collaborations that I have done with my talented fiancé, Sean Campbell. We are so excited to combine our strengths to bring people the best quality branding and websites in order to grow their businesses and compete on a local or international level.
Tax & Accounting: Digits Accounting
Website: Campbell Web Works
Branding: Maria Magdalena Atelier