Can online accounting become as big as online shopping?
Walking up to your high street accountant with a shoe box of crumpled receipts is a yearly event for many of us. It’s the day where you dread getting whacked with a huge bill from the taxman or, even worse, being branded as the Jimmy Carr of your industry.
But there’s a way the accounting and tax ordeal can be less taxing, if online accounting company Boox is to be believed.
Launched in 2011, Boox helps freelancers, contractors and businesses to do their accounts online. With prices starting at £65 a month, users can file tax returns, pay salaries, and ascertain profits all online. The company also helps people in setting up a limited company and filing self-assessment tax returns.
Boox is on the mark of reaching a £1.5 million turnover and a roster of 1,000 clients this year, but will it ever beat high street accountants? We spoke to Christopher Clark, operations director, Boox:
Why would businesses consider signing up for Boox?
Usually people go to the accountant at the end of the year with a bundle of invoices and bank statements and because the accountants have to start from scratch, people end up paying a lot. But with Boox, all they would have to do is spend some time every week to keep their books up to date. What we’re really doing is making accounting simple and quicker and making business owners their own boss for determining what they’ve earnt.
Businesses that sign up with Boox have their admin side completely taken care of. From setting up a limited company to calculating what you take home, we help businesses with all the boring admin stuff they dread. Because business owners are updating payments and invoices on their own, they know how much they will take home.
Also, for freelancers and contractors planning to start their own business, we help them tackling scary formalities like VAT and tax laws.
Why would people dump their high street accountants and come to Boox?
With us, accounts are available to see 24/7, 365 days a year. You just fill in your details and we do the maths for you – be it calculating the tax you owe to communication with the HMRC or filing accounts to Companies House.
Accounting online and spending that half hour every week takes away the fear of taxman coming knocking at your door. Online accounts help you to be on top of your invoices and payments all throughout the year. Doing it all online whenever you want is much more convenient than booking an appointment with a high street accountant and taking time off work.
Having said that, we don’t want to be seen as just some accounting company with new technology. That’s why we assign all our clients a personal accountant who they can call, email or Skype to seek help. Also, we know that switching from a high street accountant to an online accountant can be quite a headache so we take up the entire responsibility of switching accountants to minimise any disruption.
But aren’t people wary of filing accounts online on their own, isn’t it complicated?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think our USP is the fact that we keep it simple. From journalists to social workers, people aren’t interested in how the accounting is done, they want to feel confident that they are doing everything compliantly and wouldn’t get any unpleasant surprises from the taxman. That’s exactly what we do, we make accounting simple for them so that they can concentrate on their business without any worries. All they need to do is, fill in their details from time and time and we handle the rest.
Fair enough, so what are you doing to grow your business?
I think word-of-month promotion is what’s really helping us to grow our business. On an average, we see each happy customer referring us to at least three to five other people. We’re also participating in The Great British Business Show and are confident that it’ll help us get some clients in.
Apart from that, we’re developing an app wherein customers can scan receipts from their smartphones and can add it to their Boox accounts. I’m sure the app would save even more time for Boox users and would help us look attractive to many customers.
What problems that you face in growing the business?
Every business will tell you that they want more customers and more profit, we’re no different. But I think the biggest problem in our business to make sure we don’t get compartmentalised into either a technology or a finance company. We want to establish ourselves as a financial-technology company that handles all your accounts with clever technology.
Budgeting the number of accountants to the number of customers is also tricky, as we are a new business the number keeps fluctuating month on month. Also, we struggle with changing that mindset that if you’re a technology company, you’d have automated customer services or live online chats – we’re different. At any given point of time, our clients can chat with someone at Boox to sort out their doubts.
Who’s your biggest competitor in your field?
I think Sage is the one of the biggest names in our field, they are the Virgin for accounting softwares. We’re targeted towards freelancers and contractors so the aim is to be the Richard Branson of accounting softwares in that domain. Our three-year plan is to get 3000-4000 customers and I’m sure we’ll break that milestone.
So, will accounting online become as big as online shopping?
I think accounting online has really taken off. Just look at our business, we’ve got 50-60 clients coming to us every month and our target is to have 1,000 clients by the end of the year, we’re well to achieve that target. Much like online shopping, freelancers and contractors find accounting online easier, faster, hassle-free and fool-proof. To know that you can go and just fill all your details and someone else is doing the running around for you to comply with all tax rules comes in very handy.