Launching an accounting and tax advisory firm in Nigeria is a rewarding path to business ownership, even if you have limited prior experience. With proper preparation and execution, you can build a sustainable practice providing essential services to local businesses. This comprehensive guide covers how to start with little experience.
Gain relevant knowledge and skills.
Although extensive accounting expertise is not mandatory to start, you need baseline bookkeeping competence and a commitment to ongoing learning. Take courses to gain:
- Foundational accounting and tax knowledge
- Proficiency using accounting software like QuickBooks
- Tax preparation know-how
- Small business advisory acumen
Use online learning platforms, community colleges, business centres, and professional associations to efficiently gain skills at a low cost. Develop core competencies before promoting services.
Obtain important certifications.
Certain professional certifications boost credibility with limited experience:
- ABWA: Accredited Bookkeepers of West Africa
- AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians)
- CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner)
- Certification from Major Accounting Bodies (ICAN or ANAN)
Pursue recognised designations to showcase your commitment, even if you are just starting out.
Gain practical experience. However Possible
Look for ways to get real-world experience:
- Take on part-time or volunteer bookkeeping roles.
- Complete an internship at an accounting firm.
- Offer discounted services to early clients for practice.
- Partner with experienced accountants as you build competency.
Work on actual small business books and tax returns—even without pay—to convert knowledge into ability.
Research the local accounting services market.
Conduct extensive market research in your city or region to identify needs and the competitive landscape.
- How many existing accounting firms operate nearby?
- What rates and services do they offer?
- What customer pain points can you address?
- Who represents your ideal target clients?
This will reveal the positioning and offerings for which you can compete as a new entrant. Review reports from organisations like the SMEDAN for additional insight into the SMB segment.
Choose the right business structure.
Opting for the proper legal entity early on provides flexibility as your firm grows. The main options include:
Sole Proprietorship: Simplest, but you assume all liability. Income passes to your personal tax return.
Partnership: Share ownership and liability with a partner. Document a partnership agreement.
Limited Liability Company (LLC): Provides liability protection for your assets. Requires more paperwork and compliance.
Corporation: highest protection as a separate legal entity, but extensive recordkeeping and taxes
Consult lawyers and accountants to pick the optimal structure for your goals.
Formally register your accounting company.
The exact registration process varies based on your entity choice but often includes:
- Filing incorporation documents with the Corporate Affairs Commission
- Registering your business name
- Obtaining a Tax Identification Number (TIN)
- Applying for relevant state and local permits
This makes your business officially legal to operate. Also, check the requirements for an office if needed.
Choose a Brand Positioning Strategy
Your brand messaging should emphasise accuracy, integrity, and reliability in providing accounting services. Feature your credentials prominently. Select a name, like:
- [Your Name] & Associates
- [Local Area] Accounting Partners
- The Accountancy Group
Also secure a matching domain, social media handles, and logo.
Define your service offerings.
Assess your skills to determine which accounting services to offer initially. Common starting points include:
- Financial statement preparation
- Business licence and tax registration
- Corporate income tax filing
- VAT filing and advisory
- Business registration and filing
Over time, you can expand into advisory services around:
- Budgeting and cash flow management
- Accounting system implementation
- Business process improvement
- General business consultation
Equip your office appropriately.
A professional office isn’t mandatory, but it lends credibility. Essential equipment includes:
- Computer(s) with the latest software
- High-speed internet connection
- Printer/scanner all-in-one device
- Landline phone number
- Tax reference materials
- Secure physical and digital file storage
- Copy and fax machine
Also useful are whiteboards, a projector, and videoconferencing capabilities.
Adopt the right accounting technology.
Leverage digital tools to deliver excellent service efficiently. Recommended solutions include:
- Accounting software: QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Sage Accounting
- Tax prep software: Wolters Kluwer, TaxSlayer, TurboTax
- Payroll software: BambooHR, Patriot Software, and Gusto
- Billing software: Invoice2Go, FreshBooks, Zoho Invoice
Choose user-friendly programs fit for your target clientele, mainly SMBs. Train thoroughly on selected platforms.
Build an appealing and credible website.
Your website often creates prospects’ first impressions. Ensure it covers:
- Services offered
- Company background and experience
- Founder/team bios highlighting credentials
- Client testimonials and case studies
- Helpful resources demonstrating knowledge
- Contact page and client intake forms
Update site content regularly and optimise SEO.
Set competitive rates and billing terms.
Research competitor rates in your city since pricing affects client acquisition. Offer packages and discounts to attract early customers, e.g.,
- First month of bookkeeping: 50% off
- 10% discount on tax return preparation
- Fixed-fee new company registration and licencing
Accept all payment modes: cash, check, bank transfer, cards, and mobile money. Automate billing and collections through client portals for efficiency.
Build local referral relationships.
Generate referrals by networking consistently with:
- Lawyers and law firms
- Real estate brokers
- Insurance professionals
- Financial advisors and planners
- Business brokers
- HR services companies
Join relevant associations and chambers of commerce to connect with these sources. Offer reciprocal referrals.
Promote Your Expertise Through Content
Establish credibility by consistently creating and distributing free educational content focused on topics like:
- Tax tips and changes for Nigerian businesses
- Accounting guides for specific industries
- Business licence and incorporation advice
- Cash flow management strategies
- Financial planning for entrepreneurs
Share content on a company blog, via email newsletters, through social media, and as guest articles for local publications.
Host free seminars and webinars.
Raise awareness by conducting free seminars and webinars for business owners. Cover topics like:
- Five ways to reduce your tax liability
- Choosing the right accounting software
- Financial management for startups
- Recordkeeping best practices
These demonstrate your knowledge and help convert attendees into clients. Record and share seminars online.
Provide exceptional customer service.
Building loyalty requires exceeding expectations consistently.
- Respond quickly to inquiries.
- Meet or beat deadlines.
- Follow up proactively.
- Resolve any issues. promptly
- Avoid errors in filings and submissions.
- Offer tax planning and advisory
High-quality care creates positive word-of-mouth and repeat business.
Join relevant professional associations.
Memberships provide benefits like continuing education, networking, credibility signals, referrals, and industry advocacy. Major groups include:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN)
- Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN)
- National Institute of Tax Administration (NITA)
- Association of Taxation and Management Consultants (ATMC)
Take advantage of member resources to grow competency and connections.
Expand services deliberately over time.
With an established client base and greater expertise, you can expand carefully into additional offerings.
- Business advisory and consulting
- Projections and forecasts
- Basic financial planning
- Valuations for mergers and acquisitions
- Audit support services
- Payroll processing
This provides multiple revenue streams while leveraging existing capabilities and client relationships.
Develop a mentor relationship with a CPA.
A mentor who is an experienced certified accountant can provide invaluable guidance as you build competency and your firm. Identify a receptive professional willing to answer questions and review your work informally. Offer to exchange referrals.
Earn a Full CPA Certification Long-Term
The pinnacle credential as your abilities grow is qualifying as a Certified Public Accountant through any of the recognized bodies. This requires passing rigorous exams but enables providing the highest level of accounting services and advice. Having a CPA bolsters credibility substantially.
In summary, with dedication and persistence, you can successfully start an accounting and tax advisory firm in Nigeria even without extensive prior experience. Stay committed to ongoing learning and client service excellence. Leverage digital tools and networks. The essential accounting needs of Nigerian businesses present a major opportunity.