Few people have the opportunity to combine their passion with their work. But Sherrell T. Martin has been able to do just that, combining her love of interior design with her expertise in accounting and bookkeeping.
Martin is the founder of Nitram Financial Solutions, a financial management and consulting practice focused on clients in the interior design and design-build industries. Up until about a year ago, Martin worked in public accounting and in the corporate world, but she was feeling tired and burned out, so she decided to take a leap of faith.
“I started to reflect on the clients I had worked with, and what I liked and didn’t like, and kept coming back to this creative aspect,” Martin said.
Martin had previously worked with design clients that were small startups, so she sought them out again, starting her own firm based on doing what she loves.
Here, Martin shares her top tips for accounting professionals who want to carve out a niche for themselves in the field.
1. Focus on what you love, not what’s easiest. Before launching Nitram Financial, Martin primarily worked with clients in service-based businesses because she found that the work she did for them was the easiest to automate. However, as software began to expand and evolve, Martin decided to branch out, connecting with some of the construction clients she had worked with in the past. Ultimately, accountants who are launching their own practice should make sure they are committed to their vision.
“I think a lot of business owners end up repeating what they were doing in their previous jobs, so a new owner should get really clear on that. I feel I like I wasted time doing all these other things instead of what I actually wanted to do,” Martin said.
2. Consider more than one niche. A niche need not be business specific, Martin said. An accountant could choose to work only with women, or only with businesses that make less than a certain amount per year, or across industries but only with certain clients. In any case, accountants should also decide whether there’s a niche they don’t want to work with and then stick to it, Martin said.
“Don’t take a client just because you’re starting out or just because you need the money, because you’ll regret it,” Martin said.
If you do decide to focus on a niche industry, make sure you do your research.
“Become an expert in that industry, not just in how it operates, but in all the software it uses, too. You might find that some of the project management systems in that industry don’t communicate with accounting software, and that might deter you, or encourage you,” Martin said.
3. Be flexible and willing to take on many roles. The initial challenge Martin faced when starting out was attracting clients, so had to network and be open to promoting herself and her services. She also had to manage her time carefully and set boundaries in order to spend time with family.
“I had to learn how to do sales and marketing. I had to learn how to create content. I realized that I had to wear a lot of hats,” Martin said.
Ultimately, Martin finds working for herself very rewarding, especially the satisfaction she gets from knowing she’s helping others like herself who are running a business and a household. It’s a reward that she didn’t anticipate when she started out, she said.
“I thought I would get 20 clients and work five days a week. I had no plans to grow beyond that. I just wanted to work for myself. But I learned that’s not what my ultimate goal is. It’s rewarding to say I run payroll not just for my clients, but also for myself,” Martin said.