This week’s Work-At-Home Success story comes from Andrew Poulos, Principal of Poulos Accounting & Consulting, Inc. He is a financial expert, tax accountant and Enrolled Agent licensed to practice before the IRS who started his business in 1995 working from home as a college graduate, and has continued to work from home to build a successful business. He’s been in practice for 20 years working with individuals and small businesses across the country and internationally. He is recognized as a nationally syndicated tax software expert, columnist of Main Street Tax News for the National Society of Accountants, author for Intuit’s News Central and Blog, author of the QuickBooks Ultimate Lesson Guide DVD Series, national speaker, and has published tax articles in accounting and CPA publications. Additionally, he’s been a guest consultant on FOX Business News on The Willis Report Show, and has been featured in the CPA Practice Advisor, Atlanta Business Chronicle, and cited as a tax expert in articles published by Forbes, U.S. News & World Money Report, Fox Business News, Bank of America, American Express Open Forum, AARP, Staples, and National Federation for Independent Business, among others.
1) How did you get started working from home?
I went through recruiting season in my junior and senior year in college and didn’t receive any job offers. Once I graduated in December 1994, I quickly figured out that no one was going to hire me so I had to venture out and start my own business, which is what I had always wanted to do growing up as a young kid. Since I was a young unemployed college graduate with no money and living at home I started my business working in the basement of my mother’s home, and my mother loaned me her $5,000 credit card to purchase my first computer, thermal fax machine, small copier, software, and some office supplies. February 1995 was the beginning of my home based business offering payroll services and eventually growing into tax preparation, business consulting, among all the services that I offer today.
2) How did you choose the work-at-home career you do?
I wouldn’t say that I chose to work-at-home, it was more so the only option I had in starting my business and not having any money to get started and grow the business. In 1995 it was not professional or common to have a home based business so I had to become a good sales person to sell myself and my services in order to grow the business and become successful. 20 years later I still work from home and enjoy it very much.
3) How did you get started (basic initial steps)?
Once I decided to start my own business after receiving dozens of rejections from employers I started as a sole proprietor instead of forming a corporation or an LLC. I was a young 22 year old with no money, no assets, nothing to lose and everything to gain in the world, so I started out the cheapest possible way which was to operate as a sole proprietor. I went to the county courthouse and obtained a business license, got some business cards printed at Office Depot, bought some cheap office equipment and supplies and was officially in business. It probably cost me about $200 to obtain a business license and print business cards.
4) How did you get your first client or customer or job?
I had no marketing skills as a young kid with very little experience in the accounting industry. I would go to the county business office every Monday afternoon and purchase the list of business licenses that were issued the prior week, and I used the list to cold call new business owners who were prospective clients. I would sit at home in my mother’s basement calling small business owners who had applied for a business license in the county that I lived in. I would dial phone numbers all day every day trying to get my first client. It took a few weeks before I got my first yes. It was discouraging at times to call prospective clients every day and be told no after no, and get hung up on. I still remember the day I got my first client that wanted to meet with me for payroll services. It was a group from the West Coast that had come to Atlanta to set up a screen printing business to print t-shirts for the Olympics in 1996. I called them to inquire if they needed affordable payroll services and the lady I spoke with started asking questions about my services. After about 5 minutes she asked if I could go to their office to meet with them, which I quickly said yes. I met with them the next day and picked up my first client. From there I started to get more clients by continuing to make phone calls, and eventually I built a small base of clients and started to get referrals from my clients once they realized that I offered excellent service at affordable prices.
5) How do you market your business?
When I got started in 1995 I marketed by calling the new business licensees on the county business license list that I bought each week, and I would also drive to shopping centers and go door to door soliciting business. When I got started the internet was at the beginning stage so marketing wasn’t what it is today. Today I market by word of mouth, and online through my website, and other websites such as Thumbtack where I have a very successful profile being ranked as one of the most successful professionals on Thumbtack. Ever since I produced the QuickBooks Ultimate Lesson Guide DVD series and received a great review by the Library Journal in NY, I began to get online exposure. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to be featured in one of the industry’s top publications The CPA Practice Advisor. I have also been featured as the first ever accounting alumni in the Georgia State University School of Accountancy inaugural alumni newsletter. My biggest opportunity thus far came during tax season in March 2014 when Fox Business News called and invited me to be a live guest on national news on The Willis Report Show. Other opportunities have presented with being quoted as a subject matter expert in articles published by Fox Business News, Forbes, U.S. News & World Money Report, American Express Open Forum, Bank of America, AARP, Regions Bank, Staples, LearnVest, among others. All the publicity has made it easier to gain online national exposure resulting in new clients.
6) What does your usual day look like?
Unlike many people who have their day structured my day can get crazy very quickly. Sometimes I wake up early in the morning and have to handle a crisis for a client which can vary from a client getting a wage garnishment by the IRS, to a bank levy, or a client that has an emergency needing financial statements or paperwork for a loan to purchase a new home, or any other issues that arise. Aside from things that arise that are unexpected my day usually consists of payroll for my business clients to pay their employees, preparing tax returns which is almost a year round business, and dealing with the IRS and various states handling tax matters for individuals and small business clients. I wouldn’t say that I ever have a structured day like many people do.
7) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?
I always knew that starting a small business wouldn’t be easy, but I realize today that starting as a home based business in 1995 was extremely difficult because it didn’t allow me the opportunity to get clients quicker and as easily as I could have if I had a retail office. I never thought it would be easy, but I always hoped it had not taken as long as it did to establish a client base to earn a good income each month. Even with the challenges I have faced over the years I still wouldn’t do anything differently because it has taught me many valuable lessons and has helped me become successful.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to work from home?
I would say that to work from home you have to be very motivated and disciplined because it’s very easy to get distracted with other things around the house. I’ve one of those people that when I am in my home office it is all work and no play. I’ve always been a self-starter, very motivated, and focused which has allowed me to work from home without any distractions.
To connect further with Andrew, visit
Website URL: www.savvytaxguy.com
Twitter Handle: @TheTaxDepot
Facebook Page: @TheTaxDepot
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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