Freelancers & sole-trader accounting: Q&A with Oliver from Rounded

sole-trader accounting, freelancers accounting Q&A with Oliver Garside

We spent some time talking to Oliver Garfield about making accounting simple for sole traders and freelancers.

If anyone knows about sole-trader and freelancers accounting, it is Oliver. Mr Garfield is Co-Founder & COO of Rounded.

With more than a decade working in SaaS, Oliver is responsible for the growth and satisfaction of Rounded users.

If you had to explain Rounded to new founders in 1 minute what would you say?

Rounded is a cloud based accounting app built specifically to be used by freelancers and sole traders. It combines a beautiful and intuitive UI with all the features users need without the overwhelming cost and complexity of some of the larger SME focussed solutions.

Where did the inspiration for Rounded come from?

Founder and product designer Grant McCall was freelance photographer, film maker and graphic designer. He grew increasingly exasperated with trying to find a solution to run his own freelance business. Solutions were either badly designed, too complex or too expensive (or a combination of all of those things). This inspired him to build his own solution and Rounded was born

How do you set up Rounded to do sole-trader or freelancers accounting?

Very little actually. Signing up for a trial takes 10 seconds. From there connecting business bank accounts, setting up an invoice template with credit card payment ability and getting in invoice out to a client can be done in minutes.

It’s designed to be easy, intuitive and low friction. We even take care with the language we use inside the app so as not to make it too intimidating! E.g. A “Chart of Accounts” is an expense report. A “Debtors Ledger” is the overdue invoice list. It’s these little things which our users love.

Also we keep things really simple not including features freelancers and sole traders typically need like a payroll function.

What were the main challenges getting a whole accounting platform off the ground, particularly in Australia?

A business model like ours requires high volumes of customers so increasing visibility and awareness is always a challenge. We don’t have the marketing budgets of the larger players so have to be quite smart about how we go about raising out profile. Fortunately our clients have been very helpful in referring new users needing sole-trader or freelancers accounting to Rounded and sharing their experiences in the form of public reviews in app stores and on social media.

Other challenges come with developing the product. For every feature we build there’s probably another 50 we have to be comfortable not building. Having a small team makes prioritisation quite difficult sometimes. We don’t always get it right but we think we do most of the time!

What main features of Rounded are you most proud of?

It’s hard to pin down a particular feature but if I had to pick one I’d say our customer support. We’ve put in a ton of effort to make sure that we’re there when our users need us. That has meant nights and weekends but it has become our point of difference and a huge reason whey users subscribe and stay with Rounded. It features regularly in the reviews our customers leave on social media and in the app stores. It’s become a powerful driver of growth for the company as well as a massive value add for customers.

Over all we’ve been fortunate enough to hear regular feedback from users who tell us stories about how Rounded has totally transformed their business lives. Saving hundreds of hours on frustrating admin and thousands of dollars in expense claims and invoices which otherwise would have been forgotten or unpaid.

That makes the team immensely proud as we can see the tangible value that Rounded delivers to users.

Freelancer says, “but I don’t really need to track cash flow” – what’s your response here?

As you might expect I don’t agree with that especially where a Freelancer is working full time. cash flow is the lifeblood of a freelance business. It’s hard to plan or know where things are at without an effective way to see how much cash there is in the bank and what’s outstanding or coming down the pipeline.

As a founder exposed to the accounting needs of hundreds of small business owners, what trends do you see?

Overall there’s huge growth in the number of people opting to work for themselves as opposed to a more traditional career with a larger organisation. Everyone is exposed to well designed software these days so there’s also an expectation that the technology is available to help solo business owners run efficient and professional businesses.

People are taking advantage of the fact that improving internet speeds and access combined with new technology offers almost unlimited career opportunities.

What’s on the cards for Rounded this year?

We have a few huge projects coming from a product development point of view which I can’t say much about right now but one of the other big things happening is a push to bring simple sole-trader accounting to new regions. We’ve been in Beta in New Zealand for almost a year and will be expecting to welcome our first paying customers there in the not too distant future. From there we’ll be looking to expand even further with the UK being most likely next.

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Stuart Reynolds is the founder of Fullstack Advisory, an award-winning accounting firm for businesses leading the future. He is a 3rd generation accountant who specialises in tech & online companies.

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