The rise of the gig economy– inspired by digitally savvy millennials and independent workers looking for flexible hours– has been paving the way for a freelance boom over the past decade. But no one could have predicted that the Coronavirus pandemic would usher us all into a work-from-home world, primed and ready for freelancers of all kinds.
With companies navigating ever-changing safety protocols and offering contract work, part-time work, and work from home options for the first time, more and more workers are opting to pursue opportunities where they can dictate the terms. Even accountants, who were regarded as a corporate office mainstay, are now turning to freelancing, a type of job once thought to be best suited for more “creative” types.
So welcome, accountants, to the world of setting your own hours! Excited for the journey but don’t know where to start? Follow the simple tips below to establish the foundation for a booming accounting practice from the comfort of your own desk/sofa/coffee shop:
Evaluate Your Qualifications
First things first (and as we’re sure all accountants out there will appreciate) it’s important to ensure your own paperwork is in order and that you’re truly ready to take the leap into working for yourself. How can you expect to successfully manage a client’s needs if you yourself do not have the proper qualifications?
Make sure your bachelor’s degree has the sufficient number of training hours in accounting to get your CPA. Becoming a Certified Public Accountant takes years of education, real world accounting experience, and months of studying.
Once you have your CPA, ensure you’ve completed the necessary ongoing training to keep it active and avoid having to reinstate it. If you plan on moving, or working with clients in other states/nations, keep in mind that the CPA is issued by state, so check with your local board to find out what the specific requirements are for the area in which you wish to practice.
What’s In Your Package?
Your prospective clients want to know exactly what they’re getting by hiring you and paying your monthly retainer. Your ‘package’ is a combination of the services you provide and fees required to properly manage your new clients (ie. programs, memberships, more employees, etc) and deliver successful results.
Set up clear offerings and tailor a few packages which include different levels of retainers and services (such as day-to-day accounting assistance, monthly bookkeeping, budgeting, forecasting and more). By offering up this menu of services, your potential client will not only be impressed with your organization, they will also feel more confident in knowing that they selected the best level of service to meet their needs. Also, be prepared for your clients to request and utilize more extensive (and expensive) services as you produce their desired savings and results.
Technology is King
The foundation of digital-age freelancing is rooted in technology. If you have bad phone reception or can’t check Gmail, you can’t freelance – end of story. You may not need a fancy office anymore, but when starting your own business, invest in technology that is going to help you get the job done. Investing in these essential items like high speed WiFi, a PAID ZOOM subscription, split monitors and apps (see next bullet for more on this) is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure success.
Also make sure to get organized in the cloud. No more lost paperwork or giant file cabinets. Freelancers, even accountants, are now able to produce results while maintaining a lean operation. A transition to digital organization will allow you to eliminate a brick and mortar filing system and embrace a future where your files are only a click away without sacrificing the need for data. This can even give your clients the ability to check up on their files without having to call you every two seconds (win-win!). Having these tools is essential and is going to make your job a lot easier.
Big Software Isn’t Just for Big Companies
Subscription software allows you to essentially ‘rent’ software that once only existed at astronomical fees for corporate giants. Small companies and freelancers can now access these high level programs for a modest monthly fee. Some of the software options available can seem like a necessary evil, however there are great, user/budget-friendly options out there that will seem more like your new BFF.
Explore options like TPS Cloud Axis, a cloud-based accounting practice management solution that will simplify time tracking, accelerate your billing process, help you manage projects and even better serve your clients. When you’re in business for yourself, client satisfaction is everything.
Investing in solid software can actually SAVE you money in the long run. Forgo hiring extra hands to handle payroll, productivity management and HR, and simply manage your practice yourself with a cloud-based practice management solution.
Pro tip: You can even build this fee into your client services, keeping your costs down but your software up.
Don’t Skip Digital Marketing
If you’re freelancing, you’re most likely working 80-100% remotely, meaning your only face-to-face time with your client is through a screen. Particularly these days!
You’ve committed to this digital way of work, so it’s essential that you commit to making yourself as visible as possible in the digital world. Think of the internet as your billboard. You need to make yourself seen and heard, in a professional manner, to anyone looking for your services.
Having a cohesive website and social media presence are just the beginning. Your website is the first (and sometimes only) thing people see when they decide to hire you.
Make sure that your pages describe everything you do, showcase your service packages and demonstrate your expertise. Does your website say you have the resources to assist a company looking to expand in the height of a global recession, or does it say that you don’t even have the ability to invest in your own company? A janky site = a janky accountant, while a high tech, responsive and informative website will lead prospective clients to believe that you are those things as well.
Consider publishing content on the web and social media, and get positive reviews posted on your site, Google, Yelp, etc. as soon as possible to help improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to help attract organic customers to your business. Have a few bucks you want to invest in yourself? Put that money towards Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising to get in front of an even bigger audience.
The New-Age of Classifieds
Looking for fresh leads? There are several freelance sites out there whose sole purpose is to connect freelancers with work. From engineering to graphic design to accounting, you’ll find all sorts of gigs on the web. This can be a great place to find new clients, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s not uncommon for a one-off gig to turn into a long-term client relationship.
Here are some websites to consider to find freelance accounting jobs:
- Upwork – A freelance community where you can create a profile and bid on accounting jobs, or even have clients reach out to you. Upwork is also a great place to find related work– such as a gig writing articles about accounting.
- Fiverr – Another freelance community, though unlike Upwork– where you typically bid on client projects– on Fiverr, the clients come to you. Typically, freelancer accountants on Fiverr offer “packages” that customers can purchase.
- The Mom Project – This start-up connects women in finance with world-class employers.” While the project is clearly geared to women and mothers, they claim to be an “equal opportunity platform that welcomes anyone who identifies with our mission or goals.”
Be Your Own Boss
As a freelancer, sometimes it’s easy to lose motivation without a boss constantly peaking over your shoulder. As you step into the gig economy, it’s imperative that you hold yourself accountable and be your own boss in order to grow what will hopefully be a lucrative and fulfilling business.
Set goals for yourself on a short term and long term basis. For example, make sure you actually get that super annoying email that’s been sitting in your drafts out before lunch, reach out to three new leads each week, and make sure that by your second year, you’ve raised your prices (because you and your services are worth it).
As you grow your reputation, it is easy to get comfortable, but make space for growing your business/revenue from the get go, and hold yourself accountable to that goal.
Freelance accounting can provide excitement and opportunity as long as you are willing to put in the groundwork. With this type of job you’ll get to work with businesses, hire employees and collaborate with teams across the globe, all from the comfort of your home or work space. And in today’s rapidly evolving workplace, you may even be providing yourself more job security by leaving the corporate world behind and going into business for yourself.
If you’re ready to take the leap into freelancing, just remember our tips and trust that you’ve got the skills to help your clients achieve financial success. Leave the nitty-gritty management and behind the scenes work of your new venture to us.