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4 November 2019 / Accounting Professionals

How to Become a Freelance Accountant

4 November 2019 > Accounting Professionals

If you’ve always been interested in the accounting field, you may have considered becoming a freelance accountant. Freelance accountants do much of what full-time accountants do, but with a few additional perks.

For example, as a freelance accountant, you can take on as many or as few clients as you want. This makes it ideal if you have other responsibilities and you’re interested in doing accounting work on the side, or if you’re eager to have an unlimited income ceiling. Freelancing also gives you more flexibility on the number and scheduling of hours you work, and gives you control over the clients you choose to take on.

So how do you become a freelance accountant in the first place?

Phase I: Education and Training (How to Become a Freelance Accountant)

First, you’ll need to have some baseline education and training in the accounting field. It’s technically possible for you to find accounting clients who don’t care what your previous education has been, but this is unlikely.

Typically, when you find a potential client, they’ll want to investigate you and learn about your credentials. If you don’t have any past education, they may not want to work with you. Having a degree or certification can really help to make your case.

You may also want to have initial education and training so you can work with a company or organization that connects with freelancers. Most well-established operations will only work with accountants who are educated or properly certified.

There are several ways you can get your education. You could get a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree from a university, preferably with a major in Accounting. You could also take online courses, so long as you’re getting them from a qualified institution. Depending on where you initially work, you may also be able to get on-the-job education.

Beyond that, it’s helpful to become formally certified as a public accountant (i.e., become a CPA). To do this, you’ll need to pass an exam and comply with continuing professional education (CPE).

Phase II: Initial Experience With Freelance Accounting

Next, you’ll want to have at least some experience in the accounting field. If you’re fresh out of college with your Accounting Degree, but you’ve never put that degree to work, you may be overwhelmed in trying to start a freelance business of your own.

One of your best options is to seek an accounting internship, or a part-time job as an accountant. Any position that allows you to work with more experienced accountants is going to be helpful. They’ll be able to guide you, correcting your mistakes, helping you grow, and giving you insights you might not be able to get from a textbook or lecture. If you’re planning on switching to freelancing eventually, part-time jobs and internships are ideal, since they don’t require much commitment from you up front.

This initial experience can also help you land clients in two important ways. First, you may be able to work with your organization directly; for example, you can do work as a freelancer that you used to do part-time for the organization. Second, you’ll be able to list this experience as part of your portfolio, helping you attract your initial clients.

You don’t need to spend much time in this position before you’re ready to start your own freelance enterprise. As long as you have a few months of experience under your belt, and the confidence that you’ve learned some important points, you may be ready to move on.

Phase III: Establishing Your Core Business (What Does a Freelance Accountant Do?)

Now for one of the most important phases: establishing your core business. If you want to be successful as an accounting freelancer, you’ll need to take your work seriously. In fact, it’s a good idea to treat it like an independent business, and come up with your own business plan.

In your business plan, you’ll answer several important questions about your goals, your intentions, and your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll define your brand and your core offerings; what kind of accounting services do you offer? Are you going to specialize in one type of client, or one type of industry, or are you going to be a generalist? Who is your target audience, and how are you going to reach them? Who are your main competitors, and how are you going to differentiate yourself from them?

This is also a good opportunity to set prices for your services. You deserve to make a rate that’s fair, based on the time you spend and the expertise you offer, but you’ll also want to set prices that are attractive enough to make you competitive. Ideally, you’ll come up with a formula that helps you remain profitable while still appealing enough to attract new clients regularly.

When you’re done with your business plan, you can set up the physical space and/or equipment you need to do your work. One of the greatest advantages of freelance accounting is that it’s so flexible and minimalistic; if you have a functioning computer with a good software program, you can work pretty much anywhere. However, you may want to invest in a comfortable, workable home office, or get a membership to a coworking space in your area.

Phase IV: Landing Your First Client

Now for one of the hardest steps to take as a freelance accountant: getting your first client. If you do good work, you can easily get new clients via referrals. And marketing yourself is much easier when you have a standing portfolio of clients. But getting that first paying customer can be a real challenge.

Your best bet is to reach out to people who already know your skillset. For example, you might contact a former employer or supervisor to see if there’s any work they could send your way. You could also talk to friends and family members to see if they or anybody they know is in need of accounting services.

You could also try to work for an organization that hires and/or connects with many different freelancers. These agencies typically have an incredible volume of work to send, so you can take on as much or as little as you like (so long as you continue to do good work).

Phase V: Growing Your Business

The next phase of the process is growing your business. Having a single client, even if it’s a big client, is nice, but it’s not necessarily sustainable. If you want to make a bigger profit and decrease your revenue volatility, you’ll want to take on more clients and get more valuable work.

Again, there are several ways to approach this. The most straightforward and commonly used approach is to take advantage of personal referrals; you’ll do the best work possible for your clients, then ask them to tell everyone they know about your business. If they like your work and want to support you, they’ll spread the word, and you might get a new client or two out of it. You can complement this practice by investing in marketing and advertising; online marketing strategies like search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing are inexpensive, but can greatly boost your visibility.

If you’re ready to start a freelance accounting business of your very own, one of the best options available to you is TaxFyle! Join our network of freelance accountants today, and you’ll have immediate access to thousands of prospective clients. From there, you’ll be able to choose exactly which clients you take on, and how much work you do. It’s a win for everyone involved.

Ralph Carnicer

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