Working remotely as an accountant may be a professional goal for you. Knowing that you hold the steering wheel for your own business may motivate you to the point that, even when you’re on a break or at home, you may still be focused on looking up accounting job boards and blogs that give you the information you need to move into a remote accounting career successfully.
More and more professions are making it possible for their professionals to work from home if this is what they want to do. The job boards and clients are out there—all you need to do is arm yourself with the knowledge, as well as the tools you should have such as a router, reliable computer, website, accounting software, and other necessities.
It wasn’t long ago that working as a freelancer or independent contractor wasn’t particularly profitable. Even now, with technology and available software improving and becoming more accepted, you should still be prepared for a somewhat uphill battle before you become fully profitable once you go independent.
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Increased Opportunity in the Work-From-Home Finance Arena
Work-from-home opportunities are going up. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may already be working from home and finding that you like it better than you expected. Because of the need to keep employers and employees safe, companies all across the country (indeed, all over the world) closed their offices and sent their employees home to work remotely.
If you decide you want to work remotely long-term, you’ll need to have processes in place for when you broach the subject with your employer or break away from your company to start your own thing.
What tools do you need? First, a space you can dedicate solely to your work. Next, you need a reliable computer that enables you to get your work done. Your modem or router should also deliver information and documents to you quickly so that you don’t wait for them to load onto your computer.
Ideally, you should have a cloud-based application. Your data will be protected from hacking by bad outside actors and it can arrive at your manager’s or client’s computer with no delay.
Because you may be working from home long-term, if not permanently, you should also have a videoconferencing platform handy. Skype and Zoom are two options. Because of the need for security and ensuring that hackers don’t break into a meeting, you should ensure that you have the highest level of security available.
Who Can Work from Home?
Do you have the tools you need to work from home? Computer, internet connection, a dedicated phone line just for work calls, and perhaps a phone headset if you feel you need one.
You may also need a printer and scanner; a multifunctional item would probably be more economical if you need both of these. You should also have accounting software that allows you to carry out all of your work tasks.
If you don’t have these items, you’ll want to prepare them before you start working remotely. If you are still working in your employer’s office, you can start purchasing these items one or two at a time. If you are not currently working and you want to get started working from home right away, you might want to look into using these as write-offs for your home office. While you’ll still have to pay for them now, you may be able to write off some of their expense when you file taxes. Be sure you know all the rules surrounding this so you can file your taxes correctly.
In order to work from home, you will of course have to have accounting experience and the required education. You will need to have these, as well as any certifications required by your state, in order to work independently. And, depending on your accounting specialty (accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation), you’ll likely need a solid background of professional experience in order to be hired by companies.
Finally, you may want to create accounts with job boards advertising remote accounting jobs. This will get your name out in such a way that those who are looking for remote workers will be more likely to contact you.
Looking for Remote Work
If You’re Already Employed with a Company
Before you get started trying to convince them to allow you to work from home, you’ll want to do some homework so you can present your research to them.
- What are the benefits to your employer?
- Suggest short trials of telecommuting—such as one day a week
- Instead of asking for a day of remote work if your supervisor is resistant to this idea, use a different method
If You’re a Recent Graduate or Have Little Experience
At first, you may have no choice but to freelance after graduating. However, you need to know that earning enough to pay your bills every month could be difficult. Plus, you’ll have no employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance, sick leave, or personal leave.
It’s probably a good idea at this stage to see if you can find at least a part-time job doing accounting, bookkeeping, or taxes. For the remainder of your work week, look for private clients who need your accounting services and know-how.
Accounting is a field that easily converts into remote work, especially with all the new cloud-based software making its way into the mainstream. If you have many of the items you need such as a computer, internet, software, and even a basic printer, you may be able to make freelancing work for you.
One way in which to increase client access is to build a website. If you don’t have the skills yourself, you could ask a friend to help create a website for you in exchange for doing their taxes, or even use fiver or another freelancing site to have a simple website set up for your use. You could also have business cards printed up and get testimonials from clients at your part-time job.
If You Already Have Experience
What does your job contract, if you have one, say about working remotely? Pull it out and read through it. If it says nothing, then you might be in a good position to get a new work-from-home policy set up within your current company. Again, you’ll want to go about this carefully, but many companies are moving in this direction.
Keep working for your employer while you work to establish your freelance career. You might consider setting aside a certain amount of money from each paycheck to use as a cushion once you leave your firm. This can help you through dry spells, if you get a slow start, or to cover any medical or repair expenses you run into as you get your business off the ground.
Talk to your manager—honesty is always a good idea. Remind your manager that your work for the firm is your highest priority. Create a schedule that allows you to put in some freelance accounting work; start slow so you can build up the time you spend in your freelancing role.
Spend a little time daily pitching your services to other businesses. You can start to build up a client base this way. During this time, you can also search online for remote accounting work. Let your professional and personal networks know your plans. You may get referrals.
Remote Accounting Job Boards
As you are beginning your freelance career, familiarize yourself with accounting job boards. These are job-posting sites online that collect the job ads that accounting firms have posted looking for experienced accountants. You likely already have experience with these, but there are also sites that exist specifically for accounting and/or specifically for freelancers who are focused on working from home and protecting their work/life balance.
As you read through the job ads, you’ll look for particular key words that tell you what each firm needs: accounting clerk, staff accountant, financial analyst, accountant, or controller. By doing your homework before you begin to apply for remote positions, you’ll protect yourself from wasting your time. Some sites require freelancers to pay for the chance to apply for positions; give them a wide berth and avoid them! There are plenty of job sites available that you do not have to pay for and none of the job boards asking for your hard earned money make it any more likely that you will find your dream job. Some of the job boards accounting professionals use are shown below.
Companies that Hire Remote Accounting Workers
Remote work (independent contracting or freelancing) is becoming more and more popular each year. Knowing this, several companies are making it easier for accounting agencies and freelancers to offer and accept accounting work. Depending on how experienced you are in your field, you may be able to narrow your sights and look only for banking, controller, or auditor work. The following bullet list of companies hiring independent contractors allows you to choose according to your expertise.
If you’re searching the internet, you are sure to find other job boards with the contact information of companies wanting to hire freelance accountants.
Some think that freelance accounting, even with a degree and certifications, would not allow those working independently to earn a good income. However, the numbers may surprise you.
As of 2017, 3.9 million workers worked from their home or another location that wasn’t an office setting. This was an increase of 115% from 12 years earlier. While it used to take a lot of effort for an accounting firm to hire a remote accountant, the difficulties are no longer as overwhelming and, as long as both parties work hard, they can arrive at a point where they are able to work smoothly as a team. The Big Four accounting firms (Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers) are actually industry leaders who encourage flexibility for accountants and team members.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports that auditors and accountants are more frequently working from home. As a profession, accounting and finance pay high salaries; the national average annual rate was $71,000 as of 2018. The highest-paid 10% of accountants and auditors earned almost $123,000 annually. If you’re interested in working from home as a freelance accountant, there has never been a better time to get out of the office, and into a job.