A Guide to Working as a Freelance Accountant
Written by: Hilbert College • Nov 21, 2023
A Guide to Working as a Freelance Accountant ¶
In 2020, freelancing (working for clients independently on a per-job basis) was already increasing at a steady rate in the United States. Then the business environment changed in ways that continue to shape how people make their living.
According to data aggregator Statista, in 2014 there were 53 million freelance workers nationwide. In 2020, the World Economic Forum reports pandemic-fueled economic shifts led to the loss of 20 million full-time jobs and fewer opportunities for in-person work. The number of freelancers that year rose to an estimated 59 million.
By 2022, there were an estimated 60 million freelancers in the United States. Statista projects that by 2028, that number will increase to 86.5 million.
For those considering joining the growing ranks of freelance workers as accountants, there is good news. A 2023 report from FlexJobs, the remote jobs platform, found accounting and finance is one of the five fastest-growing sectors for freelancers.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting can put students on the path to pursuing an in-demand career as a freelance accountant.
What Is Freelance Accounting? ¶
Accounting professionals record business financial transactions, often working as full-time employees of financial services organizations or as accountants for companies in other types of industries. But 4% of accounting professionals are self-employed, according to a 2023 report from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As freelance accounting professionals, these workers offer their services directly to different clients and set their own rates and hours.
Freelance accounting can include a range of services, so its professionals can work in roles ranging from payroll manager to financial analyst. Additionally, freelance accounting embraces financial tasks associated with business ownership, from the costs of marketing their accounting services to managing their income taxes.
What Does a Freelance Accountant Do? ¶
The responsibilities of a freelance accountant vary according to the clients they serve. Depending on the customer’s needs, a freelance accountant might prepare an individual’s taxes and financial documents, for example. Or they might track an organization’s financial data to ensure accuracy and regulatory compliance.
Freelance accountants work under contract with one or more people or businesses. They might work in a freelance capacity full time, or their freelance work might be a second job performed on a part-time basis.
Responsibilities as an Accountant ¶
Depending on the type of client they’re assisting, a freelance accountants’ work can include many of the same responsibilities as an accountant who works as an employee of a company. Accounting tasks on behalf of clients can include:
- Preparing budget forecasts
- Reconciling accounts payable and receivable figures
- Sending account invoices on behalf of the client
- Managing balance sheets
- Working with a company’s external auditors
- Preparing a client’s tax returns
- Ensuring a customer’s prompt bank payments
Responsibilities as a Business Owner ¶
Because they work independently, freelance accountants are also business owners. They are responsible for the tasks associated with owning and operating their own business. Common responsibilities of an owner of a freelance business include:
- Securing clients
- Marketing services
- Scheduling projects
- Submitting invoices for freelance work
- Managing the freelance business’s accounting
How to Land Freelance Accounting Jobs ¶
The potential benefits of freelancing might help to explain its strong growth in the United States. There are several advantages that those pursuing a freelance accounting career can realize.
For many, the biggest appeal of freelancing is its flexibility. Freelance workers set their own hours, which allows them to accommodate other commitments and establish a healthy work-life balance. Freelancers can also select what individuals or companies they want to work with—and often, for how long. Additionally, freelancers who are remote can work from anywhere, partnering with clients from all over the world.
Whether they’re corporate employees or freelance workers, accountants typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field that includes a focus on accounting math. Also, depending on their work, they may need to become licensed Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Beyond these requirements, getting started in freelance accounting calls for little more than a laptop and typically, business insurance—plus a solid dose of personal ambition.
For those interested in pursuing a career as a freelance accountant, it’s important to understand how these professionals find their clients. Following are some methods for finding freelance accounting jobs.
Build an Online Presence ¶
A key step in finding work as a freelance accountant is establishing an online presence. This effort can include building a website to promote the accountant’s freelance services and posting social media updates to build credibility and share business updates.
Make Cold Calls ¶
Contacting potential clients by email or phone can be an effective approach to finding freelance accounting clients. In-person pitches can also help freelance accountants with booking projects and customers.
Search Job Platforms ¶
Job boards, including those featuring work opportunities for freelancers, can be a good source for finding freelance projects and clients. There are a variety of reputable freelance job search platforms, including the following.
Strengthen Client Relationships ¶
Providing quality work and outstanding service can help freelance accountants secure long-term relationships with their clients. These efforts also can build the freelancer’s reputation, which can lead to referrals to other potential customers.
Tips for Building Your Freelance Accounting Career ¶
Taking some key actions can help freelance accountants successfully advance in their careers.
Emphasize Networking ¶
Networking, or fostering professional relationships, is a critical part of attracting business. Freelance accountants can interact with accounting professionals, including other freelancers, at in-person industry events and through interactions on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Continue Marketing ¶
Successful freelance accountants consistently market their services. They leverage existing client relationships, regularly seeking additional business and referrals, while focusing their work on the needs of both current and potential customers. One approach to honing in on the concerns of specific clients is to select niches to target in freelance efforts. Freelance accountants may specialize in working with clients in certain industries, such as real estate companies or medical or law firms.
Protect Assets ¶
Freelance workers who operate out of their homes and want protection against business lawsuits should consider liability insurance. Professional liability insurance can safeguard accountants and other types of freelancers from legal judgments against them for their work. Another step that can help protect personal assets is structuring a freelance business as a limited liability company (LLC).
Remember Taxes ¶
Because freelance workers are responsible for withholding and paying their own income taxes, it’s important to take those fees into account when budget planning. The IRS generally requires self-employed individuals, including freelancers, to pay taxes quarterly.
Know Your Value ¶
As freelance accountants gain more experience and improve their skills, they should increase their rates accordingly. To strengthen their expertise—and their value to clients—they should regularly seek out professional development opportunities, such as conferences and online training.
Prepare for an In-Demand Career as a Freelance Accountant ¶
If you’re interested in pursuing an accounting career that offers promising growth and a flexible work schedule, consider becoming a freelance accountant. You can start that process by exploring the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program at Hilbert College Global.
The program focuses on key concepts ranging from financial statement preparation to accounting ethics, with an emphasis on real-world accounting scenarios and decisions. It offers this high-quality education in an asynchronous online format that accommodates home and work commitments.
Discover how the Hilbert College Global online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree program can help you reach your career goals.