It would be easy to assume that businesses hire an accountant for their expertise in tax codes and number crunching. That’s really only half the story though, because a great accountant is also going to be an expert in business and how finance relates to your everyday operations. There are also human factors to consider such as honesty, communication and work ethics-the last thing you want is someone giving you an excuse when Uncle Sam comes knocking about overdue taxes.
So how do you find the right accountant to empower your business? Here’s an overview of what you can do to find, engage, and work with a great freelance accountant.
IDENTIFY YOUR ACCOUNTING NEEDS
The first step in finding the perfect accountant is to determine types of services you’ll need from this professional. For instance, will the accountant be handling your payroll or paying vendors? Will they complete your monthly tax filings? How often will you need profit and loss statements generated? Asking these types of questions will help you narrow down the perfect professional.
Also, consider what your accounting needs may be like in the near future. You may want to select an accountant that will be able to grow with your organization. So even though you may not need services like bookkeeping or payroll today, it’s a smart idea to ensure that your accountant will have you covered if a need arises.
Write an effective job post
The most important factor in you finding the perfect accountant is to create a detailed job post about your expectations. It should include general information about your business and your everyday needs, in addition to the exact services that you require help with. The more information you provide, the smoother the process will go.
A few of the more important criteria to include in your job post are:
- Workflow: What task(s) will you need completed? Are they recurring?
- Communication: How will the accountant communicate with you?
- Technical: What’s your current process for bookkeeping? What software do you use?
- Background: Are there any additional industry requirements or unique challenges?
- Preference: What are some character traits or work backgrounds you’d like to see?
- Project Length: How long do you anticipate needing an accountant?
- Deadlines: Are there any impending timelines? When do will you start needing help?
SHORTLIST POTENTIAL FREELANCE ACCOUNTANTS
As proposals are submitted, you’ll need to vet the most promising accountants to create a shortlist of people you want to interview. Here are some points to look for:
- Professionalism. Which candidates tailored their submission to your specific project requirements? Do they seem to genuinely care about your needs? How is each candidate’s communication skills?
- Talent. Does each candidate’s Upwork Profile show a strong history of success? Do they have experience within your industry? Who is proficient with your current accounting software?
- Feedback. How have other clients described their relationship with each freelance accountant? Are there any that stand out?
Prepare for the interview
The interview process is a great opportunity to learn about each accountant’s personal and professional skills. It is generally recommended to schedule an interview with at least three candidates in total, and preferably with one that is towards the higher end of the spectrum in terms of experience and billable rates. This gives you a baseline to judge the others by.
- Talk About Relevant Experience: Ask each accountant how much knowledge they have about your industry and softwares you use. If you have unique challenges that need attention, be sure to discuss them early in the interview as well.
- Ask about Actual Processes: Learning how the accountant processes paperwork, prepares taxes and balances books will give you a lot of insight into their ability to handle your accounts.
- Present a Real-World Scenario: Ask specific questions about your business that require a solution. By putting each contractor on the spot, you’ll have a better idea of how they respond to pressure.
- Measure your Comfort Levels: While each contractor’s skill levels are important, you ultimately want someone to build a professional relationship with. So don’t be afraid to get to know them a little bit.
Hopefully after the first round of interviews are completed, you’ll have a good idea of which accountant makes the most sense for your business. If you’re still not sure though, feel free to conduct a second round of interviews to ask follow-up questions or to explore a relationship with other accountants.
The perfect freelance accountant for your business is out there and waiting- now it’s time to go find them!