Accountants and the Freelance / Gig Economy

Gusto Editors

Does your accounting firm use freelance accountants?

Freelancers are fast becoming a critical section of the knowledge economy workforce. Using freelance accountants is often far more cost-effective than making a full-time hire, and you can also find the perfect freelancer for addressing your clients’ specific needs. Hiring freelance accountants is a great way for your firm to take on tax season without hiring new full-time employees. 

Here at Gusto, we aim to equip accounting firms with the essential tools they need to thrive, and that’s why we’re here to inform you all about the importance of utilizing freelance accountants. Along with our partners at CPA Academy, we delivered an informative webinar all about why your firm should consider hiring freelance accountants. 

Our webinar “How to Hire Freelance Accountants For Seasonal Work and Short Term Projects” featured Accountingfly Co-Founder and Padgett Business Services CEO, Jeff Phillips. You can watch the entire presentation here

In this article, we’ll share with you Jeff’s’ insights into the benefits of hiring freelancers and why they’re so critical for the accounting profession, and you’ll also learn key statistics that indicate why freelance accounting is here to stay. 

Hiring gig economy accountants 

Gig-economy workers are rapidly becoming a critical part of America’s labor force, especially in the world of accounting. Jeff observed that when people think of individuals working within the gig economy, they think of freelance drivers working for DoorDash or Uber, but in reality, knowledge-economy workers make up a large portion of the gig economy. 

Many professional industries have long thrived through freelance work, especially within technical industries and the entertainment industry. The film industry primarily utilizes freelance workers because individual projects have different professional needs, and hiring freelance workers is far more cost-effective than hiring full-time employees: 

“[Movie studios] hire freelance experts to deliver a complex project, and it’s more cost-effective to do it with short-term seasonal project-based talent than [with] full-time people.”

Jeff Phillips

Movie studios benefit from freelancers because they’re more cost-effective, and they can find experts who have skill sets that will benefit each creative project. Other industries can reap the same types of benefits from tapping into the gig economy. One prime example of how hiring freelancers can be incredibly advantageous is the game titled “True Story.” Jeff described the potential efficacy of using gig economy workers by discussing the development of the game and its implications:

“The producer of True Story wasn’t a firm. The workers … were all freelancers. … They existed only to produce this game for the ultimate owner, then they disbanded. … They came in [and] incurred all the costs of developing this game. The team who then built that game left, and the owner of the company then marketed and sold the game. They did not hire these people for full-time permanent jobs. They hired them to come in and come out to get the work done. It was a very profitable project for the developer.”

Jeff Phillips

True Story didn’t require any full-time employees. The game developers merely hired freelance experts to create the game remotely.

Hiring freelancers used to be complex and challenging to organize logistically, but modern technology enables different industries to hire freelance workers without difficulty. The accounting industry greatly benefits from freelance work because of new advancements in technology: 

“[Freelance workers are] available to a small firm with one owner or a small business who needs a bookkeeper for six weeks. … What really drove this was the rise of remote work technology and the rise of millennials seeking flexible work arrangements. So there’s this beautiful gig economy for knowledge work. In fact, knowledge workers are the fastest-growing segment of the gig economy.”

Jeff Phillips

Hiring freelance accountants is far more accessible than ever before, and your firm can greatly benefit from hiring freelancers rather than full-time employees. 

The benefits of hiring freelance accountants

One of the critical benefits of hiring gig-economy workers for your firm is that you can adjust your staff based on your firm’s workload. You can allocate work to freelance accountants during busier periods, such as tax season:

“It looks like bringing in [freelancers] for the busy season to get your tax returns completed and reviewed. [You’re] bringing in a remote tax reviewer who knows your software, who knows the forms that you’re using, [and] the specific details of the types of clients you’re using to come and help you with your backlog of business and corporate tax returns between now and whatever the deadline’s going to be. It means you can stop saying ‘no’ to work.”

Jeff Phillips

When your firm has a system in place for hiring freelance accountants, you’ll be able to take on busier seasons without having to turn away new clients. You can find skilled experts who are knowledgeable in your client’s type of business so that you can effectively serve your clients’ needs without hiring a new full-time accountant. 

Man standing holding a tablet previewing a document on it

Another great benefit of hiring freelancers rather than full-time employees is that you can choose to employ freelancers when your firm is earning a higher income: 

“Tax prep and review is where we see a lot of this happening. So bring somebody in for two months. The bulk of your tax fees come in certain periods of time, so it would stand to reason that you spend more on labor during that period of time. But you don’t have to spend labor on the months where you’re not getting that income. So it means a lot of flexibility for you.”

Jeff Phillips

The accounting industry operates in different busy seasons, and you’ll more than likely have a far greater workload and income between January and April than you do during the following months, so why have the same number of accountants for the entire year? Hire freelance workers based on your firm’s seasonal workload and income. 

Many accounting companies already put this concept into practice. Rather than hiring too many full-time employees, larger businesses utilize a network of freelance accountants. That way, they can continue working with the same expert freelancers every year, but they only hire them for a few months: 

“Larger employers … [utilize] talent clouds. These are pools of candidates they can reach out to and rapidly staff up to meet short-term demand. Then they walk away when the demand is over. It’s very profitable for the employers to hire the independent contractors.”

Jeff Phillips

When you create a system of hiring freelance accountants, you also gain access to a far greater talent pool, meaning that you’re more likely to find skilled accountants who can address your clients’ unique needs. 

Ninety-percent of companies worldwide are now utilizing on-demand freelance labor, meaning that your competitors are likely already experiencing the benefits of using expert freelancers. Your firm has the opportunity to reap significant benefits from offering freelance accounting jobs. With freelance accountants, your firm can thrive during tax season and gain access to a rapidly growing talent pool. 

Freelancers are the future of accounting

Freelancers make up a substantial portion of America’s workforce, and the ratio of freelancers to full-time employees is growing rapidly. If you’re unwilling to hire freelance accountants, you’re losing access to an expanding number of experts who can help you grow your firm: 

“25% of our labor force identifies themselves as freelance talent. What I mean by this [is] they’re not going to take a full-time job from you. When I said earlier that if you don’t have a strategy for freelance 1099 talent, you can’t win the war on talent because a third of your available labor pool wouldn’t take your job even if you offered them a full-time job.”

Jeff Phillips

The number of freelance workers is growing far faster than the traditional workforce, which means that freelance work is here to stay and will become increasingly critical for the accounting industry. Additionally, millennials now make up the majority of accountants, and most millennials prefer freelancing rather than working for a company full time:

“The freelance labor market of talent is growing 8%, whereas the traditional full-time workforce is growing 2.5%. … The millennials are now the majority of the accounting workforce. … And if 70% of that group is saying they want to work for themselves, see how these trends are coming together? … This marks a profound shift. It [has] a big impact on the future of work inside your company.”

Jeff Phillips
Female f

As the percentage of freelancers within the accounting profession continues growing, it will become increasingly necessary for your firm to work with freelance accountants, including remote freelancers. Fortunately, your firm will greatly benefit from utilizing remote freelancers. You’ll reduce your full-time employees’ stressful workload during tax season, and you’ll be able to find expert freelance accountants who have unique skill sets for addressing your clients’ needs: 

“The prerequisite for all of this to work for you … to bring in experts who can alleviate some of the pressure … is being willing and able to hire somebody who’s in the US, who can do the work remotely. … What’s happening is this massive availability of specialists [that are] available to fill needs for each of you.”

Jeff Phillips

When you’re willing to hire remote freelancers, you’ll find tax experts quickly and efficiently, which is crucial because of the growing number of lucrative knowledge-economy jobs available to accountants. You need to find great accountants who can address your clients’ needs, and hiring remote freelance accountants is a great way to serve your clients and take on your firm’s workload during busier seasons. 

Learn more about freelance accountants and the gig economy

Utilizing freelance accountants is a cost-efficient alternative to hiring full-time employees. You can use freelancers during busier seasons in which your firm has a higher income and workload. Freelance accounting is here to stay, and you need to consider hiring remote freelancers to reduce the heavy workload of your full-time accountants. You can also find expert remote accountants who can fulfill your clients’ unique needs. 

If you want to learn more about the benefits of hiring freelance accountants and how to hire freelance accountants for short-term work, be sure to check out Part Two and Part Three of this webinar article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

Hiring freelancers is a great way for you to increase your revenue and expand your firm, and another way you can start improving your firm is by signing up for the Gusto partner program. When you add your clients to Gusto, you become eligible for free payroll, HR tools, and a partner advisor. You’ll also gain access to VIP support and Gustos’ expanding partner directory. If you’re ready to receive invaluable benefits that will enable you to serve your clients better and grow your firm, sign up for Gusto today!  

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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