The Benefits of Hiring Freelance Accountants During Tax Season

Gusto Editors

Do you have a system in place for hiring freelance accountants during tax season? 

Tax season is a challenging time for accountants. It’s easy to overwork yourself and your team if you don’t hire additional help, and overworking can result in quality deficiencies that will negatively impact your firm. Hiring freelance accountants during busy seasons can help your firm address your current workload and take on more work to expand your firm’s potential. To find freelance accountants, your firm needs to hire remote workers. 

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, gave an exceptional webinar all about hiring remote freelance accountants titled “How to Hire Remote Season Tax Talent for This Busy Season.” You can watch the full webinar here.

This webinar featured the accounting and hiring expertise of Jeff Phillips, who is the CEO of Padgett Business Services and Co-Founder of Accountingfly. Jeff gave invaluable insights into the importance of hiring remote freelancers and employees in the current job market. In addition to this article, check out Part Two of the webinar series, where you’ll learn practical tips and advice for hiring remote freelancers. 

In this part, Jeff Phillips will teach you all about why the gig economy is growing, why you need to hire remote staff, and the underlying causes leading to the growth of remote freelancing. Let’s get started!

Understanding the gig economy

Hiring freelance workers is a critical part of addressing your firm’s workload during busier seasons. Jeff observed that hiring freelancers is not a new trend, but it’s becoming far more prevalent:

“The 1099 or freelance economy has been around for a very long time. A lot of firms have been hiring freelancers, oftentimes they’re former tax accountants, to come in [during] busy season to help out. … Now, we’re talking about this supply of labor [as] on-demand talent, not W-2 full-time labor. They’re not temps either. … I’m talking about freelancers, specialists who will come in, deliver a project or a season of work or a special skill, and they leave. What is interesting is that they make up 25% of our labor force.”

Jeff Phillips 

Freelancers make up a quarter of the U.S. labor force, and they’re growing rapidly. Freelancing is growing four times faster than the traditional labor force, so it’s critical that accountants understand the benefits of integrating freelancing into their workload and how to hire remote employees. One notable example of how freelancers can achieve impressive feats is a gaming application called True Story. Only freelancers worked on the game, and they disbanded after finishing the game: 

“The organization chart of the company that built [True Story] looked like any other company, … [but] everybody was a freelancer. The team had never worked together before. They existed to come in, produce the game, and then disband. They gave it the name of ‘flash organization,’ which is set up to deliver a complex project staffed by world-renowned experts. … So this flash organization gives us a little bit of a model to think about your firm and how you can bring in superior talent to come do a task and then leave when the task is over.”

Jeff Phillips 
Female freelancer sitting in front of desk with not pad and lap top by windows in an open space area

Flash organizations can teach accountants a lot about the benefits of hiring freelance workers. Rather than hiring full-time employees who handle various projects, you can find freelancers who specialize in particular projects. That way, you can find an expert to address your clients’ needs, and you also benefit from having additional staff during busy seasons. Hiring freelance workers is critical for your firm: 

“If you don’t have a strategy around this opportunity, in what I call a ‘1099 strategy,’ you really can’t win your own war for talent. … You’re missing out compared to your competition. You’re just missing out on [an] incredible opportunity to have a more successful business. … So what’s happening is we have this massive availability of specialists available to fill needs for each of you, and I just think that’s huge because I know how hard it is for you to hire people. It’s really blowing up in a good way in tax.”

Jeff Phillips

More and more firms are accessing the benefits of hiring freelance talent, so it’s crucial that your firm has a strategy for hiring freelancers. Freelancers can address your firm’s heavy workload, which is critical right now because it’s difficult to find unemployed accountants. 

Hiring remote staff to access freelance workers

One necessary step in hiring freelancers is hiring workers remotely. You may have done this temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the growth of remote workers preceded the pandemic and will continue growing rapidly: 

“The new normal is remote. It was already coming. The pandemic accelerated it. It is your best weapon to build a flash team that could come in [and] profitably reduce your workload in your tax season. … Remote work was already on its way because it was a solution to the talent crisis in the accounting profession.”

Jeff Phillips

Hiring remote workers was already expanding to meet labor shortages in accounting and other knowledge economy jobs. Knowledge economy jobs are proliferating far faster than the knowledge economy workforce:  

“Here’s the bottom line. Over the next 10 years, we’re going to have 50 million more knowledge jobs available than people to fill them globally. … Our economy is changing. It’s producing far more knowledge [economy] jobs than it is producing knowledge [economy] workers.”

Jeff Phillips

Hiring both full-time employees and freelance staff is going to become increasingly difficult over the next decade. It’s critical for your firm to hire workers remotely so that you always have qualified workers to help your clients and take on your firm’s workload. Jeff Phillips observed that firms are also up against a high turnover rate of employees: 

“In accounting and auditors, you’re seeing 1.5% [unemployment rate]. … Everybody that wants a job has one in our field. … Accounting firms until $20 million in sales are having a 25% turnover. So people are leaving public accounting jobs, bookkeeping firms, [and] accounting firms.”

Jeff Phillips

The turnover rate for accounting firms is incredibly high. If you’re only hiring accountants located in your area, you’ll have difficulty filling positions and addressing your firm’s workload. Rather than wasting time and energy looking for qualified employees and freelancers locally, you need to expand your horizons to hire remotely. 

Man sitting at home at kitchen table working on his laptop referencing a clip board with papers while holding his glasses

More workers need the flexibility of freelancing

A major factor driving accountants to become remote freelancers is the need for flexibility. Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce, and they require more flexibility within their work than previous generations: 

“[Millennials] are demanding flexibility of when they work and where they work to a far greater degree than baby boomers and Gen[eration] Xers. … Millennials are the first generation to come along where mom and dad both work. They both have careers. … They have a much more equal footing in the home and at work.”

Jeff Phillips

Millennials have dual-income households, so those who have children need the flexibility to work and watch their kids at the same time. Rather than resisting the changing nature of the available labor force, firms need to accept change and hire candidates remotely: 

“Meet your employer’s needs where they are and embrace this flexibility. So for your full-time staff, if you stop caring where they work, you hire somebody quickly. If you embrace the gig economy and you want to bring in staff to do a tax season project for you, this is why you need to be doing this remotely because they’re already there. So remote work is here to stay.”

Jeff Phillips

Hiring remote employees and freelancers is vital for addressing your firm’s workload. If you rely on hiring in-person workers, you’ll have difficulty filling positions and finding additional freelancers during busy seasons. 

“You could find the best player for every position that you want to hire. You don’t have to wait. By making these hires, whether it’s full-time or part-time, you’re reducing your staff burnout. … You can’t really do seasonal unless you embrace remote, [and] I’m here to tell you that you want to be building a remote team in addition to your office team no matter what.”

Jeff Phillips

Hiring remote freelancers enables your firm to complete your tax season workload without overworking your current staff. Hiring remote freelancers will also help you address your clients’ individual needs because you can find an expert specializing in their field. 

Bottom line: You need to embrace hiring remote freelancers so that your firm thrives and expands. 

Learn more about hiring remote freelance accountants

Jeff Phillip’s guidance in hiring freelance accountants remotely is absolutely vital for your firm, and we encourage you to check out Part Two of this webinar series here so that you can learn more from Jeff. He’ll teach you all about how to hire remote freelancers and how to keep working with the same expert freelancers every tax season. You can also check out the full webinar here

If you need additional guidance in hiring remote freelancers, we highly recommend that you look into joining Gusto’s People Advisory services. Through Gusto, you’ll gain access to invaluable services for improving your firm and advising your clients. You’ll also become People Advisor Certified so that you can help your clients by advising them about payroll, advocating for benefits, and helping them with HR. Through Gusto, you’ll become an even better advisor for your clients during difficult periods where they need your guidance more than ever. 

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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