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How to Hire Remote Accountants During Tax Season

Gusto Editors  
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Do you know how to hire and manage remote accountants? 

Hiring remote accountants is critical for your firm, especially during tax season. The unemployment rate for accountants is incredibly low, meaning you need to look beyond your own location for a quality hire. Learning how to hire and manage remote staff will help your firm thrive during tax season, and it’ll help you address your workload when members of your staff exit your firm. 

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Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, gave an edifying webinar on hiring remote freelancers titled “How to Hire Remote Seasonal Tax Talent For This Busy Season,” and you can watch the full webinar here

In addition to this article, Part Two, you can read Part One of the webinar series to learn all about the benefits of hiring freelance accountants during tax season. 

In this part, you’ll hear how to hire and manage remote accountants from Jeff Phillips. Jeff is the CEO of Padgett Business Services and Co-Founder of Accountingfly. You’ll learn about the benefits of hiring freelancers, how to find the perfect remote freelancers for your firm, and how to manage your freelancers so that you can continue using them in the future. Let’s dive in! 

Benefits of hiring freelance talent

Hiring freelancers can help you address your firm’s workload when you’re short-staffed and when you’re facing tax season. There are currently more knowledge economy jobs than there are qualified workers, so it’s important that you stay on top of your firm’s workload by hiring freelancers remotely. Jeff observed that the shortage of qualified professionals combined with the high turnover rate of accountants could kill your business if you’re unwilling to hire remotely: 

“That 25% turnover [of accounting firms] … we call it … a ‘snowball effect.’ When you start to lose one person in a small team, now that compounds the work of the remaining team, and you can’t hire … because you’re hiring [for example] in Atlanta and there’s 1.8% unemployment [of accountants], so you can’t hire in Atlanta, you get a downward spiral, a death spiral, inside your business.”

Jeff Phillips

When you lose someone at your firm, the rest of your team has to take on more work. If you’re not filling positions or hiring freelancers quickly, other team members will also exit because of their high workload. Rather than only focusing on hiring locally, your firm needs to hire remote staff to address your firm’s workload, especially during tax season. Hiring remote freelancers will not only keep your team from overworking, but it can also save your firm money: 

“You don’t necessarily have to commit to a full-time hire. So financially speaking, that could save you $40,000, $50,000 a year per position. If you go remote now, you can find the best player for any project or any season. … I mean — somebody who knows how to do a seasonal project or a short-term assignment, who knows how to work remotely, who knows how to plug into a team and even to clients temporarily and be super professional and results-focused for you.”

Jeff Phillips

You don’t need to hire full-time employees to address heavy workloads. You can hire specialists remotely to serve your clients’ needs who will depart after completing their assignments. Jeff Phillips noted a case in which a client needed accountants with incredibly particular skill sets. By hiring remotely, the firm could find freelance specialists that could address their client’s needs. 

“You can find the absolute needle in the haystack specialist for a particular project. We have a client at Accountingfly, a CPA firm in Pennsylvania, that has a large mining industry client. So it’s a once-a-year six-week audit, and they bring in two remote audit manager-level CPAs who have experience in construction clients. … They’re there for six weeks. They move on to the next project, the firm takes the fees from the client, pays the freelancers, and they pocket the margin.”

Jeff Phillips

The CPA firm saves money and better serves their client’s needs by hiring temporary staff remotely. They don’t need to hire the specialists full-time because they’re only needed six weeks out of the year. Rather than paying the specialists a salary and benefits, they merely pay them a fee for that six weeks of work, and then they keep the profit that they earned from the client. 

Middle aged male sitting at a desk in front of a lap top smiling

Bottom line: Hiring remote freelancers will save your employees from overworking during busy seasons, and it will also help you address your individual clients’ needs in a cost-efficient and effective way. 

Finding quality remote freelancers

Hiring remote freelancers is crucial for your firm’s health, but how do you begin the process of hiring remote freelancers in the first place? 

“The first place to think about is job boards. Indeed, Monster.comCareerBuilder [are] probably not bad places to start. The upside is [that] it’s cheap. The downside is these are not great places for high-level accountants to spend their time on, but you can get lucky. You can find a needle in a haystack. If you do it, good for you because you made a quick hire very, very cheaply.”

Jeff Phillips

Once you find quality candidates via job boards or other means, you need to scrutinize if their previous experience is suitable for your firm. They need to have a great deal of accounting and remote-working experience: 

“They need to have done multiple tax seasons as a freelancer, at least one, and then before that, they need to have four, five, six tax seasons under their belt inside a firm. So they’ve got to have high caliber quality experience, but I want them to have been a seasonal employee [for] someone else first that you can check on. Because there are kinks that have to be worked out here. They need to have done remote [work] before.”

Jeff Phillips

In addition to evaluating their previous work experiences, you need to run a background check and contact their references. You also need to explicitly communicate the number of hours you expect them to work to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that they have the time to work with your firm. 

Once you’ve landed on a candidate, have them sign nondisclosure and non-compete agreements so that they can’t solicit and steal your clients and employees: 

“There needs to be a real, clear, restricted covenant so they don’t take anything they shouldn’t be taking. I think there is a little bit of elevated risk on remote when that happens, but good contracts [and] good lawyers can go a long way with this.”

Jeff Phillips

It’s important to protect your firm in the event that a freelancer attempts to steal clients or employees. Having them sign nondisclosure and non-compete agreements will protect your business. 

Young female freelancer sitting in her kitchen in front her laptop with head phones on holding a drink

Initially, hiring remote freelancers can be difficult and time-consuming, but once you find quality freelancers, you can continue utilizing their services during future tax seasons:

“The do-it-yourself talent clouds. … Start accumulating all the alumni that have worked at your firm, all the accountants you know, the seasonal talent[s] that have worked for your firm, and you build them into a database. So every time you have a job open up, you can reach out to that group and bring them back.”

Jeff Phillips

Rehiring freelancers from year-to-year will ensure that you have qualified accountants to take on your firm’s busy season. Create a database for all the freelancers and employees that you’ve previously worked with so that you can always handle your firm’s workload. 

Managing remote freelancers 

Knowing how to manage your remote freelancers is critical for completing your firm’s work effectively and ensuring that you can use their services in the future. An initial step you need to take towards managing your freelancers is investing time in onboarding:

“If you do hire a seasonal contractor, treat them like a client. You are setting this up so that if they’re good, they’re going to want to come back and work for you, so give them a good experience. That starts with a great onboarding. … You should include them on your calls. You need to get them into your tax training and your internal meetings. It’s worth every hour you pay them to do internal training to be aligned with your firm.”

Jeff Phillips

When you take the time and resources to onboard your freelancers and treat them like clients, you’re investing in them for future work. If they feel like they’re part of your team and enjoy working with your firm, you’ll be able to utilize their services in future tax seasons. Another step you can take to ensure that you continue working with your freelancers is to give them smaller assignments after tax season: 

“If you want to be a better manager, be a clearer communicator. Work with them all year round and the next tax season. … [You need to] get them back on your roster next tax season. If you can find work for them to do throughout the year, even if you have to reduce their hours, flex down to a smaller number of hours during non-busy season, that would be ideal. Or if they go away, try to keep in touch with them throughout the rest of the year. But if they’re good, we got to get them back.”

Jeff Phillips

Make sure you continue giving your freelancers work or continue communicating with them so that you can use their services during future tax seasons. 

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In addition to investing time in your freelancers, managing them effectively is crucial for addressing your firm’s workload: 

“Manage by objective. That means who owns what by when. You’re assigning the work. You’re creating the deadlines. You or your manager are checking the quality of the work before it’s signed off. I would meet with the reviewers to give feedback and detail on what was missed and what needs to be improved on a weekly basis. You are going to have to over-communicate here to be successful, but that should be true with anyone running any sort of organization.”

Jeff Phillips

Managing freelancers based on completed objectives and quality of work will help you tackle tax season effectively and efficiently. Over-communication is vital for your team’s success, and it’s vital when managing your remote freelancers. By properly communicating with your freelancers and treating them well, your firm will produce quality work for your clients, and you’ll be able to continue using your freelancers during future tax seasons. 

Learn more about hiring remote accountants

Hiring remote freelancers will help your firm take on its busy workload during tax seasons and assist you when your staff members leave your firm. Every firm needs a system for hiring remote freelancers, and you need to properly onboard and manage your freelancers so that you can use them during future tax seasons. If you want to learn more from Jeff about hiring remote accountants, check out the full webinar here

If you need additional assistance in hiring remote freelancers, check out Gusto’s People Advisory services. Gusto People Advisory will help you onboard and manage both your clients and your team so that your firm expands and thrives! 

Updated: August 17, 2021

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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