Industry Trends

What You Need to Know to Hire the Best Remote Accountants

Gusto Editors  
Smiling nice man working remotely.

Do you know how to recruit remote full-time and freelance accountants?

Your firm needs to find skilled accountants to address your clients’ needs, but there’s a growing number of knowledge economy jobs and not enough accountants and bookkeepers to fill them. With the accounting labor shortage, you need a system in place for hiring remote employees, and you need a 1099 program.

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, gave an exceptional webinar all about hiring remote employees and freelancers. We presented the webinar titled “How to Hire and Manage US-Based Remote Accountants,” and you can watch the full presentation here

In addition to this article, which is Part Two of the series, you can read Part One and Part Three to learn more about remote work and hiring practices. 

In this article, we’ll share invaluable highlights from the webinar featuring Jeff Phillips, who is the Co-Founder and Director of Accountingfly. You’ll learn about finding great accounting candidates, recruiting US-based remote staff, and why offering remote and freelance positions is critical for your firm. 

Finding quality accounting candidates 

There’s a significant labor shortage for knowledge-based work in various fields, including legal, finance, engineering, medical, and other industries. The knowledge work labor shortage has heavily impacted accounting, and numerous firms have difficulty finding quality candidates. Accounting jobs are growing faster than the accounting labor force, and statistically, accounting firms have a high turnover rate. Smaller accounting firms lose around 25% of their staff every year. 

With the accounting labor shortage and high turnover rate, optimizing your firm’s ability to recruit and retain accountants is critical. Accounting candidates are typically on the job market for only ten days, and if they’re qualified, they’ll probably have several accounting firms offering them positions. Additionally, baby boomer accountants are shifting toward retirement as more millennials are filling the accounting job market. 

Jeff noted that firms need to offer flexibility to attract and retain talent. When you offer appealing aspects to your accounting positions, such as flexibility, you’ll have an easier time retaining employees:

“What millennials are telling us is it’s a non-negotiable that [they] want more flexibility in our work. We can give you more data points on that, but here’s what I will tell you: … The race for talent is over, [and] the talent has won. If we aren’t meeting our talent on their terms [and] if we’re not meeting them and meeting their needs as a leadership priority, you can count on that turnover to continue.”

Jeff Phillips
Woman using desktop computer and talking on cell phone.

When accountants exit your organization, it puts more pressure on the rest of your staff because there are fewer people to complete your clients’ work. An accountant quitting can lead to the mass exit of other accountants, especially when there are competing firms that offer more appealing positions: 

“Every unit of turnover is expensive, and it’s painful, and every unit of turnover is a little snowball that turns into a larger snowball. … [You’re] going to lose [your] entire audit team to a competitor that’s more innovative, that’s more flexible, [and] that embraces remote work.”

Jeff Phillips

An accountant exiting your firm can prompt others to exit as well. Jeff recommended three critical ways firms can shift in order to improve their ability to recruit and retain accountants:

“Drastically increase your freedom and flexibility as human-being policies inside your firm. Hire US-based remote staff for W2 positions. … Thirdly, have a freelancer 1099 on-demand hiring program. It’s my opinion [that] you cannot win the war for talent without having a clear-cut program for hiring freelancers. If you don’t have [a 1099 program for] tax season, US-based remote tax reviewers and preparers assisting your team that are there only for busy season …  then leave after busy season, [you need one]. [Without it,] you might be overpaying for full-time labor for the entire year, or your full-time labor is being stretched too thin.”

Jeff Phillips

Your firm will have an easier time filling positions and fulfilling client work by increasing flexibility, hiring remotely, and adopting an 1099 program. As the number of knowledge economy jobs increases, it will become increasingly important for your firm to offer flexible and remote positions and a 1099 program.

Recruiting US-based remote accountants

To keep your firm fully staffed, you need to have the ability to recruit remote accountants. Jeff went into detail about hiring US-based remote staff and the importance of offering flexible, remote positions:

“[Hiring remotely] is the solution to the staffing issues. … It is the new norm. It is what the talent is expecting, and I want you to get comfortable with it.”

Jeff Phillips

It’s critical for your firm to have the ability to recruit accountants remotely as the knowledge economy job landscape continues shifting. Remote positions are much more highly sought after than in-office positions, which means that you’ll be immediately increasing the size of your qualified candidate pool by embracing remote work. 

“When we post a job that is remote, it doesn’t matter where you work, that job receives ten times more applicants now than the exact same job in any location, even the largest locations like New York City, Houston, Chicago, [and] Los Angeles. … When you open yourself up to a network like that, you no doubt get so many more quality resumes.”

Jeff Phillips

You’re far more likely to find a skilled accounting candidate when you offer remote positions. Additionally, you’ll be able to find accountants with a great deal of remote experience:

“You’re doing something so differently than the competitors in your market that it gets the attention of really talented people who not only are good at whatever role you’re trying to fill, but they’re also good at working remotely.”

Jeff Phillips

Jeff noted that his company Accountingfly sees a general trend of firms filling positions significantly faster by offering remote work. He said in-office jobs typically take 90 to 120 days to fill while remote positions only take around 38 days. Your firm’s ability to fill positions quickly is crucial because your staff can burn out. Accountants can become overworked if your firm doesn’t have enough employees or freelancers, which leads to more staff exiting.  

Winning the war for talent with remote staff

Many accounting managers hold misconceptions about hiring remotely. Staff managers who are reluctant about hiring remotely envision remote accountants working minimally from a non-professional location. But in reality, remote accountants are just as productive as their in-office counterparts. Jeff noted that the majority of remote accountants work in professional spaces:

“94% of remote workers are at home, they rent an office on their own, or they are a member of a coworking space. … People who have been working remotely up to this point are excellent at working remotely.”

Jeff Phillips
Smiling young man having video call and waving.

Another misconception that people have about remote staff is the idea that it’s a new work environment that only millennials want. In reality, numerous industries have featured remote workers for years, and remote work is not exclusive to millennials: 

“The average virtual worker is 46 years old and usually makes more money than in-office workers. … This isn’t the millennial thing. What I’m trying to get you [to understand], especially if you’re a manager trying to be better at remote management, … [is] that this isn’t this brand new concept [that] only applies to young people.”

Jeff Phillips

Remote work is not new, and you can find experienced staff members when you offer remote positions. Jeff outlined what he considers to be the best ratio for in-office to remote workers as well as freelance staff:  

“The ideal stack is you’ve got … probably 50% in the office, 25% of your staff are remote full-time, [and] 25% of your staff are remote independent contractors coming in and out of the team as needed by whatever market demand you have. 30% of our labor force are independent contractors, and that’s why I say you can’t win the war for talent without having a [1099] policy.”

Jeff Phillips

If you don’t offer freelance work for contractors, you’re missing out on a significant percentage of the available accounting workforce. 

Learn more about hiring the best remote accountants

Remote work is not new for knowledge-based industries, and your firm’s ability to offer remote and freelance work plays a critical role in keeping your accounting positions full. You’ll increase the speed in which you can find accountants, and you’ll have a better chance of retaining them by offering flexible remote work. 

If you want to learn more about the benefits of tapping remote workers, read Part One and Part Three of this webinar article series. You can also watch the entire webinar here

Looking for more ways to grow and improve your accounting firm? Consider partnering with Gusto. When you become a Gusto partner, you get exclusive access to tools and resources to support your clients into the future. Streamline payroll and benefits, and start advising your clients in valuable new ways. Join Gusto’s Partner Program today.

Updated: April 1, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors


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