Top tips for finding the best accountant for freelancers

A woman wokring on a desktop computer doing accounting
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov)

Freelance life is undeniably more complex than working at a full-time job with a salary, especially when it comes to tax affairs – because you’ve got to do all of that yourself.

That can be daunting when you see the sheer amount of paperwork you’ll need to tackle if you want to do your own freelance tax return, so it’s no wonder many freelancers turn to accountants instead.

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A good accountant can save you money alongside time and stress, but they can be difficult to find – especially if you’ve never had to approach one before.

We’ve eliminated the hassle by outlining the steps you should follow if you want to employ a top-notch accountant. That’s not the end of our freelance advice: head here for guidance on finding your first clients, and discover the most important steps to take before you go freelance

Do your research

If you’re a freelancer, you’ve likely got a pretty small budget for accountancy costs compared to a large, multi-person business – and this is the first factor that’ll influence your search for an accountant.

This means that you should seek out accountancy firms that specialize in small business and freelance accounting rather than large-scale businesses that will handle the tax affairs of billionaires and huge companies. You simply don’t need their services, and you’ll pay over the odds for stuff you won’t use.

You should start your search with some research. A simple web search for local accounts or small business accountants will throw up loads of names who could do the job.

You should narrow down the inevitably huge field by looking at professional directories that list accountants with proper qualifications – sites like the IRS in the US and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in the UK are great places to start. You shouldn’t employ an accountant who isn’t a paid-up member of proper professional bodies.

You can also consult online reviews to see if accountants have earned a good reputation from their customers. If you know other freelancers you should ask them for recommendations too, because if they’ve been freelancing for a long time then they’re likely to offer high-quality names and could even introduce you to a contact at the company.

Don’t assume that you need to find an accountant locally, either. The proliferation in online communication means you can easily hire a top-notch accountant from the other end of the country – perfect if you find a freelance specialist you want to investigate.

Scour their website

Any good accountant will have a website that shows off their professional qualifications, testimonials from happy clients and the services they offer.

You should cross-reference the qualifications and certifications they say they’ve got by checking relevant industry websites – most accountants will probably be honest, but you never know when someone will use a logo on their website despite not being a member of the organization in question.

If they’re a tax return specialist, then that’s great – that service is the bare minimum you’ll likely need as a freelancer, and it means that your new accountant should be fully up to speed with your country’s self-employment tax system.

Bear in mind, though, that your accountant can do far more than just oversee your tax return. You may want to find an accountant who can handle bookkeeping throughout the year, and some offer coaching and advertising services alongside crowdfunding and cash-raising options. That might be worthwhile if you foresee your business growing beyond self-employment in the future.

Get chatty

Once you’ve looked at reviews, scrolled through databases and researched websites you should have a shortlist of potential accountants who could all tackle your freelance needs.

When you’ve got that list, it’s time to make contact. You could meet someone from the business in person or arrange a video chat – this largely depends on your geographic situation – but it’s critical to meet with people to really find out if they’re the right option for you and your money.

You’re going to have to ask lots of questions. You need to find out how much it will cost to get the services you require – whether it’s basic tax return management or something more holistic – and you need to discover how you have to pay, because some accountancy firms use flat fees and others use hourly rates.

It’s worth asking the accountant about their previous experience working with freelancers and in your industry – you might not want to deal with someone without real experience in relevant areas.

When meeting with an accountant you should clarify how they like to communicate – you might prefer one method over another. Ask about what software they use, too, because if you use the same applications for invoicing and money management, the transition to a new accountant will be far easier.

An in-person or online meeting is a great chance to dig into the weeds. You can ask about the processes they use when resolving disputes, how they protect your information, and the process they anticipate using for your tax return.

A meeting isn’t just about answering your questions and clearing up misunderstandings, either – it’s about personalities. If you want to have a successful and long-lasting relationship with your accountancy company then it’s important that you work well on a personal level. Everything will be smoother if that’s the case, and your accountant will be more inclined to look out for your finances if you have a good connection.

After you’ve been through this process, including meeting with a few different accountants, you should have all the information you need to pick the person to help smooth your freelance finances. Handling the money can be one of the trickiest parts of freelance life, so it’s important to get all of the help you need in this department.

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Mike has worked as a technology journalist for more than a decade and has written for most of the UK’s big technology titles alongside numerous global outlets. He loves PCs, laptops and any new hardware, and covers everything from the latest business trends to high-end gaming gear.