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September 30, 2023

Freelancing CPAs: What’s the Risk?

freelancing cpas

Freelancing CPAs out-earn salaried employees in 900 fewer hours a year.

That’s 900 hours – I repeat – 900 hours to watch all four hundred plus episodes of Law and Order SVU… twice.

That would still leave you time to start your own side project, raise a family, or travel the world. Or, you could just freelance more and get paid a premium for every hour you work.

I know, sounds too good to be true… I sound like a second-rate huckster, a pimp, a fraud.

But we’ve done it, and countless others have as well. We’ve started two companies, enjoyed multi-month long vacations, and obtained valuable, new accounting and operational skills.

That’s not to say it wasn’t nerve-wracking walking out of that midtown skyscraper for the last time. It can be difficult to break out of public accounting’s golden handcuffs in the form of salary and employee benefits. It’s so common to feel trapped – a prisoner of your email – all in the name of security.

So, if you’re interested in the financial and lifestyle opportunities allotted by freelancing, but afraid of the uncertainty, ask yourself these three questions.

Are you leaving on good terms?

Were you an average-rated employee? Did you suppress the urge to write an unfiltered farewell email? Yes and Yes?

Well then, your old firm will take you back should you loathe being your own boss. 98% of HR managers said they would rehire former employees in a 2016 survey.

After all, who better to fill your former firm’s CPA shortage than you?

Do you have sufficient savings?

Worried about immediate cash flow after quitting?

This calculator will help you determine how much you should have in emergency funds. It’s based off 6 months of unemployment, which is super aggressive for an in-demand CPA, but conservative nevertheless.

If you have enough in reserves, you should be able to weather this transition period. If you don’t, your PTO payout could suffice.

Are you a living, breathing CPA with public accounting experience?

Consider your days in public as failed entrepreneur insurance.

There’s a shortage of experienced CPAs, so if you absolutely hate freelancing, and you’d rather sell your vital organs than go back to your old firm hat in hand, you still have stable, career-building opportunities.

Opportunities, like:

1) Let your client convince you to work for them full-time.

2) Go back to public accounting at a new firm.

3) Pursue an industry niche, and receive a raise from your past salary.

Just remember, you can make a big league amount of money as a freelancer while taking time off to do whatever you want.

And if you ever get sick of it, you’re better off than you were before. You can check off the proverbial “work for myself” box, and then leverage your experience for a more exciting and lucrative role.

Josh Tarica is a co-founder of Beech Valley Solutions, the premier network that connects CPAs with freelance opportunities in advisory, assurance, and tax. Beech Valley consultants enjoy higher pay for every hour worked, the flexibility to accept or reject projects, and the ability to diversify their skill sets.

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