The Dream Accountant

A good accountant is essential in any business, but many home-based and freelance businesses don’t take the same time and effort to find the right one as their larger peers. For those in a specialty profession, especially those in the arts, an experienced accountant can also make the difference between just getting by and thriving.

Doing It Yourself

Doing It Yourself

It’s certainly possible for a freelance business to keep their own financial records and do their own books. There are plenty of excellent accounting software packages available that almost act as a proxy bookkeeper. Being a solo business or freelance also means that purchasing is not likely to be an overwhelming task, and the flow of money in and out of the business is probably not going to be an unmanageable flood.

Generally speaking, a solo business that keeps a close eye on accounts, and pays attention to invoices and receipts throughout the year, should not have a shocking experience at tax time.

However, an accountant is more than just a collector of receipts. An accountant can form part of the business’ management team, even for freelancers. In addition to helping prepare for taxes, they can provide advice on whether to lease or buy, what tax deductions are legal, and even give advice on buying a property or preparing for retirement, more helpful hints. A great accountant should also be able to discuss business strategy and plans for the future.

Finding the Right One

For a very small business, it’s best to find an accountant who has previous experience with soloists or freelancers. Creatives should also find one that specialises in that area, or at least has a passing knowledge of what’s possible for creative people under tax law. There are plenty of loopholes and tricky bits of legislation for both freelancers, artists and business owners. The right accountant can help find the most generous provisions and beneficial tax deductions.

Comfort level is crucial. It’s important that both parties like each other, right from the first meeting. If the meeting is relaxed and the person is engaging, it’s right. If there’s any level of discomfort, or if there’s a perceptible air of disrespect or condescension, keep looking.

Don’t make a decision based on cost alone. It’s tempting, especially when the cash flow of a business is more like a trickle. It’s worth remembering, though, that the service of a specialist will be worthwhile in the long run. An accountant will know the business just as well as the proprietor, and they can earn their keep by giving specific and tailored advice that’s right for the individual. In addition, most accounting costs are a tax deduction anyway.

Lastly, when looking for a new accountant it’s most important to feel informed about what’s happening. No matter how involved they are in the business affairs, in the end it’s not their money. The business owner is completely responsible for everything that happens, and will very often be asked to sign a disclaimer to that effect. If an accountant makes financial decisions without explaining what’s going on, and in a coherent way, it’s time to move on.

Before Signing a Contract

Before Signing a Contract

When that right one has been found, the next step is getting references, particularly from those clients who are in the same profession or have the same sized business. If the accountant is good, they should be able to easily provide references.

The relationship between accountant and proprietor is paramount, even in the smallest of businesses. Where there’s a commitment to building a career, even as a solo business or freelance, there should also be a sturdy accountant supporting every forward step.