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What Does a Freelance Accountant Do?
Freelance accountants are self-employed finance professionals, who can work with businesses, individuals or both. Most clients of freelance accountants tend to be smaller businesses, and hire them to help manage things like their accounts and VAT returns. The cost of a freelance accountant depends on the scope and regularity of work but on average costs £50-£150 per month for a small business.
A freelance accountant will offer many of the same services as a traditional accountancy practise. The critical difference is that they usually work on their own, and are often remote.
Freelance accountants work on many aspects of your finances, whether that is providing advice, carrying out a task, or working with you on a longer-term basis.
The role of an accountant is to help you understand, report, manage and strategise in accordance with your financial circumstances. For business clients, much of this work tends to be preparing reports, filing returns, submitting statutory accounts and providing advice about the accounting treatment of transactions.
Your accountant will provide advice that can save a significant amount of money by being aware of the most tax-efficient way to manage a transaction. They ensure your returns are filed accurately and on time with organisations such as HMRC and Companies House.
An added value of using an accountant is that they provide professional advice, and have an understanding of tax laws and company regulations as they change.
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How Much Does a Freelance Accountant Charge?
The cost of your accountancy services will depend on several factors:
- The nature of the work you would like them to do.
- How long the job takes.
- How often you need your accountant.
- Whether they provide regular support or ad hoc services.
- The structure and complexity of the finances and/or businesses you are seeking their assistance with.
- How in-depth or complex any advisory matters are.
Most accountants charge per task or project, rather than per hour. Fixed fees make it easier to manage your budget, and avoid the costs of a job spiralling out of control.
For company accountancy, a freelance accountant providing regular services will charge on average from £50-£150 per month.
If you appoint a freelance accountant for a short, one-off task, they may charge per hour. The average UK cost for an accountant ranges from £35 to £150 per hour and above.
Differences between Freelance Accountants & Accountancy Practises
Freelance accountants tend to be more cost-effective than using a traditional practice. This is because they are self-employed, have much lower overheads, and usually work remotely.
Local freelance accountants will often be happy to visit in person and attend meetings when you need their advice.
Remote freelance accountants typically conduct meetings virtually and may require remote access or a digital transfer of records.
Services Available Through a Freelance Accountant
As with any financial professional, a freelance accountant may provide general accountancy services, or they may work with a specific type of client. Some freelance accountants will specialise in particular industries, or offer packages of services.
The services available include:
- Preparing and filing statutory accounts.
- Preparing management accounts.
- Completing and submitting VAT and Corporation tax returns.
- Assistance with filing self-assessment tax returns.
- General bookkeeping.
- Running payroll. (research payroll costs here)
- Year-end reporting and submissions.
- Advice on financial matters.
- Budgetary support and planning.
- Tax-efficiency advice.
Who Uses a Freelance Accountant?
One of the main reasons people choose a freelance accountant is because of the lower fees and efficiency of the work processes. Generally, freelance accountants work with smaller businesses, although some may be commissioned by more substantial clients.
Some of the most typical clients for a freelance accountant include:
- Small businesses
- Sole traders
- Self-employed people
- Landlords and property investors
How Do I Get a Quote from a Freelance Accountant?
Some freelance accountants offer packages of services. These are typically aimed at self-employed people or small businesses and include a set of services per month, per quarter, or annum.
If you require a tailored quote or need specific advice, then your accountant will usually wish to meet with you, virtually or in person, to discuss your circumstances and the services you require.
Once they understand the scope and context of the work, they will provide you with a quotation. For ongoing work, this might be an annual sum, or for ad hoc projects it may be a project fee.
Your quotation should set out what is and is not involved, as well as additional fees that will be incurred if they are instructed to complete further work. Find Accountant quotes.
Benefits of Using a Freelance Accountant
Freelance contractors are becoming more frequent and more popular, as the workplace becomes more familiar with remote working. There are multiple benefits to choosing a freelance accountant:
- Budget control
Using a freelance accountant means that you have control over when, and for how long you hire them, without any obligation. If you commit to a retainer fee or an annual sum, you will usually have a contract agreeing how you can withdraw from that agreement.
This allows businesses and individuals to hire professional finance support as and when they need it, and can easily switch accountants if they are unhappy with the services provided, or the costs.
For some businesses, using a freelance accountant means being able to hire specialist accountants for specific projects, rather than relying on one accountant to cover all aspects of their needs.
For example, businesses supplying the public sector might hire an accountant to assist with a tender procurement exercise, and use another freelance accountant for their general business administration tasks.
- Wide Skill Base
As remote working becomes more popular, there is a much more extensive selection of professionals to choose from. This means being able to select highly skilled and qualified professional accountants, at a lower cost than using a traditional accountancy practice.
- Cost Reductions
Freelance accountants will typically be more cost-effective than a traditional accountant. This is because they are usually self-employed, have much lower overheads, and work for multiple clients at once.
Using a freelancer is attractive when compared to the cost of hiring an in-house accountant, whether part-time or full-time, since it avoids all the additional costs and obligations of hiring an employee. These include National Insurance, pensions, holiday pay and sick leave.
Drawbacks of Using a Freelance Accountant
There can be some drawbacks to using a freelance accountant; whether these are relevant will depend on the financial services you require.
- Autonomy - some businesses find it challenging to outsource tasks, preferring to have oversight of exactly when each project will be completed. A solution is to agree on set timescales and deadlines with your freelance accountant to ensure you understand when work will be completed.
- Staffing structure - employers may prefer to use in-house employees for their financial work, having more control over their workload and creating an atmosphere of investing in their employees.
- Quality of work - when choosing a freelance accountant, it is essential to feel confident that they have the skills, knowledge and experience to manage your accountancy work. You can verify their accreditations, ask about their experience, and seek references or recommendations from other clients to ensure you are choosing the right professional.
- Communications - when using a freelance accountant, you need to agree on how communications will work. For example, meetings can be conducted remotely, file-sharing software can transfer data digitally, or a remote login will enable them to have real-time access to your records.
How to Choose a Freelance Accountant
When working with an accountant, you need to have a good business relationship to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Your accountant is also privy to sensitive financial information, so you need to be comfortable discussing your circumstances with them, and providing in-depth information.
There are a few tips to ensure you choose the right freelance accountant for you:
- Find an accountant who specialises in your sector, type of employment or business.
- Meet with them beforehand to ask questions and decide whether they are a good fit.
- Choose a local freelance accountant if you wish to have face-to-face meetings.
- Verify their qualifications and accreditations - most professional bodies have a membership database available online.
- Discuss the logistics of remote working, and how this works with other clients.
- Check what software they use and whether this is compatible with your own.
- Ask for indicative pricing so that you can compare this to other quotations.
If you are hiring a freelance accountant for long-term support, pricing can be an essential part of your decision.
We recommend seeking out at least three quotations, which will give you an understanding of how the prices compare. It is worth remembering that more experienced accountants will usually command a higher rate.
Should your business be small, you can make a significant saving by using a more junior accountant. However, if you need specialist advice or support with complex tasks, it may be more cost-effective in the long-term to pay higher rates for an accountant who is suitably skilled to provide the right support.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Freelance Accountant a More Cost-effective Option?
Typically, yes! Freelance accountants work for themselves, and so do not have the overheads of a traditional accountancy practise.
There are downsides, in that practices will usually have several accountancy professionals, all of whom are available to clients should the need arise. If you work with a freelance accountant and need specialist support outside of the scope of their experience, you may need to find a different accountant to deal with that task.
How Can I Reduce my Accountancy Costs?
The best way to minimise your expense is to choose an online accountancy service, and to make the work of your accountant as easy as possible!
For example, if you provide complete records and keep good track of all of your transactions, your accountant will need to spend much less time collating the information before they can begin any analyses, or preparing returns.
Using simple bookkeeping software, or hiring a freelance bookkeeper is an excellent way to simplify the administrative work your accountant needs to do, and thereby reducing their fees.
Is a Freelance Accountant as good as an Accountancy practise?
This depends on what you are looking for from your accountant, but generally freelance accountants will be as highly qualified as those at a practice.
If you need specialist advice or support with the accounts for a niche business sector, you should look for a freelancer with experience within that field to ensure they can provide the right support.
The downside to choosing a freelance accountant is that their services will be restricted to their skills and knowledge. However, most accountants will be well versed with things like self-employed accountancy, business finance, and tax regulations so will be well suited to provide general accountancy services and advice.
Will a Freelance Accountant Act as my Agent?
When you use an accountancy practice, they may act as your tax agent, which means that they can deal directly with HMRC on your behalf. This saves the time, stress and costs of managing HMRC enquiries so can be a very valuable service.
Most accountants regularly working with a client will add a surcharge to their fee, which accounts for this additional work.
A freelance accountant may offer their services as a tax agent - this means that you give HMRC authorisation to discuss your tax affairs with them directly. If you would like this service, make sure to check with your accountant that this is something they can provide.
Does a Freelance Business Need a Freelance Accountant?
Not necessarily! If you run a freelance business and are self-employed or run a business as a sole trader, the chances are that you will need an accountant.
While there is no obligation to do so, most people will not be familiar enough with tax regulations or have the time to manage the financial administration of their business alongside all the other work involved.
It is entirely up to you what sort of accountant you choose for your freelance business! Many freelance companies do decide to hire freelance professionals, since they are familiar with this style of working, and are well equipped to share information digitally and meet virtually.
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