Author Topic: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?  (Read 1890 times)

Maccountant

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Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« on: April 24, 2018, 03:55:23 PM »
I am a CPA working my way to FI.

I am not financially in a position to completely jettison the day job...yet, and even after FIRE I want to continue to work at least 20-25 hrs a week. I am thinking I should start building a clientele of my own on the side so that in the next couple of years when I leave the corporate world I have a handful of clients already on board for me to serve "while retired".

I want to have geographic flexibility and keep my overhead operating costs low, so I have no intention of renting an office space and "hanging my shingle".

How can I market to technologically savvy entrepreneurs and freelances who would be looking for the services of a CPA, but are willing to work through "the cloud" as opposed to the traditional brick and mortar consulting I currently do for small business owners?

I have thought of Google adwords or Facebook adds, but this is a side hustle so I am tying to bootstrap this idea rather than sink a bunch of cash into advertising.

What other resources have any of you come across that have helped you market your business and build a targeted clientele?
 

Smokystache

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2018, 02:20:35 PM »
My first thought is to become an expert in a specific field. It will make marketing and referrals so much easier. A random example: become an expert on a niche field that has some specific/complicated accounting needs. I'd recommend a field large enough that they would have state-level conventions. Let's go with optometrists. Get a few clients - work with them to provide exceptional service. Learn the lingo/jargon of the field. Offer to provide an exhaustive review of their accounting/business processes - do a few of these for free. Take what you learn and try to provide a talk at a conference of optometrists (bonus points if there has been a recent business-related disruption for that field). Give a few secrets away, but mostly hope they will simply want to turn over their accounting needs to you.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2018, 02:54:03 PM »
Do you speak a foreign language?  I knew a CPA that did very well because he catered to an ethnic minority.

cchrissyy

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2018, 06:39:30 PM »
I wouldn't recommend finding your clients through a website or online advertising. 
instead, use your local network to find local clients. meet them in person just the 1st visit.
after that, provide all your services online.

L2

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2018, 06:41:43 PM »
Upwork.

SeattleCPA

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2018, 08:08:16 AM »
Two comments, interrelated really...

One, you probably would find this discussion of the realities of small CPA profitability useful.

Small CPA firm profitability

Two, personal opinion, doing some sort of CPA side hustle seems really inefficient. You want to recognize public accounting (like probably most mature business opportunities) displays a power law dynamic. The winners win big. The average performer probably ought to just get a job someplace where the management team is good.

BTW, technology has really changed the profession. You want to be careful that you're forward looking in your business model and not backward looking.


Maccountant

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2018, 02:51:24 PM »
@ SeattleCPA - thanks for sharing the link, I was familiar with the AICPA MAP survey, but never realized the potential for reporting bias.

You allude to the industry changing, do you think bookkeeping will become a thing of the past with AI becoming more mainstream? Or block-chain technology eliminating a majority of reconciling? Tax reform simplifying the IRC so everyone "files on a postcard"?

I do think this industry is posted for disruption, wondering what your thoughts are on what that will look like?

SeattleCPA

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2018, 04:27:36 PM »
I think there's lots of opportunity for good CPAs. IMHO, though, you don't want to do what solo proprietors have done in past.

E.g., easy 1040 returns? No profit in that due to TurboTax. And monthly write-up work (aka "bookkeeping")? I think that is a really tough nut to crack because most users want to "do" QuickBooks themselves.

So what you want to do is focus on more complicated stuff that untrained people can't do themselves. In tax, that means corp and partnership returns, multistate taxpayers, people with international tax issues. This stuff can't safely or optimally be done on a DIY basis. (Look at how often the Bogleheads DIYers get these things wrong...) So do this more complicated stuff, and you can do great.

P.S. If I was in my 20s instead of in my late 50s, I'd think about working with a small firm or solo practitioner who is doing a practice "right" and then position myself to be her or his successor. Lots of risk of the relationship not working out, of course, but the profession is getting older and lots of CPA firm owners need to find a successor.

Putting this all into FIRE terms, learn some retiring practitioner's business... buy her or him out on a short-term note (using profits to pay off the note very quickly)... then decide if you still want to FIRE ASAP or if you maybe want to work a few more years (rapidly growing your net worth).

P.S. I didn't feel comfortable going into any more detail about the MAP data, but within that group of "A" performers, there's the same sort of wide variability in profits too. There's a big difference, e.g., between A-, A and A+ performers.

jwright

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2018, 08:46:29 AM »
This company is local to me and doing cloud based accounting that you are describing: https://www.ceterus.com/
They were just in the paper because they received $10 Million in Series B funding. 

At my old firm they had a "controller-to-go" practice that was a similar set up.  Outsourced financial analysis. 

I would partner with a local firm and network with their tax practices; in my area many firms outsource bookkeeping work to trusted professionals.  I would also hit up in-person networking events and talk to small business owners.

profnot

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2018, 06:14:31 PM »
+1 on becoming an expert in a niche area with strong demand.

I can think of 2 offhand:
Real estate investors
Retired boomers with complicated tax returns

Bigger ticket clients usually find professionals via referrals from professionals they already trust.  You'll need good online presence.  But you will also need to attend some local networking meetings to make your face and name familiar, especially while you building your clientele.

For each one, I would create a reciprocal referral retirement team for this niche.
Real estate: Lawyer, Insurance broker, Property Management company, you as the financial expert.
Retirees: Elder law attorney, senior housing counselor, visiting nurses / caregiver agency, financial planner, and you as accountant.

I would find the best experts and phone each for a brief in-person meeting at their offices to find opportunities for referrals and team-building.

People with money want face time with the experts they consult or there's no trust.  They want to know you a bit and shake your hand.

So while you don't need to occupy and rent a full-time office, you might rent an office in some kind of Work Space / Incubator style of building in which you have a receptionist and access to a conference room.  Or rent an office inside a law firm, insurance broker, or other non-competitive company.

Best of luck!

« Last Edit: July 01, 2018, 06:19:43 PM by profnot »

profnot

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Re: Side Hustle - Accounting Services, where to begin?
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2018, 06:22:37 PM »
btw -

I don't how things work in the accounting world, but in law firms, if you start working with clients on the side rather than bringing your new clients into the firm for which you work, you are in deep trouble.  Law firms fire attorneys who do this.

Just something to consider.