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Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson

The Friendliest Freelancer #1: How to find a good accountant (as a freelancing software developer)

Published 8 months ago • 2 min read

How to find a good accountant

When you’re going independent as a freelancer, you are starting a small business. You have to do more than just coding now: clients have to be invoiced, payroll has to be run, taxes have to be paid, and more. All that fun stuff!

Well, perhaps fun for professionals: the accountants. You need to find one, either before or right after you start working for yourself.

You want to do this right: ending up with the wrong accountant can be an ordeal. “Am I complying with my local laws and regulations? Have my taxes been filed correctly? I'm not sure?” Stressful!

I suggest you proceed in three steps:

1. Find a wide pool of candidates

2. Filter down to candidates that match your profile

2. Select one that fits you


Find candidates

Cast your net as wide as possible. Don’t make assumptions up front: “Since I am a small business, my accountant should be a small business entity as well.” No, just find a bunch of prospects first, large and small.

Here are a few channels to try:

  • The most obvious approach: if you know anyone who works in or adjacent to accounting, ask them to recommend a person or company. You are probably able to recommend good software developers—an accountant can do the same in their field.
  • Ask any friends or family who work in small businesses who their accountant is, and if they would recommend them.
  • Search your local area via Google Maps (and read the reviews). Here’s an example search for Toronto.
  • Ask for recommendations in local and regional Facebook community groups

Contact and filter candidates

At this point, you should have a pool of candidates, probably a mix of individual accountants and accounting firms. Start contacting them.

Provide clear context up front:

Hi!

I’m an IT professional and I’m {starting|running} a single-person business. I’m looking for someone who can help with accounting, plus possibly some other administration stuff like payroll, local regulations, etc.
If this matches your services, I’d love to talk.

best regards,
{your name}

Some accountants specialize in helping salaried employees and some accountants only work with larger business clients—by stating your circumstances up front you avoid wasting time.

Select one

Talk to each one. Do so face to face or via video chat. You want as much bandwidth as possible—body language and everything. Email or phone alone is not enough.

A few things to look out for:

  • Do they take you seriously? Do you feel safe and comfortable asking them very basic questions about business, administration, and acounting?
  • Are they attentive, active listeners when you describe your situation, or do they jump ahead to solutions and planning before you are ready?
  • Are they able to communicate clearly, without confusing jargon? Bonus points if they try to gently educate you along the way.
  • Are they quick to point out specific tradeoffs and choices that need to be tackled?
  • Do they generally seem pleasant to work with?

(Yes: all that stuff that you should do for your clients!)

Finish line

Evaluate at least 3-5 candidates this way.

And finally: try to get in touch with some of their clients to check what they have to say about them.

Now you should have enough data and gut feel to pick the accountant that fits you best.

Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson

The Friendliest Freelancer

Software dev of 20+ years now helping other devs gain autonomy and become calm, independent contractors—new issue every other Sunday

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