This is a guest post by Allan Branch of LessAccounting.com
My story is common among freelancers. I’m a designer by trade. I went freelance in 2005 and started building static websites for customers. The easy part was the actual service I provided. The hard part was the admin side of things: billing, taxes, and contracts. I literally knew nothing about these, so I pushed those tasks to the side and ignored them.
Around tax season, I realized I needed to get an accountant to wave their magic wand over my bank statements. I hoped that somehow I wouldn’t owe any money. I looked up a local accountant, called him and the next day had a meeting.
I didn’t know what to ask, and I didn’t know if he was qualified or even of sound mind. I just blindly trusted him. Shoved my printed bank statements and printed pdf invoices across his desk and stared blankly at him.
Don’t do what I did.
Here’s how to interview potential accountants. I wish I had this advice all those years ago. In a later article, I’ll talk about why you should have an accountant.
Jody Padar, NewVisionCPAGroup.com says…
Be sure to discuss “beliefs being risk tolerance” with your accountant. Do you want your accountant to be aggressive or conservative in your tax preparation? Also, a lot of accountants offer business coaching, almost mini-cfo roles for you. Talk to your accountant about these services.
Barrett E. Young, III, CPA at The Green Abacus says…
Do they make eye contact? Do they run their own business? Do they spend all their time talking about their certifications? How exposed are they to new/cutting-edge tools? Do they read/listen to the same blogs, books, podcasts that you value?
A good CPA knows about business, not just accounting. And don’t buy the line that accounting is the language of business. That’s just something we tell ourselves to make us feel better about our own inadequacies. Accounting is the language of business past. A true CPA/accountant should be staying current and watching future development enough to help you translate past performance into present actions.
Kevin McCoy of Kevin McCoy CPA says…
First, check the accountant’s technical capabilities either via state board of accountancy or equivalent certification source.
- Ask them how they bill? Hourly? Fixed-rate?
- How do they communicate? Skype? Phone? Email? How often?
- What are the expectations when a project is in progress – do they want regular updates or just a heads up when it’s done? (Communication is the top reason customers fire their accountants.)
Mike Carney of mwcaccounting.com says…
For choosing an accountant, I think you want someone that is both knowledgeable and compatible with your work style. Below are a few questions that I like to hear (since it’s just as much an interview for me as it is for them.)
- What industries do you focus on in your practice?
- Any industry-specific question to check their knowledge
- What is your availability?
- If I have an issue what’s the approximate time to resolve the issue? (a little ambiguous and will be contingent on the issue, but they should be able to answer it)
- What accounting software are you familiar with in your practice?
- Are there others at your firm?
- What services do you provide?
You want an accountant that is qualified, current, and honest. It helps to establish right from the start how the two of you will communicate, what software you’ll use, and how the accountant will bill you.
Follow the advice above and find an accountant that’s compatible with you. Because the only thing worse than not having an accountant, is having a bad accountant.
And as always, make sure your accountant uses LessAccounting!