You need to talk with an accountant they say. You have to pay businesses taxes they say. You can deduct expenses they say. So how do you find this accountant they all say you need when you are self-employed and work at home you ask?
I’m embarrassed to admit but I totally procrastinated this step. Registering my business online with my state and the IRS was pretty simple. I read the IRS guidance. I followed the IRS self-employment tax formula calculations. I guessed pretty close to what my quarterly taxes would be. I paid the tax man. All before I talked to an accountant. I don’t recommend this method.
There were a lot of changes associated with tax laws following the passage of 2017 tax legislation. Among other things, these changes impacted what is and isn’t tax deductible.
There is still a lot of old – now wrong – tax information floating around the web.
Talk to an accountant. Don’t do what I did. And use the lessons I learned by downloading the free workbook below.
What’s Stopping You from Finding an Accountant?
For me, it was easy to ask people if they could recommend a CPA. But it was hard to know which one to call and what to ask once I got there.
If you are anything like me you prefer to walk into meetings prepared. I didn’t know how to prepare for a meeting with an accountant. Holding me back was not knowing what to expect once I got there.
Let me help take away the mystery of how to choose an accountant.
Steps to Finding an Accountant when you are Self-Employed (I’ve repeated these in a free workbook for you)
Step 1: Decide if you want your CPA to be a Parent figure or Friend.
The first step when you are looking for an accountant is to ask yourself this – are you looking for a parent figure or more of a friend. Your accountant will become an extension of your company. What personality type do you work best with?
At the beginning of the year your accountant will help you strategize your best tax outcomes. During the year they can be like an invisible colleague reminding you to make good financial decisions and to follow your tax strategy.
At the end of the tax year your CPA can help you clean up the mess if your strategy went off the track.
Did you end up not categorizing all the debit card and credit card statements that auto uploaded to Freshbooks or Quickbooks all year? Did you get lazy about taking photos and uploading receipts from cash transactions?
At end of the year are you going to end up with a messy pile of receipts and uncategorized expenses? Your accountant will know. And the best part is they aren’t going to judge you.
If you haven’t selected an online bookkeeping system yet I use FreshBooks and talk about why I selected Freshbooks over Quickbooks here.
And this is why is it important to select the personality type you can be most honest with. Your accountant is there to help you.
There are enough hard things about being your own boss. Don’t select an accountant that intimidates you just because you think that will motivate you to be a better bookkeeper.
Select the personality type that you can honestly admit failure too. The IRS is too serious an entity to mess with because you didn’t want to tell your account the truth.
Step Two: Interview at least 2 Accountants
The second step is to set up at least two free consultations. When I finally put on my big girl pants I made appointments with two different accountants.
And let me tell you – the first appointment was bad – so bad. I almost canceled the second appointment in favor of just continuing to do my taxes myself.
But bad experiences are teachable moments. From the bad appointment I immediately understood all the qualities I did not want in an accountant. I still didn’t know what I wanted but I knew Accountant #1 was not it.
When I got to our second appointment I knew within 5 minutes I had found my perfect match. She had asked me to bring our previous year taxes for her to review. Being the TurboTax expert I am I hit print 5 minutes before leaving home and handed over what I’d brought. I was excited to show I could be a client she could rely on to not create extra work for her. But the truth always comes out and out it came.
It turns out I didn’t bring close to the right tax form. And she didn’t judge. Even better without blinking an eye she mentioned her firm hires interns to help clients who get behind on their bookkeeping and bring in piles of receipts at tax time. I wanted to reach over the table and hug her!
And I didn’t have to worry about not knowing what to ask because she did. We talked about the structure of my company that I’d created unsupervised. She advised me which expenses to focus on and what to not stress about. She highlighted what changed with the 2017 tax legislation and how that would impact me as a small business.
I left feeling motivated to go out and work my business. It was great not having this must do item hanging over my head anymore. I even wanted to become friends with my accountant as crazy as that sounds.
Finding an account when you are self-employed is worth the time and effort. As I work on my simple bookkeeping system it has been really helpful knowing how the expenses I keep organized in FreshBooks will be used at tax time.
I mentioned “we” when talking about the consultations because I took my husband with me. As a sole proprietor, my business taxes impact our joint taxes. It was important to me for both of us to be comfortable with the advice being given.
Every marriage is different but if your spouse has any interest in the financial workings of your family I encourage you to take them with you.
Check “Find an accountant” off your to-do list – it will be well worth your time!
If you are still in need of more guidance before calling to set up your first accountant consultation, the National Federation of Independent Businesses wrote this article – 5 Tips for Finding a Businesses Accountant that Fits – back in 2012 but much of the advice is still relevant today.
Additional Posts You Might Like:
How to Grow Your Leadership Skills as an Entrepreneur
Discover Your Motivation to Accomplish More Every Day
Great, helpful post! This is a very intimidating process, but you made it so much easier and have motivated me to get up and start searching for a good one! Thank you!
Cori Henderson says
Thank you Tammy and I’m so happy I was able to help you!
Heather Gale says
Wow, I just learned a whole lot by reading your blog and it makes so much sense – especially the personality type of your accountant! You are so right – they do become part of your family.
Cori Henderson says
I’m glad it was helpful! CPA’s are such an important part of an entrepreneur’s business team and having one you like makes taxes less anxiety provoking.
Good points about interviewing at least two accountants and about being honest right off the bat. There’s no time to be gained by pretending to do business in a style that’s not authentic. Thanks for the great article!
This is great advice! I’ve put this task off for too long. You’ve given me the motivation I need to get started. Thank you!
Thanks for the advice. I haven’t even thought about employing an accountant yet, and that’s a good thing to consider.