Your Guide to Working as a Virtual Accountant

Virtual accounting is achieved when both accounting and finance teams are provided with the technology that they need to perform activities and tasks virtually, without the need to be present in the office. It’s a modern way of working that has proven to be more cost-effective, along with being more efficient and more flexible. Along with this, it is sustainable and scalable, unlike manual, traditional processes that have long meant accounting teams are restricted to working in an office five days of the week. Virtual accounting has really boomed since the COVID19 pandemic. With fewer interruptions, it can boost employee productivity. And it can contribute to employee satisfaction by reducing commuting times and travel expenses.

Between 2020 and 2030, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that employment for accountants is going to grow by seven percent. While that’s around the average for most careers, accounting also tends to offer a lot of stability. Unemployment rates for accountants are often lower than those for other careers during periods of recession, which is why more and more people are considering starting a virtual accounting firm. Doing so provides you with a more flexible career, and more freedom to decide where you work and who you work with.

To help you determine if virtual accounting is a good option for you, keep reading to find out more about this career and the benefits of starting a virtual accounting firm.

What is a Virtual Accountant?

Virtual accountants work online rather than in traditional offices. Instead of meeting face-to-face with clients, they might work with clients from all over the country and leverage virtual accounting software, cloud apps, mobile apps and videoconferencing to offer a range of accounting services to businesses and self-employed individuals. Mike Savage, a New Canaan denizen, is a leading name in the world of virtual accounting and runs a virtual accounting firm that is trusted by thousands of companies throughout the country, offering online bookkeeping, bill pay services, payroll services, tax filing, preparing financial reports and statements, accounts receivable and payable, business processes advice and more.

How to Become a Virtual Accountant

The training and qualifications that you will need to become a virtual accountant will depend on the services that you want to offer in the role. For example, if you are only planning to offer some basic bookkeeping and payroll service, then you may not necessarily need a college degree in accounting or professional certifications, as your experience and basic knowledge alone are likely going to be enough to support you in the role. On the other hand, if you are considering setting up as a virtual accountant and plan to offer a range of high-level accounting services such as representing clients during tax audits, outsourced CFO services or auditing of financial statements, then you’re going to need some higher-level qualifications including a relevant college degree and CPA designation.

How Virtual Accountants Work

Since virtual accountants work online rather than from a traditional office, this role offers a lot of freedom and allows them to work from wherever they like. Many will set up an office or have a dedicated home office that they will work from. However, when working as a virtual accountant, once of the main perks is that you can work from anywhere you have a suitable device and an internet connection.

As a virtual accountant or bookkeeper, you will mainly be communicating with your clients via email, video calling, telephone, or messaging programs. You will usually be using cloud-based software to collaborate with others and handle a range of tasks and services such as tax preparation and bookkeeping. Documents such as financial reports, bank statements, and receipts will usually be sent via secure online portals, rather than through traditional mail.

Why Start a Virtual Accounting Firm?

Although offering virtual accounting services might not be for everybody, if you are thinking about setting up your own accounting firm, then there are lots of benefits to consider. Some of the main advantages of working as a virtual accountant include:

Low Startup Costs

Virtual accounting firms tend to be much less expensive to set up compared to a traditional, local office. On average, it costs almost $20k to set up an accounting firm. However, if you are setting up virtually, there are lots of expenses that you will not need to worry about such as renting or buying an office space, decorating, furnishing and more. In fact, without the need to worry about the costs involved with a physical premises for your firm, you can get set up at a fraction of the price.

Low Overhead Costs

Along with reduced startup costs, running your virtual accounting firm can also be much cheaper. Maintaining an office space can get expensive. Not only do you need to pay rent or a mortgage, but you’ll also need to pay bills to keep the utilities running and pay for upkeep. When running a virtual accounting firm, you can cut your costs by working from home instead. While there might be bigger investments in things like security and technology as a result of this, the savings will usually outweigh the costs.

No Commute

As a virtual accountant, you can save hours each day depending on where you live with no need to commute. Setting up a virtual accounting firm and working from home means that no matter where you are, you can work as long as you have an internet connection and your laptop or smartphone with you. There is no need for you to spend a lot of time each morning rushing out of the house to try and beat the traffic and driving to the office or starting your day sitting on cramped, busy public transport. Not only can this help you reduce your stress levels and improve your job satisfaction, but you’ll also save money on the cost of making the journey each day.

Larger Client Base

Accountants used to be more limited to working with business owners in their local area, before the rise of online and cloud-based collaboration and accounting software. Although it was not impossible to work with clients located in other areas, it was difficult as there was a lot of traveling involved and sending files back and forth in a way that might risk security. However, as a virtual accountant today, you can work with businesses just about anywhere as long as you have an internet connection and secure software.

How to Become a Virtual Accountant

If the idea of working as a virtual accountant is appealing to you and you are ready to get started, then there are some steps involved to setting up your online business. Since the licensing and other legal requirements can vary depending on where you are located, it’s a good idea to speak with a business legal professional or other professional business advisor before you get started to ensure that you are on the right track.

Identify Your Niche and Services

The first step is to determine who you want to work with, and the services that you are going to offer. You might consider starting out by offering a few services to a certain client niche that you are familiar with. Once you have become more established, you can expand from there.

Set Your Business Up

The next step involves selecting your business name and the legal structure. Register your business with the relevant local authorities and apply for any business licenses that you will need to have in order to practice.

Get the Right Technology

Since you are going to be offering virtual services, having the right technology at your disposal is crucial. As a minimum, you are going to need either a laptop or desktop computer along with a good cloud accounting software, and a secure way to send and receive financial reports and other documents. It is also worth choosing a video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Zoom where you can hold meetings with your clients. As your business expands, it is worth looking into expanding your technology and getting access to tools that can help with time tracing, managing projects, running payroll, booking appointments and more.

Market Your Business

Every business needs to market itself to be known, and there are a few different ways that you can do this. Social media is a good place to start as it provides an excellent platform where you can share your knowledge and expertise while engaging with your audience. Make sure that you have a professional website and work on SEO to improve the chance of showing up in online searches. Consider setting up an email marketing strategy with campaigns such as newsletters that are segmented to different subscribers allowing you to share the relevant information with the right people at the right time.

If you have accounting skills and are looking for a business that you can start from home, a virtual accounting firm might be an ideal option to consider.