Today, career paths are non-linear, free-flowing. There are plenty of accountants spurning well-trodden career paths to strike out alone. And you could do the same.
The gig economy sees 1.3m of us working two roles or more. A typical week for ‘slashie’ accountant could see them ploughing through a client’s tax returns from Monday-Wednesday, then teaching downward dogs as a yoga instructor for the rest of the week.
Lisa LaRue from careers consultancy CareerWorx explains some of the different paths available to professionals today, and accountants share their tentative steps into a new shape of career.
Side-hustles are increasingly easy to run, thanks to the availability of tech, and platforms such as Etsy, AirBnB and Notonthehighstreet.com. Even auction site eBay has become a big platform for side-hustles, with people running ‘stores’ from their homes.
Side-hustles are often driven by lifestyle goals, explains LaRue. “They might save up for that transition, build a nest-egg to give them a financial buffer for that transition.”
AAT member Amy Rowe set up her own side-hustle from her hobby of crocheting: “Running my own business has helped my wellbeing,” she says. “I left school halfway through my A-levels due to anxiety and eventually ended up in hospital. I’ve since spoken to others within the freelance crafting network who have found the pressures of full-time employment and workplaces have harmed their mental health.”
How to start a side-hustle:
- Think long term: have some goals in mind
- Plan your time carefully: make sure you can balance your day job, hustle and personal life
- Work with your passions: it’s easier to make time for something you care about
The ‘slashie’ career
Unlike the side-hustle, a ‘slashie’ career gives equal weight to each career strand. A common ‘slashie’ career for AAT members is to work as a tutor as well as an accountant. Others might work as an accountant, personal trainer and property developer. While this sort of working existed before as a way to supplement incomes, for ‘slashie’ careers, it’s more aspirational – the chance to do several activities that they feel passionate about. Again, it’s about finding a balance, says LaRue:
“It’s identifying and understanding what your optimal work times are. What kind of demands they are. A dog-walker is physical, that can tick other boxes in terms of getting exercise. There are so many things from positive psychology you can get from that, boosting your wellbeing through the exercise or being with the animal, feeling that you’re benefiting somebody else.”
How to start a ‘slashie’ career:
- Know your strengths: work out how they can be applied to different disciplines
- Again, it’s about planning: make sure you can give everything the time it needs
Mandy Crossley was trying to bring more flexibility into her life when she set up MC Consulting in summer 2018. “It’s been anything but relaxing. I’ve got 28 clients at the moment. I am busier – and happier – at work than I’ve ever been in my professional career.”
“There are lots of things you can do to start building your brand and business,” says LaRue. “Google and social media play into it, driving traffic to your website. That’s all free, but it takes a lot of time. If you build that business and foundation.”
She recommends quietly launching the business before taking the leap completely. “Start off with a handful of clients, put the processes in place, start to have a solid offering and being able to jump on and take that forward. Rather than starting completely from scratch, you could be 12 months ahead of the game having invested that time and effort in that transition period.
How to start as a consultant
- Build your authority online: use social media and write articles to demonstrate your knowledge
- Make the leap when you’re ready: it pays to get the foundations in place before leaving employment
Working as a financial director for a range of different clients can be very rewarding. This could include short-term projects or consulting clients whenever they have a problem.
Guy Hutchinson set out as a portfolio CFO under the name the Finance Foundry after he became a father. “I thought: ‘I want to keep doing this but with more flexibility’. I knew that there were portfolio CFOs working out there on more than one business. I looked at their profiles, most of them were working on mainstream businesses, rather than tech people.”
It can be long hours, he says, but it’s worth it. “Work/life balance isn’t always about the hours, but how working feels, and the degree of autonomy you have. It’s much better than sitting around on Sunday worrying – ‘I must sort this out before the 9am Monday meeting’.”
“Go through the same process as if you were launching a full-time business,” says LaRue of setting up as a portfolio FD. “Try to be 12 months ahead of the game. First, set up your ‘shopfront’ (i.e. website) and start driving traffic to this. When you’re ready to take the leap, start networking. Start with a handful of clients that you build up over time. Hopefully, during this 12-month transition period, you’ve built a nice financial buffer too.”
How to get started as a Portfolio FD:
- Network: if you want to be a portfolio FD, you need to find businesses that need you. You’ll need a strong network to make a success of it
- Work out your values and ideal customer: this will help you set up your online ‘shopfront’
- Be prepared to adjust: it’s a big mindset change to work as a portfolio FD. Expect the first few months will be tough, and that you will make the odd wrong decision
Further reading on careers:
- Tips on how to change careers
- Careers in accounting
- How to get back into accounting after a career break
The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.