Should you be a gigging accountant?

If the idea of full-time employment in a more traditional accounting role doesn’t appeal, working more flexibly for yourself may offer a solution.

With Uber and Deliveroo among the best-known digital gig economy platforms, about 7.5 million people in the UK have worked in the gig economy at some point. Those aged 16-34 are most likely to do this, with men more likely than women, and most finding gig work via more than one platform.  

1. Gig work pros and cons

Gig work supporters believe it offers greater flexibility, freedom, and variety. Whether working during the day, night, or at weekends, workers can earn much-needed cash or a few extra quid if they’re studying or already in employment. Most gig workers have to graft hard for their cash, while receiving no employment benefits, such as sick pay or holiday entitlement.

The emergence of the gig economy is believed to have changed the wider world of work in the UK, leading that some call the “Uberisation” of some sectors, including accounting and bookkeeping, to an extent. This is much more akin to gig economy work than traditional bookkeeping and accountancy roles. So, how and why do they do it?

2. Offering better value

Tamsin Doyle AATQB is an AAT-licensed accountant with AAT bookkeeping membership, having gained Level 2, 3, and 4 AAT qualifications. She is based in Soham, near Cambridge. “I did online distance learning while working various jobs,” she recalls. 

“After six months, I landed my first accounting role, working for a pharmaceutical packaging company as their finance junior. Later I gained more experience by working for other businesses in other sectors. Now, I’m combining work with studying to become an ACCA chartered certified accountant.”

Mostly, Tamsin works freelance for start-ups and growing micro-businesses. “I try to build long-term relationships with clients, but I also do one-off jobs for others,” she says. “In my experience, small businesses like to know exactly how much they’re going to be charged. Services from some bigger accounting firms come with extortionate bills – sometimes above original quotes. I offer transparent prices and better value.”  

3. Job satisfaction

But why choose to earn a living this way rather than being an employee performing a more traditional accountancy role? “There are many reasons, really, including freedom to choose my hours,” Tamsin says. I’m in control of how I work and can improve processes without having to wait for approval from a boss. I also enjoy working directly with clients, helping them to achieve their business goals. That’s really satisfying.”

Tamsin admits that there are times when she thinks working for someone else would be less stressful – with others taking responsibility for marketing and sales, which aren’t her strong points, she admits. “The way I work may not suit everyone, but, in my case, the pros far outweigh the cons. I much prefer working for myself more flexibly.”  

4. Greater freedom

Mary Blyth ACCA is a Glasgow-based certified chartered accountant who provides payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, compliance, and start-up services, mostly to a wide range of self-employed people and small businesses in the construction and retail sectors. “I’d run my own successful retail business since I was 18, but in my 30s I decided to change direction and started studying for an HND in business and accounting,” she remembers.

She went on to work for KPMG before undertaking various roles with regional accountancy firms in Glasgow, managing cloud-based accounting services and systems and training staff. “But I always wanted to set up on my own,” she continues. “When working for accountancy firms, restrictions often stopped me from just ‘going for it’. It was frustrating,” she admits. 

5. Be your own boss

Mary says she frequently used to work 50-60 hours a week as an accountancy firm employee. “Now, as my own boss, I work up to 70 hours a week – but you don’t mind so much when it’s your own business and you’re trying to grow it,” she smiles. 

Some clients seek a one-off service, such as cloud software training or completing and filing a tax return, while others want monthly services.

Although Mary says she offers clients good value for money, it’s not the only reason why they buy her services. “I save them a lot of hassle and they can use the time saved to get on with running and growing their business. I genuinely understand their challenges, because I’ve run my own small businesses for many years. They also benefit from my professional tax and accounting knowledge and experience, too, of course.

6. More flexibility

Mary says she is “OK” with her current earnings, even though she’s limiting her wages so she can invest the money in growing her business. “I could never imagine going back to working for someone else. I work very hard, but I enjoy the flexibility I have,” she stresses.  

Partly because of the influence of the gig economy, but also for other reasons – including family commitments and because technology makes it possible – Mary believes many more bookkeepers and accountants will be working more flexibly for themselves in the future. “People need a healthy work-life balance, and being your own boss (once you’ve gained the necessary knowledge, experience, and qualifications) can give you the flexibility you need to achieve that.”

Should you be a gig accountant? 

Pros: 

  • Be your own boss. 
  • More flexibility and the freedom to work when it suits you. 
  • A greater variety of work. 
  • Potential to earn more money. 

Cons: 

  • Little to no job security. 
  • No employment benefits, such as sick pay or holiday pay. 
  • Varying income depending on hours worked. 
  • Fierce competition.

Further reading:

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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