Work From Home Accounting Jobs? Good, Bad or Ugly?

Work from home accounting jobs are an attractive option for many people.  The internet makes working from home possible for accounting professionals at every level, from bookkeepers to CPAs.

Are you an accounting professional considering working from home but unsure of how to make the transition?  Let’s look at the requirements of working from home, how to get started, and what kind of person is a good fit.  

Getting Started

It’s relatively easy to set up a home office and prepare to work at accounting from home.  You will need a dedicated work space with privacy and room for files and supporting documents. 

You will also need a high speed internet connection, a powerful computer, and a scanner/copier/fax machine all in one unit.  The initial investment is relatively low.

Before you buy anything, though, it’s important to really think about the services you want to provide.  

  • Will you provide bookkeeping services to small businesses in your local area and online?  If so, you will need an up to date accounting software program.  The most commonly used programs for small business are QuickBooks and Peachtree. 

  • Are you a CPA planning to provide tax preparation services and advice from a home office?  If so, your software needs may include the above programs but are also likely to include tax preparation software and a supporting spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. 

Finding Clients

Work from home accounting jobs are either telecommuting positions for a single employer or more commonly are a small business serving multiple clients with different needs.  If you plan to serve multiple clients, you market your services to attract them.  

The internet is a great marketing tool.  You don’t even have to create a website if you don’t want to.  

Freelance communities online such as Elance and Odesk are a wonderful marketplace for people who wish to find work from home accounting jobs.  Prospective clients post positions on these sites and once you register with the site you are eligible to bid on that work.

Payment is handled through the community with funds flowing from the client through the community and into your bank account.  The community charges fees for their services, generally paid as a percentage of each transaction.

Local marketing through your chamber of commerce or using social media on the internet is a way to find clients in your area. If you want to market locally, contact your local chamber of commerce for marketing assistance. They are a great resource.

Freedom, Right?

Working from home is not quite as freeing as it appears at first glance.  Work at home accounting jobs have all the same pressures of traditional accounting jobs.  The financial period closes right on schedule and your work preparing financial documents and reconciling accounts is not diminished by the location.

The difference is location and lifestyle.  If you work from home you must manage your own time.  

Deadlines are still deadlines and without the structure of an office and a routine they can be more difficult to meet.  Friends and family compete for your attention when you work from home, distracting you and interrupting the flow of work.

So, how can you overcome the challenges and manage the freedom and responsibility of working from home?  Here are some tips:

  • Keep Regular Working Hours – while most accounting tasks are associated with deadlines, the work itself is typically accomplished independently.  This means you can work at a time and a schedule that fits your lifestyle, but it also means you will be tempted to procrastinate.  Avoid this by establishing a regular work schedule and living by it. 

  • Dress for Work – working from home gives you the freedom to dress casually and work in comfort.  Take advantage of this, but resist the urge to work in your sleep clothes.  Studies have shown that what we wear affects our productivity.  Jeans and a sweatshirt are fine.  Sleep pants are not.

  • Maintain your Work Boundaries – Communication is the key.  Be open with friends and family about your work obligations and your schedule.  If you do adjust your schedule to accommodate their requests, make sure you schedule a “make up work session” to stay on track.  Remind your spouse, for example, that lunch on Tuesday equals work time on Saturday morning.

It's clear that your personal circumstances will dictate whether work from home accounting jobs are are the right career path for you to take.