What are the best ways to find opportunities for freelance bookkeeping and accounting work?
November 11, 2010 1:58 PM   Subscribe

For my wife: What are the best ways to find opportunities for freelance bookkeeping and accounting work?

I’ve recently started my bookkeeping and accounting business and am looking for advice on finding opportunities for work.

In order to build my new accounting business, I am looking for advice on what channels to pursue to quickly connect with small business owners and CPA’s for opportunities.

Currently I am:
-using LinkedIn to network
-networking with friends and family
-checking Craigslist daily

Some avenues I am considering pursuing (and would appreciate feedback on):
1) attending local networking meetings
-- The ones I’ve researched appear to be referral swaps. Are these actually helpful for getting clients?

2) getting a paid membership on Elance.com
-- Has anyone had experience with this site either as a Provider or as a Client?

3) obtaining the QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification
-- Does obtaining this certification actually help generate additional leads or is it just useful for commanding a higher wage?

4) obtaining the Certified Bookkeeper credential from American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers
-- Similar to the ProAdvisor, does obtaining this credential actually help generate additional leads or is it just useful for commanding a higher wage?

5) going door-to-door to local small businesses

Additional Information:
Ideally, the work environment I’m looking for would allow me to:
-Work from my home office
-Work with small business owners and CPA’s
-Provide routine accounting and/or project-based work (but not tax work)

About me:
I have over ten years of experience in accounting as well as an associate’s degree in Business Administration.

Thank you very much; I appreciate any information you can provide!
posted by ogunther to Work & Money (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I didn't think to post location info but in hindsight (and after being asked) I could see how that can be relevant (whoops) - the business is located near Atlanta, GA (Marietta to be exact). Thanks! :)
posted by ogunther at 3:52 PM on November 11, 2010

1. make a website with a short a name as possible and easy to spell
2. make coffee mugs and pens and pencils and magnets with your website name etc. Spend as little as 2 or 3 hundred on this part.
3. take the products to every tax accountant in your area (I mean private, not the big chain preparers) and do a meet and greet and leave your advertising products.
4. profit

(my roommate is a tax accountant and he hooks up bookkeepers with businesses ALL THE TIME. they all work at home. I am not suggesting you contact him because I am confident you will find enough work through tax accountants in your area. it helps a little to be close for that one or two times a year when a client just has to meet with you in person. some will never have to meet with you though.)

If that doesn't work, can't believe it wouldn't, but if it doesn't, start asking random tax preparers or CPAs out to lunch, on your dime. then, as a captive audience summarize your talents. because of the lunch they will feel obligated to send work your way (most will). And in my opinion this would be more bang for your buck (paying for lunch) than paying for advertising.
posted by cda at 6:01 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Never used elance but having good results with Guru.com doing freelance writing. Worth checking out.
posted by radioamy at 7:11 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the good ideas so far, everyone.

Hal_c_on, I had considered that but was unsure if newspaper advertising was still an effective way to reach small businesses.

Cda, I had previously considered creating a website but decided that it would be prudent to have a certain number of steady clients before investing in one. I was actually in the process of looking up CPA's in my area (thanks Google Maps!) but hadn't considered offering to take them to lunch. Great idea.

Thanks, radioamy! I was unaware of Guru.com. Both Guru & Elance appear to be very similar so I will definitely be taking a closer look at Guru.

Any other ideas or thoughts are greatly appreciated. :)
posted by ogunther at 8:18 PM on November 11, 2010

Best answer: I am going to nth the pair up with a tax accountant, and I'm speaking as a small business owner/freelancer who may be in a giant mess this year but that may be a later askmetafilter. If I survive this, I will definitely get an accountant but an accountant that offers the tax services

A couple other ideas:

--If you want to work with small business owners, go to a place where a new business owner is likely to be; a lot of new business owners may go to SCORE at some point at the start of their business, to get more info, free classes, etc. I've attended some of the lectures/classes in another and at the end of the talk, the person given the talk sometimes states, "you can find more helpful info at my website" - it does provide the free info, but the speaker also runs a business for that particular topic. So I would either give a class or ask if you can leave your name as a potential accountant (they do keep this info on file for other business owners who want it -- well they do here, assuming the same for Atlanta). You could even attend a SCORE event and if you are good at networking, mention what you do and give out a card or two.

--Chamber of commerce?

--Nthing approach other CPAs/tax accountants, etc.

--Don't just read Craigslist -- post a craigslist ad offering your accounting services

--If you go door-to-door and talk to small business owners, ask what material these people read, etc (so if you do place an ad, at least it is something small business owners read--to be honest, I would hold off on placing an ad until you can get some clients, see what resources they use, and if you know what special, targeted population that you are lookign for).

--Linkedin has been useful to get for obtaining a lot of work for me, although I am not an accountant. But I do make it obvious that I am independent and have a link to my web page. I have noticed that there are many, many linkedin groups with moderators - could you start a discussion group for small businesses? Maybe team up with someone who does sales and someone else who does [insert business specialty]. The goal would be to share best practices, but I would bet that your name would get out and you would be easy to find.

Just read your post in regards to your opinion on web pages. Believe it or not, linkedin can be a great web page (I even put contact information in mine, with a working email address). It also comes up very high in google (much higher than my webpage). If you decide to do a webpage, you can do them cheaply through business yahoo or something.

Another cheap investment (you can put a cap on it) -- look into google ad words. You can come up number 1 in google search for your key terms - make it obvious what you are offering so that you don't have to pay for someone to click on your ad and see that they actually want some other service.

posted by Wolfster at 8:34 PM on November 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, Wolfster. Those are some great ideas; I really appreciate it. :)
posted by ogunther at 10:38 PM on November 11, 2010

Mechanics, restaurants and all sorts of non-chain businesses need bookkeepers. Talk to the businesses you use regularly and see if they could use help.
posted by electroboy at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2010

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