The gig economy, remote work, and the push for greater flexibility are all forces ushering in the rise of freelancing. So, what does this world look like for accountants, and could freelancing be a viable career path for you?
The idea of working Monday to Friday, nine to five, over the course of a lengthy career is not as common as it once was.
The gig economy - a labour market characterised by short term contracts and freelance work - is growing, with the Actuaries Institute valuing it at $6.3 billion after it grew ninefold between 2015-2019.
This new way of working is impacting the world of accounting with students now facing an exciting opportunity to craft unique careers built around freelance opportunities.
Matt Barrie is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Freelancer.com, the world’s largest freelancing marketplace which connects more than 60 million professionals globally.
Matt is an advocate for the professional advantages of freelance work and says many professionals use it to supplement or add balance to permanent jobs.
“With freelancing, you can really architect your own career,” he said. “You can be an accountant or international business consultant by day and by night you could do some music composition, graphic design or vice versa. You could be a musician during the day and then do a bit of accounting at night to pay the bills.”
So where can you get started?
While going out on your own may be a daunting prospect for students or graduates, it’s not too early to lay the foundations to pursue freelancing later in your career.
Matt says an effective way students can do this is by developing specialist or niche skills, which are highly sought after by employers.
“Online freelancer services offer a hyperconnected network of global brands, firms and businesses who are seeking out specific and emerging services from accountants outside their organisation,” Matt says.
“There are all these crazy innovative areas to spice up the work you are doing. With freelancing you are only really limited by your imagination in terms of what you can do.”Technology is one field where skills are in high demand. As 70% of firms diversify their business offerings beyond traditional accounting services, fields such as cybersecurity, tax consulting and property advisory may interest accountants.
“There are all these crazy innovative areas to spice up the work you are doing. With freelancing you are only really limited by your imagination in terms of what you can do.” Matt says.
What are the benefits of a freelance career?
Freelance work offers benefits that are already proving attractive to younger generations, including the agency and flexibility that comes from choosing when and where to work, according to Matt.
Research shows 42 percent of Gen Z Australians have earned income via platforms such as Airtasker or Fiverr, which host temporary, one-off work opportunities.
Matt says the ability to be your own boss, travel the world and not be confined to an office, all while building a career are attractive prospects for young accountants.
“Digital nomads are professionals who travel the world and work off a laptop. I remember seeing a video of two product managers sitting in a resort pool and working away. Of course, it’s very tongue in cheek, but it alludes to the flexibility and lifestyle benefits freelance work can afford."
What is important to keep in mind?
If a freelancing career is starting to sound appealing, you might be wondering what other skills you need to increase your chance of success.
Upskilled Edu notes skills such as time management, social-media marketing, communication, finance management and persistence are critical for succeeding as a freelancer.
Matt says it's also important to develop a unique selling point (USP) to differentiate yourself from the masses, particularly when competing on a global scale.
"Nowadays you must bring something extra to the job. That something extra could be anything – it could be delightful customer service, it could be domain expertise, it could be your specialist or niche skills,” Matt says.
“Accounting puts you on the pathway to CEO and CFO, it's a pathway to investment banking, it's a pathway to many different careers because you've got the literacy around numbers and how businesses work. Through freelancing, you can experience all the different subsections and find your place in the industry.”
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