Hiring an accountant sounds like it should be pretty straightforward doesn’t it? If the qualifications are more or less the same, and the services offered are more or less the same, how hard can it be to just pick one from a list of Google search results? Or even from an ad in the local paper. True, it’s not hard to do that – but if you make the wrong choice, then it can be a very hard lesson learned.

We thought it might help to go over some of the key mistakes which people make when hiring an accountant, based on conversations we’ve had with our clients over the years. There are of course more than four possible mistakes, but these certainly seem to be the ones which people can most relate to from their own experiences.

Mistake 1 – Assuming that all accountants are the same

Just as all companies are not the same, all accountants are not the same either! It’s true that all businesses have income and expenditure, but that’s about where the similarity ends. As a contractor, you need a firm that not only understands the small business environment – as opposed to dealing with larger organisations – but also one which has specific experience in dealing with contractors. This is especially important when it comes to giving advice on things like IR35, and other accountancy issues which only affect those working in the contractor marketplace.

Mistake 2 – Picking the first high street accountancy firm you come across

Despite the world of eCommerce and online shopping being thoroughly mainstream these days, when it comes to buying ‘services’, people still have a tendency to stay close to home. Whether that means looking in the local paper, asking a friend for a recommendation or even Googling what you want, followed by the name of your home town. But closer isn’t always better when it comes to accountancy. As already mentioned above, contractors need specialist services – so prioritise that, and don’t worry about where the right firm might be based.

Mistake 3 – Choosing a company that doesn’t quote a fixed fee

This one is really vital. Part of what you need from an accountant will be a set of specific services – tax return, VAT return and so on – but a good accountant will do far more than that. You need someone who you can pick up the phone to, if you need some advice – or to chat about any aspect of your finances that might be bothering you. And if you do that, you don’t want to be charged extra for the privilege. A good accountancy firm will wrap all of that into a fixed monthly fee, so you always know where you stand.

Mistake 4 – Accepting a service which doesn’t provide a dedicated accountant

As a contractor, you’re going to be busy all day, every day – but somehow you still have to deal with the admin side of running a Limited company. But if your accountancy firm doesn’t allocate a dedicated accountant to you, then you might find yourself spending more time on the phone reminding them who you are and what your situation is, than actually dealing with issues that need to be addressed.

With a dedicated point of contact, who gets to know you and your business from day one, you’ll save time – and you won’t feel like it’s Groundhog Day every time you speak to them.

So there you have it. We hope this gives you some insight into the process of choosing an accountant, and helps you to make an informed choice, based on other people’s experiences. If you’d like to know more about SJD Accountancy, a specialist contractor accountancy services, we’d love to hear from you.

Author: Rachel Smith is a technical writer for SJD Accountancy, a specialist contractor accountancy firm, serving the needs of contractors and freelancers since 1992.

Image: Shutterstock

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