How to Find an Accountant

  •    Danielle is a freelance writer with bylines in Teen Vogue, Esquire, Vice, and more and runs a blog, The Millennial Freelancer.

Accountants not only help solopreneurs get their finances organized, they can also defend their clients in the event of an audit. Especially when you're a self-employed, you want your bookkeeping up-to-date, well-documented and accurate at all times.

That's why you need to be smart as to which accountant you pick. Here are four clear steps to follow to find an accountant who caters your small business needs.

Give yourself enough time

The start of the new year is a great time to begin your search for a new accountant. Create a timeline of your search. Be sure to include a deadline for finding an accountant. For instance, taxes are due annual on April 15, so it's proactive enough to have an accountant locked in two months early, by Valentine's Day.

If you're not sure where to start with mapping out a timeline, check out H&R Block and FreshBooks for tax preparation checklists for small businesses. While you can outsource filing your taxes, you will still need to prepare important business information to provide to your prospective accountant.

Understand what type of accountant you need and want

Now that you've identified a firm deadline, you need to seperate your needs from wants in a prospective accountant.

First off, ask yourself whether you'd rather meet with an account in-person or not. If yes, you'll know you'll stay local in conducting your search.

Additionally, Inc. poses the question: do you need to hire an accounting firm or an inside accountant? A firm typically handles the basics of business filing, but inside accountants are better for when numbers get trickier, such as when payroll and bank reconciliations are involved.

Conduct your search

Once you understand your wants and needs as a solotrepenur, it's time to conduct your search. Entrepreneur.com recommends first asking your attorney (if you have one), your banker and then the Society of Certified Public Accountants in your state.

As you're conducting your search, NerdWallet also recommends comparing the fees of what each accountant charges. While many tax preparers charge by the hour, the average schedule A filing fee was $273 in 2016.

Ask for recommendations

As you're conducting your search, ask the professionals in your specific field who they hire for accounting services. As a full-time freelance writer, my accountant specializes in editorial freelancing for all sorts of writers and editors. I got in touch with them through a friend in the industry.

It's in good practice to ask for referrals within your professional network, so you ensure you receive quality service by association. Additionally, ask those in similar business situations as you, because accountants specialize in different areas. You can rely on industry-specific associations, such as the Association of Web Design Professionals, Social Media Association or American Society for Journalists and Authors, as well as local small business associations.

You're not alone when filing your taxes. An accountant, whether it's through a firm or their own practice, can help out with your bookkeeping all year round, as long as you conduct the proper search for their services.