Gig economy workers are in desperate need of accountants and financial professionals but they have serious trust issues, and are fickle with their hard-earned capital.
The gig economy is here to stay. This means there are a lot more workers who have the financial needs of a business owner, including budgeting, balance and more complicated taxes. If you're in a financial field, it won't take long for you to realize that accountants and the gig economy is a match made in heaven.
According to CNN Money, the gig economy currently comprises 34 percent of the workforce and is expected to grow to 43 percent by 2020. That's a lot of potential clients needing assistance, not just during tax season but in managing their finances year-round.
Who is a Gig Worker?
The first step when approaching any new lead is understanding who your targets are, and eliminating any inaccurate assumptions. A common misconception is that all gig workers are young people with little or no financial obligations. This may have been true at one point, but at over one-third of the American workforce, you're going to see a lot more variety in demographics. Don't be surprised to see an industry veteran calling upon your services.
According to Payoneer's recent research about global freelancer statistics, over 50 percent of freelancers reported being under 30 years old, with over a quarter of all those surveyed younger than 24. Thirty-three percent of US freelancers, however, are over 50. Additionally, only 23 percent of freelancers globally are female; though in North America, the gender split is much closer to 50-50.
Be ready to speak to people of all skill sets; about half of the freelance workforce has a Bachelor's or higher degree in their field. If you're working globally, keep in mind gig workers in Eastern Europe tend to be even more educated, with 50 percent of Ukrainian contract workers holding a Master's or PhD.
As far as what level of income you can expect, the answer is definitively vague. While the global average for hourly fees hovers around $20, there's significant variance, depending on field, location and education level.
Pain Points Between Accountants and the Gig Economy
This is a growing audience that's being underserved by the accounting industry (even those who are, ironically, working as part of it). The gig economy represents a huge potential client base for accountants. But there are a few pain points that hold many financial professionals back from eagerly entering into a relationship with gig workers.
- Many will resist paying for accounting services - Part of the problem is simply that the people comfortable shirking the insurance, benefits and security that come with traditional employment in order to be their own boss tend to be confident and eager to learn a variety of skills. This means they are more likely to want to do their own accounting until it's overwhelming them, instead of hiring an accountant early in their career as a freelancer. Even those that are considering hiring an accountant will want to work out exactly how much of their time they're using to pay for the service, as explained by Upwork. Keep in mind that, because of this, you're competing not only against other accountants, but software solutions, apps, and even the freelancer slogging through forms on their own time.
- Make sure you understand their needs, and advertise it - Another common issue that gig workers having with finding accountants is they tend to believe accountants don't understand their needs. This is especially true for freelancers who also have a day job, and may have a few other financial obligations and sources of income. If you understand freelance accounting, make sure to advertise your skill specifically.
Finding Clients, Providing Results
Accountants and the gig economy can work best together when they select who they'll work with based on common pain points. As the accountant in the equation, it is critical to keep in mind gig workers are more likely to want to spend time over money until you've proven your worth.
There are a few possible approaches, but the most effective one is to determine a niche and focus your marketing and professional education efforts on them. To start, select one of the following categories:
Full-time employees who have gigs or freelance on the side
Full-time independent contractors who work primarily for larger companies (such as Lyft drivers)
Full-time freelancers who are focused on building their own business/clientele (such as Amazon sellers or professionals who were formerly employees)
Once you've selected one of those categories, you may want to further narrow down your target audience, depending on their needs.
Now that you know your audience, invest your time in helping them find you by focusing on online marketing strategies, especially:
Providing thought leadership in online forums and social media - This may mean becoming an active member in social media groups they participate in, such as this Shopify dropship supplier group, and contributing targeted thought leadership pieces to the blogs and publications they read.
Investing in SEO - A quick search in your favorite search engine for "[your chosen niche] accountant" is sure to result in a few competitors. Take time to consider the strategies they're using, and learn from them. This may mean investing in a new website domain, learning about SEO and hiring a professional content creator.
The internet made the gig economy possible, and it's where your client base looks for help, guidance and resources. Make sure your practice is easy to find, provides a user experience that instills a sense of trust and shows your expertise.
Watch this video to hear from top accounting firm Baker Tilly how ADP has helped expand the firm's role as strategic advisor to their clients.