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Project-Based Staffing: The Future of Accounting in the Gig Economy

Across nearly every industry, project-based or “non-recurring” jobs are on the rise. Millennials in particular are starting to abscond the traditional 9-5 workday, preferring to work on a freelance basis.

The accounting industry is no different. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a surge in temporary, project-based, and seasonal accounting employment.

To shed some light on what this means for the accounting world—both in terms of candidates looking for jobs and firms needing to make hires—we reached out to Beech Valley Solutions, Accountingfly’s partner company that specializes in connecting top-tier accounting professionals with employers on a by-project basis.

Here’s what Brad Hughes, Founding Partner and CPA at Beech Valley Solutions, had to say about the gig economy and how the accounting field has evolved:

Q: Why do you think project-based jobs are so attractive to accounting talent?

Brad: A project-based approach to your career allows for ultimate control over your growth. There’s really no ceiling to how successful you can be, and there’s no uniform blueprint for how you can achieve success. You’re steering your own ship and taking control of your development.

With full-time employment, you’re essentially outsourcing much of your career growth and development to your employer. There’s absolutely a ceiling that can be reached, but with that comes a higher sense of stability (and of course office politics).

The perfect CPA that works with us is someone who we believe will one day “graduate” from being a Beech Valley freelancer to becoming a Beech Valley client. In other words, they’ll use the flexibility of a project-based career to grow their own network and then sell their own projects. They can then leverage our network to staff their projects while they grow. This has actually already happened with one of our first freelancers.

To quote Paul Graham, the founder of YCombinator, “The ultimate way to get market price is to work for yourself, by starting your own company. That seems obvious to any ambitious person now.”

Q: And why is project-based staffing attractive to firms?

Brad: Project-based (staffing) makes a ton of sense for accounting due to the seasonality and/or nonrecurring nature of client demands.

Nonrecurring needs often pop up due to the following circumstances:

  • A business activity being executed that is outside of normal operations, such as an acquisition or sale of part of a business unit
  • New accounting guidance being issued, such as the new revenue or leasing standard, which requires niche expertise to ensure it’s implemented correctly
  • A key employee taking a leave of absence, such as for maternity or paternity leave

Q: How has the accounting industry changed over the last few years? What changes do you see in the future?

Brad: It feels like firms are getting better at doing more with less. Almost all of the top firms have offshore offices now, and they’re investing in training employees at their offshore offices to perform increasingly high-level services.

Many are open to working with seasonal freelancers to flex up their staffing levels during busy season, which makes the workload on their existing staff much more manageable.

There’s also been change brought on by the millennial workforce. At the conferences we’ve attended, managing partners are all trying to figure out how they can make their firm a better place for their employees. Firms are allowing their employees more flexibility to work remotely, or even take entire days off outside of busy season.

They’re also going more towards allowing their employees to dress casually, which increases morale and has no impact on their bottom line.

Accounting and freelancing—a natural fit

To recap: project-based staffing is great for accounting and financial professionals, providing them with new levels of freedom and control over their careers. And given the seasonal and non-recurring nature of many accounting tasks, it’s a natural fit for businesses of every shape and size. We have no doubt project-based accounting will continue to grow in popularity as the gig economy expands its commercial presence.

Through the Accountingfly/Beech Valley staffing model, we have over 1,000 ex-Big 4 and National Firm accountants looking for seasonal or project-based work. Come see how our services can help match your business with top-tier accounting talent.

Learn more about Accountingfly.

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