More and more tax, accounting, and bookkeeping professionals are opting to start their own solo online accounting practice. While most software and cloud services make solo accounting businesses easier than ever to start, it is important to take the right steps to make sure that you have all the tools and the resources that you need. Here’s a look at all the important steps to take in order to successfully launch an online accounting business.
Setting up your online accounting business
When launching your online accounting business, there are some basic steps that need to be performed. The following eight steps will allow you to have all of your compliance in check before you can get down to the more technical parts of setting up your online accounting business:
1) Choosing the right name for your business
The first task is to choose the right name for your business. There are two routes that you can take when choosing your business’s name. First, you can use the straightforward approach and make your name the business (e.g., Samanthe Coleman, C.P.A.). The second approach is to choose something more creative (Paradigm Accounting Services). Before you register your desired name, make sure that no other business is using your chosen name. You can perform a trademark search on USPTO.gov.
2) Choose the right entity type
Next, you will want to choose the right entity to set up your business. Some of the top choices to consider are an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), PLLC (Professional Limited Liability Corporation), or PC (Professional Corporation). Most accounting firms with more than one partner will choose an LLC. Be sure to carefully consider the protections and benefits of each entity before making your final decision.
3) Registering your business
After you have decided what type of business entity to use for your accounting practice, you will need to register your business with the state. The most efficient path to registering your business is to use a registered agent. The registered agent will file your paperwork, as well as provide you with notices that may come from the state.
4) Apply for an Employer Identification Number or EIN
After registering your business, you will want to apply for an Employer Identification Number or EIN. The EIN will identify your business to the IRS, as well as state revenue agencies.
5) Get the required business licenses and permits
Make sure that you have all the required business licenses and permits in order to operate your business. As a Certified Public Accountant, you will need to have passed the CPA exam. You may also need local permits, including a general business operating license permit, a signage permit, and a home occupation permit for home-based businesses.
6) Open a business bank account
Now you will want to open a business bank account. In order to open a business bank account, you will need your business’s EIN, as well as the company’s state registration. A business bank account is important to protect the company’s “corporate veil” from liability.
7) Get business insurance
After opening a business bank account, you will want to make sure that your business is protected with the proper insurance. Some of the top business insurance policies to consider are a Business Owners Policy (BOP), Professional Liability Insurance, and Data Breach Coverage.
8) Put business compliance responsibilities on your calendar
After you have set up all of your compliance and registration requirements to start your business, you will need to maintain ongoing obligations to keep your business in good standing. Therefore, it is an important idea to keep all of your business’s compliance responsibilities on a calendar.
Choosing the right tech stack
When starting an online or a virtual accounting business, you will want to make sure that you have all the tech tools that you need to properly service your clients. Thanks to today’s cloud technology, just about everything that you need is available online. Here’s a look at how you can easily build a tech stack for your online accounting business.
Operating online means being able to stay in constant contact with your clients. Did you know that the #1 reason an accountant loses a client is that the client doesn’t understand what their accountant is doing for them or why they should pay for a particular service? A good communication app allows you to maintain a better relationship with your clients.
You will want a system that tracks all of your communication with your clients. This allows you to better manage your current and future clients.
It is important to have an app that will track your tasks and deadlines to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. The right workflow app will give you a quick overview of what needs to get done over the next day, week, or month.
Watch Brittnie Eiden, owner of Eiden Tax & Accounting on streamlining workflow through automation:
Working as an online accountant means being proficient with gathering the source documents that you need in order to share them with your clients.
In order to be truly virtual, your business needs to have a system in place where the client can provide an e-signature for important documents such as a 1040.
Cloud accounting software
Of course, you also want to make sure that you have the right cloud accounting software. Clients are not picky about which cloud accounting software you choose. Simply select the cloud accounting software that works best for you.
Still not using Cloud solutions? Read about 6 reasons why you should move to the cloud and how it positively affects on your business in our previous article.
Have a system where you can collect payments and one which will be easy for your clients to use.
Free or nearly free solutions for your tech stack
When starting your business, you will want to watch your overhead. The good news is that there are free or nearly free solutions for your business’s tech stack. Here are some great choices when your online accounting business is getting off the ground.
CRM/Client tracking apps
Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) from Google is ideal when you just need a simple spreadsheet.
TaxDome CRM allows you to review.
Google Workspace may not be the best for secure document sharing, so you may want to consider Google Forms or Paperform.
TaxDome offers organizers with every license, which allows you to provide your clients an excellent solution to provide their information to you in an organized manner. TaxDome also offers conditional logic, which reduces the amount of questions your clients have to answer (e.g if someone is not married, there’s no need to ask them about their spouse).
While there are no 100% free solutions, you can use a free trial from HelloSign. You can use up to two free signatures a month. However, it does not include KBA. And, it would not be integrated with your document management/CRM/Workflow solution (unless of course, you were to use TaxDome). E-signatures are fully included with every TaxDome license (KBA is also available).
This article does a comparison on various vendors and costs.
Cloud accounting software
It is recommended that you choose the two more mature cloud accounting platforms: Xero and QuickBooks Online. They are both rich with third-party apps and will be easier to streamline when you get more clients.
Streamlining your business
Once you begin to acquire your first clients, you may notice that the free or nearly free apps will not be enough to handle your tasks. Therefore, you will want to upgrade to professional level apps that will grow with your business.
A top scheduler such as Calendly or Acuity will allow you to embed a link so clients and prospective clients can book a call with you inside of emails, social profiles, and website pages.
Some of the top CRM platforms include Pipedrive and Salesforce. However, for a CRM that provides accounting-specific tools, look at TaxDome. TaxDome is the all-in-one CRM solution for accounting professionals that is rich with top features. And, most importantly, it is fully integrated with all of the other solutions described here that you would need to complete your tech stack.
Popular task-tracking and project-management apps include Asana or Trello. For accounting professionals, TaxDome provides workflows built specifically for accountants and tax professionals. But – a standalone task management app still leaves you requiring many different tools. The difference of using TaxDome is that you receive the project management tools you require, along with workflow automation that is unique to TaxDome, and it is fully integrated with all of the other tools described in this article that your firm requires.
When it comes to exchanging documents with your clients and sharing internally with your team, DropBox and Google Drive are great solutions. TaxDome, however, stands out with its ease of use and integration with CRM and its mobile-friendly portal. Further, clients only need to use one login and don’t have to use a third party to upload files.
Having the right tool for your online accounting business
If you want to start a virtual accounting business, be sure to use the tools that will make it easy for you and for your clients. TaxDome is the all-in-one accounting cloud platform that provides CRM, task tracking, information gathering, e-signatures, and dozens of other accounting features in one easy-to-use package. The TaxDome platform can grow with your business and will make it easy for your clients to use. For a demonstration of what TaxDome has to offer, contact us today. We look forward to helping you get your online accounting business going.