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Rick Telberg

More CPAs Work at Home. You Can Too!

Get the best tips from the most experienced professionals. Join the survey group. Get the answers.

November 12, 2007
by Rick Telberg/At Large

If you’re reading this in your pajamas, you’re not alone. In fact, you may be a fairly typical CPA. Tax and accounting professionals, you see, are a fairly home-oriented bunch of people.

The vast majority of CPAs work at home, for one reason or another, at one time or another. They may be taking work home with them. They may be operating full-time or part-time businesses. They may be moonlighting after their day jobs. Or a little of all of the above. What are you doing?

How do CPAs succeed while working at home?
CPAs share their experiences.

Join the survey; get the answers.

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And why not? In addition to the attraction of your favorite bathrobe and slippers, there’s the money. In fact, considering the convenience and low overhead, many CPAs seem to prefer working at home. Because Broadband and wireless are revolutionizing the way people live and work, home-based accounting practices appear to be proliferating.

In fact, CPAs are more likely than not to be working from home. It’s a trend we’ve been following for some time. So far, more than three out of four CPAs in our surveys (79%) are working from home at least five hours per week, including almost a third (29%) who work from home essentially full time, more than 35 hours per week.

Gayle Simmons, a public practitioner in Phoenix, Ariz., advises CPAs contemplating an at-home practice to “Have room for employees and quick expansion.”

And they seem to be enjoying it.

“Try it, you will love it,” enthuses Sonia Perez, a public practitioner who works from home in Belmont, N.C. “Working from home gives you the maximum freedom and flexibility to choose the schedule and remain balanced.” However, you must remember that the buck stops with you.

Jeanice Neel, who works at home in Hope, Ark., says, “It is the best thing I have ever done, I only wish that I had done it sooner.”

Among the many sole proprietors who left leased office space for rent-free home offices is Mike Wade of Vancouver, Wash. He says, “Do it. Why pay the exorbitant costs of commercial office space, poor parking, poor heating and air conditioning, noisy buildings, poor security and the needless pollution from commuting?”

Why pay those costs? Because working at home is not for the faint of heart. Even those succeeding at it warn that working from home takes higher levels of self-motivation, self-marketing and other disciplines that practitioners don’t need to draw on nearly as much when working in a mainstream setting.

“You need to be a self-starter and be able to shut out the household when you work,” says June Howard, who runs a full-time public practice at her home in Shoreline, Wash. Not too far away in Seattle, full-time, at-home public practitioner Kim Worrell adds, “Have a good home office set-up, structure your time and separate work from home life.”

The same rules apply to moonlighters. “You can’t be distracted by letting personal items take up your business day,” says a mid-level public practitioner who works at a firm by day and moonlights at home as a tax preparer during busy season.

"Know that you must separate work from home. A dedicated room that you leave at the end of the workday is key,” adds a public firm partner who also moonlights during busy season.

Reed Tinsley, a Houston, Texas, CPA and prominent healthcare industry consultant, warns home-based sole practitioners about “‘Opportunity cost’ — that is, when you are not working, you are not earning any money.”

Costs of all kinds are especially critical at startup because building a business from the more remote confines of home can take longer than building one along Main Street. “Make sure that you have six months of personal expenses in the bank to cover you during startup,” warns Rebel L. Robertson, who operates a public practice full time from her home in Dallas, Texas And it keeps her close to her beloved chocolate Labrador. Priceless!

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: How do CPAs work at home and still succeed? Join the survey; get the answers.

COMMENTS: Questions, rants or raves? Write Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

About Rick Telberg

Rick Telberg is editor at large/director of online content.

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Disclaimer: Any views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the AICPA or CPA2Biz. Official AICPA positions are determined through certain specific committee procedures, due process and deliberation.