Date posted: 19/06/2020 3 min read

Survive & thrive in the gig economy: 5 things you need to know

The benefits of contract/freelance work are clear - be your own boss, flexibility, a variety of work, and much more. But what do you need to know in order to succeed in the gig economy?

In brief

  • Chartered Accountants are well positioned to excel in the digital focused gig-economy
  • Soft skills will remain key to building client relationships
  • The growing prevalence of automation will see accountants skill sets change over time

The shift from permanent, full-time employment arrangements to independent contract/freelance 'gig work' can afford finance and accounting professionals increased career flexibility and a greater depth of experience across disciplines, industries and organisation types.

It also presents businesses with an opportunity to scale their operations more easily with an on-demand, multi-skilled workforce that they can employ directly or through a variety of digital platforms.

Why is the role of an accountant uniquely positioned to be able to navigate uncertainty with resilience? What skills do accountants need to confidently adapt to the ever-changing world of work? And what kind of mindset is best suited to navigating the gig economy successfully? Read on to find out.

1. Futureproof your accounting skill set

As AI and automation continue to advance, the skill set of accountants needs to change as well, with accounting roles in the gig economy having a strong focus on business advisory and future planning.

With administrative and analytical tasks being outsourced to software-as-a-service accounting systems, clients are now leaning on accountants and finance professionals for their strategic thinking, monetisation, and management skills1.

Accountants play a pivotal role in helping their clients understand change and prepare for all possibilities that lie ahead - equipping them with the information and tools they need to make effective decisions and emerge from challenging times with resilience.

2. Chartered Accountants are well positioned to succeed

With significantly less in-person meetings required in light of the recent broad uptake of video conferencing solutions, and a strong shift in the perception of finance and accounting professionals characterising their role as business advisors - a trusted reputation and valuable experience can help one stand out in the gig economy.

"I think Chartered Accountants are well positioned in this regard," says Brad Seeto CA, partner of Bramelle Partners. "To become a CA you need to satisfy academic and employment requirements. You're also expected to observe professional and ethical standards."

As the former co-owner of SuitBids, Seeto reflects on the success of the online marketplace where professionals connect with potential clients and bid for work. "I think many consumers on SuitBids were attracted to working with accountants holding the CA qualification because they felt this verified the quality of the service they would receive," Seeto says2.

3. Uncertainty can create opportunity

External forces such as crises and uncertain economic conditions can push organisations to convert roles from permanent to contract-based, in order to allow greater flexibility.

Situations like the Coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic downturn have seen businesses more hesitant to take on permanent staff, instead opting for temporary contractors as they carry less risk, particularly in regard to redundancy costs.

While a contract or freelance position may not provide the level of security a permanent position can, it has provided finance professionals with the opportunity to develop new skills, work more flexibly and form new life-long contacts3.

Crises or uncertain circumstances also provide CAs with an opportunity to add value and build respect for the accounting profession as they are not only able to provide sound business advice for clients, but also for communities and their network during periods of change.

4. Soft skills are imperative

As the market of freelancers and contractors grows, so too does the need for accountants to use their unique skill set to stand out from the crowd.

Those best placed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the gig economy are those with the necessary soft skills.

Chartered Accountants are well-positioned to embrace their role as trusted advisors and leverage their existing relationships to secure contract work. However, issues can often arise with gig workers feeling uncertain of who to trust, and some clients being unwilling to pay for accounting services4.

In these instances, strong soft skills such as communication, emotional intelligence and a willingness to provide and receive constructive feedback has the potential to create positive and long-term relationships between gig workers and their clients and prospects.

5. Adopting a digital mindset is a necessity

David Lacire, Associate Director at Robert Walters New Zealand asserts that as the gig economy is reliant upon continual advancements in technology and the world of work moving evermore online, accounting and finance professionals must be able to adapt to change and embrace opportunities as they arise.

"Every company has a different way of working, being able to adapt quickly and add value is one of the reasons businesses will take on contractors," Lacire says.

To succeed at this, one should have the ability to use and adapt to new technology and actively seek new opportunities, and the right attitude to encourage and enable others to see the future potential as well5.


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