Do I Need a Local Accountant?

As a business owner, you’re going to make countless important decisions, from micro details to key strategic planning, and all the bits in between – such as hiring an accountant.

Starting with whether or not you actually need one, the next step is choosing who to hire. Your accountant can have a huge impact on nearly every aspect of your business, so consider what your specific needs are. Should you appoint an accountant who specialises in your industry, for example, or do they need to be local to you? Not always!

The rise in online accountants

These days, so many businesses are completely online, which has led to a rise in online accountants and remote collaboration between business owners and their outsourced support.

More and more business owners are seeing that they can take care of business bookkeeping and manage their finances with an accountant who they rarely, or never, meet face-to-face.

This could be beneficial, for example, if you live in London where a local accountant is likely to be more costly than a firm based in a less expensive area.

But which is best for you? Here, we explore the pros and cons of hiring a local accountant versus an online one to help you make your decision.

The benefits of hiring a local accountant

Some of the main reasons why a business owner might benefit from hiring an accountant local to them and therefore in close physical proximity include:

Face-to-face meetings feel more personal

Meeting with your accountant face-to-face can help you feel like you’re getting a more personal service and build a stronger relationship with them.

An understanding of local economics and politics

As well as an awareness of the local business landscape, an accountant close to home is also more likely to know what is available, such as upcoming grant funding for example.

Working with other businesses in your area

A local accountant will be working with other businesses in your area – maybe even your competitors. They won’t be able to share sensitive information about other businesses with you, but they will be able to take inspiration and experience from working with them and use it to your advantage. Just remember that this works both ways though!

Potential downsides to hiring a high-street accountant

So, what are the not-so-great things about hiring a local accountant?

Access can be restricted

Online accountants tailor their service so it can function even out of hours. You might not be able to talk to your accountant in the middle of the night, but you’ll normally have access to resources and guides when you need them.

They’re also designed to be accessible, so you’ll normally be able to email, phone, or video call without restriction. High street accountants don’t always have this sort of infrastructure, so you might find that you wait longer.

They might be more expensive than an online accountant

Local accountants are typically more expensive than online ones because they have to take other expenses into account like office leases in a more central area.

You have less choice

Looking at local services means your pool of options becomes much smaller so you might not find exactly what you’re looking for in an accountant, or someone you feel can 100% trust, which is super important.

Online accountants: the pros and cons

Now you know more about the pros and cons of working with a local accountant, let’s explore the main ups and downs of hiring an online accountant.

Cloud-based access

Online accountancy services, apps and software are almost always cloud-based, which means you can access them anytime from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

Because online accountants are already working with apps and digital software, automating tedious tasks like invoicing and tax deadline reminders is a breeze.

No option for face-to-face meetings

Not being able to meet your accountant face-to-face can be off-putting for those who prefer the personal feeling of meeting and connecting in real life.

It can be intimidating for traditionalists or the non-tech-savvy

The digital world of bookkeeping software, accounting apps, emails, video meetings, calendar invites, and so on, can be daunting for those who aren’t the most tech proficient.

However, a good online accountant will be willing to invest time into supporting those who aren’t immediately tech-savvy, and guiding them with their apps and software.

Find more help with accounting and finance for your London-based business in our information centre.