Accountancy can be an incredibly well-paid career but getting to that point takes time. While you’re studying you might be all-out broke, and making ends meet is another stress you just don’t need.

Luckily, the good ol’ side-hustle could prove the answer, letting you earn some cash while working flexibly around your study.

And you might not be a fully-qualified accountant yet, but there are still plenty of things you can turn your hand to – and cement your skills, as well as boost your bank balance. There are plenty of freelance accounting jobs, work-from-home accounting jobs or part-time bookkeeping jobs that trainee accountants can tap into.

That’s where this ultimate guide comes in.

We’ve combed the web, chatted to our global network, interviewed influencers and got the low-down from our students to get the best of the best advice, to help you launch a successful side-business alongside your accounting studies.

Roadmap to side-hustle success:


Chapter 1

Is an accounting side-hustle right for me?

Is it better to develop a side-hustle or to concentrate all my energy on one thing? Is starting a side-hustle worth it, or will it just be a distraction from studying?

Cons of side-hustling for accountants

#1 – Bad work/life balance

This is the obvious downside of side-hustling – you’re trying to fit more things into the same amount of time, which means something has to give. Usually that something is your downtime:

When clocking out of work is followed immediately by clocking in at a second job, day-to-day life can start to look pretty bleak. Make sure you think realistically about how many hours you can devote to any potential side hustle before your relationships and emotional wellbeing will suffer” (Jordan Davis)

Taking your professional accounting qualifications is time-consuming and stressful enough. Do you really have time for a part-time accounting job as well? Only you know the answer to that.

#2 – Neglect your studies

An astute point from Psychology Today, that “when your side hustle is new and exciting, you can end up neglecting your regular work”.

This is especially true when your ‘regular work’ is studying, and doesn’t earn you an immediate income. It’s natural, if your side-hustle is successful, to want to invest more time and effort here because the rewards are immediate. But that could threaten your end goal – passing your professional exams and growing your accounting career.

#3 – Make life more complicated

The fact is, not side-hustling is less complicated than side-hustling. Doing anything new adds complexity to your life, but a side-hustle can complicate your everyday routines, processes and relationships:

“Let’s say your partner comes home from their 9-6, and is done with their work day. However, you come home and have emails, shipping, and other bits and pieces related to your side hustle to deal with. Responsibilities like taxes and insurance also become more complicated. Adding this extra stress and complexity to your life can have personal costs and create relationship tension” (Psychology Today)

#4 – Are you doing it for the wrong reasons?

Beth Kobliner’s perspective is different from the majority, but worth thinking twice about. She says:

“For many workers, the side gig is a sign that their primary salary isn’t adding up to enough to make ends meet. This is increasingly true as wages continue to stagnate and underemployment rates remain high.

Remember, side hustle is just a glamorous rebranding of an old, not-so-glamorous phenomenon. Back in the Great Depression, tales of unemployed families taking on sewing jobs or boarders to pay their bills were rampant”

That might be less relevant while you’re studying, because the likelihood is that you’re earnings will increase dramatically once you qualify (potentially from zero, if you’re not working while you study). But still worth asking yourself, are you side-husting for the right reasons?

Pros of side-hustling for accountants

#1 – Build your bank balance

McKenzie Chapman couldn’t be more right: “Obviously, if you’re considering a side hustle, one of the main reasons is most likely financial gain. You’ll be making extra money with a side hustle, and it’s an awesome feeling to have a cash cushion”

Whether you want to relieve some financial pressure or you’re sick of having no spending money or you’re working towards specific savings goals – side-hustling can help you do it. And let’s face it, it’s much easier to study (and to pass!) if you’re not totally stressed and unhappy because you’ve got no money in the bank.

#2 – Practice your accounting skills  

Choosing a side-hustle where you can use your accounting skills gives you a chance to practice everything you’re learning for your exams. And the more you practice, the better your skills will be. Taking on part-time accounting work now can really help your accounting career further down the line.

As Everything Finance nicely put it, “increasing your skills increases your equity as an employee and job seeker”. Boom. Boost your cash and your job prospects, in one fell swoop.

#3 – Diversify your skills

Linked to Everything Finance’s point above, Psychology Today point out that an accounting side-hustle can also help diversify your skills and profile:

“It’s good to think a little bit differently from the herd, and a side hustle can help you achieve that. When you’re devoted to a single career trajectory, you’ll often end up with a similar skillset and thinking style as all the other people who share the same training and job responsibilities as you.

A side hustle will challenge you to learn new skills. You’ll be exposed to different types of knowledge and ways of thinking.  This can help you become unique in your main career since you’ll bring those new skills and perspectives to your core work role.”

Even when your side-hustle is closely linked to your main career – part-time accounting r part-time bookkeeping, for instance – you’re still learning to apply those skills in new ways, for new contexts.

The job market is competitive, even for fully-qualified accountants, and a side-hustle can give you that extra something different that helps you stand out.

#4 – Boost your marketability

Taking your professional qualifications boosts your employability because your skills are aligned to what businesses really need. But more and more, what employers need are accountants who aren’t just “number crunchers” but can be a strategic partner for the business.

It stands to reason, then, that strong business acumen will mean you’re very desirable for employers – and side-hustling can be a fantastic way to prove those skills.

As Rachel Slifka says:

“No matter what your side hustle is, it improves your marketability if you are ever looking for new opportunities. Whether your side hustle is related to your career or not, they are a pro among employers because they show that you are committed to personal development, have the skills to run a business, and have the time management to balance it all”

#5 – Dissolve international boundaries

The relative cost of taking the ACCA or other professional accounting qualifications can be much greater in some countries than others. Which means some students are going to feel the pinch more than others.

For example, PayScale lists the median salary for an accountant in Pakistan as under $7500 USD annually. The same role earns a median $28,500 in the UK.

For students in countries with lower median salaries, side-hustling can mean working with an international clientele – to earn potentially much more money than you could at home. The internet, plus tools like Skype, Dropbox and Slack, make this dynamic much easier, allowing students from all countries to capitalise.

#6 – Improve your language skills

The other advantage of international side-hustling is the opportunity to improve your language skills.

One reason international students consistently struggle with the ACCA is poor English, but developing a side-hustle where you work with English-speaking people can help you build those skills. Which ultimately will help you pass, but will also help you in your subsequent accounting career. Win, win.

#7 – Diversify your sources of self-esteem

Another point from Psychology Today, this is an added benefit to side-hustling that you might not have considered:

“Diversifying your sources of self-esteem can make you more resilient to knock- backs. If something isn’t going well at your day job but your side hustle is bustling along, it can be easier to cope with your work-related frustrations, disappointments and setbacks”

This is also something author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris is big on, saying:

“It’s also smart to diversify your identity, to invest your self-esteem and what you care about into a variety of different areas — business, social life, relationships, philanthropy, athletics — so that when one goes south, you’re not completely screwed over and emotionally wrecked.”

This is especially relevant to students taking professional exams because, honestly, professional exams are hard. Everyone has bad days, when nothing seems to be going right and you’re frustrated and tired and feel you’re never going to get there.

A successful part-time or freelance accounting job can give perspective. So even if you fail the ACCA, you know you’re not failing at life.

#8 – Gain career independence

Look, you’re studying your professional accounting exams because you want to be a professional accountant. True. But it’s always good to have a contingency plan.

Jordan Davis talks about the possibility for growth that comes with side-hustling, noting that “some side jobs come with the potential for bigger returns”, like eventually becoming your own boss.

You might not think that’s something which interests you now, but you never know what the future holds. Side-hustling means you’ve got the network, skills and experience to branch out from traditional accounting, if you decide it’s not for you.

Like Laila Giwa, who left her career in public practice to become Head of Finance for Skullcandy. Or Nikki Murray, who qualified with KPMG before becoming Financial Director for SME HRBR. Or Emmet Malone, who side-stepped the traditional accounting path to pursue a more niche, client-facing accounting career in fund administration.

Convinced?

Let’s assume you’re still here, and you’ve decided side-hustling is for you. What now?

The first step is to decide exactly what you want to do. Which brings use nicely onto chapter two. Here are some awesome ideas for side-hustles perfect for accountants.

Chapter 2

What side-hustle should I choose?

Which side-hustles would use my accounting skills? What would I enjoy doing? Which side-hustles pay best?

Just Starting Out – Some Pointers

The most important thing when choosing an accounting side-hustle is that you tick three boxes, author and speaker Chris Guillebeau says:

1)    Your idea is feasible

2)    Your idea is profitable

3)    Your idea is persuasive

In other words, you should be asking yourself:

  • Do I have the resources I need to make this happen?
  • Am I excited to make this happen?
  • How will this make money?
  • Does this idea solve a need?
  • Will people buy-into this solution?

Dorie Clark expands on that, giving some pointers to help you figure out what accounting side-hustle you’d be best suited to:

  • Don’t fall in love with your first idea
  • Understand what you’re uniquely qualified to share
  • Don’t rush to quit your job
  • Invest in skill building
  • Focus on one channel at a time

Any side-hustle you choose should answer Chris’ questions and follow Dorie’s pointers – or else you risk wasting time on something that won’t make money. Or making money with something you hate, that threatens your ACCA studies because you’re miserable, alternatively. Not ideal, in either case.

With those in mind, let’s look at exactly what your side-hustle options are.

Types of Side-Hustle

There are a few categories of side-hustle:

  • Hobby-based side-hustle
  • Knowledge-based side-hustle
  • Gig economy side-hustle
  • Sharing economy side-hustle
  • Online side-hustle

 

Some side-hustles might overlap – for instance, using online platforms like Etsy to sell homemade crafts. Overall, the side-hustle you choose will depend on a few things, like which skills you already have, what your main interests are and how much time you have.

Check out this infographic from QuidCorner for some cool ideas:

Lots of ideas there – you don’t even have to choose something related to accounting.

If you do want to use your accounting skills, though, the knowledge-based side-hustle is most relevant. And can prove very lucrative.

Just check out this seven minute podcast about Mike Zieter, an accountant with a successful personal finance side-hustle going alongside his day job.

Inspired? Want to follow in Mike’s footsteps?

Let’s look at some side-hustle ideas that are tailor-made for accountants.

7 brilliant accounting side-hustle ideas

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of side-hustle options but let’s focus on accounting side-hustles, so you can use the skills you’re learning in your professional exams.

#1 – Small Business accounting

Small business accounting or bookkeeping  is probably the first thing you think about, when it comes to accounting side-hustle options. This can be a real sweet spot for trainee accountants because you’ve got all the relevant lower-level accounting skills, and your attractive to clients who know they’re saving money because you’re not fully-qualified.

As Leona May over at Going Concern writes, quoting a commenter:

“Do remote bookkeeping for small businesses. Use QuickBooks Online or Xerox and have the client scan and upload everything. Do it at night or on weekends and rarely or never go to the client’s site. Charge $300 – $800 a month, depending on time. Local Internet advertising and word of mouth have worked for me.”  

It’s great for you – putting your skills into practice to earn money – and your clients – who save money from working with a big firm for much the same things.  

Plus working with SMEs and sole traders is a totally different environment from working with big firm clients. A small business accounting job will give you much broader business experience than you might working on one area with large clients. That will serve you well in your later career.

Helpful resources

 

#2 – Online tutoring

Online tutoring can be a simple and lucrative accounting side-hustle choice. Plus teaching others is one of the best ways to cement your own knowledge – so online tutoring could count as studying time too.

There are loads of online tutoring platforms that cater to accountants. Like:

  • Tutorful
  • Tutor Hunt
  • Tutor.com
  • Spires
  • Chegg
  • Tutor Me
  • Super Prof

 

Search online for freelance tutoring opportunities or consider tutoring offline in your local area. Schools and colleges, for example, can be a fruitful hunting ground for students who could use a little help in their study.

Online, though, makes location irrelevant – which means you can work internationally and earn international rates. Super Prof, for example, is the number one tutoring hub in Europe, and tutors earn up to £50/hour.

Check out this video from One Big Happy Life to see how they made money online tutoring, amongst other things.

 

Helpful resources

 

#3 – Write business plans

This one is way out of left field, from Leona May again:

“Aside from charging a small business to write a business plan to present to the bank for funding, you could actually write a plan for your own small business idea. If you enter your idea into a business plan competition, you could win cash and other prizes.

I’ve competed in a few of these, and I’ve kept the prize money without starting my small business. Accountants are great at creating business plans because we’re really good at financial projections and financial statements.”

Writing business plans is a fantastic way to cement and grow your business skills, and could prove lucrative now and for your future career. Plus you’re improving your skills writing and structuring answers, which is absolutely vital exam technique.

On the downside, there’s no guarantee you’ll win competitions. Writing business plans for small businesses, though, could be a brilliant idea.

Helpful resources

 

#4 – Create an online course

Another way to use what you know as a trainee accountant is to create an online course. Research from the Online Learning Consortium found that 5.8 million students enrolled on online courses in 2016, up 263% over the past 12 years.

(Check out the full infographic here – pretty convincing!)

That’s a huge opportunity for course creators. In fact, Udemy announced that their average instructor has earned more than $7000 through the platform. Not bad.

And that could be the tip of the iceberg. Check out these two edupreneurs who turned online courses into more than $1 million! Or this library of case studies from successful online course creators, from Smart Passive Income.

Although creating a course is a substantial time investment, it can deliver fantastic returns – and help you at the same time. There’s nothing like teaching others to cement your own accounting knowledge. Plus, an online course is a passive income. Once you’ve invested the time up-front, you can sit back and (hopefully) watch the cash roll in.

Watch this video (it’s just under an hour but totally worth it if you’re pursuing the online course side-hustle path!) from online course guru and serial entrepreneur David Garland:

Helpful resources

 

#5 – Write an e-book

If online courses don’t take your fancy, an e-book might. I mean, most accounting students tend not to like writing long-form, but if that’s your bag then an e-book could be a great side-hustle option for you.

And if you’re not convinced, check out Tim Ferris’ real-world case studies in his piece, How to really make $1,000,000 selling e-books.

One important takeaway from the piece is Tim’s method for market research. He says:

What’s really interesting is how easy this seems. Time-consuming, sure, but not some mystical secret that the start e-book authors of the world keep closely guarded.

It might not be a quick win in the same way that small business accounting is, but becoming an author can build your profile massively – you never know what opportunities that will translate into in your accounting career – and turn into a passive income stream for life.

Seems like a good deal to us.

Helpful resources

 

#6 – Monetize online content

If blogs and online courses aren’t for you, this is another accounting side-hustle option along similar lines: create and monetize online content. You could keep a blog about your ACCA experiences, for example, or create snappy videos summarising your studies so far.

The big issue for any aspiring content creator is cutting through the noise, because there’s a lot of content already out there. From people who have the time and infrastructure to create content full-time (like LearnSignal, for example).

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though, and if you’ve got a unique perspective to share then you can quickly build a following around your personality and voice.

Jason Butler from SEO Audit Guide suggests how-to guides could be a great sweet spot for accountants:

Then once you’ve built a following for your content, you can find ways to monetize it. And it needn’t even be a big following. For proof, check out Neil Patel’s piece here, 8 powerful ways to monetize a blog that generates under 1000 visitors per day.

Helpful resources

 

#7 – Become a virtual assistant   

This might be a little unexpected, but the skills you need to be a successful virtual assistant overlap with many of the skills you’ll need in your professional accounting career. Which makes becoming a VA a perfect option for an accounting side-hustle.

Just read this list from Jo over at the VA Handbook, collated from asking thousands of her VA colleagues all over the world:

  1. Good communicator
  2. Resilient / thick skinned
  3. Dependable / reliable / consistent
  4. Versatile / flexible / adaptable
  5. Confident
  6. Resourceful
  7. Organised
  8. Understanding / empathetic / tolerant / patient
  9. Trustworthy / honest
  10. Professional
  11. Accessible
  12. Approachable
  13. Problem solver
  14. Self-motivated
  15. Proactive

Then Jo also adds:

  • Reliability
  • Good communication skills
  • Time-management
  • Resourcefulness
  • Managing expectations
  • Adding value
  • Working alone

 

All in all, lots of skills and qualities there that you either already have or definitely need to work on. As accounting side-hustles go, it might not be directly related to your job but it can still benefit your later career no-end.

And, of course, the big advantage to being a VA is that you can work from anywhere, for anyone. It’s an incredibly flexible part-time accounting career. And make some really great money too, to bolster your cash while you study.

Helpful resources

 

What now?

You’ve decided which accounting side-hustle best fits your needs, and you’re ready and raring to go. But what’s the difference between success and failure? What do you need to know, to make this work?

Let’s move onto our final chapter, where we answer those questions.

Chapter 3

How to turn your accounting side-hustle into a success

What’s important to know before I start my accounting side-hustle? How do I make this a success, without taking too much time and effort away from my studies? What do I actually need to start a side-hustle?

Principles of Accounting Side-Hustle Success

#1 – Solve for customers

Ryan Robinson shares words of wisdom from a CEO he used to work with, Steli Efti – and it’s great advice: “Don’t fall in love with your idea. Choose instead to fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve for your customers”.

This comes back to the advice we shared at the start of chapter two – choose an accounting side-hustle that solves a problem, or you risk wasting time on something nobody will pay for.

Remember, the problems people have might change over time so you always need to be sure your side-hustle solves those problems as they evolve. That’s the key to continued success.

#2 – Get constant feedback

Famous life coach Susie Moore has seen her fair share of side-hustlers in her time. From her perspective, one of the most important things an aspiring side-hustler can do is seek constant feedback, to make sure your ideas are something people want and will pay for:

“Without clarity on what you’re creating and its direct connection to tangible results for your customers, you’re not likely to solve a real problem in their lives.”

So take heed – and ask for as much feedback as you can get, to make sure your efforts will pay off.

#3 – Stick to what you know

Another point from Chris Guillebeau, author of Side Hustle: From idea to income in 27 days, is this: do what you know. And keep doing what you know. Don’t waste endless amounts of time learning new things, but apply what you already know to turn that knowledge into income.

For you, as a trainee accountant, that means choosing a side-hustle that builds on those accounting skills you’ll need for your future career. And that might evolve, as you progress through your exams and build more skills. For example, you might start offering more strategic business advice when you originally started with bookkeeping.

But the point stands. Keep your side-hustle rooted to your current skills and knowledge, and your side-hustle will not only make you money but help cement your skills for your future career.

#4 – Get excited, stay excited

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris writes, “The question you should be asking isn’t, ‘What do I want?’ or ‘What are my goals?’ but ‘What would excite me?’.

This is absolutely critical. If you choose something you don’t naturally enjoy, you risk burning out – and negatively impacting your studies too. The last thing you want is your side-hustle to jeopardise your main accounting career.

So make sure you choose something you’re excited by, and check in with yourself regularly to check you’re still excited on a day-to-day basis. When running a side-hustle, burn-out is your biggest potential enemy.

#5 – Get the entrepreneur anatomy

This awesome infographic from Start-up Bros shows the anatomy of a successful entrepreneur:

One of your main takeaways should be this: anyone can be an entrepreneur. The profile is incredibly varied, and might not always be what you expect. For example, nearly 60% of entrepreneurs had at least one child before starting their business.

The ‘challenges for success’ section in the infographic is especially useful – make sure you’re familiar with this, and prepared to handle these when they crop up. Forewarned is forearmed!

#6 – Take risks

This one might be difficult for traditionally risk-adverse accountants, but if you’re reading this guide it’s because you believe you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur and side-hustler. And that takes a different bucket of skills and personal qualities.

The biggest of those, as Neil Patel points out, is being willing to take risks:

Practicalities of Side-Hustle Success

#1 – Be ruthless with your time

When you’re training to be an accountant, time is already limited. Add an accounting side-hustle into the mix and time is very limited indeed. Which means you need to become exceptional at time-management.

As Sujan Patel says,

“You need to be strategic in how you use your time to ensure you get your work done and have time for the other important things in your life, such as your family.

You also need to think about what the best use of your time is. If you work a standard 9-5 job, you may only have an hour to dedicate to your side hustle on weekdays. That means you may want to focus on the simpler tasks these days and save the more mentally draining tasks for weekends when you have more time to devote.

#2 – Set milestones – don’t aim for perfection

This is another point from Ryan Robinson, who says:

A good, viable side hustle idea should be launched, monetized and iterated. Don’t obsess over trying to build the perfect solution when you don’t yet know what exactly your customers will resonate with most. Otherwise, you’ll just waste precious time, trapped in a perennial dream state.

To help you beat the inertia, draw up a simple action plan that lays out key milestones and deadlines that’ll guide you from start all the way to launch date. Stick to your deadlines, tell friends and family about them, hold yourself accountable and don’t allow yourself to make excuses.

Then perform the actions needed to move from one milestone to the next. Again, never aim for perfection because it will bog you down and prevent you from ever launching anything”

#3 – Delegate, delegate, delegate

Another from Ryan here, and a very valid point. If there are areas of your side-hustle that aren’t your main strength – delegate. Tying back into Sujan Patel’s point about time – be ruthless about what you can do, and what someone else could do better. Then delegate those tasks, with the ultimate aim of everything running more smoothly.

Maybe you’re a fantastic accountant, for example, but you might be awful at business development. Once you get some early cash in the bank, maybe business development is something you outsource. Especially given many business development professionals will work freelance, on a commission-only basis. You’ve got nothing to lose.

#4 – Network relentlessly

Jacalyn Beales points out how important networking is to prospective side-hustlers, and she couldn’t be more right.

“These days, networking is a somewhat passe idea, because networking no longer requires us to stand around in conference centers in stuffy suits, shaking hands while awkwardly holding watered-down cocktails. We can network with potential collaborators, customers, and/or clients through the world wide web, which is why I recommend using social media networking and connection platforms to market your side hustle when you’re ready to launch it”

She especially recommends Facebook and Instagram, as well as LinkedIn:

“The two platforms I used (and still use) the most to gain exposure for my services are Facebook and Instagram, but I also connect with fellow content creators, join Facebook groups, join coalitions or clubs, and connect with people on LinkedIn.

It sounds like a daunting amount of work, but being social and networking online actually pays off. In fact, you may find your first client through social media; I am, for instance, often contacted by clients who find me through Instagram. Don’t be shy about harnessing the power of social media and using it to your advantage”

Good advice: follow it. Side-hustlers need to be entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs can’t afford to hide under rocks. Or in the basement, crunching numbers.

#5 – Market yourself  

Related to networking is the idea of marketing yourself – and this is absolutely vital. If you don’t market yourself at all, you’ll really struggle to find clients or customers – and that means your side-hustle won’t be a success.

Here are some great resources to help you market your new side-hustle:

 

For an accounting side-hustler, marketing yourself is at least half the battle – so follow these tips to help you find the customers you need to turn a profit.

#6 – Stick to the law

Depending where you’re based, there are various things you’ll need to set-up a business. Because that’s what your side-hustle is: a business. It might sound obvious, but in most places you can’t just open your doors and set-up shop without ticking any bureaucratic boxes.

This might include things like:

  • Choosing a company name
  • Registering with your government
  • Getting a business/trade licence
  • Getting a business bank account
  • Sorting insurance
  • Choosing premises

 

Find out which steps you need to follow in your country to set up a side-hustle, to make sure you’re on the right side of the law when you start doing business. So nothing can get in the way once momentum starts to build. And so you don’t jeopardise your accounting career by making an unnecessary legal snafu!

Check out this comprehensive resource library on starting your own business from NOLO.

And you’re off!

You’ve decided that side-hustling is for you, you’ve decided which side-hustle is best suited to your goals, needs and lifestyle – and now you know exactly how to make it work. So what’s stopping you?

You have the full toolkit to build a successful accounting side-hustle, to make some extra cash while you train for your accounting exams… and to boost your accounting career beyond too.

And hey – if you’re starting out on an exciting accounting side-hustle venture, let us know! We’d love to hear about it, and see how we can help you promote your business too. At LearnSignal, we’re 100% committed to YOU and your success – not only in your accounting exams, but in your career as an accountant (and an accountant side-hustler) too.