6 Accounting Trends: Key Takeaways for Accountants in 2021

These trends are transforming the way business is done for accountants and bookkeepers.


Over time, every industry changes and evolves. The accounting industry is no different. Technology, trends, and new legislation have changed the profession over the past decades.

While there are shifts and changes every year, 2020 was a year of dramatic change. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated and amplified many accounting trends that had already begun to take hold. And it also brought about new trends that are now expected to become the norm.

Key Accounting Industry Trends

As an accounting professional, it’s important to understand accounting trends and how they relate to your practice and your career. Based on 2020 data, the following are the key accounting industry trends that are likely to “stick” and permanently change the way business is done for accountants and bookkeepers.

1. Remote Work Became the Norm

As was true for nearly every industry, the accounting industry went virtual in 2020. Love it or hate it, remote work is here to stay in some capacity for the foreseeable future. Even when the pandemic is over, it’s unlikely that the office will return to what it once was.

For many accountants, managing client relationships when not everyone is meeting face to face can be tough. To do it successfully, it is essential to have technologically driven solutions, including virtual communication tools, cloud-based accounting software, and solutions for secure online data storage and transfer.

Takeaways for 2021

As work moves online, leaders within accounting firms need to make some important management decisions. How can you maintain your office culture while your team is working remotely? How do you support the career growth of employees equally, regardless of whether they work in-person or remotely? The Journal of Accountancy has tips for making remote work part of your long-term plan.

2. Cloud-Based Accounting Was Increasingly Important

With more people working remotely, accessing documents and data anywhere and at any time is increasingly important for accounting firms and their clients. Because of this, cloud computing isn’t just a “nice to have” or something that accountants lean on only during a pandemic. It’s a must.

Takeaways for 2021

When your accounting practice is cloud-based it ensures you can remain operational, regardless of where the work is taking place. In 2021 and beyond, offering cloud accounting services is the right call to increase efficiency and manage risks. If your clients want to upload their documents to a secure server for you to access, rather than bringing them into the office, cloud computing makes that possible. Plus, your potential client pool grows exponentially when you can operate on a national or even global level.

With FreshBooks cloud accounting software, you and your clients can access their data and collaborate remotely from any location.



3. Online Marketing Drove Business

The accounting profession generally lags when it comes to social media and other online marketing. But the need to show up well online is becoming increasingly important.

From having a good website and email marketing campaigns to sharing expertise on social media platforms like Twitter and Linkedin, the need to have a strong online presence isn’t going away. In 2020, when more traditional marketing methods were impossible, online marketing was a primary business driver for many accounting firms. And overall, 78% of small businesses attract new customers through social media.

Takeaways for 2021

Having a strong online presence doesn’t mean you need to spend your days on social media. But there are some simple things you can do to make sure your online marketing is propelling your business forward:

  • Make sure your website is user-friendly. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but basic information like your contact information and the services you offer should be easy to find.
  • Use email to stay in touch. An email “campaign” can be as simple as setting up new and existing clients on an email list and sending them reminders throughout the year. You might also want to send them accounting industry updates, for example, PPP loan qualification requirements. Or time-saving tips for day-to-day accounting tasks they can DIY.
  • Share your knowledge. Accounting professionals have unique knowledge and perspectives on different topics your clients may be interested in. Share this knowledge by writing an article that can be published on LinkedIn or your website blog.

4. The Scope of Accounting Services Expanded

As an accountant, your clients don’t just look to you for tax information. More and more, people are turning to accountants for general accounting, financial, and even technology advice. An Onpay survey found that an entrepreneur’s most trusted business partner is their accountant. But the survey also found that only 61% of the small business owners were satisfied with the breadth of services offered by their accountant and they don’t generally consider their accountant to be proactive.

Takeaways for 2021

Clearly, an opportunity exists for accountants to help clients more. That may mean advertising or expanding your skill sets that revolve around managing cash flow, financial planning, or other CFO/advisor-type services.

built to scale
5. Outsourcing Accounting Services Continued

Businesses are continuing to lean into outsourcing complex tasks, one of the most common being accounting. In fact, more than a third of small businesses outsource a business process, most commonly accounting.

Takeaways for 2021

For business owners, outsourcing accounting tasks is often much cheaper than hiring an employee and the business gets access to specialized knowledge. This is an opportunity for accountants to expand their services and provide clients with exactly what they need.

6. Relationships Mattered Even More

For many, 2020 was a scary year, and accountant-client relationships became increasingly important as small business owners and individuals navigated changes. For example, applying for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program or the SBA’s EIDL, tracking information correctly for new tax credit available under the CARES Act, or understanding the rules around retirement plan withdrawals.

Takeaways for 2021

Being there for your clients when they need you most—during a global pandemic, definitely, but also during any time of financial uncertainty—builds strong relationships that help your practice grow long-term. Your clients won’t forget the support you provided.

Understanding the key accounting trends that will shape the future of the industry is critical for the longevity and evolution of your accounting career. With a little extra thought and intentionality, your practice can come out strong for 2021 and beyond.



about the author

Freelance Contributor Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, content marketing writer, and founder of The Worth Project. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, and more. She currently lives in Hawaii.