A few years ago, financial planner Alex Hopkin looked for a flexible part-time position with a consulting firm.
âAs a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t want to commit to a full-time job, but I also wanted to continue my career,â says Hopkin, who holds a Chartered Financial Planner designation.
As a 1099 entrepreneur, she could work five to 10 hours a week – early in the morning, while her children were napping, and in the evening, after the children’s bedtime. This arrangement allowed her to be present for her family and her clients.
It also led Hopkin to a light bulb moment when she identified a need in the workforce. In 2015, she launched Simply Paraplanner, based in Honolulu.
Initially, the company offered a job board with listings of virtual paraplanning opportunities across the United States. Since then, the need for part-time and independent financial services professionals has grown.
In addition to using companies like Simply Paraplanner, self-employed financiers and business owners find themselves on platforms such as the CFP Board website or the Upwork job site.
âHiring someone on a 1099 basis is a low-risk way to test the waters to see if you enjoy managing another team member without having to commit to a full-time salary,â says Shawn Tydlaska, Founder and CEO of Ballast Point Financial Planning. in Burlingame, California.
He also cites the advantages of saving time for a âsolopreneurâ like him.
âYou can outsource repeatable tasks to someone else and pay them a fraction of what you charge your customers,â he says. âIt’s a low risk way to see what you can outsource to a virtual team member. “
Freelance as a career changer
As Hopkin started her business to meet her own needs as a stay-at-home parent, she found that finance professionals from all walks of life were interested in part-time work opportunities.
“We have a large number of people changing careers and working as part-time subcontractors, which allows them to find their place in the financial services industry before making the leap into their current career field,” she says.
His company’s job seekers also include experienced financial planners interested in part-time and freelance opportunities while they start their own consulting firm.
âThe one thing they all have in common is that they value flexibility,â Hopkin says.
This was true for Jeffrey Wenger, a certified financial planner in North Canton, Ohio. Before recently joining a company as an employee, he was an independent CFP.
âAs a career change, setting up a sideline as a 1099 planner allowed me to dip my toe in the water before diving head first,â he says. âWith a family of five, it allowed me to build enough customer base to replace previous income before I fully moved into financial planning. “
For Hopkin, it’s no surprise that part-time and freelance financial planning is gaining ground.
âThe odd-job economy is exploding all around us, so it was only a matter of time before it made its way into the financial services industry,â Hopkin said.
Accounting firms also use this hiring model. Paul Miller, founder of Miller & Company, a chartered accountancy firm in New York City, hired part-time and independent accountants. He points out that this is a good solution in certain situations.
âThe 1099s are easier to hire, especially for one-off gigs or a mission,â says Miller. “For a more permanent role, you must use a salaried employee. For my company, if the freelancer has their own business and signs a non-compete agreement, I agree with a freelance writer.”
The comfort of a stable salary
Choosing between a freelance or a staff position also depends on what the finance professional is looking for, Miller says.
âA lot of people like the comfort of getting a secure check with benefits knowing they have a good place to work with good morale and coworkers,â he says.
But not everyone wants this certainty.
âThe freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it, is hard to overstate,â says Benjamin Daniel, paraplanner in Columbus, Ohio. He adds that a 1099 position tends to offer a higher degree of autonomy than a full-time job.
It was also an attraction for Wenger. As a 1099 contractor, âyou can work when and how you want as long as projects are completed on time and with high quality,â he says.
âThe flip side is that you might not have as many projects on your plate as you would like,â he adds. âDepending on the needs of the financial planner, projects can be numerous a month and few months later.
Juggle multiple projects
Wenger points out that independent contractors can find themselves taking on too many projects, due to timing uncertainty.
âThere were times when I took too much and had to work around the clock to meet deadlines,â he says.
As a business owner, Tydlaska also understands the potential pitfalls of a freelance writer working for multiple advisors simultaneously.
âIf you need something to be done quickly, they may need to prioritize the work before your request,â he says.
Pros and cons of business expenses
Another possible downside is that 1099 workers typically command a higher hourly rate than W-2 employees.
âIf you hire someone as a member of the W-2 team, you can usually pay them a lower rate and hope they get some great on-the-job training,â says Tydlaska. “As they gain value for your business, you can increase their compensation accordingly.”
On the other hand, consulting firms that want to save money in the long run frequently turn to independent planners and other professionals.
âHiring 1,099 entrepreneurs is extremely profitable for financial planning firms,â says Hopkin. âA contract with a paraplanner allows the financial planning firm to pay only the hours that are actually needed, which can be as little as five hours per week. “
Tydlaska appreciates the option of hiring a full-time 1099 worker if things work out and both parties agree. Part-time or freelance work, he says, âis a great way to try someone out. It’s also a great way for the employee to test you to see if they like your business.
Daniel says some situations work better than others for independent financial planners.
There are advisers who want full control, he says. In these cases, a 1099 worker may not be the best fit.
Daniel, who currently pursues both the CFP and Chartered Financial Analyst designation, says the flexibility of the 1099 is hard to beat. âIf there was a company where everything fit together culturally and philosophically, I might consider becoming W-2,â he says. “But I like where I am right now.”