You’ve decided it’s time to find a bookkeeper to handle your business’ books. Smart move! Handing off your bookkeeping to a professional lets you focus on running your business without having to do your bookkeeping during your “downtime.”
But where do you go to find a bookkeeper? How do you know if you have found someone qualified? Do you know what questions to ask prospective bookkeepers and bookkeeping firms? And do you know what questions prospective bookkeepers should ask you?
These are all excellent questions. Get the right answers, and you’ll find a bookkeeper who is perfect for your business. Before we get to those answers, though, we need to know one critical thing:
Why Do You Want a Bookkeeper?
This may seem like a silly question, but bookkeepers perform a broad range of duties. To ensure you find the right bookkeeper for your business, you must first decide what duties you want your bookkeeper to perform.
Do you only want your bookkeeper to record transactions and reconcile your bank and credit card accounts so that you can file a tax return at year-end? Or do you want a bookkeeper who can review your financial statements with you on a monthly basis?
Maybe you want to find a bookkeeper who can help you do some in-depth analysis of your financial statements and provide consulting services. Or maybe you want a bookkeeper who is available to speak with your customers or clients about billing issues.
Some of these duties are easily outsourced to bookkeeping firms or freelance bookkeepers. Others are better suited to an in-house bookkeeper. The duties you want your bookkeeper to handle for you determine where you go to find one.
Qualifying Your Prospective Bookkeeper
Considering all the duties bookkeepers perform, the prospect of qualifying a potential bookkeeper might seem daunting. Unless you are hiring an in-house bookkeeper, you can’t really ask for a résumé or references (Bookkeepers are professional service providers. You wouldn’t ask an attorney or a doctor for their résumé—bookkeepers should be afforded the same courtesy.).
You can, however, qualify prospective bookkeepers in other ways:
- Ask the right questions. “How long have you been a bookkeeper?” and “How long have you been in business?” are two common questions, and the answers can tell you how experienced the prospective bookkeeper is. A better question, though, is, “How long do clients typically work with you?” You want to find a bookkeeper with low client turnover.
- Does your industry require specialized knowledge? Ask the prospective bookkeeper if they have knowledge of your industry or the bookkeeping functions typical of your industry. Since you know your industry, you can spot someone who might be trying to tell you what you want to hear in order to sign you as a client.
- Pay attention to the questions the prospective bookkeeper asks you. Some important ones are:
- “What is your business’ entity structure?”
- “Are you current on your tax filings?”
- “What is the biggest pain point in your business, and how do you envision me helping you alleviate that pain?”
- Expect a qualified bookkeeper to ask to review your existing bookkeeping file before providing a proposal. The prospective bookkeeper who also includes a request for your last completed business tax return in the list of items needed during the onboarding or transition phase gets bonus points. This indicates they ensure that clients’ books match their tax returns after they are prepared.
- Speak with CPAs or enrolled agents (EAs) who have prepared tax returns using books prepared by your prospective bookkeeper. These tax professionals typically have advanced accounting knowledge, and they can help steer you away from less-qualified bookkeepers. A qualified bookkeeper should have no qualms about providing you with the names of CPAs and EAs familiar with their work.
- You get what you pay for. Proceed with caution if your prospective bookkeeper seems to be quoting a bargain price to do your bookkeeping. You want to find a bookkeeper who is confident in their skills. Bookkeepers who charge less are typically either unsure of their skills, or they quickly become overwhelmed with the volume of work they must produce in order to sustain their lesser rate.
The 6 Best Places to Find a Top Bookkeeper
You’ve determined why you want a bookkeeper and how to qualify them. Now for the big question: How do you find a top bookkeeper? Fortunately, business owners are no longer at the mercy of the Yellow Pages, or even random Google searches or Craigslist. Following are the six best places to find a great bookkeeper:
1. Accounting software partner directories
Most accounting solutions provide certification programs for bookkeepers and accountants. If your bookkeeper is certified in your chosen accounting solution, then they’ll use that software to its fullest capacity, thereby providing more value to you.
Partner directories aren’t just limited to core accounting solutions. Many add-on apps also offer certification courses and maintain partner directories. This makes it so you can find a bookkeeper who can address your business’ particular needs, using apps tailored to address those issues.
2. Industry associations
Some industry associations maintain lists of bookkeepers and accountants well-versed in the industry. Check with your association to see if such a list exists for your industry.
3. Personal recommendations
Even if your industry association does not maintain a list of bookkeepers and accountants with industry-specific knowledge, use community boards, Facebook groups, or other resources your industry does provide for recommendations from other members. Personal recommendations are a terrific way to find a bookkeeper, or any other professional for that matter.
4. Professional organizations for bookkeepers and accountants
Truly great bookkeepers regularly invest in their education, and many join professional organizations to help them develop both as bookkeepers and as business owners. Organizations like ICBUSA, AIPB, and Profit First Professionals are good places to find a bookkeeper for your business.
5. Financial blogs and websites
Many bookkeepers share their knowledge by writing for financial blogs and websites. The next time you read an article about a particular issue you are facing in your business, check the byline. It might have been written by a bookkeeper who would love to work with you.
6. CPAs and EAs
While some tax professionals also do bookkeeping, many prefer to focus exclusively on taxation. These professionals typically have a list of great bookkeepers they recommend to their clients.
As business owners, it’s often hard to relinquish control of things in our businesses, even if those things fall far outside our strengths. It’s even harder when the thing you are letting go of is your business’ finances. Fortunately, finding a great bookkeeper isn’t a guessing game. It just takes some planning, asking the right questions, and knowing where to look.
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