Before you launch into hiring a bookkeeper, you must understand why you want one.
That may sound a bit daft, but you may not get what you need unless you know what you want.
Make up a wish list of the tasks you want them to take on and their frequency, such as:
- Bank reconciliation
- Paying suppliers, categorising expenses etc.
- Raising sales invoices
- Chasing debtors
- Dealing with your VAT
- Preparing financial documents, such as profit and loss and balance sheets
- Creating and interpreting financial reports
- Recognising spending trends to advise on cash flow
Once you have a clear picture, you can look for the perfect fit for your company.
Then all you have to do is ask them the following seven questions to ensure they’re the right bookkeeper for you.
1. Are they registered and qualified?
Now that you understand what you need them to do, it’s important to ensure they are qualified. You’re looking for certification from The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) or The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) or equivalent diploma or certification level qualifications from colleges.
2. What level of expertise do they have?
It’s imperative that your bookkeeper can process your accounts accurately and communicate with you quickly and easily. The last thing you need is to reach the end of your financial year and have to pay extra to clean up a mess.
Probe them to find out about their strengths and weaknesses and, if possible, speak to one of their clients (or an accountant they work with) to get a clear picture of how they work.
3. Do they know your industry?
It’s not essential that they’ve worked in your industry before, but it could help, especially if you’re in a niche area.
4. How do they communicate with their clients?
Hiring a freelance bookkeeper means they’ll probably be working for you virtually (i.e., not from your premises). It’s essential to ensure you are both comfortable with the reporting frequency you need. Plus, if the reporting methods you need (or they can offer) are OK for both parties.
You also want to ensure they are responsive and efficient. After all, the last thing you need to be doing is chasing them for management reports.
5. What are their delivery and response times?
A common complaint from business owners is that their bookkeeper is slow to respond to emails and that the bookkeeping isn’t completed to a set schedule.
If you set out what you expect from them from the outset, your working relationship will run more smoothly.
6. How will they protect your confidentiality?
When working with a bookkeeper, you must share sensitive company and financial information. Therefore, trust is paramount. Find out how they protect their client’s accounts and what their internal controls are.
7. How do they charge?
The last thing you want to do is hire a bookkeeper and then get a nasty surprise when their first invoice arrives. Ask whether they charge a fixed fee or by the hour. If it’s a fixed fee, ensure you know what is included and what would be considered extra.
By following this simple guide, you should be able to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with your bookkeeper.