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How to Find the Best Bookkeeper for Your US Small Business

Written by on July 10, 2017

Although there are many parts of your small business you’d like to have knowledge and control of, sooner or later you realize that you will need to hire a bookkeeper.

Accounting can be a difficult subject to master, and it’s so important that if you make mistakes, you and your small business can face serious consequences.

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Therefore, hiring a bookkeeper is a must. But beyond that, it’s not enough just to hire a bookkeeper.

If you really want your business to succeed, you’ll need to hire the best bookkeeper.

But determining what the best bookkeeper is can be a challenge, especially since you may not know exactly what distinguishes a good one from a bad one.

That’s why today we’ll look at the ways you can find the best bookkeeper for your US small business.

First, however, we’ll look at why exactly you need to hire a bookkeeper in the first place.

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1. Why do I need a bookkeeper for my business?

The reasons why you need a bookkeeper come down to four essential aspects:

  • the opportunity cost
  • increased accuracy
  • no conflict of interest
  • cheaper to outsource

Let’s look at each one in detail.

a. The opportunity cost

This basic economic concept revolves around the idea that the more time you do one thing, the less time you’ll have to do something else. After all, time is a scarce resource, and you only have about 16 waking hours in a day.

To add on top of that: a professional bookkeeper will be able to do the bookkeeping at a fraction of the time and energy than you could.

If you were planning on using an employee to do the bookkeeping, the same applies: let that person do what he or she is best at so that you can get the best results.

b. Increased accuracy

It would be a lie to say that all bookkeepers are 100% accurate 100% of the time.  That is false.

Instead, it is true to say that an experienced bookkeeper will be much more accurate than an inexperienced business owner.

For increased accuracy on your books, a bookkeeper is a must have
For increased accuracy on your books, a bookkeeper is a must have

Bookkeepers understand how to process your transactions, which is not only necessary for accurate books but also for pre-tax planning.

c. No conflict of interest

This point applies especially to businesses where there are partners or other types of business arrangements, where multiple individuals have a stake in the business accounting.

While the relationship may be great between the individuals, there can still be a lot of problems if any accusations of (intentionally) faulty bookkeeping arise.

A professional bookkeeper will not have this conflict of interest because he or she will be a third party with no interest in the accounting other than doing their job.

d. Cheaper to outsource

Lastly, it’s much cheaper to outsource your bookkeeping than to hire someone in-house. After all, the reason why you’re looking for a bookkeeper in the first place is because you need someone for a few hours per day or per week.

If you need someone full-time, then you would probably do best with a full-time accountant, rather than a bookkeeper.

For that reason, you can save lots of money and resources by simply outsourcing the task to an experienced professional.

Great, now that we’ve got the reasons out of the way, let’s look at what you need to consider to find the best bookkeeper.

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2. Questions to ask to find the best bookkeeper

Finding the best bookkeeper for your US small business will come down to how well you can ask questions and evaluate their answers.

You should ask the bookkeeper questions about their experience, knowledge, processes and payment.

a. Experience and clients

The first question you need to ask is about their experience and what type of clients they’ve had.

The first part of that question, experience, relates to not just their general knowledge (which can be theoretical). It also asks about their practical know-how, as the real-life application of ideas often brings a lot of surprises.

If they have the adequate experience, they will have been through many important, demanding situations.

The second part of that question concerns their suitability for your business. Many bookkeepers are suitable, but the ones who’ve worked with your industry and business size will be best.

You can also ask for references and discuss the bookkeeper with their past clients to really get an idea of their value.

b. Knowledge and maintenance

It's important to make sure your bookkeeper is updated on the new, important software and trends in accounting
It’s important to make sure your bookkeeper is updated on the new, important software and trends in accounting

The second question you need to ask concerns their present knowledge about particular accounting software solutions and how they stay up to date.

If they are familiar with the type of accounting software that you use—and have the certifications to prove it—then they would be a good fit.

If they don’t have certifications, but they do have experience, that is fine, too. If they don’t have any experience, they may not be the best bookkeeper for your business.

This question also checks whether and how they stay updated on the newest trends and technologies in accounting. It doesn’t meant that they need to know everything, but they should know the big important updates.

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c. Their bookkeeping process

This question is only concerned about what process they go through when they do the books. Is it an established process that they follow (or attempt to follow) for each situation?

Or do they switch it up regularly—to the point where they seem to improvise? If it’s the second situation, then that would mean that the particular bookkeeper doesn’t have a lot of controls in place.

Normally, an experienced bookkeeper will have a checklist of items that they use regularly, even with the same clients.

d. Payment information

Lastly, you’ll probably need to check what the charges are for their bookkeeper services.

You should always discuss fees upfront as much as possible so that there are no surprises on either end later on.

Finding out about the bookkeeper's payment information is important
Finding out about the bookkeeper’s payment information is important

Bookkeepers in general charge either a fixed fee, or they charge you by the hour. Many bookkeepers will also offer packages and bundles, with different pricing options for different included features, but generally you’ll get per hour or fixed fee.

You’ll need to decide which option is best for you. Per hour charges are much more flexible, seeing as you can agree to have the bookkeeper work more or less.

On the other hand, a fixed fee means you can easily plan your budget as you’ll know exactly how much you’ll need to pay.

Finding your perfect bookkeeper

Getting this information on your new bookkeeper will be important. You want to find the one that’s best for your business, who can really help you boost your finances with accurate books.

With your books taken care of, you’ll be able to focus on the important parts of your business and make sure it grows healthily and consistently.

What’s your best advice for finding a bookkeeper? Let us know in the comments below.

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