If you’ve never worked with a virtual bookkeeper before, taking the plunge can come with its fair share of nerves. Handing over your books to some guy you’ve never met face-to-face? Well, it sounds a lot crazier when you put it that way, so it’s normal to have a bit of trepidation when the relationship is just getting off the ground.
But you should know you’re in good company by outsourcing to the experts; in one survey, 71% of small businesses said they outsource at least one accounting function, with the top outsourced tasks being accounts receivable, cash flow, paperwork, end-of-month accounting and payroll.
It’s a weight off your shoulders to have a qualified virtual bookkeeper making sure all your I’s are dotted, financially speaking. Here are five steps to make sure the relationship is a successful one.
Hold an intake session
Once you decide to start working together, you and your virtual bookkeeper should hold an initial consultation to lay all your financial needs on the table. Use this opportunity to bring them up to speed on your current accounting situation and outline exactly what you’re hoping to gain by outsourcing your accounting.
If your books are messier than Lindsay Lohan’s criminal history, find out how and what they will need to bring them up to date and whether there will be an additional charge associated with this.
Finally, ensure you fully understand how and when you’ll be pay for the firm’s services (hourly vs. monthly, automatic vs. invoiced payments, and so on). If you’ve got quite a hefty load of accounting work, it may make more sense to arrange a monthly payment plan rather than an hourly one.
Outline clear responsibilities for each side
Your virtual bookkeeping contract may be with a single individual or an entire team; in any case, find out who your designated point of contact will be for questions and regular updates.
It’s a great idea to get in writing the scope of responsibilities for both your virtual bookkeeper and yourself. For example, will they handle all data entry, or will you be responsible for entering certain data on your end? Does it need to be done by a certain point in the month?
Additionally, find out the standard channel for communications regarding your account. Will you communicate with your point of contact via email? Phone? A different messaging platform like Slack or Skype? And how often should you expect to hear from one another?
By outlining these expectations and responsibilities ahead of time, you’ll mitigate misunderstandings and pave the way for a smooth relationship, especially during your first few months working together.
Use a secure document transfer program
As you get up and running with your virtual bookkeeping team, you’ll no doubt need to send a few sensitive documents like tax forms and financial statements their way. Unless you feel like taking the risk (not to mention the time) of sending them in snail mail, you’ll want to use a secure document transfer program.
We like Box, which is super easy to use and offers plans starting as low as $5 per month, and there are many other low-cost and free options available (check out PCMag’s roundup for a great selection).
For documents that require a signature, programs like DocuSign make it easy to authorize documents with a digital signature in just a few clicks.
Check in regularly for updates and reports
Even when you’re working with a trustworthy accountant, we can’t stress enough the importance of having more than one set of eyes on your books. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to prevent your company from falling victim to theft (we talk in detail about that topic in this post).
Check in on your books at least quarterly to make sure your accounts receivable balances match what’s coming in the door every month.
Additionally, establish a reporting system you’ll use to receive regular updates from your point of contact with your accounting firm. You should receive these reports at least monthly, and they should contain a balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement at a minimum. This will give you what you need to have a broad-level understanding of where your business is at money-wise.
You’re not an accounting expert—that’s why you hired your virtual bookkeeper! You’re paying them, after all, so take advantage of their expertise by asking questions that will benefit your business financially.
A few questions to consider at least once a year are:
- Where are we wasting money?
- What are the top three ways we can improve our finances?
- Are there any systems we’re not using (software, best practices, etc.) that we should be?
- How much is my business worth?
- How can we grow?
You go to the doctor every once in a while for a physical even if nothing feels wrong with you, right? Your books are the same way.
By working with your virtual bookkeeper to take your company’s financial pulse on a regular basis, you’ll nip issues in the bud and identify areas for improvement that will help you win out over your competition.
Do you work with an outsourced bookkeeper? Leave your best advice for a good working relationship in the comments section!
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