So you’ve realized that multitasking is messing up your productivity and you think you are ready to begin hiring a bookkeeper so you can outsource your bookkeeping. If you don’t have much of a finance background, it might be challenging to know what questions to even ask as you’re looking around for someone to help take over the reins on your books. These seven questions will help you know what questions to ask when hiring a bookkeeper:
1. What responsibilities do you take care of?
There’s a lot we could talk about with this question, but for the sake of this post we’ll keep it to the basics. Some of the tasks a bookkeeper can tackle for you are:
- Recording a business’s transactions
- Recording assets, liabilities, loan payments, depreciation, current portion of long term debt etc.
- Reconciling all bank, credit, and loan accounts
- Creating sales invoices and following up debtors (known as Accounts Receivable or A/R)
- Entering supplier bills and paying suppliers (Known as Accounts Payable or A/P)
- Reviewing the coding of transactions to ensure they have been coded to the correct account and with the correct tax treatment
- Lodging/filing sales tax, GST, or VAT
- Preparing reports such as your Income Statement (P&L), Balance Sheet, and Statement of Cash Flows
- Clarifying and interpreting of data through financial reports and relaying that information to you in layman’s terms
- Preparing a budget to monitor performance against
- Preparing a cash-flow forecast to help plan cash inflows/outflows in the future
Just as with any other business, not every bookkeeper offers everything. You may also only want help with some of the items and not all. Learning what they do can help you have proper expectations but don’t be afraid to shop around until you find someone who does what you’re looking for!
2. How often will we communicate?
Every bookkeeper runs their practice differently so setting communication expectations ahead of time will prevent any possible confusion or frustration. Some of the topics to bring up might include:
- How many times in a week or month you’ll hear from them
- What modes of communication they prefer or use
- What their working hours are
- When you can expect responses from them when you reach out
Knowing what to expect will help you set up a consistent schedule for your finances and allow you and your bookkeeper to be on the same page.
3. Are you familiar with bookkeeping for my industry?
The core concepts of bookkeeping stay the same across industries, but a bookkeeper knowing terminology and financial patterns for your particular business can accelerate your growth since they’ll be able to identify industry benchmarks which gives you a more accurate look at where you compare in your field. It’s also a great bonus because they often can work faster, have less questions, and provide more specific suggestions on how to improve cash flow along with other areas of your business. A win-win all around, if you ask me!
4. What services do you offer?
Some bookkeepers focus only on one-on-one client work but others offer a variety of services such as clean-up, catch-up, DIY training, etc. Clean up work is important if there are any errors in your bookkeeping work. If there are things that need to be fixed, you want someone to clean it up to be able to keep your future bookkeeping accurate as well. However, if you are needing some extra help in the beginning, working with a bookkeeper that is willing to do a training plan can be great until you are a big enough company to want to start outsourcing some work. It allows you to have the benefits of hiring a bookkeeper while still staying within your budget until you really need more regular assistance.
5. What qualifications do you have?
Bookkeepers aren’t required to be certified or even have a degree to practice! That being said, there are certifications available that ensure proper training. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, Bookkeeper Launch, and QuickBooks Proadvisor are the best ones to look out for. These organizations ensure that they have had proper training to handle your finances accurately. A QuickBooks Proadvisor is an especially useful asset since they not only have been trained in bookkeeping techniques, but they will have a deeper understanding of the QuickBooks system. However, just being a Quickbooks Proadvisor does NOT mean that they have had bookkeeping technical training. Being a Proadvisor means that they understand how Quickbooks, as a software, works NOT that they understand how to post debits and credits correctly so be sure that they have received additional training as well.
6. Do you offer customized reports?
Data entry is helpful, but financial reports are better. While accountants are usually the ones we think of who provide this service, well-trained bookkeepers can give you an in-depth glance at your finances that not only help your books stay up to date, but give you the information you need to know what steps to take with your business next. Asking follow-up questions after a report can help clarify as well such as “From first glance, where am I wasting money?” or “Can you show me three ways I can use financial reports to help in my business decisions?” These types of personalized responses can launch a beginning business into another tier of profit and progress.
7. What improvements have your clients seen?
Most of these questions will help you navigate what exactly a bookkeeper offers, but this is where you can get real specific to distinguish if that bookkeeper is the right one for you and how effective they are at what they do. Not only will you learn how your business might benefit from their services, but you’ll also get a sense for how detail-oriented they are when it comes to noticing the patterns of their clients’ businesses.
Knowing what questions to ask when hiring a bookkeeper can help you feel confident that you’re adding a quality person to the team but who will also help you level up to where you’re dreaming of going with your company!