updated - September 20, 2021 Monday EDT
It's always tricky to hire for a position that you know little about. The profession of bookkeeping is necessary and established, even if the tools they use to undertake the work are more modern. There are several key questions to ask when you are in the process of finding a bookkeeper to hire.
The definition of bookkeeping is simply the recording and organization of financial documents and statements. This means that almost anybody can legally take on the responsibility of keeping their own books. Many freelancers and small business owners have no choice but to take on bookkeeping duties themselves.
As your business grows, and perhaps as you take on more suppliers or customers, a bookkeeper should be at the top of your list of employees to hire. Freeing yourself up to manage the business and focus on your products or services is vital: you should be spending your time at work on what matters most to you, and what makes your business successful.
Handing over the task of recording financial information including receipts, invoices, wages, and taxes to a bookkeeper is one of the fastest ways to ease your time and allow that focus to remain where it should be.
There is certification available through The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) and the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB). These bodies require a certain amount of time spent working as a bookkeeper, and passing a couple of exams. This can help to put your mind at rest if you really would prefer a bookkeeper with a certificate of competency.
Ask your potential bookkeeper where they are registered, what certificates they hold, and for how long that has been the case. Expect to pay more for more years of experience!
Some industries are going to be easy for most bookkeepers to come into, even if they have no prior experience. There is a wealth of information on the internet available about the most common industries, whether they are in marketing, fishing, construction, or even hairdressing.
There are industries that require a little more delicacy, though, and these could include companies that are in the third sector. If you have any charitable activities, these will have financial requirements your bookkeeper should be aware of. They should know how to record or manage these specific niche charitable money and activities in a way that is straightforward and legal.
Other industries, like software, have been around for only a few decades. That means that the regulations and ways in which the finances of each company or product are recorded are modern and moving quickly. This industry might benefit from hiring a bookkeeper who has grown up in the same environment, who considers themselves a digital native.
Think carefully about your industry and its own particular set of quirks before hiring a bookkeeper. Whether they have experience in your industry or not could be key in your decision about who you hire.
A slightly off-the-wall question, but one very much worth thinking about, is how your bookkeeping professional will communicate with you. Will they email you their documents, or will they be kept in a central cloud-based system? Will they message you periodically or at the end of the contract or project?
It might be best if you come up with a flexible schedule. It's likely a bookkeeper will be in contact more at the start of a contract as they familiarise themselves with the work in front of them and any historical information you may have. Most business owners or managers would then hope their bookkeepers can work independently, alerting management only if vital.
And when it comes to the actual words they use, it is important to be sure that you understand what they are saying. A bookkeeper who uses jargon and complex financial terms when talking to a layperson runs the risk of being misunderstood, or of raising hackles. Have a brief discussion with the bookkeeper you are considering hiring to make sure that your language matches up and you are on each other's wavelength.
In some ways, hiring a bookkeeper is no different than hiring any other professional. They have a set of circumstances and working practices that come along with them, and getting a feel for what those are before the contract starts might lead to a more comfortable partnership overall.
Discuss your needs with some excellent local bookkeepers today and find one who fits your needs. A bookkeeper with the standard of qualifications and licensing you require, with the experience of your industry that will help them have a smooth start, and who will communicate with you to your requirements. The perfect working relationship.
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