For many small and medium sized businesses, the decision to relieve themselves of their bookkeeping tasks is a major milestone. The decision of when to outsource these tasks can be difficult, as hiring a freelance bookkeeper or a bookkeeping firm cuts into their revenues as an additional cost. On the other hand, allowing for a qualified professional to step in and take over these tasks gives the management team an opportunity to focus more on the day-to-ay activities, and more importantly, how to take their business to the next level.
Having spoken with business owners on a daily basis, we understand that the process of choosing a bookkeeping solution can be a difficult and timely process. With so many options available, how do you make a decision on who to work with? How do you decide between a freelancer and a bookkeeping firm?
This is a common struggle and you will find that the answer is very dependent on the needs of your business.
The majority of freelance bookkeepers offer a lower hourly or fixed rate for their services when compared to a firm, as they have a lower overhead to run their business. Freelancers often work from home or at the business' office to reduce these costs even further, which can help to reduce the monthly bookkeeping fee.
Many freelancers are open to travel and are willing to work from your office. This can be beneficial as they are able to have a better feel of the day-to-day activities and are easily accessible for any questions or last minute tasks. Keep in mind that there may be additional costs when having a bookkeeper work from your office, as you need to provide an office space, along with a computer and other furniture. With that said, many freelancers use a variety of cloud-based tools to offer a virtual bookkeeping solution as well.
Schedules & Deadlines
A freelancer is defined as an individual that works for different companies at different times, rather than being permanently employed by one company. A well-managed freelancer can schedule their time for each of their clients to ensure deadlines are met and the books are kept up-to-date. With that said, even bookkeepers take vacations or are subject to sickness, which means that the books can go on hold periodically. There are also periods where bookkeepers become very busy with tax deadlines which has potential to lead to subnormal services. It is important to recognize this when choosing a bookkeeping solution, as some businesses need up-to-date information on a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly schedule, whereas others can work within their bookkeeper's schedule.
Range of Experience
The owner of the business is legally responsible for the accuracy of their books, which means choosing a bookkeeper that has the knowledge and expertise to generate accurate reports is imperative. It is important to understand that there is no regulation on bookkeeping services, meaning anybody can offer to provide bookkeeping. With that said, there is a wide range of freelance bookkeepers who offer their services, some of which are very qualified while many are in the beginning stages of their career. When interviewing freelance bookkeepers, it is important to qualify their experience and knowledge, specifically regarding your business and industry.
When choosing a bookkeeping firm, you will notice that the costs can be higher when compared to a freelance solution. This is for a number of reasons, including a higher overhead for the firm, a guarantee of their services, and access to a larger team that can offer a variety of services where an individual may not be able to. Many firms also work closely with app and service providers which can lead to discounts on accounting applications, payroll services, and more, which is passed on to the business.
With the recent increase in cloud-based applications and tools, many firms work remotely from their office with their clients. Accounting apps such as QuickBooks Online and Xero allow for anytime/anywhere access to your financial information, while document management systems such as LedgerDocs help businesses to easily photograph or scan their documents directly to their bookkeeper. Not only does this help your business to go paperless, it also allows for you to have instant access to your financial information.
Schedules & Deadlines
Most bookkeeping firms customize a solution specifically for their client when they come onboard. For example, each of their bookkeepers would have expertise in a specific industry or field, and would be assigned to the business that is the best fit for their skills. Similarly, many bookkeepers are more comfortable using a variety of apps, whereas some bookkeepers prefer to work more old-fashioned. Having a bookkeeper work with your business who understands your needs and has the experience and knowledge to meet them makes a big difference. Furthermore, if a bookkeeper is on vacation or is ill, there are always backups who have an understanding of your file and can step in to ensure your deadlines are met.
Range of Experience
Many firms have an open concept layout that also helps with off-handed questions that may arise. LedgersOnline, for example, has a range of knowledgeable and experienced accountants and bookkeepers working within the office which allows for any client questions to be answered quickly and correctly. Clients can even phone the LedgersOnline Help Line to ask those puzzling financial questions.
Choosing a bookkeeper, whether it is a freelancer or a firm, is a long-term relationship and it is important to understand your requirements before you make a decision. As you can see, choosing the right fit for your business can be a difficult and time consuming process as each business is unique with their own distinct needs, goals, and requirements. When researching your options, keep in mind the future needs of your business, as well as the current requirements, and ensure that the bookkeeper is able to meet these expectations.
Learn more about LedgersOnline's bookkeeping services for small businesses: