Small Business Guides

How to hire the right bookkeeper

5 min read

Every business needs a bookkeeper. A good one will take care of the day-to-day accounting work and keep your business on track financially. But how do you hire the right bookkeeper?

Helping you with the numbers

As soon as you start a business, you have to deal with numbers. Every business, no matter how small, must keep a record of its every transaction. That includes sales, expenses, salary payments – in fact every movement of money into and out of your business.

Although it's possible to do this yourself, most entrepreneurs aren't trained in bookkeeping. So it's common for businesses to outsource this everyday work.

In this guide we'll explain why hiring a bookkeeper is a great idea, or even an essential part of doing business. Then we'll look at how you can hire the right bookkeeper for your business.

Three reasons why you need a bookkeeper

If you're just starting out in business, you might think you don't need someone to look after the books. Perhaps you feel that it's enough to let your accountant sort out the numbers once a quarter or once a year. But there are good reasons for hiring a bookkeeper. Here are three of them:

  1. They save you time
    Unless you already know a lot about bookkeeping, it's unwise to take on this work yourself. Processing receipts, expenses and payments is only part of the work. They know how to assign expenses to particular clients. They’ll take all the numbers, enter them into your accounting software, and make sense of them. A good bookkeeper knows how transactions should be treated to provide useful business reports. It's a skilled job, and your bookkeeper will do it much more efficiently than you can.
  2. They understand your business
    Because they deal with the day-to-day accounts, bookkeepers have a deep insight into your company's finances. By sharing this insight with you, they can help you work out where your business should be going. They can flag any issues in time for you to do something about them. A good bookkeeper watches over your finances and helps you steer clear of trouble.
  3. They help manage your cashflow
    Accountants provide a valuable service, particularly when it comes to strategic advice, annual returns, and tax issues. But they don’t usually see your accounts every day. A good bookkeeper will keep a close eye on your accounts on a regular basis. This will help keep your cashflow under control, which is vital for business growth.

Understand what you need

Hiring a bookkeeper is like hiring any other professional. First you need to understand your own requirements. Only then can you identify people who will suit the role. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What type of business do you run?
    For example, manufacturing businesses have different bookkeeping requirements to service or retail companies.
  • How many transactions do you make on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?
    This will help determine how much bookkeeping time will be required.
  • Which accounting software do you use?
    It helps if you're using online accounting software. Then your bookkeeper can share data securely with you at any time.
  • Do you require credit control, payroll services or debt collection services to help you get paid faster?
    Some bookkeeping companies can handle chasing up the money customers owe you, at a cost.
  • What are your key dates?
    Your key dates will include payroll days, tax return deadlines and scheduled meetings with your accountant. You'll want your accounts to be accurate and up to date before each of these dates. A key date also revolves around business performance reports. Ask the bookkeeper if they review reports every month to see how the business is performing. One example is a timely and accurate Profit and Loss report.
Every business needs a bookkeeper. A good one will take care of the day-to-day accounting work and keep your business on track financially.

Five top tips for finding a bookkeeper

There are plenty of bookkeeping services available. These tips will help you narrow down your choices.

  1. Think about whether you want a consultant or a firm?
    Bookkeepers often work independently, so they may have several clients at a time. You might choose to hire an independent consultant or a bookkeeping firm. If your business is large enough, you may even hire a full-time employee. There's no right or wrong approach – it depends on the size and needs of your business.
  2. Location, location, location – decide if it’s important
    With online accounting software you can share access to your accounts data remotely. But you may still want to meet your bookkeeper in person from time to time. Decide how important this is to you, and adjust your search accordingly.
  3. Make use of your social networks
    Use online social networks, especially LinkedIn, to find bookkeeping professionals. It's great if they've been recommended by your friends or acquaintances. Talk to local chambers of commerce and business advisors too. They will probably know someone suitable.
  4. Look for experience
    Accountants need professional qualifications before they can legally do accounting work. Bookkeeping doesn't have the same restrictions, but certification is available. It’s also worth checking if they are part of a professional governing body like a bookkeepers association. Look for experience and a substantial number of past clients – preferably ones in the same field of business as you. Talk to some of those clients if you can, as they'll give you useful information.
  5. Choose the right person
    Talk to as many people or firms as you need to. Interview them twice if necessary, and be sure to check their references and qualifications. It's also important to think about personality and culture fit. Your chosen bookkeeper will be communicating a lot with you and your staff, even if they aren't employed full-time. It pays to hire someone who works well in your environment. Trust your instincts here, and hire someone who is friendly, helpful, and above all, keen.

Your financial co-pilot

Bookkeepers create order out of chaos. They take all the numbers, receipts, bills and other accounts data that flows through your business. They funnel it all into your accounting software – into the right reports and the right account.

They turn all this data into meaningful financial information. It will all be in the correct place, properly filed and organised. This can be used to give you an immediate view of the health of your business.

A good bookkeeping partner will be with you every step of the way as your business grows. So it pays to take your time and make sure you hire the right one.