When hiring a virtual bookkeeping service for your business, you have to understand which accounting tasks you want to outsource now and which services you might need when your business scales. Most importantly, you have to shop around and evaluate your options based on different factors, such as a bookkeeper’s fees, the accounting software they use, and how they will communicate with you to work on your books.
Step 1: Determine Which Services You Currently Need
First, think about how much work you want to do yourself and what can be outsourced easily based on your situation. For instance, if you’re a freelancer or sole proprietor, you might need to outsource tax filing and catch-up bookkeeping to a company like Bench or check out our guide to the best online bookkeeping services for freelancers. If you’re a medium-sized or large company needing to outsource payroll, you might consider Bookkeeper360.
Step 2: Decide Which Services You Might Need in the Future
As your business grows, so will its needs, and you don’t want to have to change your bookkeeper when you scale. That’s why it’s important to identify a bookkeeper or a company that can grow with you, such as Bookkeeper.com, which offers full-service bookkeeping at flexible plans based on the size and needs of your business. Services that you may find yourself needing in the future include payroll and human resources (HR) management, tax filing and advisory services, and chief financial officer (CFO) advisory services.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Prospective Virtual Bookkeepers
Once you understand what you need exactly, it’s time to do your research and talk to your prospective virtual bookkeepers. To narrow your options down, you must consider important factors, including the following:
- Meetings: Some online bookkeepers allow you to schedule meetings on a monthly basis, while others allow you to schedule as often as necessary. Communication can be as simple as a phone call or as elaborate as a one-way video conference with the ability to screen-share your documents.
- Dedicated bookkeeper: Decide whether it’s important to have a dedicated bookkeeper―so that you can always talk to the same person.
- Software: Know which accounting software your prospective bookkeeper uses. Review the most popular small business accounting software to see which program suits your needs.
- Online portal: Ask your prospective bookkeeper if they use an online portal. It can be a valuable way to communicate with them, see their ongoing task list, schedule future appointments, and share private documents.
- Price: Some virtual bookkeepers offer the option of paying for services on an as-needed basis, whereas others let you customize your services by paying an additional hourly rate.
We have compiled the best online bookkeeping services to help you decide which fits your needs.
Step 4: Preview Your Top Choice, Then Hire
Once you have selected your top choice, you should preview the fit for your business with either a free trial or demonstration. Some virtual bookkeeping services provide a short-term contract, which allows you to change your mind without losing a large financial investment.
Once you sign up, you’ll begin the onboarding process. You may be required to provide your bank account statements or software file to set up your account, but if you have elected to have a dedicated bookkeeper, then they should be able to assist with that.
How Can a Virtual Bookkeeper Help Your Business?
Virtual bookkeeping services are often less expensive than hiring a local bookkeeper. Because they work online, they tend to be very tech-savvy and can view and adjust your books with very little effort from you. Unlike local bookkeepers who may not take advantage of cloud-based accounting software, a virtual bookkeeper will never ask you to provide them with paper reports, save digital backups for them, and post your own adjusting journal entries.
Typical Services Provided by Virtual Bookkeeping Companies
- Account reconciliation: One of the most common services that virtual bookkeeping companies provide is account reconciliation and the performance of a month-end close, ensuring that your books are accurate.
- Invoicing customers: Often available as an add-on service, many companies will take on the task of billing your customers for you.
- Paying bills: Bill pay services are also provided by online bookkeeping services for an additional fee, with the ability to process payments via automated clearing house (ACH) or check.
- Reports: The complexity of financial reports provided varies, from a basic profit and loss (P&L) statement to reports that are customized for your industry.
- Tax management: Many online bookkeeping firms also provide tax services, including tax preparation, filing, and advice.
- CFO advisory services: Growing startups and other venture-backed companies may be interested in solutions such as CFO advisory or controller services.
Be sure to check out our top-recommended online bookkeeping services to find the provider that fits the bill.
Virtual Bookkeepers vs Traditional Local Bookkeepers
Traditional Local Bookkeeper
Telephone or online
Accountant has remote access to your books
Provide them paper reports or a digital backup of your books
Accounting Software Used
Cloud-based software, such as QuickBooks Online
Locally installed software, such as QuickBooks Desktop
Email, phone, and online tools, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts
Email, phone, and in-person meetings
Of course, not all local bookkeepers are strictly traditional, and many will likely use some of the modern tools of the virtual bookkeeper, such as Zoom meetings and cloud-based accounting software.
You need to determine exactly what bookkeeping assistance you need, now and in the future, before shopping for an online bookkeeping service. Once you’ve compiled a list of bookkeepers that meet your needs, you should consider other factors, such as the service’s price and the type of communication available.