Chances are that you started your small business because you are passionate about what you do, but starting a business is hard because you have to do a lot of things besides provide a great service or product. You suddenly have to add advertising, marketing, management, and finances to your list of responsibilities.
One way to avoid getting completely overwhelmed by all of the new responsibilities is to learn to delegate business critical responsibilities that you aren’t going to be able to do on your own. Depending on your background, finding an online bookkeeping service might end up being toward the top of your list right next to building a website and getting access to a business line of credit.
By finding a solid, invested bookkeeper that can help you keep detailed financial records, make sure vendor payments are on time, and help you get ready for year end tax filing. If categorizing your expenses or bank reconciliation are new terms for you, it’s probably best to leave bookkeeping to the experts.
So, how do you find the perfect online bookkeeping company for your business? Here’s five things to consider when you’re evaluating the many online bookkeeping services that are out there.
- What’s the cost every month?
There is a pretty decent range in prices when it comes to online bookkeeping services, so it’s important to compare. However, comparing prices can get tricky. It’s not always immediately apparent what you get for each price level.
It’s best to go over all the details on the phone with a bookkeeper before pulling the trigger on a bookkeeping service. Talking directly to a representative can help you understand exactly what the overall charges are going to be, so you’re not surprised by it later.
- What do you get for that monthly charge?
Most online accounting software companies have tiered plans that are explained on their pricing pages. Each tier will have a price and a list of services below it—the more services, the higher the price.
Luckily, that makes it much easier to compare pricing. But to really be able to evaluate what the services cost you, you need to look at exactly what services are offered with each plan.
One online bookkeeping company may be cheaper, but they may only give you access to the software that you still have to manage yourself. Another one may be more expensive, but gives you access to twice as many services as the cheaper one.
A lot of small business owners are looking for a bookkeeper to manage all of their finances, but a lot of bookkeeping services like QuickBooks Online or Freshbooks will give you accounting software to make it easier for you to do the work for yourself rather than giving you a personal bookkeeper to do the work for you.
If you’re looking for a personal online bookkeeper to manage everything for you, ZipBooks and Bench are good places to start.
For $125 a month, ZipBooks gives you
- A personal bookkeeper that will be dedicated to knowing the ins and outs of your business’s finances
- ZipBooks’ award-winning accounting, invoicing, and time tracking software
- Monthly bookkeeping and financial statements
- Forward-thinking bookkeeping expert advice
- Online chat for bookkeeping support
For $135 a month, Bench gives you
- A team of bookkeepers that help you rather than one person specifically dedicated to your business
- Accurate financial statements every month
- Organized year financials
- Tax time support
However, this only applies to up to 5 accounts. The price goes up if you need more accounts or add-ons.
- Can your bookkeeping service handle the way you do your books?
Every company has its own unique needs, so your bookkeeping service shouldn’t be an inflexible, formulaic, one-size-fits-all solution. You need a bookkeeper that will get to know your company work with the unique brand and style you’ve developed.
For example, if you tend to do accrual accounting for your company, but the bookkeeping service you are evaluating only offers cash-based accounting, you aren’t going to have a very good experience. You will have to adapt to an entirely new way to handle your financials, which is a lot more work than it might be worth.
If you have non-cash assets that depreciate over time or have any long-term liabilities, you should insist on accrual accounting because cash-based accounting isn’t going to capture the true value of your company.
- Where is your bookkeeping service located?
If you are in the US, you should to be sure to get a bookkeeper that is also in the US. US-based bookkeepers will know much more concerning the ins and outs of tax regulations surrounding your business. This will make a huge difference when it comes to tax season, which could be an accounting nightmare if not handled correctly.
There are also some forms and end of year tax requirements, like if you have 1099 contractor forms that you need to send out, that can be country specific.
- What is the support going to be like?
Having a personal online bookkeeper is practically worthless if you can’t reach him or her when you need questions answered or if you encounter any problems.
For instance, if your business hours are irregular, you still need to have some kind of support. Find a bookkeeping service that offers you support whenever you need it. Look for a company that has email, chat and phone support. Your bookkeeping service should work the way you do.
Also, one of the benefits of having a personal bookkeeper is that you can develop a trusting relationship with them. They can get to know your company well enough to give you personalized expert advice to help you make the best financial decisions you can.