If you’ve ever thought about hiring a bookkeeper but were ashamed of the state of your business books, then this post is for you. I will guide you step-by-step on how to prepare to work with a bookkeeper with confidence.
Why creative entrepreneurs choose to work with a bookkeeper
If you are like most creatives then you thrive in the land of nebulous creativity, inspiration and flow. Numbers, spreadsheets and tiny transactional detailed reported are unlikely to light you up. That’s okay! Let this be the permission you need to not need to do everything yourself in your business! The first thing you should outsource is something that: you dislike doing, takes up your valuable time and that by outsourcing you can positively impact your business. Starting by hiring and deciding to work with a bookkeeper is a great way to free up valuable time and create a better growth strategy in your business.
How to prepare to work with a bookkeeper: Step 1 – Gather your client/customer list
Making sure you have an accurate client/customer list is not something that’s probably super high on your to-do list, but it will help your bookkeeper tremendously. The more information you have for your client list the better but here are some key points to start with:
- Client name/contact email/phone and address (and potential alternate contact if for business)
- Business Name/Business address (if applicable)
- Client contract (if applicable) with dates of current and past contracts
- Payment method – is it an automatic invoice? Manual invoice? Does the client/customer just pay when they purchase something?
- Bonus points: purchase history
If you’ve never looked at this before and you use a payment processor, like Stripe or PayPal, you can usually run a report that will give you most of this information. If you use a client relationship management (CRM) tool like Dubsado or Honeybook, then chances are good you have the basics in there with perhaps some cleaning up to make it current.
How to prepare to work with a bookkeeper: Step 2 – Current product/services list
Next you want to make sure you have an accurate list of what you are currently offering in your business. Whether it’s physical products, online downloads, courses, photography packages or coaching programs a great bookkeeper will build out your product suite into your bookkeeping system so that all the payment transactions match and you have incredible statistical data at your fingertips!
The other reason to input your products and services as a database into your bookkeeping system is that you can track stock levels of physical and digital products. In Xero, for example, my bookkeeping system of choice, you can add both trackable and nontrackable items which can be used to monitor sales and trigger supply orders as well.
How to prepare to work with a bookkeeper: Step 3 – Get current
There are two ways to approach this when hiring a bookkeeper. If you are currently doing your books yourself and they are a mess you may want to discuss having your bookkeeper do a certain level of “clean-up” on your current system. This is usually something that will be billed as a separate add-on to the monthly bookkeeping package, for example. If you want to hire me for basic bookkeeping it may start at $444.
If you want me to clean-up your books for the last 7 months so that the whole year is current and accurate, I will quote you an additional price for that. Many bookkeepers quote clean-up either on a volume basis (how much there is to do) or as a flat fee per month of clean-up.
Option number two is to get current yourself with whatever system you are currently using. I find there is great benefit to doing some clean-up for my new clients as we quickly see long-term patterns emerge in their business that we can develop strategies with right away (as opposed to six months into working together). I also more quickly acclimate to their expenses, bills, transactions and flow in their business.
By and large, most clients choose to do some level of clean-up as a part of the initial transition.
How to prepare to work with a bookkeeper: Step 4 – Plan for your receipt capture
The best way to make sure your bookkeeper thinks you are the best client ever? Have a plan for your receipts! Your bookkeeper may be a source of inspiration here if they have a system, they prefer so it’s a great interview question to ask.
There are several systems that can help with receipt capture. Xero has an app that you can take pictures of receipts on your phone and it will upload to your account for matching with transactions. I am kind of obsessed with Hubdoc myself. I use it myself and with my clients because it pulls in all your regular bills, receipts and you can take pictures too and it will combine everything into one file for your bookkeeper (aka me) to see immediately for matching to your transactions.
This one thing will gum up your bookkeeping more than anything else. I know receipts are a pain, that’s why having a system that is ridiculously easy is key because those receipts are gold! If you can’t prove it, it didn’t occur…and you don’t want to mess with the IRS when it comes to proving your expenses. Believe me.
How to prepare to work with a bookkeeper: Step 5 – Know your goals
Look, your bookkeeper is likely going to be a whiz with reporting and all things numbers, but they won’t know which reports will be most helpful to you if you don’t know what your goals are. I personally believe that a bookkeeper should be running reports that are not only a general overview of your business but that are meaningful to you. If you are only getting general accounting reports that are not customized to your business…you are missing out on a key aspect of what a bookkeeper should be doing for your business.
A great bookkeeper wants to help translate all that data into usable statistics so that you can make informed decisions in your business. General reports are great. It’s like a health check-up. It’s great to know the general health of your business finances. Getting specific reports is like seeing a nutritionist, personal trainer or a chiropractor. It’s measuring and advising specifically in areas that are important to you. Reports specifically tailored to your business tell you where to tweak, optimize, focus marketing efforts, offer sales and more. When you are wanting to work with a bookkeeper they should be meeting your needs – not the other way around.
So, knowing your goals for your business if HUGE! Even if your only goal is to grow and scale a great bookkeeper can help you by seeing the areas of opportunity you may not see without the fine-toothed comb, they use going over your finances.
How to FIND a great bookkeeper
Well, first, if you are interested in bookkeeping and would like to work with me, you can fill out the inquiry form here. It’s the first step to getting started! I would love to talk with you about your business and how I might support you.