10 questions to ask before hiring a freelance bookkeeper

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If your business is growing its operations, you will quickly notice that you need a bookkeeper. However, the cost of employing one permanently is also expensive. The problem is that many business owners do not know what to ask when hiring a bookkeeper and making sure they are qualified, so they tend to go with recommendations from other business owners and family. While this is not a bad idea, it poses a major risk for your business because you do not actually know what is best for it – and the person you hire might be a bad choice anyway.

Therefore, rather than rushing through the process, our ten questions should give you a basic idea of what you need to look for in order to make the best decision. 

1. What is your scope of bookkeeping tasks?

While this sounds like a very obvious question, the reality is that different bookkeepers offer different services – so it is among the most important questions to answer. Your own requirements will also vary, as they depend on your own skills, as well as the accountant’s scope of work.

There are bookkeepers who are very experienced in the field and have extensive knowledge of management accounting, while others can only handle data entry. Therefore, consider who will accomplish tasks such as filing of sales tax, reconciliation of bank transactions and their frequency (monthly, daily, or weekly), checking whether the data entries are accurate, Payment of suppliers and following up of debtors, preparing the reports and interpreting them, and preparing cash flow forecasts.

2. Do they have certification?

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Other than experience, the certification of bookkeepers varies widely – some have a CPA or ACCA background, while others have accounting degrees or diplomas. These will also vary according to your country’s accountancy requirements, so if you are unsure, check the qualifications of the board of accountants.

When hiring the freelance bookkeeper, ask them about their own qualifications and whether they have membership of the national Accountants board, which allows them to file sales taxes in your country. In addition, know whether they are specialists in a certain accounting discipline, or whether they are generalists – this will determine what they can and cannot do.

3. Their expertise

You do not want your bookkeeper to make a mess of your accounts, and you also want them to communicate easily. This is even more important if you do not have bookkeeping knowledge, because you may find it challenging to know the levels of your bookkeeper’s expertise. Make sure they are good communicators and can correct their mistakes – if you are unsure, ask previous clients they have worked with.

4. Their familiarity with your industry

If the potential bookkeeper does not know your industry, they might experience a learning curve. Ensure you ask if they have or had similar clients, and ask them if they have some common bookkeeping problems, as well as their methods of resolution.

5. Their communication

This is particularly essential in the early stages of working with your bookkeeper. They are also working alongside your accounting team, so you will need someone that can say what they need to do, raise queries when something is wrong, and tell you clearly what is happening with the accounts of the business. 

It is also important to know how they communicate with their clients, either through email or phone. If your preference is through phone, then the bookkeeper needs to have phone support, and the same goes for emails.

6. Your expectations during response and delivery times

It is important to know your own expectations, and the bookkeeper to know what you expect, rather than being surprised that they do not adhere to the set schedule you have.

7. Are you hiring them through a bookkeeping business or directly?

If you are working directly with them, then they need to have a backup plan, such as when they fall sick. Working with an individual who does freelance bookkeeping jobs is better in most cases because it spreads the risks.

8. The protection of the clients 

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You need to trust the bookkeeper, because they will handle your financial data. The best bookkeepers will always have control measures and segregation of duties, so that there is proof checking, accuracy, and confidentiality of data.

9. The pricing of the service

This will depend on your budget, but you need to know whether the bookkeeper charges per hour, per day, or whether they have a set monthly fee. This should also go along with what they include in their rates.

10. The ownership of the data

Many bookkeeping organizations process the work on their data files, and this can save you the cost of buying it. However, you will need to know who owns the files and how you can transfer them to your custody, in order to save you problems in the future.

Hiring the right bookkeeper requires you to know what you want, as well as finding someone that fits the criteria and has passion for their job – these questions will help you to know what you are getting.