Managing your finances is one of the most important aspects of running a business — but it’s also one of the most tedious and time consuming. Worse, you cannot afford to make a single, even tiny, mistake. And when you’re tired from all your other work or in a rush just to get bookkeeping out of the way, mistakes are much more likely.
As a small business owner, hiring accounting staff will be out of your budget. However, you do have the option to hire a virtual assistant for bookkeeping.
Benefits of an Bookkeeping Virtual Assistant
Unsure that an accounting virtual assistant would be the right decision for you? Consider these benefits.
Free Up Your Schedule
The main benefit for most small business owners is the chance to devote much more time to key aspects of the business. Not only are these activities a better use of your time, they’re also much more interesting. Spending your time on activities you enjoy may provide you with the motivation you need, especially during the toughest years of running a business.
Save Money in the Long Term
It may seem like hiring an accounting virtual assistant will be another expense for your company, but there’s a good chance you’ll actually save money in the long term. After all, the VA will free up your time and allow you to focus on more lucrative work.
Besides, there’s no need for hiring a VA to be expensive, especially if you hire from abroad. In fact, even if you contract a highly-qualified virtual assistant from the U.S., you’ll spend much less than you would hiring a full-time employee.
Pay Just the Hours You Need
When you contract a VA, you only pay for the hours you need. There’s no minimum amount to start a contract. Plus, if you’re low on cash one week, you may be able to delay some of the work until the following week. Similarly, if you have extra work, you can also ask your VA if it would be possible to increase the contract by a few hours.
However you decide to work with your VA, you’ll only ever pay for hours worked. No money ever goes toward benefits, office space, and other expenses.
Understand Your Financial Situation
When you hire an experienced accounting virtual assistant, your VA may well have ideas on how to better categorize your expenses and accounts. This will help you manage and understand finances for better, faster decision making.
In fact, if you lack a basic knowledge of finances, money management could be the downfall of your business. A bookkeeping virtual assistant will provide you with the tools and advice you need to keep your business profitable and maintain a positive cashflow at all times.
Monitor Income Sources
Better organized finances will show you the value each of your clients is bringing your business. This will help you focus your efforts on the most profitable areas.
What Tasks Can You Outsource to an Accounting Virtual Assistant?
Virtual assistants can handle just about any task you can think of related to accounting and bookkeeping.
Your VA will manage all your financial documentation. This can include tedious tasks like preparing balance sheets, reconciling your bank and credit card statements, and checking records for accuracy. Other activities may require more financial knowledge, such as creating profit and loss (P&L) statements.
At the end of every month, your virtual assistant will reconcile your finances. This will ensure that the numbers recorded in your accounting software are the same as those on your bank statements. If there are any discrepancies, your virtual assistant will make the necessary corrections, which could include deleting duplicate entries or researching the reason for the disparity. Your VA will also check that everything is in the right category.
Then, at the end of the year, your virtual assistant will go back and check everything once again and create a year-end report. Your VA may also send forms to your accountant, schedule a meeting with you to discuss any causes for concern, and help you prepare for the year ahead.
Paying Bills and Expenses
Forgetting a bill can result in late fees (an unnecessary expense for your business) and even hurt your credit score. A virtual assistant will ensure that you always pay your bills on time, including loans, insurance premiums, and utility bills. You can also use a VA to manage payroll, pay contractors, and reimburse employees for business expenses.
Invoices and General Ledgers
A virtual assistant can prepare and then mail invoices to your customers, helping you to receive payment for services on time. If a customer is late paying, your VA can send reminders or call the customer for you.
You can also ask your accounting virtual assistant to maintain your general ledger. This will mean that there’s no need for you to keep track of anything, but you’ll always be working from current data.
Small business owners often find that their calendar is suddenly overwhelmed as tax season approaches. Finding an accounting virtual assistant who can prepare your quarterly or annual taxes will take off some of the pressure. In fact, if you contract a VA who specializes in tax accounting, your virtual assistant can also submit your sales taxes, manage your taxable accounts, and do anything else related to taxes.
How to Find the Right Bookkeeping Virtual Assistant
Now you know why you would want to contract an accounting virtual assistant and what a VA can do for you, all that’s left is to learn how to find the perfect hire.
1. Know What Tasks You Need
Some VAs carry out a wide range of bookkeeping activities, whereas others specialize in just one or two areas. It’s important to decide what aspects of bookkeeping you want to outsource beforehand. This will allow you to search for candidates with the right skill set and experience.
2. Choose Someone Familiar with Your Industry
Bookkeeping practices and processes can vary widely according to industry. Ideally, you’ll find someone who has experience in your sector.
3. Hire a Virtual Assistant You Can Trust
Financial information is extremely sensitive. It’s crucial you find someone you can trust to keep your data secure. A confidentiality agreement is important, as is giving your accounting virtual assistant only as much access to accounts as necessary. Furthermore, you should do regular checks on your VA’s work.
However, the top way to avoid problems from the start is to find someone with great references from previous clients. If you decide to go through a virtual assistant agency, look at references for the agency as a whole. You can rely on a reputable agency to vet their bookkeeping virtual assistants thoroughly.
4. Ask About Software Knowledge
If you’re already using accounting software, it will be inconvenient to change to another program just to suit your virtual assistant. For this reason, it’s best to choose a VA who has experience with the software you’re using. This will mean you can start working together with minimal onboarding.
Even better is if the virtual assistant can demonstrate knowledge of other tech and software, particularly new systems. Your VA may be able to give you advice on how you can improve your current operations to become more efficient.
5. Discuss Availability
As you’re contracting a virtual assistant rather than hiring a full-time worker, you cannot expect your VA to be available at any time during the business day. Most VAs work with multiple clients or do bookkeeping as a side gig. You need to be clear about how many hours you expect your virtual assistant to work.
If your workload increases as your business grows, you may need to switch to an accounting virtual assistant who has more availability or even hire a second VA. The latter is a particularly good option if you want to hire specialists for different tasks.
6. Assess Attention to Detail
Accuracy is more important in bookkeeping than in almost any other task. Before hiring a VA, it’s a good idea to run a test that will assess the virtual assistant’s eye for detail and ability to correct errors.
Top bookkeeping virtual assistants also have some kind of qualification. They may be certified by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or hold a license with the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. Some even have an associate’s degree in bookkeeping or accounting. Any of these qualifications show that the VA has more skills than the average accounting virtual assistant. The downside, of course, is that the VA will probably charge a higher rate.
If running your business has become more stressful than enjoyable due to the sheer number of mundane tasks like bookkeeping, an accounting virtual assistant could be the solution to your problems. You’ll finally have time to focus on your core business activities without needing to work into the night. In fact, eliminating bookkeeping tasks from your schedule may well help you clear your mind, allowing you to start developing the ideas that will take your business to the next level.