When to Hire a Bookkeeper or Accountant
Entrepreneurs thrive on a DIY mentality: Do everything you can yourself and don’t pay for anything new until you have absolutely have to. It’s especially difficult to justify hiring financial help like a bookkeeper.
With user-friendly software such as QuickBooks available, many business owners feel they should be able to do keep their records on their own, even as they wrestle with finding the time and wonder if they’re doing things correctly.
Deciding about “hiring a bookkeeper is something I struggle with all the time,” is a common statement we here. While basic bookkeeping may seem simple, it takes you away from working on your business. Meanwhile, your accounting and tax planning will become only more complicated.
Entrepreneurs who hire accounting help usually discover they weren’t doing nearly as well on their own as they thought they were.
So what are a small-business owner’s options for professional help with financial tasks? Here is a primer:
Do I Need a Bookkeeper or an Accountant?
Actually it’s a trick question. You may need both.
Consider the example of building a house. You need to hire both a carpenter and an architect when building a house.
An accountant can analyze the big picture of your financial situation and offer strategic advice. He or she produces key financial documents, such as a profit-and-loss statement, if needed, and files a company’s taxes.
After tax season is over, an accountant can also act as an outsourced chief financial officer, advising an entrepreneur on financial strategies, such as whether to secure a line of credit against receivables when introducing new products.
In contrast, a bookkeeper does the day-to-day hands-on tasks: making sure new employees file all the right paperwork for the company’s payroll, submitting invoices (promptly) and following up on them, and paying the bills. The bookkeeper also tracks company expenses and can assure that every cost has been entered — and recorded correctly — into software like QuickBooks so that the business is ready for tax time along with filing any other reporting to, say, creditors or investors.
“Knowledge is power,” even when it comes to the small details. If you don’t have a bookkeeper, you’re probably not being as strategic as you could be in how you spend your money.
So when to bring in a bookkeeper?
The rates for hiring a bookkeeper on a part-time basis in the U.S. can range from $15 to $60 an hour, depending on location, the workload and whether work is done at the company’s office or from home.
When to Hire a Staff Accountant or Bookkeeper
Many small entrepreneurs can probably stick to outsourcing accounting or bookkeeping services for quite some time. The typical service business can often outsource its chief financial officer tasks and bookkeeping until its revenues rises well above the $1 million mark — or until it has about 30 employees. Until then, most businesses usually don’t have enough work to keep a full-timer busy every day.
It’s time to hire full-time help, though, when you’re calling your accountant often enough that you wish he or she were in the office all the time. Bring in a full-time bookkeeper when your part-timer is spending two or three full days in the office and still falling behind.
Most new business owners find a staffing solution somewhere along the continuum that ranges from trying to go it alone and paying for full-time help.