The Advantages of Virtual Bookkeeping

Virtual bookkeeping means freedom and efficiency; freedom from client visits and having your tools of the trade close at hand.

If there is one thing we learned from the 2020-21 Pandemic is that effective work can be done without a commute and travel.  We all became adept at using online communication to do our job and maintain relationships.  This, of course, includes providing bookkeeping services.

So, how is it done?

First, I’m assuming you are a trained bookkeeper with accounting software.  Although QuickBooks Online (QBO) isn’t the only software to use, it is one of the better ones that can be mastered as a QuickBooks Specialist.  It permits downloading transactions from the client’s bank account directly into the software so that you don’t need to rekey much of the data.  The software is even able to assign a category to common charges and income items.

Getting the source data and backup is probably the most complicated process.  There are a few things you can do:

1)      For income, as much as possible, the process should be computerized in a fashion that you can access.  If that’s not possible, a snapshot will work.

2)      For expenses, train the owners and anyone that works with invoices/credit card charges to send you a snapshot of any documents.  These pictures can be attached to the QuickBooks charge as backup.

3)      If you will be preparing the payments to vendors, have the invoices sent to your address or emailed to you.

Once all the information is entered into the accounting software, you can print all reports into a pdf document and email them, as an attachment, with a note of their contents, concluding with an invitation to call you if the client should have any questions.

Using a document management system to exchange documents and pictures, such as eFileCabinet will reduce paper and time.

Having an in-person meeting once a quarter is a nice touch, if practical.  This will enable you to sell your services, seek any recommendations for new clients, and refresh your professional relationship.

To learn more about how to start and run a successful virtual bookkeeping business, be sure to check out Universal Accounting’s Professional Bookkeeper program as well as the Virtual Bookkeepers Roadmap.

Providing Excellent Accounting Services

If you’re like most accounting professionals, you want to provide excellent accounting services to every client. If you don’t, you probably won’t be in business for long.

I once heard a speech by a man who I greatly admire. His name is Dallin H. Oaks and his talk was entitled “Good, Better, Best”. Although he was speaking of choosing the best activities when considering how to use our time, I feel the principle is appropriate here. Are you just a “good” accountant, a “better” accountant, or the “best” accountant for your clients?

Most people will answer, “I want to be the best accountant, but I only have so much time.” Certainly, time is important when evaluating what to do for a client. Yet, what if you could go from being a “good” accountant, to the “best” accountant in only ten minutes? Would it be worth it?

The key to providing excellent accounting services is to look forward, not just backward, with each client. When we do accounting, we are entering historical data to determine where our client’s been and what their present situation is. Most good accountants consider this their primary purpose and are satisfied simply handing over the financial statements and calling it finished.

Nevertheless, the most important thing we can do is assess where the client’s going, and warn of concerns, and share ideas for improvement even when the client’s business is doing well.

You can save time by limiting your assessment to the top three sources of income, and the top five expense categories. Run trend reports on each of these eight accounts for the past six accounting periods, and project those trends into the next two accounting periods to determine where they will be.

For the flat or dropping income accounts, consider geometric marketing ideas (see “In the Black”, Chapter 3) that will improve revenues. For any growing expense accounts, evaluate vendors and prices to make suggestions for decreasing expenses.

You will amaze yourself how easy and possible it is to go from good to your clients’ BEST accountant, in fact a Profit & Growth Expert.

Why is Bookkeeping Important?

The absence of bookkeeping in a business is like a road without signs because you’re likely to arrive at a different place than intended. Any large business learned the value of financial records produced by bookkeepers is crucial for proper management.

Bookkeeping is essential to every business for both financial and legal reasons. Without record keeping, it is difficult to get a business loan, and impossible to do taxes. Even more importantly, without the information that bookkeeping provides, wise decision-making is tricky and can lead to disastrous conditions.

There is a close correlation of success with those that realized the importance of bookkeeping and those that did not. Those that thought bookkeeping was an unnecessary luxury judged the success of their business by the amount of money in their bank account. Their thinking was “If I have money, I must be doing well.” That assumption, all too often, caused them to always be in the “fire-fighting” mode of management. Unfortunately, a lack of a bookkeeping system would end disastrously for the owner, with mortgages on their home, and bill-collectors hassling them. It even led to bankruptcy too many times.

Certainly, bookkeeping does not guarantee success. Nor is it all that is needed. Yet it leads us to information that can help us make well-informed decisions. Allen Bostrom, in his book “In the Black”, states “You hear a lot about the importance of making decisions based on data. What I have learned is that decisions should be based on wisdom, not necessarily data alone.” He goes on by describing the Wisdom Pyramid which is a triangular shape with “Data” at the bottom and topped by “Wisdom”. In other words, data leads to information, information leads to knowledge, and knowledge leads to wisdom.

In summary, the difference between achieving entrepreneurial dreams and disaster for a small business owner is often based on their appreciation or lack of appreciation for the information coming from a bookkeeping system.

10 Reasons to Start a Solo Bookkeeping & Tax Business

Are you thinking about starting a tax services or solo bookkeeping business of your own? The time is right for entrepreneurs with these kinds of skills. Here are some of the reasons an accounting-related startup makes sense.

Clients Are Plentiful
No matter what niche of the wide field of accountancy you choose to specialize in, you will not be at a loss for customers. In every kind of economy, people who can keep accurate financial records, prepare individual or commercial taxes, or offer an eclectic menu of services are in high demand. The trick is deciding where your skills lie and what you enjoy doing. This is where solo bookkeeping comes in.

You Can Earn a Degree While Working
When you run a one-person solo bookkeeping enterprise, you make your own schedule. That means it’s much easier to earn a college degree even while working full-time. Many solo bookkeeping and tax practitioners use weekends and evenings for taking online or in-person courses, and pay all the expenses with a student loan from a private lender. Tuition and fees can add up, even if you’re just needing to add an extra year of credits to sit for the CPA exam. Private lenders offer competitive rates and their online applications easy to fill out.

Business is Year-Round
Because many individuals file their returns in April every year, there’s a misconception that the entire field of accounting is highly seasonal. Nothing could be more inaccurate. For example, among entrepreneurs, most filing is a quarterly affair. Many other in-demand services are enjoying year-round demand, like bookkeeping, tax planning, preparation of financial reports, loan applications, and countless more. Even the personal taxation season is much longer than it used to be in the days when the majority of citizens waited until the last minute to transmit their returns. In the digital age, when online filing is simple and quick, and when most working adults receive W-2s electronically, the busy season for preparers now runs for nearly four full months.

You Can Specialize in Tax Resolution
For better or worse, there are thousands of individuals and businesses that are facing huge bills from the IRS. Sometimes, their best hope is to get an OIC (offer in compromise) or one of several other settlements that prevents payment of the entire amount owed. This niche of the taxation services sector is highly specialized but also quite lucrative for practitioners who want to hone in on a narrow field of operation. And because there’s never a shortage who owe large sums in back taxes and penalties, accountants who do resolution work rarely have difficulty keeping their schedules full.

Adding EA and CPA Credentials Will Expand Your Clientele
If your business card carries an EA (enrolled agent) or CPA (certified public accountant) designation, clients will notice. Even though the EA designation is newer and not well-known to individuals, the letters are familiar in the world of small businesses. Having both credentials prove to prospective clients that you are adept in the wide field of accounting but have special expertise in preparing tax returns such as a Professional Tax Preparer (PTP) and/or Professional Bookkeeper (PB).

Most Entrepreneurs Avoid Taxes and Bookkeeping
Except for the occasional startup or small business owner who majored in accounting, few entrepreneurs want anything to do with filing tax returns, keeping books, or installing purpose-designed software for the job. Like legal, payroll, and security functions, most small business owners prefer to hire someone else to take care of their monthly books, maintain tax records, and handle core accounting functions. That’s one of the central reasons that accounting service providers of all kinds have done well as solo operators and small partnerships for more than a century. It’s just a fact of human nature that people who are good at sales, management, and entrepreneurship don’t want to be bothered with number crunching.

You Have Full Control
As an owner, you make all the key decisions about what kind of clients to seek out, how many hours to work, what combination of tax, bookkeeping, and other services you wish to provide. If you choose to take on a partner, that too is your decision, as is the choice of office location, what software programs to use, and what functions to outsource. Solo owners have 100 percent control of the operation, which is one of the most attractive aspects of working alone for the vast majority of people who choose to do so. As a solopreneur (a solo bookkeeper), you dictate who to work for and when, and what to charge.

Long-Term Industry Prospects Are Excellent
Unlike many other entrepreneurial business sectors, taxation-related services will be in high demand for many years to come. No matter which political party is in power, the constant tax law changes, amendments, and enhancements mean that the entire body of the legislative code is not static. Individuals and small business owners need professional guidance and are willing to pay for the best advice possible.

You Can Outsource Tax Season Overload
One challenge many new owners face is the deluge of work that appears from early January through mid-April. How best to handle tax season if you run a one-person shop and manage perfectly well the rest of the year? Often, the most effective approach is to hire as many temp workers as needed. Or, you can simply outsource your overload to a local firm that accepts batch jobs during the busiest months of the year. The main thing is to be prepared for several weeks of intense work and identify temps or outsource assistance before the filing wave hits.

Office Expenses Are Minimal
If this is your first foray into solopreneurship, it’s important to know that you can handle a sizeable number of clients from a bare-bones office setup. It’s fully up to you whether that means renting a small office or operating from home. In fact, for many one-person-shop bookkeepers and tax specialists, rent isn’t even close to being the primary expense. Expect to spend more, especially during the first year, on software, new computers and peripherals, and advertising. Of course, if working alone is not something you enjoy, or if you see an advantage in teaming up with a partner, consider other options besides going it alone. But, of all the business professions, accounting is perhaps the one that most readily lends itself to a solitary pursuit of profits.

Don’t wait, get started now on your journey.

When is an Accounting Firm needed?

The label “Accounting Firm” applies to three different service companies: 1) CPA Firm, 2) Tax Preparation Firm, and 3) Bookkeeping Firm. Each is important in the right conditions, and in some cases legally required. For instance, publicly traded companies must seek the services of a CPA accounting firm for financial audits.

Let’s look at each type of accounting firm separately and understand when they are most critical.

CPA Firm

As noted above, publicly traded companies are required to have annual audits by a CPA accounting firm. For the largest CPA firms, audits are their bread-and-butter income. In some companies and organizations, licensed auditors might spend thousands of billable hours sampling and testing the company’s accounting system to ensure proper controls are in place and that their financial records represent the company fairly. The CPA firm turns out an audit report at the end of the process that is
then included in the company’s annual report.

There are relatively few large CPA firms. Most CPA Accounting firms are smaller one-office firms led by one to three CPA’s that provide services to smaller companies. These services might include audits of small publicly traded companies, management consulting, and business tax preparation services.

Typically, they will not do bookkeeping and tax preparation, except for their business clients. In those cases where they do offer tax preparation for individuals, they charge a premium in my experience.

Tax Preparation Firm

Although tax preparation is often thought of as a CPA skill, most Certified Public Accountants do not prepare taxes, other than their own, perhaps. Likewise, very few tax preparers are CPA’s. Instead, most tax preparers start by doing their own taxes, enjoying it, then doing taxes for friends and family. Eventually, they decided to start offering it for a fee and either join up with a tax preparation firm or hang out their own shingle.

There are several large tax preparation firms, the largest being H&R Block. These firms hire seasonal workers and will provide some training at the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, most tax prep firms are small single practitioner accounting firms that specialize in income tax preparation for individuals. Most tax professionals work during tax season. If they are successful and watch their spending, they may earn enough during those few short months (January to April) to enjoy vacationing the rest of the year. Some tax preparers will offer bookkeeping during their slow seasons.

Bookkeeping Firm

These are typically small, privately owned accounting firms that provide bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses (less than 50 employees). Often, they operate from the accountant’s home, and they may serve up to a dozen clients. They will pick up transaction detail from the client monthly or quarterly and provide financial statements on the same schedule. Nearly every bookkeeping firm will also provide full payroll servicing.

A full-service bookkeeping firm will also provide management consulting including helping the owner interpret the financial statements and provide suggestions for improving financial wealth and profitability. If trained in business tax forms, these professionals will offer tax preparation services in addition to their writeup services.

Learn more about what you can do to have your own successful accounting firm and the opportunities available in your area HERE.

If you also listen to podcasts, consider “Building the Premier Accounting Firm”!

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