How to Find the Right Bookkeeper
So you've decided you need to hire a bookkeeper. You've looked around, probably found a dozen potential candidates and now you need to decide which one to use. But how do you narrow down the list? Here are a few things to bear in mind:
First, make sure they're operating legally. Anyone offering services relating to finance has to be supervised under Money Laundering Regulations, and this will most likely be stated on their website along with the governing body providing the supervision, possibly alongside a Practice Licence number. This is usually a professional organisation they are a member of, such as the IAB (International Association of Bookkeepers), ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) or AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) or it may be HMRC.
Another reason to employ a bookkeeper who is registered with a professional organisation is their commitment to Continued Professional Development, or CPD. This is a condition of their practice licence, so they will be up to date with any new and upcoming legislation changes, and will regularly test out new technology and software.
Price is obviously an important factor in choosing any service provider, but as with anything else, you should probably rule out anyone that appears far cheaper than others unless the price difference is down to a temporary special offer. There are always a few exceptions, but in general you do get what you pay for, so picking the person who charges half as much as everyone else is a bit of a gamble. Bookkeepers spend time and money earning professional qualifications, so when considering prices, also remember you're paying for their experience and expertise as well as their time.
Is there a bookkeeper who specialises in your particular field? Many bookkeepers will do just this, either because they have extensive experience working in a specific industry, or maybe because of a personal interest (for example, photography or crafting) that gives them a good insight into how the business will run, and therefore how the accounts will work.
Have a look at their online presence. Do they have business pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? Do their posts and interactions make you want to connect with them? The way businesses conduct themselves on social media can be a good indicator of what they will be like to work with, so if you find yourself warming to them online, chances are you are going to work well together.
If possible, have a meeting with the bookkeeper before you make a firm commitment. They may tick all the boxes on paper and online, but you're potentially going to be working with them for years, so you want to be sure you're going to get along with each other. Most will come and see you at your place of business, without charging you or placing you under any obligation to sign up for their services, so if you think you need to see a couple of people before you make your final choice, then do so, and don't be afraid to say you're shopping around - your future bookkeeper will appreciate your honesty.