Throughout the past decade, there has been a drastic shift in how bookkeepers and accountants not only perform their work, but add value to their clients. Online accounting applications such as QuickBooks Online and Xero have become a norm in the industry and have allowed for firms to have the ability to become virtual bookkeepers, meaning they are able to telecommute and work with clients virtually, instead of physically working from a client's office.
There are many benefits that come from this new way of working, including growing your firm's geographical reach, and reducing time and costs associated with travel. There are also a number of applications and tools that are helpful in ensuring this process is carried out properly.
We wrote an article outlining some of the benefits of becoming a virtual bookkeeper, and since its release, we have had a number of readers asking us for advice in terms of what applications to use, and what else do they need to know about becoming a virtual bookkeeper. Our team here at LedgerDocs has had the ability to work with a number of firms that have been through this process, and have come up with 3 main aspects that you should take into consideration:
Choosing an Accounting Application
With the increase in recent cloud-based accounting applications, it is easy for bookkeepers and accountants to quickly set-up a virtual firm with very little associated costs. QuickBooks Online, Xero, and Kashoo, for example, allow for multi-user access, and give bookkeepers the ability to work on an accounting file from anywhere, at any time. These online technologies allow for smaller firms to bypass the time and costs previously associated with online accounting, such as servers and initial set-up fees.
If online applications are not suitable for your client, you can also look into a hosted solution which makes applications such as QuickBooks Desktop and Simply Accounting, online applications. Lastly, firms can remotely log in to a client's computer to use their application, which would be similar to how a bookkeeper would work on-site. These options have the ability to be more expensive and time consuming to set-up, but are great alternatives to the newer online applications.
Receiving Documents from Clients
One of the most common questions that we receive from firms who decide to work virtually is "how do we receive documents from clients?". Choosing the right document management application is completely dependent on the needs of the firm. LedgerDocs, for example, allows for clients to upload documents directly to their bookkeeper by (1) scanning and uploading documents into the app, (2) emailing documents to a unique LedgerDocs email address, or by (3) taking a photograph of the document with their smartphone and uploading it via our iPhone app or email address. For more information on uploading documents, you can visit the LedgerDocs Help Centre. Once documents are uploaded into the app, the bookkeeper is able to access the associated notes and tags, view the document in the document viewer, and perform the necessary bookkeeping and accounting tasks. Once this is complete, they can digitally file it away as if they would a hard copy. Not only can client's upload documents as soon as they receive them, they are also able to maintain their own filing cabinet, allowing for both the bookkeeper and the client to have all of the necessary information that they need to complete their work, at the touch of their fingertips.
Managing Clients in a Global Environment
When working with any client, it is important that both parties establish a distinct set of rules, expectations, and deadlines for the work ahead. Many bookkeepers do this by giving their clients a simple set of guidelines that can be followed each month. For example, all documents must be uploaded to LedgerDocs by a certain date each month. Five days after this date, the bookkeeper will have the books up-to-date, with any reports or statements being sent to the client. It is important to establish these guidelines early in the relationship as it will greatly influence how both parties will work together.
It is an exciting time in the bookkeeping and accounting world, as it is clear that the industry is changing. Online technologies are becoming a norm, and are allowing for bookkeeping and accounting firms to change their business strategies, and offer their clients an added value that streamlines the financial process. Business owners are also becoming adapt to these technologies, and are open to working with firms who historically are outside of their geographic reach. To make this process work, it is important that the bookkeeper and accountant is utilizing the tools available, and is making the process of sharing, managing, and organizing data as simple as possible.
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