The 5 Best Bookkeeping Services for Your Small Business
To take care of daily fiscal tasks related to your business — financial statements, cash-flow spreadsheets, etc. — you have options. You can keep your own books, but even if that’s in your wheelhouse, it takes time away from managing your business. You can also hire a bookkeeper on a part-time or full-time basis, but that can be costly.
Today, thanks to the internet, you can outsource your bookkeeping. For many small businesses that are just starting out, a virtual bookkeeping service can be a simple and cost-effective solution. And because these services are not location-dependent businesses, virtual bookkeeping companies can hire top talent regardless of their location.
What to look for in a bookkeeping service
One way to hire a bookkeeping service is by taking advantage of flat-rate, monthly pricing with predetermined deliverables. There are virtual bookkeepers that charge by the hour, but if you’re looking for a streamlined process, flat rate is the way to go.
Because there are so many choices, you might want to seek out bookkeepers that already have experience in your industry. You can find them by contacting local professional associations in your industry or just asking a prospective bookkeeper if he or she has worked with other clients in your industry. Some firms are specialized for certain industries, such as TravCom, which is a designated service for travel agencies.
Virtual bookkeeping companies also often provide other services, such tax and payroll preparation and financial accounting. One way to narrow your selection is to look at each company’s social media presence. What does it offer followers? Does the firm position itself as an expert in the field?
When you’re first getting in touch with someone to discuss working together, take note of how the communication process flows. If it’s not efficient and congenial, it might be an indicator of how they run their operation.
Bookkeepers might do the same things, but they all work a bit differently. Ask the following questions to help zero in on hiring someone:
- Do you use cash or accrual accounting?
- What exactly do you include in your rate?
- Will you review reports with me as part of the service?
- What accounting program do you use for your own business? (If they’re not using the same one as you, find out why. Maybe it’s worth changing your own, or maybe you want to employ a service that uses the same software.)
When to get an in-house bookkeeper
So, when is it necessary to take on the expense of adding an employee to handle the numbers? If you want someone to handle only the minimum amount of reconciling you need to remain t tax compliant, an online bookkeeper is a fine choice. But if you want someone who can advise you on billing or someone who might contact clients, consider adding a person to your team.
If you need services that are beyond what the typical virtual bookkeeping services offer and you’re still in the early stages of business, you might need someone part-time at first.
The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers a free bookkeeping hiring test for employers. It also has a page of resources that might be helpful for small business owners who are still learning the terminology and concepts of bookkeeping.
Looking for business funding? Learn more about small business loans here.
Top bookkeeping services of 2018
Starting at $115 per month
The biggest provider of accounting services in America, Bench has been at it since 2012. The company handles your categorization and reconciles receipts, and produces your statements to ensure they are tax-compliant. Your accounting team will answer questions via the Bench app or you can schedule a phone call, and you might decide to have someone conduct an optional, end-of-the-month review of your books. Bench bookkeepers will also work with your CPA at tax time.
Bench’s offerings are limited — if you need help with invoicing and tracking bills, you’ll have to handle that way. Its offerings do, however, integrate with popular software like Shopify and FreshBooks.
Who is it best for?
Bench is a solid choice for companies that are just starting out, and the company offers a catch-up bookkeeping service for companies that have been putting it off; Bench can complete a year’s worth of bookkeeping in three to four weeks, according to the website.
Basis 365 Accounting
California-based accountants at Basis 365 handle accounting, bookkeeping and payroll, and the well-reviewed team of professionals works with Xero accounting software.
Pricing specifics are missing. Basis 365 gives businesses a quote after conducting a 45-minute phone interview, but its plan description page details offerings only at three general levels: Accountant, Controller and CFO.
Who is it best for?
Basis 365 caters to three industries: agency (tracked and billed time, project-based work), e-commerce (sales on the internet) and software (companies that write applications and create platforms).
$150 per month
The price is right for many Merritt users — and the company doesn’t charge setup fees. Merritt emphasizes the benefits small businesses can realize by using QuickBooks — without having to deal with the software themselves.
If your company needs help with payroll or invoicing, you won’t find those services here.
Who is it best for?
For businesses behind on their books, Merritt offers a catch-up rate of $100 per month. In addition, the company offers free bookkeeping services to charities.
Small business rates start at $275 per month, plus a $149 setup fee “for most clients”
Bookkeeping and Management Systems Inc., based in Virginia, has been around since 1987 and employs a team that includes QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisors. The firm also offers payroll services, financial planning and investment, and tax preparation and planning.
Until 2018, the company had three levels of bookkeeping services available. There was a cheaper, basic level with prices starting at $97 per month, but that is no longer on the website’s pricing page. There is now the Small Business tier, which costs $275 per month (for up to 125 transactions) and the Small Business Plus tier, which costs $485 per month (for 126 to 250 transactions). There’s also that setup fee: The business might be one of the oldest virtual bookkeeping services around, but it’s among the priciest.
Who is it best for?
For companies that need more than just a bookkeeper and want to trust everything to one provider, the firm offers a full suite of financial and accounting services, but each comes with additional fees over the bookkeeping rate. Bookkeeping and Management Systems also offers restaurant solutions, such as tip reporting and labor, food and liquor cost monitoring.
$195 per month for small businesses
Pilot offers small businesses, particularly startups, accrual-based bookkeeping services from a dedicated account manager. After automating the transaction collection, Pilot sends a profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow statement on the 15th of each month. The company also works with your tax preparation professional to hand off the statements each year.
Pilot is still a bit of a fresh startup itself, so the jury is out on what’s missing.
Who is it best for?
Pilot is a good choice for startups, technology companies and nonprofits, is best for companies with one to 300 employees. If you choose Pilot, you won’t have to explain seed rounds or preferred stock to your bookkeeper. For expanding ventures, there’s room to grow into Series C funding, with bookkeeping service rates starting at $1,000 for larger businesses with complex needs.