8 Questions to Ask an Outsourced Bookkeeper

1. What do you charge?

A bookkeeping service provider should be able to give you a general estimate on cost early in the conversation after providing some information. It might be a range as well, but resist the temptation to think you are going to be on the lowest end of the spectrum. A good bookkeeper is an investment.

How we answer this question: It depends! For bookkeeping services, our rates range from $200-400 per month for DIY + Support services, $500-$800 per month for monthly services and $1000-$3000 per month for weekly services. There are a lot of factors that come into play when pricing an engagement, but we gather the information and give you a fixed price so you know what you are getting into before signing an engagement (unlike hourly billing). Depending on the state of your books and tax situation, there may be some upfront cost as well to clean everything up.

2. What information do you need from me to give me a quote?

A bookkeeping service that has been around for awhile and has good processes in place should be able to tell you what information they will need to give you a quote or proposal. Be wary of services that just want to get started without doing some sort of assessment up front.

How we answer this question: We gather a lot of information up front to give you a quote. We have a couple forms to fill out and some documentation to provide (past tax returns, bank statements, incorporation documents). I usually forget something when I am explaining this, so I always say, “that’s what the forms are for!”

3. What are your response times?

A high-quality service provider will be able to answer your question about service levels and response times.

How we answer this question: We are as responsive as possible. We don’t play games with our response times and make you wait until your service level timing has come up. If it’s a quick question, we’ll get back to you right away. If it’s going to take some research, we’ll let you know that we’ll be coming back to you with some good information.

4. When can I expect to see my monthly reports?

This is a tough question to answer for a bookkeeping service because they rely on you to provide information to complete these reports. Be wary of service providers that give you a concrete date here as they may just be trying to sell you.

How we answer this question: We answer this question with a question: when would you like your reports and why? We want to take the opportunity to open the conversation about why your reports are important to you and what kind of information you would like them to include. We also talk about our target date, which is the 15th of the following month and our due date, which is the last day of the following month. We also like to take the opportunity to discuss how we rely on you for some information, but we are committed to asking the questions early and following up consistently (we know you are busy) until we get the information we need.

5. Who will I be working with?

You should have a direct point of contact, but this shouldn’t be limited to one person. If you are dealing with one person only, what happens when that person goes on vacation or leaves the service provider? Also, who will be reviewing the information?

How we answer this question: We introduce every new customer to their delivery team, which includes a CPA and an associate. The associate is the direct point of contact and the CPA reviews their work and delivers the reports. We also have a backup associate that works on the team and can quickly slot into the spot for vacation coverage.

6. How are you developing your skills and keeping up to date?

Your bookkeeping service provider should not be so overwhelmed with their business that they can’t take the time to stay up-to-date, develop and learn new skills. They should be a hub of information and be on the forefront of new technologies and policy changes that will affect your business.

How we answer this question: First off, we all love what we do, so we are always looking for new and better ways to provide great information. We are all Xero Certified advisors, which requires us to maintain Xero training hours each year, so we keep up to date with the latest software changes. Lastly, we are all either CPAs or CPAs in training, so we are required to do professional development hours each year to maintain our designation.

7. What non-financial information do you provide?

Hey, we’re bookkeepers and accountants and could talk numbers all day, but numbers without context don’t say much. You should take the time to understand what your numbers might be telling you, but you might need some help with that.

How we answer this question: The answer to this question will depend on the financial literacy level of who we are speaking to. We don’t want to skip too far ahead and start talking AR turnover and quick ratios if you don’t understand what a balance sheet is. We tailor this response a little for everyone, but the answer comes down to this: we want to provide you information that is relevant to you! If you are number savvy, we will give you the numbers. If you don’t understand the numbers, we’ll take the time to educate you on what it means. We highlight any relevant information to you each month, so your numbers start to tell a story.

8. What other services do you provide?

We are big fans of the one-stop-shop accounting and bookkeeping firm. In fact, frustration with small business owners being caught in the middle of bookkeeper/accountant finger pointing was the genesis of Avalon. It’s important to understand what other solutions your service provider offers. If they don’t offer accounting services, it’s also worthwhile getting some references from accounting firms that have worked with them in the past to make sure that your accountant is going to receive the information they need.

How we answer this question: Bookkeeping is definitely the foundation of what we do and what we have spent our time in existence perfecting. We will happily work with an accountant if you already have one and can provide references. Where we really shine is when we can do both the bookkeeping and accounting as you will have one team that handles it all. It will be a much more seamless service.

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Have more questions we should add to this list? Put a comment below or Break the Ice and we’ll give you our best answer!