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Many small to medium sized businesses and organisations employ the services of a bookkeeper in order to keep their financial records in order and to ensure that debtors pay their accounts as agreed and creditors are paid timeously. A bookkeeper tracks the daily financial movements within a business and is able to provide requested information on matters pertaining to the financial health of the business.
Bookkeepers have been in practice for centuries, with the descriptive name of “Bookkeeper” first appearing in the English language around 1555. In those far-off days, bookkeepers were responsible for manually recording and reconciling financial records in large books called ledgers, and all of their work was performed by hand, including all the necessary calculations. These days, calculators and computer programs perform many of these tasks automatically, but a bookkeeper is nevertheless required to have an excellent understanding of mathematical skills.
A bookkeeper is responsible for the accurate recording and historical storage of the records relating to all monetary transactions and assets such as property, machinery or vehicles within a company or organisation. Bookkeepers are responsible for the compiling of payrolls and paying of employees and in this regard they need to ensure that the information they have regarding the working hours of each employee is very accurate and takes into account factors such as overtime, sick- or unpaid-leave, and up-to-date details relating to the wages of each employee. Employees are the lifeblood of any business, and unhappy staff who may have been incorrectly underpaid may bring the organisation to a critical halt very quickly.
Bookkeepers handle many aspects of the financial affairs of a business, including responsibilities such as bank deposits, calculating VAT returns and payments, submitting accounts to clients and following up on payment, paying creditors, handling and recording cash, credit card and online EFT payments, daily checking and reconciling the online bank account/s of the business, and preparing business accounts up to trial balance stage on an annual basis for presentation to the accountant or external auditors to sign off. Bookkeepers are tasked with preparing monthly accounts which are provided to management and may be presented at monthly Board meetings. It must be noted that a bookkeeper does not shoulder the full accountability relating to the business accounts, as this falls within the responsibility of a qualified accountant, but is a vital component in the preparation, compiling and recording of the daily accounting functions which are required.
A bookkeeper may be employed as a full- or part-time permanent member of staff, but very small businesses may choose to use the services of an external bookkeeper as and when required. In such cases, the bookkeeper is provided with all the necessary information required by the business owner but will probably not have access to the online bank accounts of the company, and is reliant on monthly bank statements provided to him or her to reconcile debtors and creditors accounts and VAT returns. Appointing an external bookkeeper is a viable and cost-effective method of keeping financial records accurate and updated and presenting professional accounts and monthly statements to clients without having to carry the cost of a permanent employee. This arrangement suits many bookkeepers who prefer to work for a number of different clients and can arrange their working lives around family commitments. Such contract bookkeepers are very professional in their dealings with clients, although one must be aware that sometimes they may not be immediately available during periods when they are out of office during the preparation of annual accounts for another company, or may be away on leave. If this is not going to be a major problem for the small business owner, then this is probably the best route to follow.
Your company or small business is important to you, and you obviously want to use the services of an experienced and conscientious bookkeeper who can be relied on to keep the financial wheels of the business turning smoothly. If you are planning to permanently employ a bookkeeper, you can either advertise the position directly or use the services of a recruitment company to find the right applicant. Professional recruitment companies will check references and present the best candidates for interview, thus giving you peace of mind and preventing you having to interview many possibly unsuitable people. If you are looking for a contract bookkeeper, the best option would be to use word of mouth referrals from business associates or friends. Alternatively, you can contact reputable bookkeepers who advertise their services online or through newspapers, and make arrangements to meet with them personally to discuss your needs and budget. Always check testimonials from previous and existing clients, either by asking for telephone numbers and contacting them directly, or checking online reviews that they have posted. Uptasker is a valuable resource in finding contract bookkeepers in your area and checking their online reviews.
Do not cut corners when selecting a bookkeeper for your business, particularly when opting to use a contract bookkeeper. Choose a professional with whom you feel comfortable, has contactable references who provide good feedback, has an understanding of your business if possible and whose work is promptly and professionally delivered. Agree a monthly retainer fee which suits you both, and you will then be able to concentrate fully on your business, knowing that the financial aspects will be well taken care of. For more tips, see our bookkeeper articles.