Bookkeeping is part of every business, but there's more than one way to get it done.
New business owners learn a lot of valuable lessons, and many of them quickly come to realize they would rather not do their own bookkeeping. It takes time and energy that they'd prefer to apply to other facets of running a business.
However, it's still an essential responsibility in any functional business. Someone's got to do it.
Luckily, there are plenty of other options for handling your books. You can bring on a bookkeeper as an employee, pay for a virtual bookkeeping service, or hire an accounting firm to take care of it. But what do these options cost, and which one is best for your business?
|What does a bookkeeper do?|
|Cost of an in-house bookkeeper|
|Cost of a virtual bookkeeper|
|Cost of a firm bookkeeper|
- The cost of bookkeeping varies depending on the size and needs of your business, but it usually ranges from $200-$2,000 per month.
- Your options include hiring an in-house bookkeeper, a virtual bookkeeping service, or an accounting firm.
What does a bookkeeper do?
Bookkeepers maintain records of day-to-day transactions and other financial data. These duties, broadly speaking, can be divided into three categories:
- Reconciling: Reconciling is the process of combing through your accounting software and your bank statements and ensuring your transactions match up on both.
- Handling accounts receivable: Accounts receivable is the money that is owed to you for goods or services you've already provided. Bookkeepers can help with creating and distributing invoices.
- Handling accounts payable: Accounts payable is the money your business owes in the short term, like bills from suppliers. Bookkeepers will maintain accurate records and make sure you don't forget important payments.
But there's more to accounting than just keeping the books. For instance, in your business you might need:
- Sales tax filing: You need to file sales tax returns on a quarterly or monthly basis as a business in Florida. You also need to know how much to charge for sales tax, and how to record it.
- Payroll: Payroll is more than just handing out paychecks to your employees. You need to withhold FICA and income taxes, file payroll tax returns and actually deposit payroll taxes to the IRS.
- Budgeting and forecasting: Planning ahead is essential for every business owner. It helps you prepare for the future and see whether your business is sustainable in the long term.
- Reporting: Reports like your profit and loss statement and your balance sheet provide important insights into your business’ financial health. You need to regularly pull these reports and learn how to read them so you can make adjustments as needed.
Some bookkeepers or bookkeeping services can take on a range of other accounting responsibilities as well. Others might just offer just cleaning up your books, leaving you to handle tasks like payroll and sales tax on your own. Once you've decided to hire a bookkeeper, you should understand what your business needs, and what the various options have to offer. And, of course, what they cost.
Cost of an in-house bookkeeper
Range: Around $900 to $2,000 per month (for a part-time bookkeeper)
An in-house bookkeeper is an official employee of your company. They’re generally best for larger businesses with more staff and a higher volume of transactions.
You also have the option of hiring a bookkeeper on a full-time or part-time basis. Hiring a full-time employee will, of course, be more expensive, so this option is best for businesses large enough to really need it. A small business owner can probably get away with hiring someone part-time and pocket some savings along the way.
- Salary: A salary will cost more than outsourcing bookkeeping duties on an hourly basis. So before you hire someone in-house, make sure you have enough volume to really need them.
- Taxes: In-house bookkeepers aren’t 1099 contractors, they’re employees. That means payroll taxes on their salary.
- Benefits: You’ll have to consider the cost of any benefits you offer on top of the bookkeeper’s salary and payroll taxes. The amount varies between every company, but just make sure you’re not overlooking the cost of PTO, sick days, and other benefits.
- More involved: Someone who’s working in your office and with your team — even if they’re part-time — will have a deeper understanding of your business, which helps keep things running smoothly. An on-staff bookkeeper probably won’t be working for any other businesses, so your needs will have their full attention.
- There when you need them: A bookkeeper on staff will be easily accessible, meaning you can ask them a question or get information from them whenever you need it. There’s no need to wait 1-3 business days for someone to return your emails.
- Control over how much they work: You can choose whether to make your on-staff bookkeeper either part-time or full-time. Even with a part-time bookkeeper, you still have control over their hours and can create a schedule that works best for your bookkeeper and your business.
- Increased overall cost: As we mentioned above, you are responsible for payroll taxes on employees’ wages. You also might have to pay for benefits and other compensation that you wouldn't offer to a contractor or third party.
- Only one set of eyes: With only one person looking over your books, mistakes could easily slip by. Outsourced bookkeeping services — both accounting firms and virtual bookkeepers — usually have multiple people looking at your books to check for errors.
Cost of a virtual bookkeeper
Range: Around $300 to $500 per month
Virtual bookkeepers are real humans that will do your books for you — just online. Some popular virtual bookkeeping services are Bench, QuickBooks Live and Bookkeeper360. They usually just specialize in bookkeeping, but will sometimes offer tax compliance and other accounting services as well.
These services usually charge flat rates, which makes budgeting simple. Virtual bookkeepers are typically best for people who are just looking for a bookkeeper and don't need full-service accounting help like payroll, budgeting, and forecasting.
- Monthly costs: The biggest chunk of your virtual bookkeeper costs is the monthly fee. The pricing method is straightforward: you pay a fixed amount per month, and the more services you need, the more you pay.
- Additional features: You can opt for other features and services from your virtual bookkeeper, like taxes and accounting. These usually come with additional fees that will increase the total cost.
- Your business’ activity: Some virtual bookkeepers may increase the cost of your monthly fee depending on the volume of your transactions. QuickBooks Live, for example, starts at $200 per month for businesses with transactions averaging $25,000 or less per month. But if that climbs up to $150,000 a month, QuickBooks Live’s monthly fee starts at $400.
- Standard pricing: You know well in advance how much you’re paying each month. This makes it easier for you to budget and keep your cash flow steady.
- On time: Many of their processes are automated, and they spend less time doing some basic tasks. This makes virtual bookkeepers very good at keeping your books up-to-date.
- More automated: Instead of using accounting software, virtual bookkeepers may have their own internal processes, which could mean less work on your end.
- Less advisory: Virtual bookkeepers are focused on cleaning up and managing your books. This approach can be great if you’re looking to be as hands-off as possible, but not so great if you want a deeper understanding of your business’ finances.
- Less accounting: Virtual bookkeepers are primarily focused on bookkeeping, not accounting. This may require you to handle accounting tasks you don’t know how to do, like payroll or sales tax filing. You may even need to outsource to another company to do your accounting.
- Less flexibility: Because virtual bookkeeping is a relatively hands-off process for business owners, you may not be able to customize your experience as much. You can still gain a greater understanding of how your business is doing, but you may not have access to some of the finer details.
Cost of a firm bookkeeper
Range: Around $200 to $1,000 per month
Accounting firms can offer a wider range of services than a virtual bookkeeper, and may still cost less than a part-time bookkeeper. Instead of focusing solely on bookkeeping, they can offer you those broader accounting services like payroll, sales tax and budgeting.
Accounting firms are best for business owners who are looking for more personalized advice, want to understand their finances on a deeper level, or prefer to meet with a bookkeeper in person.
- Volume of transactions: The size and frequency of your typical transactions can affect your price. The higher the volume of activity, the more complicated (and expensive) your bookkeeping will be.
- Specific services: Unlike virtual bookkeepers that charge a flat rate for all their services, accounting firms often charge you based on specific services. Depending on what services you’re looking for, this pricing method may lower or increase your costs.
- Complexity of your books: If your books are more complex, you could end up paying more for a bookkeeper. For example, you may have to pay more if you have an extensive chart of accounts (which could be a mistake) because it takes your bookkeeper more time to complete.
- More customizable: You can add or take out a wider variety of services with a firm. Namely, they usually offer more accounting services so you’re not just limited to bookkeeping resources.
- Easier to reach: Compared to virtual bookkeepers, a firm bookkeeper can be easier to reach. You can simply call them or even meet with them face-to-face — which can solve your problems faster.
- More advisory: Working with a firm bookkeeper is usually a more interactive experience than working with a virtual bookkeeper, with more ways for you to learn about and understand your business’ finances.
- More expensive: Firms can be more expensive than virtual or part-time bookkeepers because of the wider range of services.
- Time delays: Since firms work with a number of clients at the same time, your books might not be looked at every day.
The bottom line
Bookkeeping has to happen, one way or another. And if, like most business owners, you'd prefer not to do it yourself, it's worth exploring the cost of other options.
In-house bookkeepers are usually the most expensive at around $1,000 per month. Virtual bookkeepers can cost $300 to $500 depending on the platform you choose. Accounting firms cost anywhere around $200 to $1,000 per month and can meet with you in-person and develop a relationship with you and your business.
Whether you're tired of doing it yourself, or just want to make sure it's as accurate and thorough as can be, schedule a free call with a DiMercurio Advisors team member. We're happy to handle your bookkeeping. And more!