21 Feb How to find a freelance book-keeper you can trust
When you run a small business, it can be really scary to think about handing over your sensitive financial information to a freelance book-keeper. Here are some steps that you can take that might help:
1. References and Referrals
Whenever you can, pick someone that has been referred to you by a trusted advisor or friend. Although it can never guarantee you won’t have any issues, it can give you peace of mind knowing that they are recommended and have worked successfully with someone you know. Ask them also for professional client references.
2. Pick Someone Local
Although you might be looking for an online freelancer, always try and meet them in person so you can gauge for yourself if this is someone you can get along with. If you pick someone local then at least if you do ever need them to come to your office or place of work then you know that they are going to be able to do that. There are ways you can still start to build a better connection with someone though if for some reason you can’t meet up in person for example, using Skype or Zoom. You also need to fully understand how you want the relationship to work. So for instance, do you just want email updates with your reports? Do you want any narrative to accompany the monthly or quarterly reports? Do you prefer to meet up for a coffee and have someone run through things with you in person? Do you need them to attend a Board meeting with you once in a while?
3. Build Trust Slowly
Unless you are absolutely certain about the individual as a result of professional accreditation and trusted recommendations then don’t be in a rush to give them access to your most sensitive financial data. Start them off with lower risk work like purchase orders or data entry before moving on to the more sensitive information like the bank or management accounts and see how they get on. Trust takes time to build in any relationship.
You need to know that the person you are dealing with is used to dealing with confidential information and would understand the importance of keeping sensitive information secure. If you are working with a company then they should have a standard clause covering a confidentiality agreement that they are prepared to sign. If you are working with an individual it might be worth drawing up an agreement to ensure that this is clarified.
5. Good Match
Pick someone who understands your industry and your particular business. You need to know that they have a background that is going to be potentially useful to you as you grow. Check out who their current clients are, check out their background and experience.
6. Attention to Detail
You need someone who is an absolute stickler for detail. A good book-keeper will have checklists and reminders set up on their calendars to make sure that they don’t miss any important deadlines. You shouldn’t have to manage your book-keeper or remind them about dates like paying the PAYE/NI or VAT across. They should be a self- starter, very professional and efficient.
7. Problem Solvers
You’re also looking for someone who can solve a problem and come to you with solutions in mind. Used to dealing with difficult customers and suppliers and good in a crisis. You need them to be able to keep a calm and focussed head when dealing with your finances no matter what else is going on around them.
You need to find someone who shows commitment to their clients. So, they arrive when they say they are going to, they meet the deadlines that they’ve agreed with you. Everyone has some exceptional circumstances and a personal life that gets in the way on occasion, but you should be able to rely on them the majority of the time.
Find someone who stays up to date and promotes the use of the latest technology and ideas. You want someone who is going to have their finger on the pulse with what is going on and can come up with ideas to streamline and improve things with you.
10. Benefits of working with a Freelancer
There are a lot of benefits with working with a freelance book-keeper. You only pay for the service you require. So if you need more or less support you can have exactly what you need. You don’t have to find a desk or a computer for a freelancer; provided you can give them remote access they will be able to work offsite and using their own equipment. It can be a really cost-effective way of making improvements to the financial systems, controls and processes without having to bring in your accountant. A professional book-keeper can be a much more cost-effective option to work through more time consuming changes. Freelancers will usually have a good network of support around them, so if they aren’t able to help themselves they will usually know someone who can.
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