What Do Bookkeepers Do? How To Be a Good Independent Bookkeeper

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve had to answer the question, “What do bookkeepers do?” Have you needed to explain what a bookkeeper does and what a bookkeeper doesn’t do to a client? It’s a tricky balance. The last thing you want is to get into murky territory that could negatively impact you. You want to keep your client roster full, but you want to make sure your role is clearly defined.

A man reviewing bookkeeping data

Ultimately, you may find yourself balancing more than accounts: you have to ensure that your clients’ needs are being met while protecting your liability. It’s not easy to explain exactly what bookkeepers do. Here are three ways to show how you partner with bookkeeping clients while maintaining your focus on their books.

1. What do bookkeepers do? Offer advice on process improvements

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing that a client’s internal processes for recording transactions were better, this is an excellent tactic for you! As a bookkeeper, you are intimately aware of the consequences of inadequate record-keeping or processes. You may even feel the direct result of poor workflows. If so, consider offering your client advice on improving the process instead of ignoring the problem.

For example, you probably hate entering paper receipts. Recommend a digital purchasing software or reimbursement submission tool. Beyond just simplifying the process between you and your client, it helps create a more accurate record of monies spent. (Which is especially important when looking at strategy number two.)

As you consider making suggestions, focus on offering constructive feedback instead of where there are dysfunctional processes. Share feedback at regular intervals during check-ins you have with your client–this allows for discussion, and you can answer your clients’ questions as they have them.

2. What does a bookkeeper do? Watch cash flows.

Records of every material financial transaction cross your desk. This means that you may be the first to notice a substantial change in cash flows. For positive cash flows, investigate where they are coming from. Ensure there are no recordkeeping errors or another type of external issue.

Of course, business changes notably change the books, but you should be aware of those before they happen. (And, if you find you aren’t, this is a great opportunity. Begin regular meetings with your bookkeeping clients, so you are aware of changes before they happen.) You’ll want to do the same for a substantial shift in negative cashflows. Check for errors in data entry or root causes that could be the source of the discrepancy.

If you can’t find a mistake or alternate way to explain what you’re seeing, it’s time to alert your client. Your discovery may help the business make adjustments and recover lost revenue. Or, in the case of an increase in income, it may be time to celebrate!

(Pro tip: use software and automation like BankFeeds to power your data entry. It will reduce the chances of manual input error in records.)

3. What do bookkeepers do? Trust their gut instincts

Remember that you see your bookkeeping clients’ business differently than they do. You’ll tend to look more objectively at things and only from the financial picture. You may notice something in banking statements, balance sheets, or other records. Trust your gut if you see anything like this. (After all, because you’re an expert at financial detail!) There’s a chance it might otherwise be missed and could have a significant impact on your client.

You’ll see connections between seemingly separate information. Perhaps an increase in financial transactions in one area correlates to another. Or, maybe, there are more online sales on Tuesdays. These tiny details may get missed by your clients, especially if they are a small or medium business with limited staff and resources. Keeping tabs on this information and sharing it with your bookkeeping clients is invaluable. It ensures that you are not just a bookkeeper but a trusted resource for the organization.

By using these three tips, you’ll have a stronger relationship with your clients. Plus, they’ll have a deeper understanding of what a bookkeeper does. (And that it’s more than just entering and tracking receipts.)

Want to improve your financial record process? Connect Xero to Stripe or Shopify with Bankfeeds.

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