My name is Louise McLoughlin. I am a BAS Agent and bookkeeper and I own and operate e-BAS Accounts, a virtual bookkeeping practice. When new prospects make enquiries about my business, they often ask me how virtual bookkeeping actually works; for some it’s a bit hard to get their heads around the idea of having a bookkeeper who lives and works in another state! My usual answer is that the internet and cloud-based services have made this possible, enabling me to work with anyone who has an internet connection, and let’s face it, that’s practically the whole population! Some are still dubious that it can work for their business so then I explain to them that I have a system which ensures success. This is the system I use which seems to work pretty well and I’d like to share it with you today:
Our Virtual Bookkeeping System
1. First Consultation
After the initial contact with a new client, an appointment is set for the first consultation. This meeting can be held via telephone, Skype, Go To Meeting, Hangouts (Google+) and other video conferencing apps such as Vyew. At this meeting the client’s bookkeeping assignment is discussed and evaluated.
2. Legal Stuff
A bookkeeper/client agreement is drafted and sent to the client via email, mail or fax for signing. Once the agreement is signed, the bookkeeping can begin!
3. Accounting Software
Clients can choose between desktop-based (MYOB and QuickBooks) and cloud-based software (Xero and Saasu). Desktop data files can be emailed, shared via Dropbox, uploaded to our secure online storage facility and/or sent via mail on usb drive or CD format. Cloud-based software files are shared with us via an invitation that the client sends to us to become a user of their accounting file online.
4. How Clients send us Source Documents
Firstly, we send our clients a checklist to help them prepare their source documents for us. We list all data required and provide guidance on how to organise this data before sending it. Clients can use various methods to send their bookkeeping documents to us such as:
- The secure online storage system via our website. Clients are provided with login details and can upload/download their files to us anytime. This of course means that some data needs to be scanned first by the client in order to create files for upload. Many new printers/scanners can scan documents quickly and in bulk and we recommend that our clients purchase one of these machines in order to do the scanning. If clients don’t want to do this then we also recommend that they use Shoe-boxed, an online scanning service.
- If clients don’t wish to use our login system, then they can add their documents to Dropbox. Dropbox is an online storage facility which allows clients to share their accounts data with us. Another online sharing service is Box – this is an alternative to Dropbox but works in a similar fashion.
- Posting their documents to us via Express Post. Some clients may use a courier service to send documents if they have lots of documents.
- Emailing data (depending on the size of files)
5. The Bookkeeping Stage
Once we receive the client’s documents, we get to work and process the data into the client’s chosen accounting software.
6. The Reporting Stage
Once all bookkeeping is complete, we process various financial reports for the client. We then send these reports via email or share them via the client’s chosen method e.g. Dropbox.
7. Monthly Meetings
Every client is required to attend a monthly meeting at which the previous month’s bookkeeping is discussed. This is compulsory and is the key to a successful virtual bookkeeping relationship. Communication is the key here! Because we do not see or visit our clients regularly (sometimes never!) in person, it is possible for the virtual relationship to fall down – “out of sight, out of mind” as the saying goes. Not only are these meetings necessary to ensure that nothing is forgotten or misinterpreted in relation to a client’s accounts, but they also ensure there is a personal level of contact maintained between the bookkeeper and client, something that no amount emailing and texting can accomplish!
8. Returning Data to Clients
Data which is posted to us is posted back to clients at no cost to them. Data which is shared with us via Dropbox is retained in the shared folder at the discretion of the client and data which has been uploaded to our secure online storage facility remains in the client’s account until such time as the client may wish to terminate the bookkeeping agreement.
So that’s how I make virtual bookkeeping work at e-BAS Accounts! Does this work 100% of the time? No of course not! Things do go wrong but most of the time this system is fail-safe. It allows me to operate a successful virtual bookkeeping business which is not location-dependent all from the comfort of my lovely seaside office here in Torquay, Victoria! Perfect!