I get this question asked quite a bit as many small business owners just don’t like bookkeeping or don’t have the time. I can tell you that virtual bookkeeping can be done pretty easily but it does depend on what system you have in place and how comfortable you are with delegating to your virtual bookkeeper next page.

The first consideration:

1. Accounting Program. If you are using QuickBooks, Peachtree or any other accounting software, you need to make sure that your version is the same as the virtual bookkeeper. Most accounting programs will allow you to restore a file from either the same version or version below (QuickBooks Pro 2009) but then you would not be able to restore the file back down to your version (QuickBooks Pro 2008). Most QuickBooks ProAdvisors do have multiple versions of QuickBooks on their computers. I personally have clients still using much older versions and they have opted not to upgrade because the version just works fine for them.

2. Another option is QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks online allows 3 users to access the account (business owner, bookkeeper and accountant). What is nice about QuickBooks Online, is you do not need to purchase software each year and the file is backed up on the Intuit server every day. You can also access the file from anywhere you have computer access – from your home office, if you travel frequently – from the hotel, or even review the file directly from your accountant’s office. The QuickBooks Online version is different than the desktop version but if you just use QuickBooks for invoicing and entering payables, this method will work fine for you. If you are thinking about using QuickBooks online, please discuss with your QuickBooks ProAdvisor and they can explain the different packages available as well as help set up your account. The monthly fee is between $9.95 – $34.95 depending on what package you select and keep in mind that most QuickBooks ProAdvisors do pass on their discounts to their clients.

3. You can also use remote access sites such as logmein, gotomypc or pcanywhere where the virtual bookkeeper can log into your computer, access your QuickBooks file and update as needed. The only problem with using this method is it will prevent you from using your computer at the same time as the bookkeeper and usually the entering transactions can take a little bit more time due to type of internet connection you have.

The second consideration: how do I get the information to the bookkeeper. There are a few ways to handle this and again it will depend on what process works best for you and the bookkeeper.

1. Set up a file folder for each month of the year – January through December. Throughout the month, insert your credit card receipts, vendor bills, and cash outlays into the appropriate file folder. When the bank statement is received, you can then send the file folder to the bookkeeper via Priority Mail, Express Mail, FedEx or UPS. Once the bookkeeper receives the file, the credit card charges are entered into the accounting program and the statement reconciled along with your business bank accounts. For this method, most clients do pay their vendor bills and send the check stubs to the bookkeeper for reconciling. Once the reconciliations have been completed, the bookkeeper will email you the monthly financial reports (Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet) and mail back to you all the receipts, which have now been attached to the appropriate statements (bank or credit card) for filing.

2. For client invoicing, you can email, fax or mail the information needed for preparing the client invoice. For monthly invoicing, a master invoice template can be set up with the client filing in the necessary information and then emailing to the bookkeeper for completion. The virtual bookkeeper can prepare and either mail or email the invoice on your behalf. The virtual bookkeeper can also help you in keeping close tabs on your accounts receivable.

3. For those of you who have online banking, it is very easy to use a virtual bookkeeper. There are a couple of ways this can be done – you can download your bank activity weekly, bi-weekly or monthly and email the information to the bookkeeper for entry along with the monthly bank statement when it is available.