Yeah, I know: It does seem funny that someone who actually offers bookkeeping services should be asking this question, of whether you’re better off doing your own books rather than paying someone to do them for you.
After the year we just had (2020, in case you suppressed the memory) when so many businesses lost huge chunks of their revenue, it was no surprise to me at all that some people opted to pull back their books from paid help and do them themselves. I totally get that. When there is little money coming into your enterprise, you do need to be careful and mindful of where every single penny goes.
That said, for maximum success in doing your own books make sure the following conditions are in place:
- You have the right tools so that you can spend minimum time on tasks like data entry (blerg). This means tools like Quickbooks Online which connects to your bank and credit card institutions and downloads transaction data into your books, so you don’t have to re-create expenses with keystrokes.
- You have the time available so that you can stay in regular touch with what’s really important about your books, i.e., reading them for meaning. Sure, you won’t necessarily have to spend time on simple repetitive tasks (see Right Tools above), but the numbers still merit your regular attention. They’re trying to tell you important stuff about your business.
- You have a regular practice, i.e., you have a sense of what to do so that you can trust the data in whatever system you’re using, and you have a scheduled regular time to do so (see Time Available above).
- You have a resource in case of questions, areas where you might need some additional guidance. This is not just in case you run into a problem with technology, with something in Quickbooks that’s not working the way you expected. This is also if you’re just not sure how to treat something in your numbers. Like that PPP loan you got last year. Where does that go?
As a small business owner, it can be super-useful to be up to your elbows (eyeballs, sometimes) in your numbers, to really understand the mechanics of how all the pieces work together. That said, without some guidance, it’s really easy to back yourself into a corner (Undeposited Funds, anyone?) and then to get so frustrated that you just ignore that piece of your business altogether, sore subject that it is. Again, right tools + time + practice + resource: those are key.
Let’s be honest: bookkeeping is a skill. The very best bookkeepers are not only experts in accounting software and debits & credits. They’re also experts in interpreting and explaining what it all means. They’re key partners in understanding what’s happened in your biz and helping you set a course for the future. You can absolutely learn to do some of this on your own. After all, every bookkeeper on earth did. ;>
The ideal situation, honestly, if you’re short on funds or are so inclined, is to take a crack at your books yourself, then work with your resource on a quarterly or twice-annual basis to make sure you’re on the right track, that you’ve solved any small problems before they get bigger, that you’re not missing anything. This way you still have the benefit of outside expertise.
Sure, tech these days makes it a whole lot easier for you to do your books yourself. The truth is, though, you really can get a better result with a second set of expert eyes on your books with you. If you do DIY, for best results make sure you have the system, the time, the practice and that resource on your side.