The Future and Freelance Bookkeeping

Technology? The economy? Where are we headed in 2012 and beyond?

Little over a week ago I attended one of the bookkeeping industry's most well-known events – the Sleeter Conference (aka The Sleeter Group Accounting Solutions Conference) and the message throughout most of the training sessions was very clear:

Desktop accounting is on the road to becoming obsolete!

There's no question about it. More and more businesses are headed online, especially with the rapid development of mobile applications, the power of “smart phones” and how they now can integrate into popular business software – including (but clearly not limited to) QuickBooks.

The accessibility and sharing of electronic data to conduct business–anywhere anytime–is driving the move toward a truly paperless (and mobile) office with (nearly) zero data entry.

Does that scare you? How much of the services you offer consist mainly of data entry?

The future of bookkeepers will be more focused on managing data flow, not data entry.

Another BIG reason businesses are rapidly embracing the move to the clouds is all team members can instantly collaborate in real time without version problems – think about the hassles we so often must wrestle when coordinating backups, accountant's copy, etc. Problem solved.

Of course, this means as freelance bookkeepers, our role is changing. Those who are paying attention will seize the opportunities that are emerging and start moving  toward becoming a trusted business adviser now, who cannot be replaced by automation!

I've seen the opportunities coming for awhile. And it will only grow now as your clients start to upgrade their business technology. And by the way, this is GREAT news since consultants and advisers generally charge higher fees than bookkeepers. 🙂

In using multiple applications to run their business, clients will be best served by using a dashboard approach to instantly get a sense of what's going on within their business. We've also seen this trend in the most recent versions of QuickBooks. Intuit realizes clients want tools to USE their financial information to grow more lean, profitable businesses. (Starting with QuickBooks 2009 they created the Company Snapshot feature)

But QuickBooks and even QuickBooks Online Edition had better watch it's back!

New cloud-based bookkeeping software is also taking root and we need to pay attention. That's especially so if you focus on small service-based businesses. A few that I'll be watching and learning more about for my own business are:

FreshBooks
Wave Accounting
Xero

These are FREE online bookkeeping programs (to start) that small businesses can grow with, are easy, and automatically tap into live banking data to nearly eliminate data entry altogether. FreshBooks even ties into QuickBooks.

But the biggest obstacle on the road of transition to the clouds is the human factor – the learning curve is not so easy to climb for everyone.

In truth, not all clients will embrace the new technology quickly. In fact, some people will downright refuse and resist the changes that are already upon us. While the shift to online is gaining rapid momentum, as Doug Sleeter said regarding the slow or non-adopters, “Some of these people just have to die!” (That was my favorite quote! LOL! :-D)

Side Note: If you are one who resists change, don't despair. There is a sparkle of sunshine here. You can choose to serve the clients who want to keep doing their bookkeeping the way they've always done it. But just realize that this market will continue to shrink (and their business profits will likely slip as well). But they will appreciate you for not forcing them to go online.

For those who welcome the online upgrades, you are positioning yourself and your business to prosper going forward! The highest fees will go to those who step up to lead their clients.

A sobering question: Do you serve your clients, or lead them?

Leaders always get paid more. Your clients will look to you to lead their business into the new way of using online technology to grow profitability. (And younger clients are already there waiting for you.)

Your role will be to…

  1. Cobble together the technology that works together effectively for your clients
  2. Step into the role of business consultant and mentor

In Summary:

  • The speed of online technology is increasing rapidly
  • Clients will need your help to upgrade their workflow and efficiency (motivated by the desire to increase profitability) using the new (inexpensive) cloud-based tools

What we need to do now:

  • Educate ourselves on what's now available and emerging
  • Use the new online products ourselves
  • Learn new skills, including how to build dashboards for clients to manage business more profitably
  • Move from the role of bookkeeper to indispensable consultant

As a first step, I've created a sort of Virtual Bookkeeper boot camp to get up to speed quickly on the basics called, “The Insider's Guide to Your Own Virtual Bookkeeping Business.” This program will grow and expand as new tools and technology emerge.

We are entering a new online era. We can't stop where the future is taking us. But we can position ourselves (and our clients) to use the new technology to prosper. It will be a dynamic process.

So, how do you plan to face new online technology and trends during the coming year?

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Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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7 Responses to “The Future and Freelance Bookkeeping”

  • Val Barschaw on November 23, 2011

    THANK YOU for the information and the links on the cloud-based versions that are coming to light.

    You are spot on – as leaders we need to pay attention and embrace what the future will hold.

    • Gabrielle on November 24, 2011

      We’re all in this together! Thanks for your comments, Val! 🙂

  • K Johnson on November 25, 2011

    What is the best way to learn these cloud based softwares?

    • Gabrielle on November 26, 2011

      Sign up for an account with the software (many of them let you start off for free) and use it yourself. Some will have some kind of help files or tutorial walk-through.

      • K Johnson on December 1, 2011

        Thank you again for this inspiring information Gabrielle! You give hope and opportunity. In the article you mentioned “The future of bookkeepers will be more focused on managing data flow, not data entry.” What exactly do you mean by “Data Flow”?

  • […] you can find everything you need to implement these strategies in your own Quickbooks file.  You might be asking "What? A bank?  I sell ________!" So, let me explain this common trap many smal…o-increase-your-cash-using-quickbooks/">HERE, you learned about how to increase your cash in your […]

  • Reno on January 6, 2012

    The Quickbooks remote access feature has been great because of the improvement in efficiency for those in the bookkeeping business.

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