Here are seven of the most common misconceptions about bookkeepers that you may come across if you’re studying to become a bookkeeper, or already working in the profession.
1. Bookkeepers are scary
One of the biggest barriers people have to hiring a bookkeeper is that they’re scared of them. Perhaps because they’re embarrassed of sharing the state of their finances with someone else and being judged. Alessandra Parsons, AAT licensed bookkeeper has come across this a number of times: “One of the most common misconceptions I find is that people think accountants and bookkeepers are scary! It couldn’t be further from the truth, my clients like me because I’m not scary.”
2. Bookkeepers are redundant, now that there’s accounting software
“With all the introduction of social media and software companies advertising to business owners how much easier it is to do their own accounts, they fail to realise the need for a bookkeeper. That is until they start to use it and find they do not have a clue where to post their transactions… It is at this stage they finally realise how important a bookkeeper is,” Natasha Everard, AAT qualified bookkeeper.
3. Bookkeepers are good at maths
Whilst some numerical literacy is required for a bookkeeper to be able to do their job properly, many people think that all bookkeepers are maths whizzes.
Gavin Aspden of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) says this can put people off joining the profession, “You don’t have to be good at maths, and you don’t have to have done a finance degree. You don’t even have to be a graduate… There’s many paths into the profession.”
And AAT licensed bookkeeper Alessendra Parsons, agrees: “ People think that because I’m good with spreadsheets and data that I would also be good at maths. I can do maths, but only if I write things down or use a calculator. I’m not very fast with mental arithmetic.”
4. Bookkeepers just do data-entry
“One misconception I hear a lot is that we’re low level data-entry clerks” says Claire Holgate, AAT licensed accountant who also runs her own bookkeeping business. This can can lead to queries around pricing, as many people don’t understand quite how much work, skill and precision is involved. Bookkeepers spend a lot of time fixing mistakes or solving very complex problems.
Claire says, “This is why bookkeepers who charge £10 an hour frustrate me. You know that you’re doing it to gain experience and build a portfolio of clients but in reality, all you’re doing is enforcing the perception that we’re a £10 per hour trade.”
5. Bookkeepers are not as a good as accountants
Whilst it’s true that accountancy builds on the work of bookkeeping, the misconception that bookkeepers are not as good as accountants can really harm the reputation of the profession and the confidence of those within it.
Bookkeeping is vital to ensure accuracy and completeness of financial records before accountants use that information to analyse, audit and address the bigger accounting picture. And, many accountants do bookkeeping as part of their role too.
6. Bookkeepers are only useful to bigger businesses
Another misconceptions in the business world that impacts the bookkeeping profession is that a sole trader is too small to benefit from hiring a bookkeeper and only bigger businesses need one. This is simply not true.
Whether it’s just one of those jobs a sole trader puts off or doesn’t enjoy, or they’d be much more profitable spending their time making money than doing their books, outsourcing to a bookkeeper is often a smarter choice and size really doesn’t matter – there’s a bookkeeper out there for everyone.
7. You only need to talk to your bookkeeper at tax time
Sole traders can be forgiven for only thinking about taxes when the self assessment deadline is looming but most bookkeepers are in contact with their clients much more regularly. Like registered bookkeeper and accountant Kelly Jones: “I have regular contact with all of my clients, whether it’s for general questions about their business and operations or information regarding their health check.”
Jenna Strickland MAAT advocates regular contact with clients as it “helps identify money issues and [allows us to] propose ways to manage them better.”
Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.