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Bookkeeping is so much more than its Wikipedia entry of ‘the recording of financial transactions’. Being a licensed bookkeeper is a popular profession – the Association of Accounting Technicians had around 130 members subscribing to the new AATQB professional bookkeeper status in the first few weeks of it becoming available. Two registrations of people studying to receive AAT Bookkeeping Qualifications this year have been from members in their 70s!
One (somewhat younger) bookkeeper is Claire Owen-Jones, who runs her own bookkeeping practice, Loud and Clear Accountancy, based in Cardiff. Claire set up Loud and Clear just over a year ago, and combines her work there with running the compliance department for a local accountancy firm. Here she tells her story of a typical week to give a glimpse of what it is like to be a bookkeeper and how she works on a part-time basis while looking after her young son.
Very little bookkeeping work today as on Mondays I play the role of mum. I always find Mondays hard as I’m often raring to go, buzzing with ideas that have formed over the weekend. I’m sure that one day Monday’s will be my blog and marketing day, but not for a while yet. Instead it’s a blood test at the doctors, an hour or two at soft play and the weekly food shop.
I’ve always been very open with my clients that I’m not always working so I rarely get disturbed on my days away from the desk. I have a couple of emails today, one asking for information regarding a mortgage application and two asking for information about their annual accounts. Luckily these were all queries that I was able to deal with quickly and whilst sat at soft play so the clients are happy and I don’t have to roll any jobs over to Tuesday.
I start the day by sending emails to clients who haven’t given me their VAT information. Not all of my clients are set up on bank feeds yet, so I tell myself off, again, for this automation oversight, and start to request CSV files to upload. One client has sent me their bank statements but for the wrong quarter. Another has forgotten to email me the details of the cheques issued. It’s only small holes in the missing information but I don’t like stop-starting jobs so I put these on hold.
I’m helping a client move over from (accounting software) Zoho to Xero so I spend a couple of hours exporting their contact list and sales invoices and re-importing these into Xero. I had confirmation that their bank feeds were now active over the weekend so this conversion is almost complete. This particular client will be doing their own bookkeeping so my role has been to get their Xero software set up and provide training on this and Receipt Bank. I know I’ll be producing their annual accounts so it’s even more important that I get this right.
Another VAT Return is first on the list today. This retail client used to take me over a day to do, but now I’ve put them on Xero and using cash coding to record multiple transactions quickly, I can get the VAT Return done in a couple of hours. I’m still waiting for them to get their till rolls to me and I’m unable to complete their management reports until I get these. This is a job that I do for a local accountancy firm – if they were my client I’d have them on Receipt Bank and would be highly recommending Vend, a cloud-based retail management platform, but for now I have to work around other people’s systems.
I’ve off to the city centre this afternoon to meet with a charity. I’m going to be moving them over from SAGE to Xero. It’s going to be a big job as they have several income streams as well as restricted and unrestricted income to deal with. I have to give a quick demo of Xero in front of their team. The vast majority are enthusiastic which is great as so am I.
There is a lot of scope to streamline their processes and improve their reporting. Their in-house bookkeeper isn’t keen though so I had to stay behind to answer his queries. I often find it’s the current bookkeeper that is the most resistant to change. I completely understand this. They’re used to their SAGE and excel spreadsheets – it works for them, so why should they listen to me with my apps and cloud based ideas which will mess things up for a while?
When this situation happens I like to do a lot more one-on-one training than I normally would, as I want to make the transition as easy as possible but without letting their resistance to change stop progression. I make a note that this is going to take longer than expected.
Another day of being mum. I take my son to see his speech and language therapist in the morning and then in the afternoon we make the most of the nice weather by going to the park.
I write a monthly blog for a local accountancy firm demonstrating how technology can be used to solve small business problems. I’d been emailed this month’s theme so whenever an idea comes into my head I make notes on my phone. I love writing these blogs, but there is a lot more pressure than when I write my own. I spend any free moment mapping out what I’d like to write. I’ll then re-read blogs by this accountancy firm over the weekend, as it’s important that whatever I write agrees with their house style of writing.. I’ll write the blog next week.
I start the day by uploading the CSV bank files that have now been received. I don’t have time to finish the VAT Returns today but having them ready means that I can get going straight away next week, or even over the weekend if the mood takes me. I then chase some of my outstanding invoices and do my own bookkeeping as I am keen to lead by example.
I have a strategy meeting with an accountant this lunchtime. I’ve been working with him for over a year now, helping him to move his firm over to a 100% cloud-based model. Today I’m going to be talking to him about reporting and different KPIs that he could measure. I’ve got the vast majority of his clients onto Xero, so the next stage is looking at how we can use the information that we have to push more advisory services. I know it seems odd me leading him on this journey, but when you deal with the day to day transactions of a business, you can often detect any problems before the accountant, so communication between the two of us is vital.
My final meeting of the day is with a client to talk about cash flow. He’s recently expanded into larger premises and all of the additional expenditure that goes with this. Sales have increased, but money is tight so he wanted to talk to me about that. A quick look at his balance sheet showed that his debtor days had increased from 27 to 61 days, but his creditor days had remained constant at 28, so at least I was able to go to this meeting with a pretty good idea of how to solve his problem. We agreed that a monthly budget would be helpful and a cash flow forecast so I think I’ll get him on Float as I’ve already got him using Xero and Receipt Bank.
It’s quickly Friday evening and the weekend gives me a chance to relax and unwind (though, with a two year old, this can be tricky!), ahead of starting the whole process again next week! There’s a great deal of satisfaction knowing that I can help get my clients onto systems which will greatly enhance their finance systems, making it quicker and easier to carry out reporting requirements and budget for the future.
*AAT has this year launched AAT Bookkeeper status (AATQB) for people who have qualified through AAT Qualifications to provide bookkeeping services to support businesses of all sizes with accurate financial records, ensuring that their accounts are up-to-date. AATQBs can apply to become a licensed bookkeeper, required for providing services on a self-employed basis. For more information visit www.aat.org.uk/bookkeeping