If your startup is at the stage where you need to hire a bookkeeper, one of the first decisions to make is between on-site and virtual bookkeeping. Chances are that you’re familiar with on-site bookkeeping and have worked in person with local bookkeepers in the past. However, choosing virtual bookkeeping instead benefits your business by giving you access to thousands of bookkeepers who can stay on top of your books without ever stepping foot in your office. 

If you’re not sure whether virtual bookkeeping is right for your business (or if you’re wondering ‘What is virtual bookkeeping?’), keep reading to learn what it involves and which types of startups can benefit most from choosing a virtual service. 

Tired of spending hours on bookkeeping and accounting tasks? See how Zeni can take care of your financials for you.

What is virtual bookkeeping?

Just like traditional on-site bookkeepers, virtual bookkeepers manage day-to-day financial tasks like recording transactions, reconciling bank and credit card accounts, and processing payroll. The key difference is that a traditional bookkeeper needs to be present in your workplace to carry out these tasks, whereas a virtual bookkeeper handles everything remotely using cloud-based software. Virtual bookkeeping is also known as remote or online bookkeeping. As with any person or service you’d consider hiring to help manage your business finances, it’s important to be sure the person's work is reliable, accurate, timely, and comprehensive.

You can hire a remote bookkeeper as a full-time or part-time employee of your company, an independent contractor or freelancer, or outsource your work to a remote bookkeeping service. If you choose a bookkeeping service, you’ll get the benefits of working with a whole team of experts, including a wider range of bookkeeping expertise and the capacity to cover additional bookkeeping tasks and accounting services as needed.


On-site Bookkeepers

Virtual Bookkeepers

Key tasks

  • Data entry and recordkeeping via accounting software
  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable
  • Expense management
  • Receipt management
  • Payroll reconciliations
  • Reconciliation of bank accounts

Accounting tools

Locally-installed accounting or bookkeeping software (e.g. QuickBooks Desktop)

Remote access via cloud-based accounting or bookkeeping software (e.g. QuickBooks Online)


Need to be present in your office or workspace

Can work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection


  • Emails
  • Phone
  • In-person meetings and conversations
  • Emails
  • Phone
  • Document collaboration apps (e.g. Google Drive, Box, Dropbox)
  • Online messaging (e.g. Slack, Google Chat)
  • Video conferencing platforms (e.g. Zoom, Google Hangouts)
  • Productivity software (e.g. Monday.com, Trello)

How will a virtual bookkeeper access physical financial documents, like invoices and receipts?

Virtual bookkeeping is a good fit for businesses that are willing and able to go paperless and use cloud services to replace the need for physical paper invoices and receipts. There are countless resources available, including Bill.com to manage paperless billing and invoicing, Expensify to manage employee reimbursements, and new banking and credit card companies like Brex with built-in receipt management tools and paperless statements, making it easier than ever to move your business’s back office to the cloud. If you’re adamant about maintaining paper-based accounting methods, then remote or online bookkeeping services are probably not the best fit for you.

Who should be using virtual bookkeeping?

Almost any business owner or entrepreneur will find virtual bookkeeping a convenient alternative to on-site services, thanks to the huge pool of experienced bookkeepers you can choose from and the flexibility many remote bookkeepers offer in their working hours. As long your team is comfortable working with online tools, your business is a good candidate for virtual bookkeeping. However, there are some types of businesses that find remote services particularly beneficial:

Startups that are growing rapidly

As the number of customers and financial transactions your business deals with increases, so will the complexity and hours of bookkeeping support you need. With on-site bookkeeping, you’re limited by the availability of bookkeepers in your area and the space in your office for new team members to work. Alternatively, if you work with a remote bookkeeping service, their team likely has the bandwidth to take on extra work as and when you need it, with no worries about finding new hires or adapting your office space. Many virtual bookkeeping services have the capabilities to expand to cover your business’s accounting needs as well.

Startups with unusual business models or verticals

A bookkeeper who understands the financial reports (at minimum, monthly financial statements including Profit & Loss or Income Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement) and tax requirements for your industry will process your bookkeeping work with speed and accuracy, and make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. It can be hard to find someone with the right bookkeeping experience who lives within commuting distance of your workplace, particularly if your business has an unconventional business model or is part of a specialized industry. If you work with a virtual bookkeeping business, you can choose from a wider range of bookkeepers and finance services based anywhere in the world, so you’re more likely to find someone who has experience with your specific bookkeeping needs.

Startups operating in several locations

If your business has multiple workspaces, in-person bookkeeping professionals can be an inefficient solution. Having a single bookkeeper who covers all your offices means lots of time wasted traveling rather than working on the books, but hiring a bookkeeper for each location is a significant expense. A virtual bookkeeper will be able to handle the books for all your locations remotely, so you have one point of contact to manage your financial information and give you a complete picture of how your business is performing. 

Zeni: The Virtual Bookkeeping Service Built For Startups

Zeni is a full-service finance firm that handles all your bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO needs remotely. Our team has seen the bookkeeping challenges that many startups face countless times, so we built a virtual bookkeeping solution that solves common startup problems and gives you the right financial foundation to grow. 

With Zeni’s Bookkeeping Plan, you get accurate, up-to-date books, and a service that is 10 times faster than other bookkeeping options thanks to Zeni’s AI-powered processes. The Zeni dashboard gives you 24/7 access to real-time financial data and key startup metrics, including your net burn, cash on hand, and cash zero date, so you can get the insights you need instantly and at no extra cost. 

Many bookkeeping firms charge at an hourly rate, which can end up being an expensive surprise each month depending on the number of transactions, complexity, and overall business needs. With Zeni, you’ll pay a set monthly fee based on the amount you spend to run your business, so it’s easier to budget for your bookkeeping costs, even as your business grows. 

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