If your startup is at the stage where you need to hire a bookkeeper, one of the first decisions to make is whether to choose on-site or virtual bookkeeping. Chances are you’re familiar with on-site bookkeeping, or you’ve worked in person with bookkeepers in the past.

However, while onsite bookkeeping has benefits, it can have serious limitations — particularly for startups.  Virtual bookkeeping benefits your business by giving you access to thousands of accounting professionals who can stay on top of your books without ever stepping foot in your office.

If you’re not sure whether a virtual bookkeeping service like Zeni 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. Key benefits of virtual bookkeeping include:

  • More industry-specific accounting resources, including experts with experience with highly specialized verticals.
  • On-demand insights for key financial metrics for making stronger data-driven decisions.
  • More timely monthly, quarterly, and annual reports.
  • Access to an expansive team of CPAs and bookkeepers with relevant industry experience.

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, outsource the work to an independent contractor or freelancer, or streamline your finances with 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.

Onsite Bookkeepers Vs. Virtual Bookkeepers

What financial functions can a virtual bookkeeping service perform?

Remote finance teams can handle all day-to-day activities performed by bookkeepers, along with more advanced accounting services like financial projections & analysis, yearly taxes, and compliance needs. By leveraging the experience of a team of financial professionals—along with AI-driven software that automatically handles certain calculations and accounting activities—remote bookkeepers can offer these services with a greater breadth of scope.

For example, startups with venture capital funding may need to provide monthly updates to avoid delinquency. Accurate reporting is crucial, but if a business cannot find in-office financial experts who have experience with monthly reporting requirements, they may have trouble creating accurate reports on a steady timeline. Likewise, a local accountant may have substantial expertise with small business taxes, but may be unfamiliar with research and development (R&D) credits for seed and venture-funded companies.

Virtual bookkeeping services can address these types of challenges. Zeni offers access to financial professionals with expertise in a range of industries and organizational structures, providing clients with quick feedback when they need it.

If your startup relies on paper documentation, is virtual bookkeeping a viable option?

Yes—and remote bookkeeping services can help you find practical ways to move away from physical accounting structures.

While most companies have gone digital, paper-based accounting remains surprisingly common. About 25% of small businesses still use manual accounting methods (with no digital component). Paper-only bookkeeping is time consuming and increases the risk of human error, but for some organizations, switching to digital bookkeeping may seem impractical. For example, if your business receives a large number of physical invoices, you might assume that digitizing those documents would create a bottleneck. That’s not the case — provided that you’re working with the right tools.

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. Countless resources are 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. These tools make it easier than ever to move your business’s back office to the cloud.

With that said, moving from physical documentation to cloud-based services can be an intimidating process. Virtual bookkeeping services like Zeni can help you find financial tools that fit into existing workflows—giving you more time to spend on growing your business.

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 as 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. Fast-growing startups will require more hours from their finance teams, and leaders need to know that their teams are maximizing tax credits, R&D credits, and other programs that facilitate future growth.

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. An experienced remote bookkeeping service 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.

This is especially advantageous for cryptocurrency start-ups and other organizations with complex or industry-specific reporting requirements. Virtual bookkeeping provides access to bookkeepers with relevant experience, ensuring that your business receives applicable guidance.

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.

Do onsite bookkeepers offer any advantages over virtual bookkeeping services?

Many business leaders choose onsite services because they want to focus on growing their business—having an in-office bookkeeper provides leaders with an opportunity to ask questions and develop a stronger understanding of key financial metrics.

Facetime can be a valuable resource for business owners. However, virtual bookkeeping services can also provide that benefit: At Zeni, we take efforts to build strong client relationships, and our finance team is adept at providing the guidance that new businesses need to stay focused on growth.

With the rise of remote-only and remote-hybrid workspaces, the line between virtual and onsite bookkeeping has become less distinct. Today, virtual finance teams can offer the same insights and guidance as onsite bookkeepers—with better availability, faster response times, and real-time reportage built to address the challenges of any industry.

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.

For startups, financial flexibility is essential. Online bookkeeping can play a crucial role in your company’s long-term growth—and with a strategic finance partner, your organization can make sure that every dollar counts. Zeni combines an AI-driven platform with expert guidance to provide business owners with forward-thinking financial solutions. Learn more by scheduling a demo.

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