Full-charge bookkeeping is a crucial component of any business’s financial management structure. At the same time, smaller-scale operations like startups and standard small businesses sometimes forego full-charge bookkeeping opportunities. Founders and small business owners often elect to take the bookkeeping reins themselves through a convoluted series of Excel workbooks and banker boxes.
But a full-charge bookkeeper can be game-changing, no matter the size or scale of your business. Responsible for managing an entire bookkeeping process, from overseeing daily ledger entries to producing financial statements and reports, full-charge bookkeeping services can let you focus on what matters: product or service fit and increasing market share.
Full-charge bookkeeping comes in two primary forms – outsourced and in-house help. It’s important to understand the distinction and nuance between the two when deciding on a course of action (we’re ruling out the DIY route as needlessly complex and burdensome).
What is full-charge bookkeeping?
Before examining the merits of each, it’s essential to understand what full-charge bookkeeping entails. This role encompasses the complete range of bookkeeping responsibilities, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations, keeping the ship running tightly, and (most importantly) saving you time. A full charge bookkeeper’s duties include managing accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, bank reconciliations, and even preparing monthly and annual financial statements (they can even help with taxes, in some circumstances).
In-House Full-Charge Bookkeeping
As the name implies, an in-house full charge bookkeeper is a permanent or semi-permanent member of your staff. They’re hired much like any employee and incur all the direct and peripheral costs of new hires (salary, taxes, retirement account contributions, etc.).
With an in-house bookkeeper, owners and founders enjoy direct control and can monitor the progress and quality of work firsthand. This can help avoid catastrophe if your hire isn’t up to the task, as you’ll catch them slipping quickly. However, you’re hiring a full-charge bookkeeper to take tasks off your plate. If you end up micromanaging or holding their hand throughout each project or process, you’re not taking full advantage of full-charge bookkeeping benefits.
As with any employee, you’ll usually enjoy more immediate access to their help as needed. Since they’re a phone call or office away waiting for taskings, you can generally tag them quickly as last-minute tasks, corrections, or other urgent requirements arise. In-house help also integrates more holistically into your collective operation, particularly if you’re office-based and not primarily remote. Being a part of the company lets the bookkeeper immerse in its culture, understand day-to-day nuances, and work in alignment with operational objectives.
Of course, in-house help comes with typical disadvantages that can particularly hamstring small-scale operations. Maintaining an in-house team involves additional expenses such as benefits, training, and recruitment costs. Depending on your location, extra tax, insurance, and retirement account requirements. You’re also limited by the in-house team’s skills, which might lack the breadth of experience that an outsourced firm can offer. You spend good money on bad work if you mis-hire or don’t thoroughly vet a candidate.
Outsourcing Full-Charge Bookkeeping
Outsourcing your full charge bookkeeping comes with many advantages inherent in outsourcing talent and a few specific to the role. Outsourcing can save your company a bundle, as businesses only pay for the services they need and avoid the costs associated with a full-time employee. Likewise, it’s simple to scale up or down to meet operational needs, business cycles, and recurring but infrequent deadlines for things like taxes or financial reports.
When outsourcing, you also leverage the power of teams and expertise breadth. Outsourcing firms and agencies usually have a wide range of experts specializing in different sectors, ensuring top-notch service tailored to specific needs.
Of course, dispersed operations have their unique series of challenges. Outsourcing means ceding some direct oversight, which not all business owners may be comfortable with. Compounding the loss of direct supervision, there might be time zone differences or other communication barriers depending on where the service is outsourced.
In-House or Outsourcing?
The decision between in-house and outsourced full-charge bookkeeping depends on the business’s specific needs, scale, and structure. If a company values direct oversight and instant availability, in-house might be the way to go. But if cost-effectiveness, scalability, and diverse expertise are priorities, outsourcing to experienced agencies or firms would be a fitting choice.