Here’s a concern of mine: Craigslist ads seeking Office Managers where the small business owner lists ten to fifteen bullet points in the job description, and one bullet point is “Experience with QuickBooks.” Why would you hire an Office Manager to answer the phone, manage the front office, coordinate schedules, order officer supplies, and do your books? This begs the question: How important are your books to you, Mr. or Ms. Small Business Owner?
When I speak to prospective clients and learn they only want to pay $25 an hour for bookkeeping services, I refer them to Craigslist. You get what you pay for. That’s not to say that bookkeepers/bookkeeping services advertised on Craigslist are inferior, as many are not. However, uncounted practitioners hang their shingle on Craiglist yet have little bookkeeping background, training, certification or experience. Basically anyone can say they are a bookkeeper, while not anyone can say they are a CPA. And let’s not forget that CPAs are state-licensed.
Here’s where certification comes into the picture. Since there is not state licensure for bookkeepers, to distinguish yourself from the riff raff you have a few certification choices: Certified Pro Advisor and Certified Bookkeeper. Several industry groups also offer certifications, as do many software providers.
QuickBooks Certified Pro Advisor
Intuit offers a Pro Advisor designation, behind which there is online self-paced coursework and a final exam. Upon certification, you receive a certificate and a badge you can place on your business card or website, plus, depending upon which certification plan you choose, a listing on their Pro Advisor website. The annual fee more than pays for itself with the included software and the exposure.
Two major national associations offer bookkeeper certification. The AIPB, American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, offers a CB or Certified Bookkeeper designation, and the NACPB, National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, also offers certification. Both provide study guides, member newsletters and website resources. Both require continuing professional education units to maintain the certification, which entails some additional annual fees and costs. Certification is a great way to set yourself a rung above those who have not achieved Certified status.
Here are other ideas of ways to distinguish yourself, or your firm’s bookkeeping services, from the crowd.
1. Become software certified.
Many software programs offer certifications or partner programs, including Xero, Bill.com, Avalara, Concur, Expensify and TSheets, just to name a few. The list is practically endless! Most all of the partner programs offer your firm discounts, and usually financial incentives which reduce the cost of use for your firm and your clients. Many offer website badges as well.
2. Join an industry association such as The Sleeter Group or the Woodard Groups NAN – National Advisor Network.
Industry associations offer great national and local opportunities to network with colleagues, stay abreast of the latest technology and regulations, share ideas and leads, and most of all, bring vibrancy to our sector.
3. Attend industry conferences, and/or local meetups.
Making the time to attend these gatherings is never disappointing, as there are always fabulous speakers presenting on timely and relevant topics. I always return home brimming with ideas and enthusiasm.
4. Present at an industry conference or local meetup.
Presenting a topic at a local or national meeting brings exposure and credibility to you, your firm, and your staff. A generic presentation on a topic of interest can bring in new business, without having to make any direct sales pitch.
5. Read industry newsletters and blogs.
Keeping abreast of the current issues, software programs and third party apps helps keep you in the forefront as a thought leader and industry expert.
Am I a better bookkeeper than someone who does not have certifications or attend industry meetings? Not necessarily. But I feel certification does justify my charging a higher rate than someone who has not taken these extra steps to further their career, professional knowledge and network. The amount of time and effort I spend doing the above work gives me the confidence to charge the rates I charge, and to know that I am worth the price. Following through on any or all of the suggestions above will put you head and shoulders above the competition and help distinguish you and your firm as active players in the industry.