In today’s world of cloud-based accounting platforms and third-party app ecosystems, it’s never been easier to work with clients remotely…
But there are so many different tools and apps out there that choosing the right technology to power your business can be daunting.
In this article, I’ll go over the tools needed to implement a fully virtual workflow in your accounting and tax firm so you can work faster and more profitably.
The Robot Uprising
There is a lot of buzz in the accounting community about technology and its effect on our firms and how we service our clients.
A quick Google search reveals everything from excitement to fear and even some conspiracy theories about how about the rise of the machines will make the accounting profession obsolete.
I hope you don’t subscribe to any of those wacky theories. Good accountants and advisors will never be obsolete, because all that technology needs to be implemented by someone who understands the theory and can analyze what the computer spits out.
The most successful accounting firms embrace technology to make their jobs easier and faster. That means you and your staff can provide better service to more clients in the same amount of time, thus boosting your profits and making your practice much more efficient..
Here’s a rundown of the types of tools that are out there and how they fit into your virtual accounting workflow.
But What About the Paperwork?
Gone are the days when you had to keep hard copies of all your firm’s documents. The old-fashioned paper trail can now be managed completely online.
Sealing the Deal
Your work with a new client starts with getting a signed engagement agreement. Tools like DocuSign make it easy to get a virtual signature on your contracts and agreements without wasting precious time mailing back and forth or dusting off the fax machine.
In almost all cases, digital signatures can be used and carry the same legal weight as a physical signature. Anything that streamlines the onboarding process should be a welcome addition to your toolbox.
Getting Client Documents
Once the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, it’s time to collect source documents from your client.
Whether it’s tax work, bookkeeping, or any other virtual accounting service you offer, you’ll need receipts, invoices, bills, and all relevant documents..
This is one area that can make clients worry about working virtually. Having your tools in place can really help ease their minds.
This is where Hubdoc is a lifesaver. Clients can use a scanner or smartphone to upload documents to their end of a secure portal. On your end, documents are ready for review and the software automatically reads most of the information from the document.
What does that mean? A receipt scanned into Hubdoc will automatically populate the vendor name, dollar amount, date, and other information with surprising accuracy. Just think about how much time this would save you!
On review, you can archive the documents in Hubdoc’s cloud storage. You can also send receipts or invoices to QBO or Xero to attach to a transaction or send bills to bill.com to be paid online.
Most importantly, bank and credit card statements can be uploaded directly into Hubdoc so you have easy access without logging into the client’s bank or credit card account.
Do You Have the Skills to Pay the Bills?
If you’re handling payables for your virtual accounting clients, bill.com is a must.
Emailed statements and bills can be sent directly into bill.com and we’ve already pushed the paper ones over from Hubdoc. You can review, approve, and pay bills online, and bill.com will even send paper checks to those vendors who don’t yet accept online payments.
You can set different user roles, depending on who needs to approve and pay bills. Bill.com minimizes paper handling and helps ensure no bills slip through the cracks.
Ease of use plus bank-level security equals a win for your virtual accounting practice.
There’s No Place Like Home
All of these amazing tools only work when they are connected to your accounting home base, which is your online accounting software.
To make the most of your cloud accounting software, you need to connect your automated feeds to your client’s bank accounts. Accounts and cards can be connected and synced up so that you get new transactions as they occur. Just click “update” and you can see the current state of each account.
Just think how easy it is to reconcile accounts with an automated bank feed and those statements you imported from Hubdoc!
Connecting Your Team
All of the above tools can help you run an effective, efficient virtual accounting firm. Cloud-based tools make it easy for several team members to access the same information and documents, but you may be wondering how technology can help you manage the team and interact with your clients.
If your virtual accounting firm includes a virtual team working from all over, you need a way to manage projects. Asana is just one of the many great project management tools out there to assign tasks, track what has been done, and share notes as a team.
Communication is also key because no one wants to dig through old emails and direct messages. Wasting time is not what we’re about. Tools like Slack let you share updates and messages with the entire team, and allow individuals to have private conversations in their own channels so it doesn’t get too crowded in public threads.
Facebook also has its Workplace application, which is very comparable to Slack but may be more intuitive for Facebook users. It’s like a Facebook just for your team.
Finally, at the end of the day, everyone gets paid. It doesn’t get much easier than TSheets for tracking hours of hourly employees. Even if you don’t have anyone paid by the hour, you can use this tool to track how much time is being spent on clients to measure and maximize your profitability. If you use QuickBooks Online, even better – TSheets is now built-in to QBO.
Communicating with Clients
Zoom is a great tool for several reasons. You can hold video conference calls, allow members of the team to call in by phone if they are traveling, and record your meetings for future reference.
But video conference apps aren’t limited to staff meetings, they are also a great way to work with clients who are uncomfortable with a virtual firm. “Face-to-face” meetings make it feel like you are in the room, even while you work remotely.
As you can see, a virtual accounting practice isn’t about working in your pajamas (well, it’s not ONLY about that).
It’s about leveraging technology to work faster, more accurately, and earn more money in less time.
Sound good? Then it’s time to set up a better virtual accounting workflow.