Creating efficient bookkeeping workflows is critical to running a successful bookkeeping practice.
This list below outlines 12 steps to help you start getting your workflows in order, but just start with one! Pick one – any one – and do it. Choose the one that’s easiest, or that you can chunk off, or that you can delegate. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or perfect, or in an app. Just start.
That being said, here are the top four steps you can take to get started:
1. Stop overthinking!
2. Start creating a list of your tasks and to-dos.
3. Never compose an email twice.
4. Clean up your contacts.
And here’s the full list…
Let’s dive a little deeper into what’s involved at each step.
1. Stop overthinking! Lace 'em up and get started.
As an accounting professional, you already possess the skill set required to create great workflows. It’s up to you to put those skills in action and get going!
Knock off the waffling and wavering on your program(s) – e.g., your biz app(s), such as 17Hats, Aero Workflow, Karbon, Practice Ignition, QBOA Work, etc. If you can't decide on one just yet, use Word or Google Docs (your makeshift biz app) to create your templates, tasks, and to-dos.
2. Never compose an email twice.
Ever. If you are going to send an email more than once, copy it and paste it into the toolset or biz app you have settled on. Rather than having to search for the original to use again in the future, or recreate it (again), you’ll always know where to quickly find it.
And, for crying out loud, set up an awesome email signature!
3. Start creating a list of your tasks and to-dos.
This will be the meat of your workflow. Later, you can marry these items up with actions (e.g., email templates), but for now, just get moving on documenting everything you’re doing every day. And when I say “everything”, I mean all of it – every single thing. I even have “close books” in mine!
Write ‘em down, make a list in a document, put them on sticky notes – whatever it takes! Every time you do a task, make a note of it. This is what will get you really moving on creating a workflow. (Hubdoc’s free Bookkeeping Workflow Template can also help you get started!)
Then, you can break them all down into different workflows (e.g., engagements, taxes, client workflows – I have a gazillion different ones). I started by setting up one main workflow for standard bookkeeping, then I duplicated it, customized it for different niches (e.g., restaurants), duplicated it, and tailored it even more for each client.
4. Make a list of your clients’ tasks and to-dos.
I have created workflows for my clients, as well. You are all in this together. You are not “just their bookkeeper”. You are a member of their business team.
Your clients have responsibilities and deadlines – make them accountable for them. You can’t do what you need to do for them if they aren’t part of the process.
Make it easy for them by giving them their next steps, timelines, procedures, and best practices in a checklist that they can work through. No need to make it too pretty; a basic list will do. My biz app doesn’t have high enough user level permissions to allow client access (it’s top of my 17Hats wish list!), so I created their workflow as an automated start of the period questionnaire, that pings me when they have completed it. Google Sheets will do just fine as well.
5. Get your act together and clean up your contacts.
Get your client information in good order. Your CRM is key for your organization and workflows.
Ensure it has complete information on your clients, including emails, phone numbers, addresses, websites, full company names, as well as pertinent details such as tax filing dates, filing details (e.g., NETFILE code), biz numbers, and any important quirks.
Download your client info from your email contacts, and upload this info into your biz app (if you’re using one). Details can be entered as notes or in custom fields. Make it easy to access key client data.
6. Create an always accessible spreadsheet for you and your team.
This is actually an addendum to step #5. However, since you are cleaning up your contacts right! now!, you may as well get all their details into a single spreadsheet so you don’t need to reach out to each client. This spreadsheet will likely be outside of your biz app (I use Google Sheets).
7. Compose a list of your daily pain points.
What could a workflow help with? Managing leads, engagements, missed deadlines, and/or requesting client docs (and then requesting them again)? Figuring out where you left off with a file or who has the next step?
Workflows make my day so much more efficient. They are ready-made lists to keep me organized and on track. There’s no wondering what I need to do or what I'm missing from my clients.
8. Compose a wish list of what you want in your ideal biz app.
You can keep a running list on the fly. You won’t know what you want and need in the beginning – the list will evolve as you continue to build our your workflows. (Check out Hubdoc’s App Evaluation Checklist for ideas of what to include!)
Follow the threads on biz apps (I recommend joining Facebook Groups such as The Workflow WateringHole), and then compare an app’s features to your wish list.
9. Stop overthinking!!
Your workflow is always going to be a work in progress. It’s going to evolve and change and improve. So just get started – it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be started.
10. Create an “at a glance” to-do list of what needs to be done (and by whom).
Although my biz app has the ability to create multiple calendars and send corresponding alerts, I use the “to do” feature in 17Hats to regularly check in on what I have “to do”!
The “to do” feature gives me a single list that shows me what clients have been completed (yay!) and who is left to complete (boo!). 17Hats also has a great feature called “lifecycle” which is a high-level overview of a project that shows what has been completed for that client.
Alternatively, create a workflow for your workflows. Yup, I seriously do this – a workflow for your workflows! This will be your daily, weekly, monthly task list that you will reference to stay on track.
11. Get a second monitor.
I know this sounds like a hardware suggestion, not a workflow tip, but it's key to the success of your workflow! Think of it as your notepad. To me, it's so crucial that I have a travel monitor for my laptop.
12. Stop overthinking!!!
Even if you pick just one thing from the list, your day will be so much more efficient. Take that one step, and the rest will follow.
Building your workflow is an ongoing process…
...but that shouldn’t discourage you from getting started!
You should always be on the lookout for new ways to optimize your workflow, discover new tools, or find ways to make your current tech stack work better for you. I have my own wish list of features and apps to create the ideal workflow – just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it never will!
Stop overthinking and start doing! Document your bookkeeping workflows with our free Bookkeeping Workflow Template. Download it here!
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