Fractional Accounting Services
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Our Accounting Services
Bookkeeping & Accounting Services
Our experienced bookkeepers and accountants will take care of the accounting so you can focus on running your business. Learn more about Bookkeeping & Accounting Services
Fractional CFO Services
Access the expertise and leadership you need, when your business needs it most. Learn more about Fractional CFO Services
Accounting System Design & Implementation
We help you design your accounting ecosystem to build the right foundation for better decision making. Learn more about Accounting System Design & Implementation
Accelerating Outcomes with Best in Class Technology
Transform your accounting into a competitive advantage.
Outsourced Accounting Services
When it comes to accounting, the old school mentality is that it is a just necessary evil. It is something that has to be done, but it is painful and doesn’t add real value. For years, small business owners would do it themselves or get their neighbor or retired aunt to help them out on the side.
And while this may work for some small business owners, the more progressive, successful entrepreneurs embrace accounting as a powerful tool to help them see the future coming—and plan for it. But few small businesses, or even growing mid-sized businesses, for that matter, can justify the expense of a full-time, in-house accountant to manage finances.
Enter outsourced accounting services. By tapping financial professionals for the important work of bookkeeping, financial planning, and cash flow forecasting, business owners can benefit from reliable expertise without the overhead of an internal hire. With the right outsourced accounting services provider, business owners can gain access to better information to make smarter decisions.
But what is “accounting outsourcing services?” Why is accounting considered outsourcing? And how much do accounting services cost?
Answers to all of these questions and more can be found below as we take a deep dive into everything entrepreneurs need to know about outsourced accounting services to take their business to the next level.
Can Accountancy Services Be Outsourced?
Yes, accountancy services can easily be outsourced—and often should be. Before we get any deeper into unpackaging outsourced accounting services and how they work, it’s important to understand why outsourcing accounting work is the right move for so many growing businesses.
According to PayScale, the nationwide average salary for a Chief Financial Officer is $136,602. “Okay,” you might say, “but I don’t think my small business even needs a full-time CFO.” That’s probably true! But even if you’re looking to hire a lower-level accountant to handle your bookkeeping tasks like accounts payable, accounts receivable, and bank account reconciliations, there’s still a significant bill to foot; PayScale puts the average salary for an entry-level accountant at over $50,000.
So, can an accountant be outsourced? If so, will the outsourced accountant cost less? Yes all levels of accountancy can be outsourced. Typically, a staff accountant will not bring $50,000 worth of value to your small businesses, but an outsourced accountant can handle the same tasks for less. Most entrepreneurs see the price tag of a full-time accountant and realize that it’s money better spent on critical hires that will drive revenue—and that makes perfect sense.
By outsourcing everything from basic bookkeeping functions to more strategic CFO services, growing companies can get a lot more bang for their buck and cover a wider spectrum of services. The classic mistake we see companies make is that they hire a mid-level accountant and try to perform all the accounting functions within a company. While mid-level accountants can certainly perform the lower-level bookkeeping functions, they won’t be happy doing it for long, which could lead to turnover. They also won’t have the experience to cover the higher-end of the spectrum and provide the more strategic CFO level advice that a company needs to get to the next level. A quality mid-level accountant will cost between $75,000 and $85,000—and that’s before you factor in an additional 20% for benefits and other HR costs. By engaging a good outsourced accounting firm, you will likely spend far less and cover the spectrum of services you really need.
Long story short: For most growing businesses, not only can accountancy services be outsourced—they should be.
What is Outsourced Accounting?
Outsourced accounting is a service in which a third-party accounting firm provides businesses with contracted support for duties like bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, cash flow planning, financial strategy, and more. Think of an outsourced accounting services provider like any other vendor your business might use, like a lawyer or IT managed service provider. If you can imagine a finance-related job that needs done for your business, there’s a good chance that outsourced accounting can fill that need.
So, how does outsourcing work in accounting specifically? Most providers will offer a range of services that can be uniquely configured to meet a business’s specific needs. Some of the most common services provided through outsourced accounting include (but aren’t limited to):
The most basic accounting function for growing businesses is bookkeeping, which involves the ongoing maintenance of a company’s financial records to track revenue and spending. An outsourced accounting company will typically help with processing vendor and customer invoices, recording credit card transactions, reconciling bank and credit card accounts, and collecting payments from customers.
While bookkeeping is the lowest level of the accounting services, it provides the foundation for good information. If your bookkeeping is not getting done correctly, chances are you will not be able to rely on your financial statements. You have probably heard the term, “garbage in, garbage out”. It definitely applies to bookkeeping. In order to get good information to make smart business decisions, you have to have quality bookkeeping. And remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the best option. More to come on that.
The next step up from basic bookkeeping is monthly accounting, which involves a more hands-on, month-to-month approach to closing books and providing insights to business owners about the financial health of the business. That includes reconciling all accounts in the balance sheet and giving executives reporting tools to better understand their profitability and track their key performance metrics.
Some providers take this level of service up a notch by also offering monthly meetings, in which an accountant will review the company’s books with owners and leaders and offer their perspective and recommendations for the future.
Cash Flow Forecasting
While bookkeeping and monthly accounting services are focused on the accurate maintenance of financial data, cash flow forecasting is all about the future. Cash is the lifeblood of any organization. Whether you are trying to navigate a turbulent economic climate or proactively manage your growth, the ability to forecast your cash flow can mean the difference between success and failure.
By intentionally reviewing a company’s cash inflows and outflows, an outsourced accounting provider can help business owners avoid surprise bills or shifts in income that can spell disaster. Exceptional outsourced accounting services providers will leverage the latest technology plus the expertise of their staff to help business owners gain a firm understanding of projected cash flow. That might include the ability to explore what-if scenarios: If we decide to make that additional hire, what will our cash flow look like in two months? If we land that big contract, should we hire part-time or full-time help to get it done? Good cash flow forecasting support can help business owners make better decisions and react to an ever-changing business environment.
Some aspects of an organization’s financial life require a more involved and in-depth relationship. Outsourced Chief Financial Officer (CFO) services, also known as Fractional CFO services, give growing businesses an opportunity to purchase a portion of a top-level financial professional’s time in a given month. That time is theirs to use for more hands-on guidance through things like fundraising, mergers and acquisitions, and succession planning.
An Outsourced CFO can also play a central role in day-to-day operations, being present for board and leadership meetings, evaluating cash management, and helping to course-correct when cash flow forecasts look grim. While this kind of service model can be the most costly, it also comes with the highest level of support for founders facing large financial questions and hurdles to clear.
System Design and Implementation
Getting accurate and timely information to make smart decisions doesn’t happen by accident. It takes experience and thoughtful planning to implement technology that will streamline processes and optimize financials. As companies grow, their financial needs tend to get more complex and their data can get siloed and difficult to manage. A good outsourced accounting firm can also help a business owner identify opportunities to increase efficiency and facilitate better information through the implementation of best-in-class technology applications and improved processes. This might start by examining a company’s processes and procedures surrounding things like invoicing, company credit cards, or expenses. It can extend to identifying new software tools that are a better fit, and even increasing internal controls to mitigate fraud risks.
Think of this spectrum of typical accounting services as something of an a la carte menu you can choose from to build the right package for your organization’s needs. You may have a fantastic relationship with a local bookkeeper you don’t want to lose, but you know you need more sophisticated accounting support to plan your growth trajectory. That’s okay! Finding the right firm to help you fill the gaps and provide the expertise you need can make all the difference as you are growing your business.
How Much Does it Cost to Outsource Accounting?
On a high level, it can cost as little as a couple hundred dollars per month for basic, cookie-cutter bookkeeping services, or as much as several thousand dollars per month for more extensive accounting support. Different outsourced accounting services come with different price tags, depending on the amount of time and expertise required.
For more commoditized services like bookkeeping, just as one example, it’s very easy for most providers to offer a clear starting price point for their services, which are typically based on hourly costs for a bookkeeper’s time. That hourly cost to a business can range widely with fees of $40/hr to over $100/hr, depending on geography and other factors. A good provider should offer a customized price based on the complexity of your books and the number of transactions your business processes in a month, so be wary of anybody who offers a flat, one-size-fits-all, fee for this kind of service.
Moving up the cost spectrum, standard accounting services often start around $100/hr and can go as high as $250 to $350/hr for fractional CFO services. More in-depth monthly accounting services that include a structured month-end close, a financial review meeting, and cash flow forecasting might range between $1,000 to $5,000 per month, depending on the complexity and time commitment. The costs for fractional CFO services will vary depending on a number of factors, but is often dependent on higher-end initiatives like fund-raising and mergers and acquisitions support. Typical monthly CFO engagements can range between $2,000 to $10,000 per month, or higher depending on the market.
For most growing businesses, a conservative estimate of $250 to $4,000 per month will likely cover most of their accounting needs—with the loud caveat that costs for services can vary wildly depending on your local market and the location and setup of your chosen provider.
Is it Cheaper to Outsource Accounting?
It is generally cheaper to outsource accounting services. However, outsourced accounting is not fit for every business. The best-outsourced accounting services will provide you with years of expertise, guidance for picking the right tools, and meet your accounting needs for less than the cost of a full time staff accountant or controller.
Outsourced accounting generally fits small businesses better, especially in industries such as SaaS or non-profit accounting. These industries typically have more complicated funding, revenue streams, or taxes. Outsourced accounting allows for tailored prices that typically cost way less than hiring someone full-time.
What are the Benefits of Outsourced Accounting?
Cost is just one of many outsourced accounting benefits. This may come as a surprise because the roles are more or less identical. Outsourced accounting also comes with the peace of mind that your accounting is being handled by an experienced professional. Outsourced accounting firms give your work to employees who are familiar with your industry or bookkeeping type.
Many outsourced accounting firms also do short-term contracts. This allows for flexibility to increase or decrease services as needed based on volume and growth. Another outsourced accounting benefit is the network to upgrade services as needed. If your small business does grow to the point of needing CFO guidance, you can upgrade your services within the outsourced accounting firm without the time and money of hiring someone.
Which are the Best Companies for Outsourcing Bookkeeping and Accounting Services?
The best company for outsourcing bookkeeping and accounting services is the one that fits your needs and your vision for a productive partnership. In your search for the right outsourced bookkeeping and accounting services, there are many ways to evaluate which are best. Some would say to go for the cheapest option—but you know better than that. Likewise, the biggest firms are likely to be the ones with the greatest volume of ratings and reviews online—but biggest doesn’t always mean best, either. Just as your business is unlike any other out there, outsourced accounting service providers can each bring a little something different to the table.
The trick is to identify what matters most to you and look for professionals who understand your vision, are equipped to help you realize it, and to stay true to your core values along the way. To get you started, here’s a list of the most important qualities to look for when searching for an outsourced accounting services company:
Not all accounting work is equal. Some tasks you might outsource can be handled by entry-level accountants or other kinds of professionals. For example, bookkeeping can be complex, but it’s far simpler than preparing a detailed financial forecast. When it comes to strategic financial advice, experience really matters. Whether you are preparing to raise money for your company and you want to understand the various options, or your business is growing and you need a financial forecast that will help you make good decisions, you will want to work with an expert. Find a firm that has done this type of work before and can provide good strategic advice. Before hiring any accounting service provider, inquire about the level of experience of the people providing the specific services you’re requesting to make sure you’re in good hands.
It has become increasingly common for accounting firms to offshore their bookkeeping services to countries like India and the Philippines. There are cost savings to be found by going that route, but they come at the expense of being able to develop a true relationship with the people going into your books every month. Firms that offshore typically try to keep their clients removed from offshore teams, not to mention the time difference. Since you and even your vendor don’t have full control over who is doing your books, it can be tough to ensure consistency and continuity of service. Accounting outsourcing services in the USA have more access to law changes and better understand our culture. Additionally, the value of a relationship with domestic business partners cannot be understated. If relationships matter to you as you grow your business, stick with firms whose staff is located in the United States and will be accessible into the future.
Wide Spectrum of Services
Maybe you’re searching for an outsourced accounting firm to fill a very specific gap in your back office. You had an employee who knew enough about accounting to be dangerous, and they took care of your books—until they took a new opportunity and moved on. Whatever specific service you need today, keep in mind that your needs will evolve as your business grows. Today it’s bookkeeping, but tomorrow you might benefit from more in-depth support from an Outsourced CFO service. Look for a provider who can fill the needs you currently have, but also offer additional services that might come in handy in the future. And avoid any providers who force you to sign up for service you don’t need just to get the one thing you do.
Along those lines, it’s important that you find a good deal that’s in line with the level of service you expect from a provider. We shared some ballpark figures and national averages for outsourced accounting services costs in the previous section, but what’s “competitive” in your local market could look very different. It’s a good idea to research pricing models from more than one provider even if you believe you’ve found a good option just to ensure your costs aren’t too far out of line. Of course, the opposite is true, as well; if a provider is promising a lot more than the competition for a much lower rate, well… You get what you pay for.
According to a 2020 Grant Thornton survey, today’s CFOs believe that within 5 years, 90% of finance functions will be fully automated. That includes repetitive data entry tasks like accounts payable that modern artificial intelligence tech can easily handle, freeing up valuable human hours for more thoughtful work. The 10% that can’t be automated is what you should be paying for from an outsourced accounting services firm, not the other 90%. The best providers will employ technology to automate what can be automated and integrate disparate sources of data to provide you with the clearest look possible at your company’s financial health. Look for providers who can integrate with the software you already use or make migrating to new platforms a breeze.
Nobody can be all things to all people, and that’s just as true for accountants as it is for anybody else. Some commoditized bookkeepers or CPAs might offer their services to a variety of different kinds of businesses, and that can work on a small scale. But if you hope to build a productive relationship with a firm who truly understands the unique demands of your industry, look for a firm with specialized experience. For example, at Milestone, we tend to work best with professional services companies, scaling SaaS and tech startups, and nonprofits. While we occasionally work with entrepreneurs outside of those industries if the fit is particularly good, we love working in spaces where we have the most history and the broadest perspective.
Broader Business Support
For many businesses, accounting is just one element of the back office that needs to be managed. If you’re outsourcing monthly accounting, for example, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to also outsource your HR and payroll to that same vendor? After all, each side would inform the other and help provide a more integrated set of services. If you can find an outsourced accounting services provider who also has equally qualified people to help you with other back office functions like HR, that just means you have an even bigger team to tap when the need arises.
This last quality is the most difficult to quantify, but so often becomes the magic ingredient that either makes or breaks a business relationship. At the end of the day, you want to work with people you actually want to spend time with. If your outsourced accounting team is offshored somewhere and you never get to interact with them, or you’re limited to anonymous customer support chat windows to ask questions, it will be difficult to want to engage with your accounting team. Don’t discount the importance of finding a provider who loves what they do and is excited to work with you and help you grow.
Count on Milestone for the Best Outsourced Accounting Services
Did you find your way to this page by searching, “outsourced accounting services near me?” You’re not alone. Businesses across the United States are looking for an accounting services provider that checks every box we listed above—serving as a true partner, not just another simple vendor to balance the books and prepare financials. We founded Milestone Business Services, a local Indianapolis accounting services firm with a national footprint, as a direct response to that need from entrepreneurs with growing businesses.
Milestone offers a refreshingly forward approach to the back office, providing business owners and nonprofit organizations with expertise for the entrepreneurial journey. We believe that even in the smallest companies, founders and their employees deserve the resources and support that traditionally has only been available to large, enterprise businesses. Our outsourced accounting and HR services are designed to provide employers with dedicated support to grow their businesses with a spectrum of services that starts with bookkeeping, and ends with fractional Chief Financial Officer support.
Wherever your business is today, and wherever you want to go tomorrow, Milestone is here to help you take the right steps forward. Click here to learn more about the Milestone difference and unleash your back office.