Bookkeepers who possess certain skills go on to have successful careers. The good news is that if you aren’t already gifted with all of these skills, there are ways to master the bookkeeper skills that you are lacking.
Here we will cover the essential bookkeeping skills, which may not be listed on a bookkeeper job description, but are nontheless essential for enjoying a flourishing bookkeeping career.
Read on for a rundown of bookkeeper skills and tips on how to develop and enhance them.
Skill #1. Attention to detail
Being detail oriented is critical if you want to have a successful bookkeeping career. This skill ensures the client that you can work with accuracy and fewer mistakes when handling a company’s financial records, general ledger accounts, and other financial data. This is a crucial skill since business owners are using this information to make critical business decisions.
How to get better at attention to detail
Take your time and focus on quality over quantity. You’ll make fewer mistakes if you don’t rush through your work. Avoid distractions so you can stay focused on what you’re working on.
Skill #2. Critical thinking
Bookkeepers usually have their critical thinking and analytical skills in overdrive. Critical thinking is necessary when identifying trends, interpreting data, picking up on business transaction irregularities, and picking up on patterns. It also comes in very handy when trying to determine the source of mistakes or figuring out how one account will affect another.
How to get better at critical thinking
The best way to master critical thinking is to break things down into smaller sections or steps. Smaller pieces of information or data are easier to work with, understand, and mentally deal with. Working with too much information at one time can make you feel overwhelmed. This will lead you closer to a solution rather than spending so much time feeling overwhelmed.
Skill #3. Organized
Good organizational skills are crucial when you are dealing with deadlines, working on multiple clients at one time, and trying to maintain updated financial records or designating time to log daily financial transactions. Organizational skills are essential when having to follow up with audits, tax prep, and maintaining paper trails with receipts. Good organizational skills will help you work more efficiently and increase productivity and performance.
How to get better at organization
The key to staying organized is to declutter and clean your desk and work area, create a detailed and easily accessible filing system (either digital filing or paper filing system), prioritize each task, generate a to-do list, and then input the tasks into a schedule and your calendar.
Skill #4. Time management
As a bookkeeper, it’s important to be able to pace yourself so that all tasks can be successfully completed in order to meet any deadlines. Missing deadlines can sometimes be costly if late fees are involved. Time management during the business accounting cycle is also essential when the company is depending on reports to make critical business decisions. Also, if you have promised a client something by a certain date, then it’s important that you deliver in a timely manner.
How to get better at time management
Make a list of every task that needs to be completed and prioritize each task according to the due date. Be sure to add them to your calendar. This will establish your pace. Monitor your progress often to make sure you are staying on schedule with your projects. If you are not on schedule, then you will know ahead of time that an adjustment of some type needs to be made either to your time frame or your process of carrying out the work.
Skill #5. Communication skills
Bookkeepers are constantly communicating with their clients by presenting information to their clients, requesting documents, and discussing deadlines. They must be able to communicate in-person and via electronic correspondence.
How to get better at communication
Listening is just as important as communicating. Be sure to take the time to listen to who you are communicating with to make them feel valued and that their concerns are being heard. Always think before you speak or send a message so that you’re not responding emotionally. Be brief and specific so that you don’t lose the attention of the listener. Most importantly, be warm and friendly so that you always seem approachable.
Skill #6. Math skills
Bookkeepers need to be comfortable working with numbers, communicating numeric data, and going over financial reports and a company’s financial transactions. Bookkeepers use simple calculations daily such as addition, subtraction, division, percentages, and multiplication since these basic math skills are a necessary bookkeeping skill for balancing the books, finding errors, making adjustments, and generating financial statements.
How to get better at math skills
To develop basic math skills, you just need to practice, practice, practice. Do a page or two out of a workbook every day, play numerical games, or take an online or in-person math class.
Skill #7. Data entry and computer skills
Bookkeepers are required to type information, numbers, and record financial data into accounting software or forms. It’s important that they can type accurately and quickly so they are efficient at what they do. This also means being comfortable with accounting software and updates.
How to get better at data entry and computer skills
Take advantage of online typing tools which will provide opportunities for practice to increase your typing speed and accuracy. There are online videos that cover the basics of computer software data entry. Again, this is another case where practice and experience make perfect.
Skill #8. Competent and knowledgeable about bookkeeping basics
Professional bookkeepers must be knowledgeable about single-entry & double-entry bookkeeping, invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, reconciling accounts, and basic accounting principles. They must also know how to prepare financial statements.
How to master the bookkeeping basics
There are plenty of basic bookkeeping courses that are offered at educational institutions and online that will help you master the requirements of a bookkeeper. Check out our mammoth list of bookkeeping resources for beginners!
Skill #9. Multitasking
Bookkeepers hardly ever just have one project they are working on. A successful bookkeeper typically juggles several different clients and bookkeeping tasks on a daily basis. Multitasking is a bookkeeping skill that saves time, money, and increases productivity skill.
How to master multitasking
To enhance your multitasking and organization skills, always make a to-do list to keep track of the multiple tasks that need to be completed, then prioritize your tasks, group similar tasks together, reduce as many distractions as possible, and regularly monitor your progress to make sure you’re staying on track and on schedule.
Skill #10. Confidentiality
Quite often, bookkeepers will have access to sensitive and high-security details, such as access to bank accounts, etc. Therefore, it’s essential that a high-degree of confidentiality be maintained at all times. Bookkeepers must not disclose personal information about their clients or record financial data of previous clients to anyone except, as permitted by law. It’s especially important for bookkeepers to gain and maintain the trust of their clients since they are working with very sensitive and personal information.
How to master confidentiality
To maintain confidentiality, it’s important to maintain electronic and procedural safeguards that comply with federal regulations to guard your client’s personal information. You can even enter into a non-disclosure agreement with your clients to legally safeguard them.
Skill #11. Seeing the big picture
Bookkeepers should be able to get a good feel for how a decision, purchase, or payment made now will affect the finances of a business down the road or how a debit or credit will affect assets, equity, or liabilities.
How to get better at seeing the big picture
You need to change your perspective. Ask yourself how doing something in the present will affect the business down the road. Instead of looking at all the details, consider all of the possibilities.
Skill #12. Collaborator
Working well with others is another bookkeeping skill that leads to success. Bookkeepers work closely with their clients in gathering information, processing the information, and then going over everything with the client.
How to get better at collaborating
Good collaborators are genuine, kind, transparent, and listen to understand. When you say you are going to do something, always be sure to follow through with the client so they know they can depend on you. Also, stay in touch with your clients even if it is just checking in. Be accessible and always keep the lines of communication open.
Skill #13. Patience
Patience is a biggie when it involves bookkeepers working with large amounts of financial data alone, trying to find the source of a miscalculation, or even when working with difficult clients. These things can make bookkeeping very frustrating at times.
How to get better at being patient
If the problem is with the work itself, take several breaks to clear your head. Walk away from your work, clear your head, and then you can come back and approach the problem from a different perspective. If the issue is with clients, take deep breaths, stay calm, and always think before you speak so that you aren’t reacting emotionally.
Skill #14. Reliable
In this day and time, it is so difficult to find reliable, professional, and dependable workers. Being reliable is a good way to build trust with your bookkeeping client and for them to know that you are going to take care of them and their needs.
How to get better at reliability
There’s only one way to master this skill. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.
Skill #15. Good reputation
A strong reputation will almost always guarantee you a successful career. How you interact with your clients, your competency, and your confidence will help to establish a good stable reputation. Then clients will start sending referrals to you. Before you know it, you’re on your way to growing your business.
How to improve your reputation
Build a strong relationship with your client. Be friendly, competent, and empathetic. Make sure that you are reliable, trustworthy, and available. Also, be sure to always follow that moral and ethical compass.
Skill #16. Proactive
It’s a whole lot better and more cost-effective if a bookkeeper is spending more time doing the productive and expected monthly tasks for a client rather than putting out fires. Stay proactive so that you can either avoid potential bookkeeping red flags altogether. Or at least minimize the workload needed to fix the potential problem.
Another way to stay proactive is by continually updating your bookkeeping and accounting skills, along with staying in-the-know about accounting industry best practices. Consider becoming a certified bookkeeper or take a course on managing office operations, etc.
How to get better at proactiveness
If you want to be proactive, take the time to go over your client’s financial information. Make the first move when it comes to scheduling client consultations. Look for any potential red flags or issues that a client could run into down the road. Staying on top of regulatory changes or future events that might impact your clients’ financial situation is a way of being proactive.
Skill #17. Positive attitude
A positive attitude will get you far. Clients would rather deal with someone who is positive and upbeat, especially since bookkeeping and accounting can be a rather tedious, boring, and the least exciting requirement for business owners. A positive attitude also makes you seem more genuine and approachable.
How to get better at positivity
Being pleasant and having a positive attitude prevents others from becoming defensive. Keep the tone light, simple, and upbeat so that the exchange and experience is a pleasant one for the client.
Skill #18. Diligent and committed
Diligence and commitment will win you a lot of respect from your bookkeeping clients. A lot of bookkeepers tend to steer away from clients if the situation is too complex or don’t always follow through with what is promised.
How to get better at diligence and commitment
Always put your best foot forward, learn what you don’t know, be consistent, and follow through. This will come across to clients as you having their best interests at heart and that you’re always working hard to maintain that work ethic and relationship.
Some of these skills are directly related to bookkeeping, and some of these skills are personality traits. The goal should be to have relevant skills constantly evolve as a person and as a professional. While you may not be able to perfect all of these bookkeeping skills, you can at least develop and enhance them to some degree, which still puts you on a better path for a successful career as a bookkeeper. If you are interested in virtual bookkeeping, see our article about Virtual Bookkeeping Jobs: The Total Guide.
Caryl Ramsey has years of experience assisting in different aspects of bookkeeping, taxes, and customer service. She uses a variety of accounting software for setting up client information, reconciling accounts, coding expenses, running financial reports, and preparing tax returns. She is also experienced in setting up corporations with the State Corporation Commission and the IRS.
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