Should Your Firm Hire an Accounting Clerk?
by Pat Stokowski, on Jan 22, 2019
As firms grow and look to bring on new members to the finance team, they tend to focus on common roles such as CPAs and bookkeepers. While those jobs are essential, firms would be doing themselves a disservice if they overlooked one key hire: a high quality accounting clerk. Accounting clerks provide essential support to the finance team in a way that boosts operational efficiency and frees up the rest of the team to grow the business without spending time on minutiae.
The Role of an Accounting Clerk (and Why They Are Crucial)
The accounting clerk can be thought of as the swiss army knife of basic financial administration. They are skilled at data entry, tracking deposits, electronic filing, balancing of billing vouchers, coding of documents -- the list goes on.
A good accounting clerk can take on almost any basic accounting task that is thrown at them, and on any given day they might be responsible for several different clerical duties. Need someone to post all the details of your recent transactions? They’ve got you covered. How about someone to help go over all your account data with a fine tooth comb to make sure it is complete and accurate? They can handle that too. Forgot to update your paid time off tracking system? Not to fear, your accounting clerk is up to the task.
Accounting clerks can be especially helpful during busy periods, such as tax time, quarter-end reporting, or during the end of the fiscal year. They can provide key support while the rest of your finance team, such as the bookkeepers and accountants, are handling higher-level tasks. During such times, an accounting clerk could add a lot of value in the areas of invoicing and collections. They are the perfect people to take over these mundane but critical duties.
It’s important to keep in mind that bookkeepers, accountants, and accounting clerks all have different training and expertise, so a firm should leverage all three roles to create a robust finance team that covers all the needs of a dynamic business. The bookkeeper can focus on things like accounts receivable, invoicing, and preparing cash flow statements. The accountant can focus on tax reporting strategies, reconciliations, and navigating compliance. All the while, your accounting clerk can hum away in the background, tying up loose ends, filling holes, and making sure everything stays on track.
While the role of accounting clerk is not necessarily prestigious, a good one can still make a huge difference to a firm’s bottom line. Without a great accounting clerk, it’s easy for small mistakes to go unnoticed and to subsequently wreak havoc on your business. Just ask Canadian Energy company TransAlta, who once lost twenty four million dollars due to a tiny spreadsheet mistake. Yikes!
The Benefits of Hiring a Freelance Accounting Clerk
There are few jobs better suited to freelance work than that of an accounting clerk. The near ubiquitous use of cloud-based spreadsheets, documents, and communication tools makes it so that clerical jobs can be quickly assigned on an as-needed basis. A good freelance accounting clerk can leverage those tools to work from anywhere, and a firm need only pay for the work completed.
By outsourcing the job of accounting clerk instead of hiring a full time staff member, firms can save significant amounts money. As an example, electronics giant Samsung recently introduced an initiative to hire more freelance workers on their business teams and saw an average cost savings of 60%. A big part of the cost savings came about because the onboarding process for Samsung’s freelance employees was seven times faster than for their full-time workers. That appears to be an industry-wide trend, as a report out of the university of Oxford showed that using freelance workers significantly reduces the time and money that firms have to spend on training.
Another compelling reason to outsource clerical work is that doing so can allow your current employees to fulfill their true potential. If your firm has a rockstar accounting clerk that you know has a bright future, it could be beneficial to outsource some of their more tedious tasks. That way the clerk will have the time and energy to start taking on more challenging projects, which will ultimately benefit both themselves and the firm.
Outsourcing tasks in that way can be huge in preventing burnout, a costly and pernicious problem for the Accounting and Finance industry. No firm wants to lose their best team members because they are grinding away in the office at midnight, performing monotonous work. A capable freelance accounting clerk can swoop in when times are tough, ease the burden on the entire finance team, and keep your best employees happy.
By hiring the right freelance accounting clerk, you get a jack of all trades clerical ninja that takes almost no time to train, keeps your costs down, and allows the rest of the firm to focus on the high-level tasks they do best. That’s a proposition that most firms can get behind.
If your firm is of sufficient size and complexity, it’s inevitable that time consuming clerical work will crop up for the accounting department. Instead of heaping another task on an overqualified member of your team, it could be beneficial to bring on an accounting clerk. Or, even better, you could bring on a seasoned freelance accounting clerk who is affordable and gets up and running fast. While the new accounting clerk is handling all of your basic accounting tasks and making sure nothing falls through the cracks, the rest of the firm is free to focus on the big-picture initiatives that truly drive innovation and growth.