My clients are often looking for help with establishing a simple system which they can use through the year so they don't leave all of their bookkeeping until tax return season.
So, what does a simple bookkeeping system look like and how can you implement something which you know you'll stick with from month to month?
Book time for bookkeeping
Block time in your diary regularly whether that's monthly, fortnightly or weekly to do your bookkeeping. To give you an indication of how I do it, for some of my monthly bookkeeping clients, I schedule half a day per fortnight or a few hours once per week so that I can stay on top of things. It avoids lots of transactions building up and ensures important bills and tasks are in hand and aren't missed. Taking this approach also means you don't feel like you have to be logged into your accounting system all the time.
Use a system that works for you
I almost always recommend that clients set up an accounting system, I really do think it's the best way to keep your records and gives you a lot more functionality than just using a spreadsheet, but I know that some people find new systems and technology confusing and might find that having something new to work with might put them off wanting to do their books, so what I suggest is that you come up with a system that works for you, have a process that you follow each and every time, and that you stick with it.
Have a checklist
What you need to do each month in your business is going to be different to what another business needs to do. If you'd like a bookkeeping checklist for your business, you're welcome to download my Monthly Checklist for Startups. It covers the tasks you're likely to need to do each month for your business.
Invoicing should be one of your priorities every time you look at your business bookkeeping and you should also review supplier invoices and any other payment commitments such as to HMRC and make sure everybody is paid on time. You should make sure that any other transactions in your bank feed are recorded and that you have the corresponding paperwork for each transaction.
Making sure you have the right paperwork every week or fortnight will help you keep on top of things but leaving that all to the year end will almost definitely mean you won't be able to find all the paperwork that you need to verify what those transactions were. If you're finding the paperwork bit hard to stay on top of, you might like to look into an app like ReceiptBank and I recently wrote about how ReceiptBank can save you time.
Write a process document if it helps
When I set up accounting systems for my clients, I always give them a list of a number of tasks they need to do regularly with a guide on the more complicated things so when they do their bookkeeping they can just start at the top of the list and work through. I also like to give them a code list as a quick reference guide. It's useful to have a list of the codes you're using in your accounting system and the suppliers which generally get recorded against those codes because it saves time when you're deciding whether your payment to QuickBooks should be for Software or for Accounting fees for example (the answer by the way is that it doesn't really matter as long as you're consistent).
If you've got any questions about setting up a bookkeeping process for your business, I'd be happy to help. We regularly set up accounting systems for small businesses, just check out our services for more information and pricing.