10 Biggest Do’s and Dont’s When Hiring Offshore Bookkeepers

Once you launch your accounting or bookkeeping business, you’ll quickly realize that there are never enough hours in the day. Time fills quickly, especially when you find yourself trying to manage marketing, client onboarding, and all those tiny admin tasks. 

You’ll reach a ceiling where it’s not possible to earn more money or scale without extra pairs of hands. But then there’s the next roadblock; finding talent in Australia and paying them what they want is next to impossible. 

This is why so many Australian financial professionals build offshore teams. It makes sense because: 

  • Bookkeeping work can easily be completed remotely
  • Offshore talent can cost less than $10AUD per hour
  • You can rapidly scale your business

This was something I realized after many years of operating my own accounting firm Scott Partners. After building my own offshore team, I saw how I could take things further and support other accounting and bookkeeping practices. Now I operate Financial Fanatics and oversee more than 100 fully qualified accountants and bookkeepers who are fully trained in Australian accounting systems and processes. 

Having built my offshore team from the ground up, this is what I’ve learned. Take my advice and you’ll save a lot of time and money!

  • Set your intentions first

Before you hire offshore, know what you will need people for. Do you want to permanently up your capacity or are you looking to get over a short term hump? 

Knowing who you need and why will help you hire for the right reasons. 

  • Know your options for employing remote workers

You have a number of options for establishing an offshore team. For example, they can: 

  • Be direct contractors who work from home
  • Work from a co-working space or BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) company, which will charge you a rental fee for the desk
  • Be a generalist who can provide some help with general accounting and bookkeeping
  • Be part of a team that white labels to your business

Your support staff can also be based in a city or regional area, or in different time zones such as The Philippines (great for Australia), India, South America, Eastern Europe or Africa. 

Base your decisions around your budget, your preferred way of working and your needs. For example, you may be happy for your team to be productive while you’re sleeping, or you may want them close enough that you can fly in to catch up with them. 

  • Know what you are looking for

Everyone wants a high-value, plug-and-play experience for minimal cost. This may leave you looking for a Unicorn that does not exist. 

You’ll either find someone who has a high level of knowledge and experience but charges more or has some experience and is willing to learn without charging top rates. 

From my experience, it’s better to make sure your interviews test the key skills your outsourced team member will need, but hire for attitude, not just experience. If someone has good energy and is a good problem solver, they’ll be an asset to your business. 

Be as clear as you can in your job description so you get the right candidates. 

  • Be brave and hire more than one person

Having one person to help with your business is a good start but if they are sick or leave suddenly you will be left without help. If you start with two or more, you can train multiple people at one time and they will be able to pick up the slack when someone is away. 

  • Hire quick, fire slow

You might think I have that wrong, but this is my philosophy with overseas team members. 

When you work with people remotely, it’s hard to know what’s going on with their lives. I believe it is cheaper in the long run if you turn an average team member into a great employee by training them and supporting them through difficult times.

Remember that the next hire is not definitely a unicorn and it can be a case of ‘better the devil you know’. Your time is valuable so make sure you empower your team to do a good job and they will stay loyal to you for many years. 

  • Be a proactive manager

Offshore team members are valuable in so many ways, but you need to ensure they always have something to do. It can be hard to get them to take initiative so be proactive about setting their daily and weekly tasks and goals, otherwise you might find yourself wondering what they are up to. 

A daily huddle or end-of-day email outlining what jobs have been done can help you keep track of productivity. Set expectations and targets, and always follow through. 

At the same time, be realistic about what each person can achieve; being overworked is not a motivator to stay in a role. 

  • Create systems for your business

You can’t scale when everything is in your head. Create manuals for your staff and clients.

For example, your bookkeeper needs to have a clear idea of how your BAS is completed for each business they work with… no variations (unless they will definitely save time and money). 

  • Create a culture

Yes, you can have a workplace culture and shared values across timelines and borders. 

Team meetings and huddles will make a difference to camaraderie. Introduce initiatives like 9 day fortnights so your staff are excited to work with your business, and think about giving to charity on their behalf so they have something to feel good about (don’t expect them to actively participate in these initiatives). 

Your business needs a USP as an employer as well as a service provider, so try to make your work environment feel special, whether it is as a family-friendly workplace or a fun place to be. 

  • Visit your team

Can you get to the country where your team is based? Even if they work from home, you may be able to hire an office to work from for a few days. Otherwise, you can potentially arrange a holiday and meet halfway.

Don’t expect an invitation into people’s homes and don’t show up in someone’s hometown unannounced, but if you can arrange a visit, do so. Otherwise, always take an interest in your staff’s culture and what’s going on in their country. 

  • Fly them to you

Travel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people in developing nations so an international adventure is something to get very excited about. 

Plan a working holiday for your staff but allow time to arrange passports and permits if you want them to work from your office for an extended period of time. 

  • Grow your business

By giving opportunities to other people, you are giving yourself and your business an advantage. You have the potential to double, triple or quadruple your client base, and then some, without the extreme headcount cost. You can also start to hire people here at home, creating jobs for Australians. 

Accountants and bookkeepers; You can also side-step the stress of building your own team from scratch by connecting with a white label provider and tapping into a ready-to-go network of bookkeepers and accountants. 

For more information about growing your business with the help of international workers, get in touch with Financial Fanatics today. 

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