Administrative assistant? Bookkeeper? 1 day a month? I hate paperwork
May 19, 2014 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Ok, I went freelance about 4 years ago…and it’s been great. My problem is this: I spend time avoiding paperwork. I have a small set of tasks that someone could do. I’d like to hire someone for (at the least) handling invoicing and collections. What/who am I looking for? Is that a bookkeeper?

I’d like to hire someone for (at the least) handling invoicing and collections.
What/who am I looking for? Is that a bookkeeper?

Basically, it’d be “Bill this person, here’s the hotel + rental car invoice. Make sure it’s paid in 15/30 days”

Better yet, if they’re able to help me reconcile my online accounting (it’s, but it could just as easily be Freshbooks or quickbooks.)

And as long as I’m asking for the moon, I’d love for them to book my flight/hotel/rental car as needed. And again, the finances bit?

What is this position called?
I’m assuming they’re going to end up with access to my online business banking and possibly accounting information. How do I be safe with finances?
How do I find someone when I need someone for about 1 day (or less) a month? And what is reasonable pay for this?
posted by Towelie to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What is your business? I do this two days a month for my hairdresser who pays me in trade. So I get free cuts and color. Do you have a skill or service you can trade for one day of work per month?
posted by dchrssyr at 2:03 PM on May 19, 2014

Response by poster: Great question. This is my sock puppet account. But I feel comfortable enough that I can mention what I do. I'm a film/video educator/consultant. I do hardware training along with speak at events. I've written some books and travel at least a week a month.

I might have all of 3-4 clients in a month - and some months it's only 1 (because I'm working on a longer/bigger project.) I'm trying to get time back (spend with my kid and wife) vs. in trade - although I'm not opposed to in necessarily.
posted by Towelie at 2:17 PM on May 19, 2014

In my experience this is more "executive assistant" territory and less "bookkeeper" territory, but YMMV. I'm an admin type who typically gets scared away by mention of bookkeeping in job ads. I'm cool to deal with expense reports, make and submit invoices, etc. but to me bookkeeping implies a much more accounting based position where I'm responsible for more than just submitting a thing here or bugging a company about a missing check there.
posted by Sara C. at 2:45 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aaand I realize I didn't answer any of your other questions.

Re being safe with finances: this is really going to depend on the level of involvement. When I was a part time personal assistant, I didn't have things like my boss' online banking info. I don't know why I would have needed anything like that; surely you're not too busy to check your own account balance or make the occasional transfer or whatever you typically do online wrt that. A check can be deposited in person without needing sensitive info. One thing to do, if you just want them being able to see money coming in and going out and bills coming due and the like would be to use Mint or another secondary level monitoring app and not your actual accounts. If something goes south, change your Mint password and stop worrying about it. As opposed to giving them actual power to access your bank account.

Re finding someone, I'd put up a Craigslist ad (or the like) and just be extremely honest about what the job entails. Maybe call it freelance assistant, or "very part time" assistant? Stress that it's not primary income type of position, but great for someone who wants a little bit of work here and there.

Also, one thing to really be aware of is project drift and the degree to which duties for an assistant tend to expand. When I did this, I was hired "part time", and paid as someone who was working part time, but it was a very busy full time job. This tended to happen because there was always something to be delegated. I can already see it happening in your question. You go from wanting someone to submit invoices and track down payment one day every month or less, to wanting someone to coordinate your travel. If you're traveling one week a month, that's at least another entire day's work every month. You've barely started the process and you already want someone to work double the time you initially thought.

Re pay rate, if you want someone who is actually responsible -- and especially if you are going to be able to trust them with financial stuff -- I would plan on $150-$200 per day. That makes up for the spotty amount of work (nobody is going to take on an extra client or work a third or fourth job for $50/month) and also ensures that you can afford a professional.

I'm sure you would never ever ever do this, but looking at your line of work I have to say it: please don't try to hire someone in exchange for "exposure" or the opportunity to learn the ropes of a "glamorous" field. It doesn't matter what you do. Scanning receipts and filing invoices is still shitwork that deserves to be compensated.

Also needless to say, do not advertise this as an "internship".
posted by Sara C. at 3:01 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some podcasts I watch have had Freshbooks as a sponsor. Never worked with them and don't know if that would solve your issue, but may be worth investigating.
posted by willnot at 3:03 PM on May 19, 2014

Sorry, I see you actually mention Freshbooks, so you're obviously familiar and looking for something else.
posted by willnot at 3:04 PM on May 19, 2014

If you want your assistant/bookkeeper/whatever vetted in some way, there are temp agencies that specialize in accounting and bookkeeping as well as the usual admin/exec assistant work and could set you up quickly with someone who's had background checks.

The problem with that would be that it'd be difficult to get the same person two months in a row for a once-a-month gig unless that person is very unlucky finding other work. (Though that's not exactly uncommon even for very skilled workers right now.)

The upsides would be that if they don't work out you can call the agency for another worker, they'll work with you to determine a job description and pay range, and for paperwork, all you need to do is pay the agency (probably about 175% of what the worker gets per hour.)

One option that might get you more continuity would be a virtual assistant, someone who does this sort of work remotely for lots of different people. That leaves you without on-site help for the work that uses actual paper, but could be convenient for having someone deal with making phone calls for you.

A travel agent would probably be your best bet for arranging travel plans, and you wouldn't have to hire them. Less common now that everyone can book flights online, but there are still some around and this is what they do.
posted by asperity at 3:26 PM on May 19, 2014

Others have good answers. Regarding the finances, there should be no need for them to have any access to that - if you are willing to do some of the work and have oversight. Get them a business credit card for booking travel or paying bills. Let them write checks but don't give them signing authorization - you sign them. And just give them your paper bank statements to reconcile every month. No need for online banking access.

You will still need to review the statements and sign the checks. But with a decent system that should work out to less than an hour a month for you (guessing, from your job description).
posted by natteringnabob at 3:32 PM on May 19, 2014

Try googling for "virtual assistants." These are independent contractors who do exactly this kind of work for more than one person and often charge by the hour or just the task. I have a friend who used to do this and it worked pretty well for her. She did minor bookkeeping and other Excel work, e-mail correspondence, powerpoint presentations, social media PR, whatever the person needed. Basically, she was a long distance administrative assistant or PA and did all of her interacting with her employers over the internet.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 5:09 PM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have an accountant for your tax work? If so, you might have success calling him/her and asking if anyone in their office is looking to pick up a couple hours a month. My husband is a CPA and this is a fairly regular situation, eventually the client will need someone more frequently, but this is a great stop gap.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:53 AM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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