Merriam-Webster defines bookkeeper simply as “a person who records the accounts or transactions of a business.” However, many would agree that this term is no longer applicable. Over time, professions tend to gradually evolve, and bookkeepers are no different–especially with the advancement of technology over the last few decades.
Originally, bookkeepers just did what their title specifies; they ensured that all the transactions of a business were recorded and then reconciled the books to check for accuracy. However, the bookkeeping process, which had previously taken hours of work, is now able to be completed in a matter of minutes using applications and software. In spite of this, bookkeepers still prevail.
Technology might have rendered traditional bookkeeping practices nearly obsolete, but most successful bookkeepers learned to adapt to these changes. However, as the profession itself evolves, does that mean that the name of the profession should as well?
What’s wrong with “bookkeeper”?
There is nothing inherently wrong with describing yourself as a bookkeeper, but it may be important to redefine the term to encompass all of your services. To determine just how impactful it is, we should first take a look at common misconceptions that arise around the term “bookkeeper.”
When most people hear bookkeeper, they typically think of somebody entering data into spreadsheets. Unfortunately, it does not go much further than that. Not only do people only think of data entry, but those in the business world sometimes assume a lesser regard for bookkeepers and expect lower fees.
As aforementioned, one of the central issues with referring to yourself as a “bookkeeper” is that it does not properly address all of the services you provide to your clients. A lot of businesses view bookkeeping as a task that anybody can complete, so if you call yourself a bookkeeper, they might think that is all you do–and if it is, perfect, keep using that term; if it’s not, on the other hand, you may want to tweak your professional title. You may provide bookkeeping services, among many others, and it is important to be able to market that to the industry while simultaneously marketing everything else that you do.
Bookkeeping as a whole has evolved. Traditional bookkeeping is handled by machines, and to stay afloat in the industry, many bookkeepers have acquired new skill sets and adopted new titles altogether.
However, this advancement in technology has not eliminated the bookkeeping profession; actually, it has practically rebirthed it. Bookkeeping software replaces traditional tasks completed by bookkeepers, but it has provided an array of new opportunities of which such professionals can take advantage.
Because of these newly developed areas of profession, bookkeepers have begun settling themselves into niches, lowering competition and increasing the qualifications necessary to fulfill such a task.
So, if not bookkeeper, what do we call ourselves?
There is no right answer to this question; in fact, it all depends on you and your clientele.
The greatest piece of advice I can offer is this: listen to your customers. Call your profession what they call it because other people looking for your services probably call it the same thing or something very similar.
This is especially important when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization); if you want to be found on the internet, you have to know what your customers are typing into their search bar. If bookkeeping is a major part of what you do, then you should incorporate it into your title or business name.
When it comes to what you call yourself, you want to lead with the problems that you solve. This is how you position yourself; if you provide advisory or consulting services, position yourself as an advisor or consultant to your clients.
Redefining bookkeeping is a lot more complex than it sounds because there are so many different ways to redefine it. Overall, take into account what you provide and what your clients need; the most important thing is not what you call yourself, but what your clients understand from your professional title.