Bookkeeping is one of the oldest and most proud human professions. Ever since we started bartering, trading, and using even the most rudimentary financial transactions — the need for bookkeeping immediately arose. That’s why the earliest bookkeeping records date back to the Bronze Age kingdoms of Sumeria, Assyria, and Babylon.
Almost 7,000 years ago, bookkeepers recorded crop and herd yields — and later, as financial systems became more complex, kings hired them to manage their tax collection and palace stores.
Naturally, bookkeeping has evolved a lot on its way to the present day — this ancient profession has gone through many innovations and changes throughout the ages. But with the current wave of automation in accountancy work, plenty of bookkeepers are uneasy about the future. Is their profession becoming redundant?
Luckily, the future is more complicated than that — and less gloomy!
Evolution, Not Revolution
Today, it’s been millennia since we’ve abandoned the old token system used by the bookkeepers of Babylon — and we’ve adopted and abandoned plenty of other bookkeeping methodologies since then.
In the 21st century, the most universal business process is the digital transformation — more and more businesses are moving both their internal and consumer-facing processes online for better ease of use.
But this doesn’t mean bookkeepers will become redundant — on the contrary, evolving technology makes them more useful and relevant than ever before. Bookkeepers simply need to realise that technology isn’t making them obsolete; it’s just changing their role. Instead of being in charge of data entry, their role evolves to focus more on data management.
There are plenty of cloud-based technologies that can help bookkeepers ride the wave of innovation instead of standing firm against it. Companies like Quickbooks are providing solutions that allow bookkeepers to increase their efficiency and become more profitable and productive than ever before.
It’s a given that today’s technology allows everyone to store documents and information in one place and access them remotely — accessing and sharing data from different locations has never been easier. However, while business owners can do that as well, they still need a professional bookkeeper to do their work. Collating turnover, payroll, expenses, journals — these are all things that bookkeepers will be irreplaceable for in the future.
The only thing that will actually change is that the streamlining of processes through the cloud will allow bookkeepers to do away with much of the menial labor they previously performed. But this doesn’t mean less work — it means more time to focus on obtaining new clients and retaining existing ones.
The prospect of a paperless, digital, global, and automated mobile office may seem scary at first — especially for bookkeepers whose main purpose has been book-balancing and data entry for as long as they can remember. However, as you can see, there’s no need to fear the future; it’s abundant with opportunities!
The Future Outlook
Let’s face it — today, most bookkeepers don’t exactly have trouble finding work unless they’re new to the game. Most established bookkeepers are positively swamped. And that’s good news for newbies as well because some proper marketing and pricing will quickly lead you to an abundance of clients.
One of the things bookkeepers will increasingly do in the future is specialising. Knowing every in-and-out in a particular area can bring immense value to clients. And handling the bookkeeping for a couple of charities is completely different to working with a B2B company. Find a niche market you’re the happiest to work with, and start specialising in that particular field.
In the long run, however, one of the biggest opportunities for bookkeepers will be becoming business advisers. The paradigm shift to a digital future means clients will definitely have a bigger input into a bookkeeper’s activities — but on the other hand, bookkeepers will also have much more information about their clients’ businesses.
As a result, they will be able to see potential areas of improvement more clearly. And that’s a huge opportunity, allowing bookkeepers to position themselves as business health consultants. In the past, bookkeepers mostly reacted to past information, frequently months after the information was relevant to business decisions.
That’s not useful from a consultancy perspective — but in the scenario where bookkeepers have access to real-time business information, they’ll be able to analyse a client’s business in real-time and see what could potentially be done in a more efficient and effective way.
Of course, not every bookkeeper would like to evolve into a full-fledged business adviser — it’s all down to personal preferences and whether you’re prepared to obtain a more extensive knowledge of relevant regulations and rules.
However, there will always be other services bookkeepers can offer. At the end of the day, bookkeepers will continue handling any data revolving around e-commerce, cashflow, payroll, and incoming and outgoing income. And that leaves plenty of scope to grow your bookkeeping business even without a consultancy role.
The Future Demand For Bookkeepers
Ultimately, software is unlikely to fully replace bookkeepers — it will merely augment their roles. The financial knowledge and willingness to constantly update that knowledge is a part of the “human touch” that clients will always want. And the rise of digital accounting will only mean bookkeepers become closer to clients, as they will collaborate more regularly than the previous “once a year” model.