Should You Charge Less Than the Minimum Wage as a Contract Bookkeeper?

Don’t attract interest in your services for the wrong reasons

RECENTLY I’VE WRITTEN about how your prices should be part of your business strategy and not your marketing strategy. I talked about Mark, the painter, who advertised a really low day rate but wasn’t able to carry out the volume of jobs he needed to make enough money (see Is Your Charge-Out Rate a Marketing or Business Strategy?).

A better strategy for Mark would have been to research the market and find ways to provide customers with savings elsewhere (Researching the Market is a Crucial Part of Every Business Strategy).

The same principle can be applied to contract bookkeepers charging less than the minimum wage. Although this may get you a lot of regular work early on in your business, you will soon learn that it’s unsustainable. And because it’s also really hard to increase your rates substantially, you’ll just find yourself back at square one if you do so anyway.

Check out the National Bookkeeping Rates of Pay to get indicative pricing for contract bookkeeping services.

Remember your entitlements

When you’re setting your prices, don’t forget to factor in your entitlements. As a full time employee of a business, you receive annual leave entitlements equating to four weeks’ salary, sick leave equating to ten days’ salary, public holiday pay, superannuation, and tax withheld on your behalf.

As a contract bookkeeper, you should earn the equivalent of a full year’s salary proportional to how many days or hours you work each week.

Contractor or employee?

As a contractor, your hourly rate will be higher than that of a full time employee, sometimes two times as high. If you have clients who don’t want to pay a higher hourly rate to hire you as an independent contractor, they might be better suited to employing casual staff instead.

If you’d prefer the life of an employee check out our Career Academy Success Program.

Increasing your rates

If you decide it’s time to increase your rates, you need to show how you provide value to your clients’ businesses, in order to discourage them from seeking the same services from another, cheaper bookkeeper. If there’s some extenuating circumstances, it may also be worthwhile explaining the reason for the increase — if your compliance costs have increased due to government regulatory changes, for example. (Note: Rising electricity, broadband or rent is best kept to yourself.)

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You’ll learn ways to increase your rates without losing your clients by enrolling in Research the Market module of our Business StartUp training course as a standalone mini course. Visit our website for more information or to enrol.  

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EOFY Update: Increase to the National Minimum Wage

With the new financial year, there's a new minimum wage.
With the new financial year, there’s a new minimum wage.

While you were busy with EOFY analysis — see our tips and checklists to ensure you haven’t missed anything important — you may have missed the Fair Work Commission announcing that the minimum living wage has increased by 2.6% from 1 July this year.

The New Minimum Wage

The new minimum wage for every Australian worker is $622.20 per week or $16.37 per hour and this affects all employees; even if they’re not covered by a modern award.

You’ll need to update your payroll records in MYOB to reflect this new change (we cover changes to payroll in our MYOB course if you’re not sure) so that you don’t get caught out paying your staff at the old pay rate.

If your staff are covered by a modern award and you’re not sure what their new rate of pay will be, you can check the Fair Work Award Finder on the Fair Work Commission’s website to ensure you’re paying your employees the correct rate of pay.

Effective from 1 July

As with the increase to the superannuation guarantee, the increases to the minimum wage is effective from 1 July. However, unlike the superannuation guarantee, an employee cannot receive two separate pay rates in one pay period.

This means that for businesses that pay their employees on a fortnightly or monthly basis, where part of their employees’ pay covers a week or few weeks in June and another part of their employees’ pay covers July, the employer needs to pay the old rate for that entire period and apply the new pay rate from the next full pay period commencing after 1 July.

It’s also important to keep in mind that most allowances (such as, leading-hand and industry allowances) are based on a percentage of the base rate and since this has increased, those allowances will increase, too.

If you’re unsure what these allowances will increase to, check the modern award on the Department of Fairwork’s Award Finder or register for email updates from Fairwork about how the changes apply to each particular award.

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For more information on the changes to the minimum wage, see the Department of Fairwork website.