I typically work from a sliding scale of rates based primarily on the complexity of the work performed. Simple bookkeeping from my home office using the accountant copy transfer capabilities of QuickBooks can be had for as little as $30 an hour. From that base the rates move to $45, $60 and up depending on requirements, length of the engagement and subject matter expertise needed.
While I will work on an hourly basis indefinitely, I prefer a flat rate approach once a relationship has been developed and the work effort has normalized and is predictable. Typically, for a small services business this can amount to $150 to $350 a month including non-income tax report preparation. The range is dependent on how much initial data entry is done by the client, the complexity, and the number of monthly transactions.
This approach helps both me and the client — when a client calls neither of us has to worry about whether the discussion is a billable situation or not, and I’m not killing trees by invoicing every 15 minute conversation. Ad hoc work outside the scope of the monthly retainer is billed at the appropriate complexity level.
Finally, keep in mind that these are professional rates, not clerical — even though some of the work may be clerical in nature. In a recent engagement with a management consulting firm, I was able to restructure the bookkeeping functions in such a way that what used to be more than a three-day-a-week effort was reduced to a single day’s work.