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Pilot is a virtual service that manages bookkeeping for businesses. The service pairs each business with a dedicated financial expert to reconcile its books on a monthly basis, compile reports and offer financial best practices.
With a discount for pre-revenue companies, burn-rate calculations included in each plan (an important metric for venture capitalist-backed businesses) and an add-on CFO service available, Pilot is well suited for high-growth-potential startups. Its high monthly cost, however, may be unaffordable for some small businesses.
Starting at $599 per month for businesses with less than $30,000 in monthly expenses.
Method of accounting
Accrual-basis accounting with all plans.
Accounting software integration
QuickBooks Online only. Pilot can help you transition your books from Xero as part of the onboarding process, but all of its bookkeeping is done in QuickBooks.
Availability of bookkeeper
Email-based support for all plans. Select plan receives priority support, expedited bookkeeping delivery and recurring monthly phone reviews. Customized support can be added to Plus plan.
All plans include monthly reports with profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement; burn-rate calculations; chart of accounts. Select plan offers additional reporting. Custom reporting can be added to Plus plan.
How does Pilot Bookkeeping work?
In order to get started with Pilot, a business has to meet three requirements:
Be able to grant Pilot access to electronic transactions.
Have expense-reporting software.
No commingling of personal expenses with business expenses.
Provided those requirements are met, you can sign up for Pilot and get matched with a dedicated bookkeeper, who will help you through the onboarding process. The bookkeeper will learn about your finances, integrate any financial software with QuickBooks Online and set up your automatic transaction import.
Then, bookkeeping is off your hands. Your bookkeeper will manage reconciliation and provide you with monthly financial reports containing your profit and loss statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement. You’ll be able to contact your bookkeeper via email for any questions.
Pilot prices its services based on your business’s monthly expenses. To calculate those expenses, Pilot uses the money you spend each month — including payroll, cost of goods sold and distributions.
Although Pilot lists prices on a monthly basis, all plans are prepaid annually. Every month, however, Pilot averages your prior three months of books to determine if your current expenses have changed and will adjust pricing if necessary.
In addition, Pilot charges a one-time fee for the onboarding process, equal to one month of bookkeeping.
Benefits of Pilot Bookkeeping
With Pilot, you get paired with a dedicated bookkeeper and no longer have to worry about managing your bookkeeping on your own. Your bookkeeper handles all reconciliation and monthly reporting, and works with you to get everything set up with QuickBooks Online and integrate with other business software you may use.
On top of standard bookkeeping and reporting, Pilot includes burn-rate calculations and 20 special transactions per month — bills, invoices, checks and reimbursements — with the Core and Select plans.
Moreover, your bookkeeper is available to answer any questions, offer financial best practices and serve as a partner to your business. If you opt for the Select plan, you can access priority support, as well as industry-standard financial ratios with your reporting, such as free cash flow and margin percentage.
For the most customized bookkeeping Pilot has to offer, the Plus plan includes advanced services like accounts receivable and accounts payable tracking, billable expenses and inventory tracking.
Perks for startups
Pilot bookkeeping is designed to accommodate quickly growing businesses and offers perks specifically for high-growth-potential startups. Pilot offers a discount for pre-revenue companies — $200 off the Core or Select plans each month for the first subscription year — available for businesses with less than $15,000 in total revenue.
The company also includes burn-rate calculations with all of its bookkeeping plans, a calculation that’s particularly important for businesses with venture capital or investor startup funding.
Additionally, Pilot provides specific assistance with the research and development, or R&D, tax credit — which can be available to businesses in technology, e-commerce, biotech and other similar high-growth industries.
On top of bookkeeping services and R&D tax credit assistance, Pilot offers support from the company’s financial team for a fee. You can add:
Accounts payable and receivable services: Starting at $125 per hour.
Supplemental services (custom reporting, training new hires, etc.): Starting at $195 per hour.
Controller services (revenue recognition, cost of goods sold categorization): Starting at $200 per hour.
Pilot also offers CFO and tax services that can be used separately or in tandem with its bookkeeping services. Pilot CFO Services is another perk for startups that need even greater financial guidance.
Drawbacks of Pilot Bookkeeping
Monthly plans can be expensive
Plans for Pilot Bookkeeping start at $599 per month for businesses with less than $30,000 in monthly expenses. If you want to upgrade to the Select plan at this level, your price starts at $849 per month. As your monthly expenses increase, the plan prices grow quickly, maxing out at $899 per month for the Core plan and $1,149 per month for the Select plan.
Although Pilot allows you to completely outsource your bookkeeping, there’s no doubt that these fees are significant and may be more than some small businesses can afford.
Plus, competitors like Bench and Bookkeeper360 offer similar virtual bookkeeping services that start at lower price points. Moreover, some competitors can provide features like tax filings and phone-based support at lower price points, as well.
Support is email-based
With Pilot’s Core plan, you can communicate with your bookkeeper via email and hope to receive a response within a business day or less. To access priority support, you have to opt for the Select plan or purchase this feature as part of your customized Plus plan. In addition, if you choose the Select plan or customize the Plus plan, you can get monthly phone reviews with your bookkeeper, but not general phone-based support.
In comparison, competitors offer support that is more readily available. Bench allows you to instantly message your bookkeeper through its platform — and you can expect a response within a business day or less.
Moreover, you can schedule a review call through the platform to talk to your bookkeeper at any time. Similarly, QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping gives you the ability to schedule video calls with your bookkeeper, as well as send live chat messages to its larger network of bookkeeping experts.
Alternatives to Pilot Bookkeeping
Price: Starts at $299 per month for the Core plan.
Why we like it: Bench is available at a lower starting price compared with Pilot Bookkeeping and may be more affordable for the average small business. Bench also includes its own proprietary bookkeeping software, so it can be a good option for newer businesses that have not yet committed to a bookkeeping or accounting software — or those that are looking to switch.
In addition, Bench includes tax preparation and filings with all its plans, a service that some competitors don’t offer or charge additional fees to handle.
Price: Starts at $19 per month ($99 per hour for support) for pay-as-you-go plan.
Why we like it: Bookkeeper360 can be easily customized, making it a worthwhile option for a variety of small businesses. You can use the pay-as-you-go plan to work with a dedicated accountant for on-demand bookkeeping or opt for a monthly or weekly plan using the cash or accrual-basis method of accounting. The monthly reconciliation plans using the cash method start at $399 per month for businesses with up to $20,000 in monthly expenses.
Bookkeeper360 works with both QuickBooks Online and Xero, and offers a robust app for tracking business performance, managing cash flow and working with the company’s bookkeeping experts. Moreover, Bookkeeper360 provides additional services including CFO Advisory, Taxes, Payroll and Human Resources and Back-Office.