Is it really possible to start a thriving bookkeeping business with no qualifications and no experience? Find out how to become a bookkeeper and work from home, and learn from real people that did it before you.
Are you a spreadsheet whiz that loves spending all day highlighting cells in the most impressive colors?
Is your personal mission to convert everything you do into data and formulas?
If this is you, imagine having a job that lets you work from the comfort of your own home while playing with numbers all day. A job that gives you the freedom to work as much or as little as you want, whenever you want. Even if you have no experience and no qualification.
All you need are good computer skills, a passion for numbers, and being ready to help business owners deal with their most dreaded task: a box full of receipts.
How To Become A Bookkeeper
Before we find out how you can become a bookkeeper, we need to answer a few questions fundamental questions!
What does a bookkeeper do every day?
Bookkeepers manage and track income and expenses for companies and small businesses. As a bookkeeper, you will be responsible for recording any type of financial transaction and helping businesses keep track of how much money comes in and goes out every month.
Your daily tasks could include:
- recording sales
- filing receipts
- reconciling expenses
- managing payroll
- managing bills payments
- producing financial reports for record-keeping purposes
After recording the transactions, an accountant will generally review the bookkeeper’s work, analyze the data, and make adjustments before submitting the accounts.
So, what is the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?
The most significant difference between accounting and bookkeeping is that accounting involves interpreting and analyzing data, and bookkeeping is all about recording transactions.
How much does a bookkeeper make?
Did you know that according to Entrepreneur Magazine, bookkeeping is the #1 most profitable business you can start from home?
As an entry-level bookkeeper, you can expect to earn anything between $18 to $23 per hour. Which means you could earn around $40,000 per year as a rookie.
But remember, this is how much you can normally make if a company employs you. According to QuickBooks, if you work from home as a freelancer, you can earn $69 to $82 per hour once you gain experience.
This incredible earning potential is what makes bookkeeping a strong option to consider if you want to work part-time or full-time from home. Whether you want to make extra money or build a virtual bookkeeping business without working too many hours, bookkeeping could be the perfect choice for you.
CASE STUDY 1:
How Jenna from ACE Accountable Bookkeeping left her corporate career and is on track to make $75,000 in her second year as a bookkeeper
Jenna left her corporate career to have more flexibility, and she never looked back. In her first year working from home as a bookkeeper, she made $50,000 with 10 clients. She is now on track to make $75,000 in her second year with 15 clients, and her goal is to reach $100,000 next year.
“Before starting my business, I was stuck in a corporate accounting department desperate for flexibility as I have a child with ADHD and anxiety. The demands of constant phone calls from the school, doctor appointments, and school appointments for this one child were overwhelming for a 9-5 job. I also had 2 other kids and myself to worry about. So, I needed to get out.”
“I kept getting signs that I should start my own bookkeeping business. I would meet mothers at school functions who either were bookkeepers or had their own bookkeeping business. Another one of those signs was how I found Ben’s program, Bookkeepers.com. I googled how to start a bookkeeping business and stumbled upon it in the summer of 2017. I watched the 3 free videos. Then I took some time to think about it as it was hard to trust something you find on the internet. I found a review of BBL somewhere online, and for some reason, believed it.”
“A couple of books really helped me when I first got started, and I refer to them even today. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers shows the reader that everyone is afraid, and being uncomfortable is the only way you learn and grow. The only way to get over your fear is to do it anyway.
Profit First by Michael Michalowicz shows business owners how to handle their cash using the old-fashioned envelope system. In this case, multiple bank accounts take the place of the envelopes.
“If you are thinking of starting a bookkeeping business, do not expect to have a ton of time on your hands once you get going. My husband thought I would have all the time in the world and thought I started the business to have more time. However, the difference is you decide when you work on these tasks, so you need to have the self-discipline to complete them on your own without someone checking to make sure work has been completed. You are your own boss, and I must say, I have the best boss in the world!”
Types of remote online bookkeeping jobs
Before we dive too deep into the steps you need to take to become a bookkeeper, you need to know that you have two options:
Work as an employee
If you work as an employee, you can still work from home and have a certain degree of freedom. The company you work for will assign you tasks, which means you won’t need to worry about landing clients and marketing your business.
As an employee, you’ll be working on the company’s terms and have a fixed salary.
PERFECT IF: you just want the flexibility of working from home but don’t want to learn how to set up a company and market your business.
Work as a freelance bookkeeper and start your own business
As a freelancer, you will set your own rates.
Here the earning potential is much higher than working as an employee, making it incredibly exciting.
But you have to keep in mind that, as a freelancer, you’re also responsible for any costs that come with starting this kind of business, such as bookkeeping software and paying your own taxes.
PERFECT IF: you want to skyrocket your earnings into six figures. But you are also prepared to deal with some extra paperwork and the headaches that come with being your own boss.
You’ll still need to go through the same steps no matter what type of bookkeeper you want to become.
What qualifications do you need to become a bookkeeper?
Believe it or not, you actually don’t need any specific qualifications to become a bookkeeper. And you definitely don’t need to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or have an accounting degree to start a profitable virtual bookkeeping business.
But you will need some very specific skills and qualities to help you excel.
Check out the list below, and if this sounds like you, you are guaranteed to succeed as a bookkeeper.
Bookkeeping skills you need:
- Basic computer skills: Nothing unusual here. These days you kind of need this skill for every job you decide to take on.
- Organized: if you are the kind of person that likes to color-code cells, and like me, you need everything to be in its own box, bookkeeping might just be perfect for you. You’ll be dealing with lots of numbers and documents daily. And being on top of everything is essential.
- Eagle-eye for details: You will be responsible for recording important financial information. Clients want to know that they can absolutely trust you to manage their books and make zero mistakes. The last thing you need to do is enter the wrong number in the wrong cell. So if two numbers don’t add up, you need to be quick to spot that.
- Multi-tasker: If you work as a virtual bookkeeper, you’ll probably end up with more than one client. This means you’ll need to be able to quickly switch from one set of accounts to another in a matter of hours. You will also need to be able to prioritize the urgent tasks for each business you look after.
- Charming: Ok, you don’t need to be the life of the party. You actually don’t have to go to the party at all, as you’ll be working from home. And most bookkeepers are genuine introverts. But you need to be somehow likable to be able to create good relationships with your clients, even if you just talk via emails.
- Determined: Starting a bookkeeping business isn’t going to happen overnight. This is something you need to be prepared to work hard for. Bookkeeping takes time and effort. It can be extremely rewarding, like any business, but you can’t be lazy and procrastinate about the tasks you need to do if you want to succeed. Don’t give up at the first sign of struggle, or you’ll never make it.
One thing that could help you get started the right way is getting some bookkeeping training under your belt.
A great place to start is to check out Ben’s free training. Ben is a certified public accountant who teaches others to become virtual bookkeepers through his online course Bookkeeper Launch.
His bookkeeping course offers free training to help you learn more about how you can start your own virtual bookkeeping business and earn $60+ per hour by working with private clients. If you want to find out if bookkeeping is for you, invest a tiny bit of your time watching these useful videos.
Click here to start the free training now.
CASE STUDY 2:
How Kirsty from Wildflower Bookkeeping left her corporate career and now makes over $3,000 from home
Kirsty was a Business Manager before deciding to become a virtual bookkeeper.
“My experience was more coding invoices, auditing payroll, reviewing financial reports, budgeting and forecasting, running multiple departments, and other various functions.”
But she wanted more flexibility. That’s when she decided to learn more about becoming a bookkeeper, and she never looked back.
She now has 11 clients and generates more than $3,000 per month.
“My advice would be not to come into this thinking you are going to have instant success. You have to keep a positive attitude, work hard, and be willing to give a little to get anything. I feel that living in a small, tight-knit community has helped me to get my name out there.”
How to start a bookkeeping business (with no experience) in 5 easy steps
Let’s get this straight: you don’t need to be special or have any exception trait to start your own bookkeeping business.
Most business owners are ordinary people, like you and me.
But this doesn’t mean that anyone can do it.
Starting your own bookkeeping business is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It will take time and effort, and most people are not prepared to do that.
But, if you are willing to make a short-term sacrifice and learn everything you need, then you can enjoy a lifetime of freedom, working when you want and on your own terms.
Ready to start a thriving career as a virtual bookkeeper?
1. Learn the skills you need with training
As I said before, you don’t need any special qualifications to start working as a bookkeeper.
But you still need to learn the basic skills required for the job. Any new career will require some training, and bookkeeping is no different.
There are 3 ways to learn the necessary skills:
Simply learn as much as you can about bookkeeping and start looking for clients. This is the cheapest option, but it’s also the most difficult because you won’t have anyone to guide you.
You can start by learning some accounting basics and commonly used terms and tools in the industry. Get familiar with what income statements look like, how balance sheets can be read, and how to create effective cash flow statements. This book is a great place to start.
Online courses are an incredible way to learn new skills.
Think about it: I created this blog just by investing in online courses, and I now earn over 6-figure each year (and it took me less than 18 months to reach this level).
And you can do the same with bookkeeping courses.
Bookkeepers.com, for example, is an incredible resource for new bookkeepers. Ben has trained over 6,000 women and men to become bookkeepers and live their dream life working from home.
The course is broken up into three main parts:
- Skills: in part one, you’ll get an overview of the bookkeeping business and learn basic practices, how to perfect the skills you need, and how to monetize your skills.
- Systems: part two walks you through the process of running your business, including understanding the technology you need, how to keep start-up costs low, and how to truly be successful.
- Clients: in part three, you’ll learn how to find the right clients for you and close sales so your business can succeed long-term.
If you are looking to take a more fast-track approach to learn the skills you need, I’d highly recommend checking out this course so you can start making money quickly with bookkeeping.
Become a certified bookkeeper
This is by far the longest route to get trained, but you will also be able to use your certification to get more clients.
There are two top professional bookkeeper organizations that you can certify with:
- American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) – To become AIPB-certified, you must pass the four-part national certification exam, plus you must meet the 3,000-hour work experience required.
- National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) – To earn certification through the NACPB, you must pass an exam and submit proof that you have acquired an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
You can also become certified through local or online college courses.
CASE STUDY 3:
How Karla from ATS Accounting and Tax Services makes $6,000 a month
Karla has been working as a bookkeeper for many years. She now earns roughly $6,000 a month and can be very selective by only picking clients she wants to work with.
Karla thinks that anybody can get the skills to become a virtual bookkeeper.
“As with any other job, if you like what you do and you enjoy it, you will probably be successful. If you are going to become a virtual bookkeeper, I think you must be organized with your time. It is easy to waste your time doing something else because nobody is checking on you to see if you are working or not. It is important to have a schedule and follow it.”
2. Set up your business
Once you’ve established your bookkeeping skills, it’s time to set up your business.
All you need is a computer, internet, and bookkeeping software. Make sure you have a secure WiFi connection and secure systems in place to protect clients’ private financial data. Set up a website and list out your service packages. When designing your services, you can get creative and really focus on what clients would need from you.
You will also need to decide which business structure to go for.
There are four common ones:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
If you are a one-person business, you are likely to need to choose between sole proprietor or LLC, but you should do your own research because what you need will depend on your circumstances.
Your chosen structure will determine your personal liability and your tax liability. A good place to start to do your own research is to read this article.
If you simply want to work as an employee, this would be the time to look for online bookkeeping jobs.
3. Land your first client: get experience
Once your online business is set up, you are ready to land your first client.
And this is where you need to start working on your marketing skills.
Why? I can hear you ask.
Because if you don’t have clients, you don’t have a business. And with no business, you won’t be making any money!
So you want to quickly get to the point where you get one client. Because when you have just one client, you become a real, legitimate bookkeeping business.
So that’s all you have to concentrate on. Just get your first client.
Develop a niche
Start by considering who your ideal client is. Do you want to work with businesses in a particular niche? Would you prefer to work with just one large client or have multiple smaller clients?
Also, think about whether you want to specialize in a particular service. Having a clear focus allows you to niche down even further and become an expert in a specific role. Whether you want to specialize in payroll or help businesses prepare for quarterly taxes, you can likely charge clients more for your advanced expertise over time.
One thing with your niche: don’t overthink it. Especially when you are just starting out. At this point, your goal is just to land your first client. Once you’ve done that and developed some skills and experience, you can come back to your niche and refine it more.
Where Can I Find Remote Bookkeeping Jobs? The three very best ways to get your first client
Tell EVERYONE you know that you are starting a bookkeeping business. Just start talking to your friends, your family, and your neighbors. You’ll be surprised by how many people are business owners who need help with their books.
You can also make a list of small businesses in your area, including businesses owned by people you know. Reach out to them by pitching your services and offering a 30-day paid trial service period.
You don’t have to sell anything here. Just let them know that you are starting out and are looking for a gig. This could be enough to land your first real client.
This can be online, like through LinkedIn connections or Facebook groups, or it can be in-person, through your Chamber of Commerce or local meetups for small business owners. I understand you might not like going to meet-ups and talking to strangers. But this can be a small price to pay to change your life.
So get out of the house and start passing out your cards to see if anyone needs a bookkeeper.
Online job boards and bookkeeping websites
There are plenty of ways to find a job as a bookkeeper, especially online.
Online job boards like FlexJobs and Upwork can be good to apply for remote bookkeeping jobs.
But remember: this is probably the less lucrative of the options, as you will not be able to set your own price, and you’ll be competing with people who are probably prepared to be paid very little.
Still, it can be a place to start if you have zero experience.
Check out this list of the top 18 websites to find online bookkeeping jobs.
CASE STUDY 4:
Nate Hendrikse from Navigator Bookkeeping: from teacher to bookkeeper
Nate lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, and they have their first child on the way! Before bookkeeping, Nate was a 3rd-grade teacher, but he knew he wanted to do something that could give him much more flexibility.
“I’ve always loved personal finance and work relating to budgeting and finance. That’s why I started google searching for jobs that I could do from home to help others with their finances. When I discovered bookkeeping, I was hooked.”
Nate now charges $75 an hour for his services (though most of the services he offers are charged on a monthly/flat fee rate).
Nate’s best tip to get started is to talk to someone who’s already a bookkeeper and learn about the good of it and the bad, learn what the day-to-day responsibilities actually look like.
“If possible, try out some bookkeeping too and make sure that you like the technical side of it. If you hate bookkeeping, as many business owners do, it may not be a good fit for you, of course.”
4. Serve your first client as if your life depends on it
If you’re serious about growing a successful virtual bookkeeping business, be sure to go above and beyond with your first clients.
Even if you’re working on a trial basis, you want to deliver a high-quality service to help clients reach their goals and save time by outsourcing the task to you.
This is also why it’s essential to get clear on who you’re serving. While clients may want to interview you before hiring you, you should also interview them during the onboarding process. When you’re first getting started with a new client, take some time to meet and learn more about their goals and needs.
What are their pain points that you can help solve? What do they hope to gain from working with you? Knowing this can help everyone set clear expectations.
You’ll also know what to shoot for, but don’t hesitate to go above and beyond expectations. See where you can fill in the gaps where other bookkeepers may not and offer a truly unique experience.
I’ve worked with freelancers in the past for different projects, and it’s always best to work with someone who listens to directions, asks questions, meets deadlines, and communicates well.
Going above and beyond and operating a business with integrity can go a long way. You’ll set yourself apart from other business owners and gain long-term clients. Plus, you are more likely to get referrals from them and build a positive reputation.
5. Rinse and Repeat
Depending on your income goals, you are likely to need more than one client.
But now you know exactly what to do!
Determine what you want your daily and weekly schedule to look like in terms of availability. Continue to market your business and think about automating marketing by building an email list and scheduling social media posts. Ask your current clients for feedback, and let them know you are looking for more work. A recommendation from someone that likes you can go a long way.
Continue to tweak and improve your services, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from clients to help you improve.
How long does it take to become a bookkeeper?
It’s really up to how much you can dedicate to learning all the skills you need to begin your business.
The more effort you put into learning about bookkeeping and taking action, the sooner you will get results. If you are focused and can spend around 3-4 hours a day learning, you can get these skills in as little as three months with the right training.
The pros and cons of a bookkeeping business
Starting a virtual bookkeeping business comes with its pros and cons. It’s important to be mindful of the benefits and drawbacks of getting into this business early on so that you can go in with realistic expectations.
- Freedom: set your own hours and work from home or anywhere.
- Low start-up costs.
- Earn a full-time income from home (gain more experience to earn over $60 per hour).
- Get started without a degree or certificate (although getting some training is recommended).
- Very little room for errors.
- Need to take extra measures (and possibly invest in certain tools and systems) to keep data private and secure.
- You may have to purchase specific software.
- It could be a challenge to land your first client without much experience or any references.
CASE STUDY 5:
Amy McLaughry from ADEM Bookkeeping is making some side money after retiring
“After retiring, I spent some time, knee-deep, as a board member of a local nonprofit. During this time, I realized that I did have a passion for numbers and my nonprofit and started looking for ways to do what I loved.”
“I started looking for ways to make money but not commit to getting up early each morning and driving to someone’s office and doing the grind again. I always said I would love to own my own business but could never figure out what to sell. That’s when I found an ad for Bookkeeper Launch and was intrigued. I started to think that this really might be something that I could do – I had always enjoyed my math classes, I loved crunching the numbers at the bank for loan presentations and determining the creditworthiness. So why not take that passion and put it to good use.”
According to Amy, being a business owner is harder than you think. There are some tough times, and there are some great times. There is a lot of hard work that goes into running your own business.
So, Amy’s best tip is to find some people that you can connect with. People on the same journey or people that are going through the same things you are.
“Share stories, talk it out with someone, and ask for help. You don’t have to be alone on the journey. Others are willing to help you when you need it and just listen to you when you need a shoulder.”
“I think the support system that you can find with Bookkeeper Launch is beyond anything you will find anywhere else. You get to join a Facebook Group with over 5000 students who have also signed up for the course, where about 300 plus are active every month. You have email support where you can access more detailed help or support. There are weekly Q&As for client questions and student questions. These are all sources for support when you are struggling, and the fear kicks in. We have all been there done that – for real!”
Get ready to start your bookkeeping business
Learning how to become a bookkeeper can help you to create the life you want. Where you’re in control of how much you earn, how much you work, and, most importantly, when you work.
If you are ready to invest in yourself:
- even if you’ve never done bookkeeping a day in your life
- even if you’ve never run your own business
- and you’ve never worked from home…
You can become your own boss and enjoy a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility.
Thank you for this great idea. I had experience in bookeeping but the salary is not that higher so thank you for this.
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Hey Jai, you are welcome 🙂 If you already have experience as a bookkeeper you can really up your salary by starting your own business. Best of luck!
Abraham Endalie says
What does bookkeeping mean?
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Hey Abraham, it means recording all transactions and keeping all records of a company’s financial activity. An easy example to understand: If you have a restaurant that makes pizza, your company will buy pizza sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, etc., to put on the pizza. You’ll get receipts every time you buy supplies. When you pay your taxes, you’ll need to keep a record of everything you earned but also everything you purchased. A bookkeeper can help you keep track of every receipt you got during the year for the pizza you sold, and all the pizza supplies bought. Plus any rent you paid, utilities, etc. And if you don’t want to do it yourself as a business owner, having a bookkeeper is essential!
Alix Aime says
I think that would be a great fit for me as well as student in accounting.
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Hey Alix, if you are planning to become an accountant, yes! It would be perfect to make some money while you are studying! 🙂
Tani Hil says
Thanks for this information. I am considering a career change that can give me geographic flexibility. have discovered I love finance, so bookkeeping may be a great fit!
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Thanks for stopping by!
If you love finances and are organized bookkeeping can be great! And it’s extremely flexible!
Let me know how it goes 🙂
Wes Pearce says
Great articles & tips! I actually helped an older parent start a bookkeeping business a few years ago, and it’s become a good part-time income for him. Definitely a viable option for a side hustle if you are good with numbers and can stay organized. 🙂
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Completely agree, Wes! It’s the perfect business if you love numbers and know how to organize yourself 🙂
Candace Kurek says
Excellent article. It is possible to start a bookkeeping business. In my opinion, the hardest part is building the business. Networking. Asking for referrals. Constantly getting out there. With a sustained effort and grit, it is very possible.
Sara @ Gathering Dreams says
Thank you Candace for stopping by 🙂
And I agree, as long as you put in the work, bookkeeping can be a great work from home business.