Updated September 16, 2021
The bookkeeping industry is a strong and reliable source of income for those who operate in this industry.
Many bookkeepers offer additional services, like payroll, to their clients, which helps boost their overall income.
I interviewed three people who own successful and well established bookkeeping businesses, and asked what you should know about how to get started in the business, and how to run and grow your business.
I wanted to start by understanding how these three successful founders came into the bookkeeping business, including what experience they had, and how they got their first few paying clients and started to bank some real income.
So I asked my three founders – how did you get started in the bookkeeping business?
did you work with someone as a bookkeeper before? or did you just get started on your own?
It's not unheard of for people to start a business in and industry that they haven't worked in previously. In fact – in speaking with hundreds and hundreds of business owners during the course of my work, I would say that's the most common way that people get started in any business.
They usually imagine a life for themselves, owning and operating a certain type of business, then they get out and make it happen.
I wondered about the background you'd need to start a bookkeeping business.
What training, what skill, and what experience is needed? Could you hire experienced people to help you?
I asked the three successful business owners:
So my three founders say roughly the same thing – a background is helpful, but you don't strictly need experience in the industry as long as the people you're hiring from day one have the skill and ability to do good work, reliably.
I wondered if there is a formal training program – something like a federal accreditation – for bookkeepers, or, if it's not a formal qualification process.
I asked my three experts what type of qualification is needed for a bookkeeper.
As we heard from the experts, bookkeeping is not a business that requires a formal degree or any type of qualification. They all seem to say the same thing – which is – as long as you get some training so that you know what you're doing, you're good to go.
Starting a business can take a little cash, and most of the time, people are either using their savings or their credit cards to start their bookkeeping business. How much exactly should you expect to spend on starting your bookkeeping business?
I asked my three successful founders:
how much do you need to allocate? and where does that money go?
Once you get the basics together – a computer and your software – and then you get one or two clients, you'll be earning an income almost right away.
The bookkeeping business has such huge demand for services that it's not likely to take you very long to get as busy as you want to be with the amount of work that you'd like.
I asked the three successful bookkeeping business owners how much you might expect to earn as you get started in this business, and as you get more established.
is it a profitable business to start? can you expect to replace your full time income quite soon?
It's clear that a bookkeeping business can bring you a good income – and you don't need a huge number of clients to replace your full time income if you're starting as a side-hustle.
The answer seems to be – you can expect to earn anywhere from $3,000 to well over $10,000 – depending on how much you want to work, and what you're charging for your services.
But – to earn some money, you'll need clients.
I asked my trio of successful founders:
are you advertising the normal ways? is there something that works really well?
As you're getting established in the industry, you'll have leads coming in. People will be enquiring about your services, and will be asking you to help them.
Turning those enquiries into paying clients is the next task in front of you. Sometimes, that's pretty simple – just be helpful and answer their questions, and they'll use your services.
I asked my three industry experts – how do clients decide which bookkeeper they're going to hire?
what do clients really care about? what are they looking for in a bookkeeping business?
As you start dealing with incoming enquiries from clients, you'll need to know what to charge them.
Some bookkeepers charge on an hourly basis, some charge a flat fee on a monthly basis for a certain amount of work, or a certain 'to do' list.
I asked my three successful founders what they thought is the best way for a new bookkeeping business to think about setting their fees.
is hourly rate the best way to charge? or a monthly retainer for a certain schedule of work?
It's useful to have a look in your local market and see what other bookkeepers are charging. You don't want to be on the cheap end, but if everyone else is – for example – around $35 to $55 per hour, set your fees at somewhere around $48. People are already paying that, and more. So, charging any less is just telling clients you're not valuable – and that's the wrong message to send!
t can be tempting to start buying things – new computers, or services, or things to use in your business – once the cashflow starts coming in.
I asked my three founders whether there was
is there something that sounds like a good idea, but you should just avoid?
Each of the three industry experts I interviewed had built for themselves a nice business, and they are operating exactly the way they want to be operating.
I wondered what a 'day in the life' looks like, once you've got a successful bookkeeping business established.
I asked my three founders – what is a typical day for you now?
is it busy all day every day? is it an enjoyable business? how's the work/life balance?
The lifestyle in this business seems to be whatever you want it to be. If you want to work more hours and make a better income, that's what you can do – but even part time hours will have you earning a very good salary for yourself.
I wanted to know if the industry had shonky operators, or if other bookkeepers were taking nasty shortcuts.
I asked the experts:
are there shady operators doing subpar work? or is it all 100% professional, most of the time?
The age old wisdom of just 'doing good work' seems to be the key to success in the bookkeeping business, also.
As with any business, it's always easier to get more from your existing customers than it is to find new customers.
I asked my three experts what other services they can offer, in addition to just bookkeeping, to increase revenue?
often, a business can earn more from add-ons and extras than their main service
the three successful founders share their keys to success in this industry, based on their own experiences
The bookkeeping business is one of the best I've covered so far. It ticks all the boxes, in that it's something you can teach yourself and learn online, it's a very low cost startup, there is a huge demand for the services, and you can make a very good income working flexible hours.
I have spent over 100 hours learning everything there is to know about the bookkeeping business, by talking to industry experts and bookkeepers. I have compiled it into the worlds most useful guide, How to Start a Bookkeeping Business. You can check it out here.
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