Building a Bookkeeping Business in 4 Steps
Bookkeeping is well-regarded as a fantastic way for mums to ease back into interesting, flexible work. But what about those who want to dive into a bigger challenge? Is it possible to start your own bookkeeping business?
Bookkeeping is a top working from home job, and a potential side hustle. There are a range of career options in bookkeeping. Starting your own bookkeeping business involves offering your services to a range of businesses as a sole trader. You may work onsite at different organisations, but most likely you’ll be working from your own home or in a designated office space.
Hiring a freelance or contracted professional bookkeeper is desirable for a range of businesses because they can expense your fees and engage them only when they need.
From your perspective, the advantages are:
4 steps to starting your own bookkeeping business
Step 1: Get qualified
You can work as a bookkeeper without formal qualifications, although it is useful to have completed some training courses. Having bookkeeping experience or related experience in financial services or administration is also a great way to show potential employees that you understand the processes involved.
A range of short bookkeeping courses and TAFE courses you can enrol in, such as a Certificate IV Accounting and Bookkeeping, will give you useful know-how. You’ll learn how bookkeeping works and build bookkeeping skills. You may be able to study at your own pace, full or part-time, in-person or with online courses.
You also don’t need specific accreditation to be a bookkeeper. However, if you want to be able to lodge business activity statements (BAS statements), you’ll need to register with the Tax Practitioners Board and take relevant course units (which may be available through a Cert IV) to become a registered BAS agent.
Qualifications and accreditations may give you a competitive edge when you look for clients – they show that you know what you’re doing, and that you’re dedicated to your career.
Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping
Practical bookkeeping skills
Crucial industry knowledge
Principles of bookkeeping
Manual and computerised accounting systems
With the Tax Practitioners Board
Take the relevant course units to become a registered BAS agent
Step 2: Plan your approach
One of the advantages of being a business owner is that you decide what bookkeeping services you’re going to offer, the hours you’re going to work, and who you want to work with. This means that you have to make some key decisions from the outset. Such as:
Answering these questions will involve a fair bit of research and reflection. Your ideas should cater to your interests and the lifestyle you want to have. They should also acknowledge the state of the market. When coming up with pricing, for example, you want to make sure that your hourly rate is competitive while not undercutting the market, or selling yourself short.
If you’re wanting to be a full-time bookkeeper, you may need to hustle, and take on whatever jobs come your way. If you’re looking for a more relaxed, part-time career to fit in with other commitments, you can afford to be more choosy about which bookkeeping jobs you take and work with only your ideal clients.
Once you have a good idea about what your bookkeeper business will offer and how it will work, write a business plan that articulates your business model. Ask for feedback from people you know, other small business owners, experienced bookkeepers, or even a business coach or mentor to check if there’s anything you’ve missed.
Step 3: Register your business
As a sole trader, you’ll need to get an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the ATO to get started. Depending on your projected earnings, you may also need to register for GST. You’ll need to lodge tax returns for your business each financial year.
Although it’s only a legal requirement in Australia for BAS agents, when you register your business it may also be a good idea to get Professional Indemnity Insurance. One of the disadvantages of self-employment is that you’re responsible – and potentially liable – for your mistakes, and insurance is a good way to protect against this.
Step 4: Find new clients
Bookkeepers are essential to the operation of small businesses and startups, as well as large companies. However, finding clients as a new business is always a challenge. Channels you can use to find your first clients include:
Building a business website on a platform like WordPress or Wix.
You can also integrate it with services like Google Maps so that you’ll turn up on searches for bookkeepers in your local area. You can build your own website or pay to have a developer build one for you. Social media from Facebook to LinkedIn can also be good for marketing, depending on who your target clients are.
Promoting through your existing networks.
People you know may be looking for a bookkeeper, or may pass your details along to someone they know needs one – referrals are powerful for marketing. It can be useful to have a few business cards to pass on to others.
Join a professional group such as the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers.
Here you can advertise as evidence of your skills, and allows prospective clients to search through their database of accredited bookkeepers. Professional groups may also offer networking opportunities.
Become a certified user of specific bookkeeping or accounting software like QuickBooks, MYOB, or Xero Accounting.
This emphasises your skills to prospective clients and may have the additional benefit of being part of a searchable database of certified professionals.
Give your existing clients incentives to refer you to their networks.
You can offer discounts or deals to clients who help you make professional connections.
Look at job postings
Organisations may post job ads for remote or freelance bookkeepers on job search websites.
Offer your services on websites like Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr.
These platforms provide good entry-level opportunities to people starting out, or to bookkeepers wanting to work with clients all around the world as a virtual bookkeeper. These platforms do have issues in terms of getting adequately paid and protected as a seller – longer term, it’s probably best to find online bookkeeping jobs in other ways.
Write helpful business content on your website or host business webinars that cater to your target market.
This shows prospective clients that you understand their business needs. Clients may also find you indirectly, through your content.
Volunteer for a charity or community group.
Volunteer groups are often in need of a treasurer or someone willing to manage and report on their finances. Doing this work also may help you find potential clients as you learn more about your community.
Reach out to potential clients directly.
Reaching out through phone and email can be intimidating! But it can also be effective if it’s personalised to the business and shows you understand bookkeeping in their industry. This may be particularly effective if you have a niche industry you’d like to work with.
Who is best suited to starting a bookkeeping business?
People who make natural bookkeepers tend to be:
Numbers don’t scare them.
Able to prioritise tasks and manage their time well.
Attentive to detail
They notice errors from a mile away.
Comfortable with technology (or willing to learn)
Bookkeepers often work with specialised bookkeeping software/accounting programs and Excel spreadsheets.
they’re responsible with sensitive information and can be trusted with money. If a problem arises, they address it straight away rather than hiding it and potentially making things worse.
Often mums returning to work make great bookkeeping candidates because they have a range of transferable skills such as:
Strong organisational skills
Knowing the schedules of several people and turning up at the right places at the right times requires complicated time management and logistics. These skills are perfect for managing the many moving parts of a business’s finances.
Knowing how much you have, how much you can spend, having strategies to save money and weighing up the pros and cons of splurging are helpful in managing both business and household cash flow and bank accounts, both domestic and financial transactions.
Running a household involves a ton of admin – keeping up with bills, organising maintenance, and repairs, managing multiple people’s schedules – this experience is readily applied to data entry, financial records management, compiling accounts payable and receivable in balance sheets, making financial statements and financial reports, reconciling business credit card expenses with bank statements, and similar business tasks.
Starting your own bookkeeping business is challenging – there’s lots to research, and it can be difficult to get a steady client-base at first. But with good planning it’s possible to reap the benefits of a successful bookkeeping business: being your own boss, working flexible hours, and with clients you like.