Does the thought of how to start a bookkeeping business from home feel daunting?
We’ve spoken to eleven kickass bookkeepers who run their own successful businesses to find out the tactics that got them to where they are now — and how they’d do it all again if they had to start from scratch tomorrow.
We’ve taken their hard-earned wisdom and put it together in this step-by-step guide so that you can learn from their growing pains!
By the end of this blog post, you’ll have the answers to the following questions:
Firstly, if you’re here hoping for a deep dive on where to upskill, let’s exit stage left and check out our article titled Best Online Courses in Bookkeeping [Coming soon!].
Now we’re all on the same page, let’s get stuck into the good stuff!
P.S. This post may contain affiliate links and I may be compensated, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on a link.
Do you dream of a career where you can help your clients directly, work remotely, and earn good money?
Well, hold onto your stripy socks… starting a bookkeeping business from home could be the perfect option for you. And it might be more achievable than you think.
Using the information given to us by some very generous and very awesome bookkeepers, we’ve broken the process down into ten crucial steps:
P.s. if you prefer watching and listening to reading, we’ve got you covered — check out our video on this exact topic below:
These days, the Internet is filled with hundreds of gurus claiming that formal education is for losers and you should just get stuck right in. That might be true of some ventures, but most experts recommend going down the traditional route when it comes to bookkeeping.
That means educating yourself and upskilling.
We’d love to give specific advice on how you should upskill, but the truth is, there’s a huge amount of variation depending on where in the world you’re based and what direction you want to go in.
The fastest and easiest way to get clients is to become certified, but each country has its own set of professional organizations and qualifications. However, we’ve covered the best courses and certifications for both the United States and international bookkeepers in our article about the best places to upskill. You can check it out here: Best Online Courses in Bookkeeping [Coming soon!].
Then there are specializations to think about. For example, will you focus on non-profits or international tax? Or maybe you want to promote yourself as the local “tax guy or gal” and help out everyday folk with their finances. Wherever you find that you experience the most satisfaction, zone in on that area and make it your niche.
In most cases, you’ll also need to invest in some bookkeeping software. The most popular options are QuickBooks and Xero, but again, there’s likely to be variation depending on who your clients are and where they’re based.
Top Tip: Read job descriptions to find out what is the most-used accounting software in your niche.
We all know that you can’t become good at anything without plenty of practice. However, there is some debate around whether it’s best to jump straight in and let your first clients be your guinea pigs, or whether you should get some practice from a job or informal work experience first.
Most of the bookkeepers I spoke to favored diving straight in after becoming certified.
But one of them disagreed, advising prospective bookkeepers to get a year of experience with an employer first.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you personally feel comfortable doing. But whichever option you go for, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not an award-winning bookkeeper within a few months. The first year or more are all about honing your skills and gaining experience!
No matter how good a bookkeeper you are, it’s impossible to run a business without handling business stuff — and two of the most important steps are choosing your name and logo.
Can you imagine your identity without your name? Of course not, and equally, your business also requires a name to be identified as a brand.
We recommend choosing a name related to your work in some way — either bookkeeping itself or something to do with your local area if that’s where you intend to target clients. This logo might be a bit colorful for bookkeeping but, hey, if you feel like being creative and unique…go for it! You’ll stand out from the crowd for sure.
Now it’s time to get to the really unglamorous stuff. If you’re going into a profession like bookkeeping and you haven’t even set up your own business under the correct structure, how can you expect your clients to trust you?
If you’re based in the US, the main business structures are:
Almost identical structures exist in other countries with slightly similar names.
Each type has different requirements and faces different regulations — for instance, sole proprietors usually have more lenient rules to comply with but are held personally liable if something goes wrong.
This last point is one of the main reasons why all the bookkeepers we spoke to recommended opting for a Limited Liability Company — even if your business is just you. However, to make the right decision for your specific circumstances, it’s best to consult with a lawyer and/or an accountant (unless you’re qualified enough to advise yourself).
Keep business and personal separate! Although you can legally mix the two areas under some business structures, it’s a terrible idea, and there’s really no reason to do it. Until that joyful time comes when you pay yourself, of course.
Before taking projects from clients, open a business account. Don’t be like the divorced relationship counsellor or the overweight personal trainer! As a bookkeeper, set a good example and sort this stuff out from day dot.
Although some accounts charge a fee, many countries have some banks that offer free business accounts.
Or if you’re planning on working internationally, consider setting up a Payoneer account. Payoneer is a cross-border payment platform specifically focused on small businesses and freelancers. You can get paid and pay as easily as you can with your local bank account.
Top Tip: You can also order a Payoneer debit card and use that for local business transactions if needed.
After reading the header for this one, you might be thinking, “Can’t I just use a Gmail account instead?”
Well, yes — but it looks far less professional than having an email address linked to your very own domain. Of course, you’ll need to actually buy a domain name to be able to do this, but it’s quick and easy to buy, and you can do it before you set up your website (that’s step six). Just check out a site like GoDaddy or NameCheap.
Besides, it only costs a few dollars a month, so it’s hardly a significant sum of money.
As for postal inquiries (yes, they still exist), you’ll have to put the address of your office. This could be your owned/rented home, or in some cases, the address of your accountant or lawyer.
Where are you reading this? Online, of course. Unless you want to go very old-school, you’re going to need an online presence to set up your business and find clients.
The way you choose to go about this depends on your priorities. If you want to get an attractive website set up as quickly and easily as possible with minimal stress, you’re probably best to opt for a website builder like Wix or Squarespace.
However, if you’d like to save as much money as possible and you don’t mind fiddling around, you might prefer to choose a free or affordable WordPress theme and customize it until you have a site you’re happy with.
A website helps you to look professional and could help with attracting clients through SEO in the long run — but if you want to start working as soon as possible, chances are that you’ll have to be a little more proactive about finding clients.
How? By signing up for freelancing sites — keep reading to find out which ones.
The number one concern that prospective bookkeepers have is not knowing where to find clients. Although there are endless possibilities, such as local advertising, SEO, and cold emails, we’re going to focus on freelancing platforms.
We surveyed a selection of bookkeepers to find out where they got their most clients and these were the results (in order of preference):
So, Upwork is the clear winner here. Not a huge surprise to us here at Love Work at Home — we use it all the time!
Top Tip: Most of the bookkeepers we spoke to have profiles on multiple sites. join several, set your profiles up and make some proposals – you might be surprised at where it takes you!
As a business owner, you really do have to manage every single aspect of your operations, from taxes to client calls to deadlines. This requires some serious organization.
The exact tools you’ll choose to use come down to personal preferences, but here are some of my recommendations:
Also, hopefully, you don’t need us to beat this point into you considering you’re a bookkeeper, but don’t forget about accounting software! We’ve touched on QuickBooks and Xero already, but here’s a more in-depth look.
QuickBooks is the most popular accounting software in the US, probably because it’s been around for longer than Xero. It has a great reputation and useful features such as invoicing, tracking miles, and managing bills. It offers two products: QuickBooks (general software bought for an upfront fee) and QuickBooks Online (which is cloud-based and paid for by a subscription).
Xero was launched in 2006, so it’s had some catching up to do, but it does have a strong advantage — customers love it. Generally, Xero tends to get better reviews since it’s more user-friendly and simple. Although QuickBooks is more popular in general, startups tend to opt for Xero.
Of course, there are far, far more tools that you could consider using. As mentioned previously, it’s a good idea to do your research and find out the most popular tools for your particular niche.
You can keep marketing as simple or take it as far as you want. But marketing is essential if you want to launch your business like a rocket!
The freelancing sites mentioned above all put your business in front of a large pool of prospective customers, which effectively handles the marketing for you. So, you might prefer to focus on the basic steps outlined above before you worry about marketing too much.
But it’s definitely worth looking around and seeing what strategies the successful freelancers from your chosen platform(s) use.
At some point, if you really want to scale your business, marketing is going to be necessary. Having great social media or online presence will help you to reach more people, and it also convinces clients to trust you.
The most obvious methods are SEO, Google ads (AdSense) and social media sites, but this is a complex area, so we recommend doing your own research.
Well, that’s a wrap. If your brain hasn’t exploded by now, congratulations!
Still want to start a bookkeeping business after seeing how much work is involved? Be sure to save this article as your holy grail so you can refer back to it again and again. Maybe now it’s time to check out our guide to the best courses and certifications?
So, go forth and keep those books to stop businesses from heading down the common path of failure caused by mismanaged finances. Not everyone realizes what a crucial role you play, but we certainly do.
We sincerely hope you got something out of this post. We’d be forever thankful if you could share this information with others who might also benefit from it.