What is Bookkeeping and a Bookkeeper Job Description?

Frog carrying papers and a calculator

The first time I heard the word “bookkeeper” as a child, I assumed it was a job that involves looking after books. I now realize I was pretty off the mark — but what is bookkeeping?

Even if you’re aware that bookkeepers have more in common with accountants than librarians, you probably still have plenty of questions. Don’t worry, so did we… which is why we spent ages researching what is bookkeeping and a bookkeeper job description so that we could write this series of articles for you. 

So, sit back, grab your beverage of choice and have a read!

At the end of this article, you’ll know:

And after finding the answers, if you decide that you’d like to upskill in bookkeeping, or any other remote career for that matter, be sure to check out The Best Online Courses for Remote Jobs and Online Business. We’ve created a comprehensive list of the best online learning platforms for remote careers. 

By the way – this post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on a link.

What is Bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping - calculations with a calculator

First things first. To figure out whether bookkeeping is the career for you, you need to understand exactly what bookkeeping is!

Here’s a simple answer to the question “What is bookkeeping?”: Bookkeeping involves recording financial transactions for a business (aka income and expenses).

You might be wondering, “ Well… what’s the difference between bookkeeping and accounting?” Good question — the two professions are hardly a million miles apart! 

Ultimately, bookkeeping is like a pared-down version of accounting. Whereas accountants can do anything from giving tax advice to auditing, bookkeepers have a very simple, specific role. This often makes them a great fit to work for sole proprietors and small business owners, who have less complex needs than large corporations.

And in case you want a more technical explanation, check out the video below:


What is Bookkeeping and a Bookkeeper Job Description — What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

According to Indeed.com, a bookkeeper job description involves the following:

“Bookkeepers record financial transactions, maintain financial records, fact check financial data and update financial statements. Bookkeepers ensure accounts are current and accurate, use specialized software, spreadsheets and other tools to track and manage data. Some Bookkeepers track all income and expenditures for a company while others may work for larger organizations on specific projects and accounts or for particular departments.”

That pretty much sums it up, but what would you be doing on a day-to-day basis? 

A day in the life of a bookkeeper involves tasks like these:

Not sure if you’re up to the task? Let’s look at the three primary requirements for bookkeepers.

Vector diagram representing accounting skillsAn understanding of basic accounting and bookkeeping principles

Bookkeepers might not need quite the same level of knowledge as accountants, but you won’t get very far without at least a comprehensive understanding of core accounting principles.

Many bookkeepers have a degree in accounting or similar, but this isn’t strictly necessary. However, you must know how to manage financial records and calculate them accurately. 

If you want to study bookkeeping, check out our article on the 7 Best Online Courses in Bookkeeping.

Vector diagram representing customer service skills essential to bookkeepingCustomer service skills

Whether you end up running your own bookkeeping business or working for a company, you’ll have lots of clients as a bookkeeper. If you want to keep them satisfied, exuding professionalism and reliability is essential.

Vector diagram of a laptop representing essential computer skills for bookkeepingComputer skills and knowledge of accounting software

Since the bulk of a bookkeeper’s job involves inputting numbers into software, you’ll struggle with the job unless you’re proficient in using computers — especially Microsoft Office and spreadsheets.

Knowledge of accounting software like Xero and Quickbooks is also helpful and it’s worth doing a couple of courses in this if you’re new to remote working.

Bookkeeper Salary and Hourly Rate – How Much Can You Make?

Three piles of coins representing the salary increase in a bookkeeper

We all want a job we love — but love alone won’t pay the bills! Thankfully, being a bookkeeper won’t leave you broke, and I’ve got the figures to prove it.

According to Indeed, the average US-based bookkeeper can expect to earn around $18.30 an hour. Similarly, Payscale estimates that $17.81 an hour is standard.

In terms of the equivalent annual salary, anywhere between $38,795 and $49, 585 is the general range you can expect — but the best bookkeepers can earn over $50,000. Not bad!

However, these rates are for employees. Freelancers usually earn more than employees since they don’t receive employee benefits like paid vacation or sick time and must cover their own expenses. If you go freelance, you could be earning over $21 per hour.

Work-from-Home Bookkeeping

As well as being able to earn a decent living from bookkeeping, it’s a job you can do remotely. Since bookkeeping is a career that revolves around tasks involving your computer, there’s no reason for you not to do it at home (or at the beach, for that matter). 

If you hadn’t guessed already, we love working at home here, and we hope you do too!

Thanks to the magic of software like spreadsheets and Xero, all your clients have to do is give you access to their records and you can start categorizing and tracking everything immediately. Even if you’re a thousand miles away from their physical location.

There are two ways to do this: as a remote employee (working for a company from wherever you choose) or as a freelancer/business owner (working for yourself, again, from wherever you choose). Next, we’ll look at both of these two main options in greater detail.

Bookkeeping Jobs – Work From Home as an Employee

Meeting as a remote employee on Zoom.

Landing a remote or telecommute job as a bookkeeper is a great option for anyone who is new to the field or those looking for stability. Although starting your own business is a fantastic option, it’s not for the faint of heart — in contrast, a remote employee role as a bookkeeper should have consistent work and income. Plus, you get to have coffee on Zoom calls with your colleagues in the comfort of your home!

There are a few types of bookkeeping roles available:

Make sure you check the job descriptions and requirements carefully before applying for a bookkeeping role since there’s so much variation in the experience level needed. 

Where to find remote bookkeeping jobs

At this point, you’re probably thinking: “That’s all well and good, but where can I actually find a job?” Well, luckily for you, we have an entire article dedicated just to that (see below), but here’s a taste of some of our favorite spots.

Flexjobs logoFlexjobs 

Flexjobs is the perfect place to start. The site is dedicated to working remotely and has a section especially for remote bookkeeping jobs. Although some of the roles are for accountants rather than bookkeepers, you should find relevant jobs as you scroll through the postings.

Monster logoMonster 

Monster needs no introduction. To find remote bookkeeping positions near you, simply enter bookkeeping into the search bar and your country of preference. Filter using the word “remote” or “telecommute.”

Indeed logoIndeed 

Another comprehensive job platform — just filter the location by “remote” or use “remote” as a search term, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities.

Virtual vocations remote jobsVirtual Vocations 

Another great platform that has virtual bookkeeping positions is our friends over at Virtual Vocations. 

Simply enter “telecommuting bookkeeper jobs” into their search bar and use the filters on the left to refine your preferences.

For more information and inspiration, check out our post on Where to Find the Best Bookkeeping Jobs [coming very soon!]

Starting a Bookkeeping Business From Home

Make it happen - your own bookkeeping business

If you want to open yourself up to accessing higher hourly rates and more opportunities, more freedom, and running the show, then starting a bookkeeping business is the way to go. 

While remote employees (and even freelancers) are paid for their time and have limited freedom over their work hours, business owners’ possibilities are practically limitless. You could even end up starting a global company with multiple employees!

This might be a tough step for a complete beginner since you’ll need some credibility to land clients, but it’s a fantastic opportunity for already experienced, qualified bookkeepers.

To start a successful bookkeeping business, you’ll need to:

Penguin in a tux learning


Learn bookkeeping – No matter your profession, it’s always good to keep learning. Even if you already have basic bookkeeping skills, take time to upskill so that you can offer a great service to your clients.

Ninja warrior master of bookkeeping


Practice makes permanent – If you want to become a ninja warrior master of bookkeeping, you need to practice, practice and practice some more.

Logo of a lion's head


Choose a business name and logo – not only do logos represent you and your brand, they can also inspire you and keep you motivated. Choose a logo that motivates you and keeps you inspired to do a great job. 

Vector diagram of two hands protecting a coin representing the legal aspects of a business


Choose your business structure — As a business, you need to register as the right entity, consider insurance, and manage your finances correctly (hopefully that part shouldn’t be hard for bookkeepers!).

Piggy bank with coins


Set up your finances – Don’t get a piggy bank or keep your cash under the bed for your business. Get a separate business account and card. You can’t keep other’s books correctly if you don’t keep yours in order.

a blue letter in a circle


Get a business email – For only a few dollars a month, you can get a business email that looks far more professional than a gmail address.

Picture of the world and a mouse to represent the web


Establish yourself online – It’s good to have a business website to go with the business email and logo. Also, if you’re into social media, it’s a great way to reach global clients.

Vector diagram representing bookkeeping business clients


Find clients — This might take a bit of creativity. Will you drive clients to your website, market yourself through your network, or something else? There are plenty of online platforms that present great opportunities to bookkeepers. We cover this in-depth in another article so keep your eye out for it. 

A picture of a bull's eye on a dart board.


Manage your business — Find online tools to help you manage your own business effectively and efficiently so that you remain on target!

And more! For a more in-depth look at how to achieve this, check out our guide on How to Start a Bookkeeping Business From Home – Step-by-Step.

Final Words

We hope this article has cleared up some of the confusion around what is bookkeeping and a bookkeeper job description! Bookkeeping is a versatile profession that can suit a multitude of people — whether you’re a qualified accountant looking to take a step back or a secretary/politician/pizza chef making a career change.

Perhaps most importantly, it gives you the freedom of working from home and the possibility of launching an online business! But even if you decide it’s not for you, remember that there are plenty of other remote-friendly jobs out there.

Can you see a friend making the perfect remote bookkeeper? Or maybe you know a bookkeeper who hates their boss but doesn’t believe they can go their own way? Be sure to share this article with them. You never know what a difference it could make!




Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on whatsapp