Do you know what every business needs? Someone to do the books! If you’re a person who enjoys organization and possesses decent math skills, that someone could be you! I’m serious, bookkeeping can be a lucrative business: bookkeepers are always in demand, and bookkeeping itself is often something business owners don’t have enough time or confidence to do.
Virtual bookkeeping jobs are widely available yet often overlooked. Many people don't think they have the skills necessary to land a position. Despite its closely related accounting cousin, bookkeeping positions are often considered entry level. You don't need a degree in most cases.
Sound interesting? Then read on to learn how to start your own bookkeeping business!
1. HAVE EXPERIENCE OR LEARN BOOKKEEPING.
While bookkeeping is absolutely a business you can start without any experience, it definitely helps to have previously worked in a money-related job. Whether you’ve worked as a small-scale accountant or as a company’s controller, that experience will go a long way in landing clients for your own business.
Don’t have any experience? That’s okay too! You can still get started on this career path with relatively little in the way of startup costs. Check your local community college for continuing education classes in bookkeeping, or check out courses that are available online. Bookkeeper Launch is a fantastic opportunity to get started as a virtual bookkeeper: through 3 FREE classes, Ben Robinson offers to teach what you need to start bookkeeping from home and develop a successful business as you go!
2. REGISTER AS A BUSINESS.
It’s important to do your business correctly from the beginning, especially when you’re handling someone else’s money. You must register your business with your state, either as a DBA (“Doing Business As”) or a business entity type such as a Limited Liability Company. While you absolutely could handle your bookkeeping business as a sole proprietorship, protecting yourself by becoming an LLC can keep you from being personally liable should your business be sued.
Filing as a company does typically involve fees and they vary from state to state. In most states, you can file for $150 or less. CorpNet can help you get that paperwork filed.
3. PROTECT YOURSELF.
When you set up your business, you should also take steps to protect yourself. Have a P.O. box for any paper correspondence, so you can control who has access to your personal address. However, when choosing a Registered Agent for your business with the state, you’re not allowed to list a P.O box – in that case, it may be helpful to retain professional Registered Agent services from companies like CorpNet to protect your privacy.
Since you’re dealing with someone else’s private and sensitive data as a bookkeeper, you should also get insurance to protect yourself and your company should mistakes or catastrophe happen. You may wish to get business liability coverage, professional liability (errors and omissions) coverage, valuable papers and records coverage, data breach coverage, etc.
4. DECIDE WHO TO SERVE.
Ben Robison from Bookkeeper Launch had these tips for us:
“Specialize and work with one or two niche industries. Serve businesses that you like and are attracted to. You might have prior professional experience that can serve as a springboard to gaining new clients and serving them well.
“Do NOT bind yourself to a certain geographic area. Serve clients anywhere around the globe. To do this, you have to set up your business in a very specific manner. And don't do ANY work at a client's office. This just ties you down geographically and kills your earning potential.
“My final tip is to be selective who you serve. Most people staring their own bookkeeping business are too eager and accept any ol' client. Don't make this mistake. If the client doesn't fit your personality don't be afraid to say no. You'll be glad you did so later!”
5. REASSURE YOUR CLIENTS.
Even if you’re a fully virtual bookkeeper, you still need to inspire confidence in your clients that their private and personal information is being handled with the utmost security and confidentiality. When you’re working from your home, you must reassure your clients that you’re actively and carefully securing their data. Having an actual home office with a locking door (controlled access) is the best way to do this. If you don’t have the space for this, aim to have a desk with locking drawers where physical paperwork can be kept. Also, make sure your computer is password-protected, and that no one but you signs into it.
You’ll also want to use great bookkeeping tools. As Ben teaches his students, “the number one tool, and the hub for everything you will do for your client, is a bookkeeping software called Xero.
“Based on the type of client you serve, there are several different tools you can use that will distinguish you as a great bookkeeper. One of the neat things about having your own bookkeeping business is that the tools needed aren't numerous and the cost is minimal.”
6. ESTABLISH A WEBSITE.
Before you start courting clients, make sure you have an attractive and professional website in place. You don’t need to be all that tech-savvy or spend a lot of money to achieve this either! Use a service like Wix or Squarespace to make nice-looking sites quickly, or have WordPress installed on her personal website domain. WordPress is pretty easy to learn, and comes with tons of clean, free layouts that you can tweak to work for your business.
Your website should include a list of your services, some background about your experience and skills, and a way to contact you, at minimum.
7. DECIDE ON A FEE STRUCTURE.
I know, I know, this can be one of the hardest steps in starting your business. How much do you charge? Do you risk charging too much and not landing clients? Or do you risk charging too little and working yourself too hard because you were afraid to value your time?
There’s just no hard and fast rule for what you should charge. My best recommendation is to read the industry and decide accordingly. Salary.com tells us the median hourly rate for bookkeepers in a traditional employee position is around $19.63. Ben teaches his students how to earn up to $80 per hour working from home as a bookkeeper.
Research what your local competitors or your virtual competitors are charging for their services; then you have the information to start at an average price or try to undercut other professionals. Another good rule of thumb is this: once you land your first client, whatever they pay is now your minimum. Endeavor never to work for less than that amount in the future, and employ well thought out price increases over time to match your level of experience and the value of your services.
8. SPEND SOME TIME ON MARKETING AND ADVERTISING.
For in-person marketing, you’ll definitely want some business cards printed up as soon as possible. Even if you’re not going door to door recruiting clients, having business cards already made can help whenever you go to industry mixers or conventions. (Not that you must do those things, but they can help you network and learn new things!) Having brochures printed to leave with local businesses can be a big help as well.
If you’re only offering your bookkeeping services virtually, you can employ targeted ads to great effect. Facebook has incredibly precise ad services that let you target specific demographics and use your advertising budget efficiently. For free options, visit online forums where your targeted customers spend time: reach out to them on Twitter or Instagram, or do guest posts on blogs they frequent. (You may also be able to purchase ad space on those blogs.) Small businesses will be your bread and butter, so don’t neglect reaching out to them personally.
9. CONTINUE LEARNING AND EXPAND YOUR OFFERINGS.
As you establish a client base and get more comfortable with your bookkeeping business, continue your learning and consider offering more services. Beyond simple accounting, you could offer packages that include doing payroll for your clients, handling their business tax filing, helping new businesses with financial planning and loan packages – the list of how you can add value to your business goes on. And any time you add a service is a great opportunity at which to re-evaluate your pricing structure and sell your clients on those new packages! Developing a more robust set of offerings is also a solid way to attract new clients.
Ben’s final tips for us:
“Follow a proven system. Don't try and blaze your own trail. There are systems out there that work. Find one that is a good fit for you and stick to it.”
Now, what are you waiting for? There’s no better time to check out Bookkeeper Launch and get started on your next successful career.
Take a Look at Kelly Perry's Bookkeeper Launch Experience
Tell us a little about yourself. What was your motivation to join Bookkeeper Launch?
A few months ago I was laid off from my work-from-home job. I quickly discovered that finding another telecommuting job was nearly impossible. I am a single mom of three boys, one of whom has special needs, so I really needed to find something that would afford me a lot of flexibility with a full-time income. When I found the Bookkeeping Business Blueprint, I knew it was exactly what I needed.
Please share your success due to the course. How soon were you able to find your first client and start working towards your income goals?
I have zero bookkeeping experience and was worried about my ability to get clients. The classes focus just as much on the business side of things as the bookkeeping knowledge. From day one I was learning both bookkeeping skills and how those skills translate into my new business. Ben is a great teacher and he knows how to break down the content so that anyone can learn it. I actually got my first client before the class even ended. I actually wasn't even trying. People who knew I had been laid off were asking me about my “job seeking” prospects and I would tell them that I was starting my own bookkeeping business. Probably about half the people I told said that they needed or they knew someone who needed a bookkeeper, so I was already handing out my business cards. Then one day I got a call! That first client was all I needed to gain the confidence to get my next client, which came a few weeks later. I project I will reach my income goal within three months.
What advice would you give to someone considering the bookkeeping industry?
If you are reading this then you already have the feeling that this is something you can do, which means you CAN do it. I started the course during summer break with all three of my boys at home! Yikes!! I contemplated waiting until school started back, but my bills wouldn't wait, so I dove in. I'm so glad I did. Don't wait for “better timing”. That will never come. The course can be completed on your schedule so just dive in. Literally, every single business in the world needs a bookkeeper. It might as well be me (or you)!