As a bookkeeper, you play a vital role in the success and organization of other businesses. When creating your own bookkeeping business, you’ll want to set it up the right way from the start.
A good setup will ensure that you appear professional to future clients. Plus, it will allow you to focus on the work you love – bookkeeping – rather than repairing issues in the foundations of your business.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be difficult to get started. There are many ways to go about creating a bookkeeping business, which can make the process overwhelming. Through my own experience in establishing my business, as well as extensive research on setting up a bookkeeping business, I’ve broken down the process into 9 simple steps.
9 Steps to Start a Bookkeeping Business
1. Get Certified
While a license or certification isn’t technically required to get started, it shows your customers that you have the expertise to take care of their financials. Plus, you’ll feel more confident with the necessary knowledge for the role. There are a few ways to go about training – either through an organization or a community college.
Bookkeeping certifications aren’t regulated by the government, so it’s important to go through a well-known organization for certification. The top two are the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB). Both provide coursework and exams in all things bookkeeping.
Most community colleges also offer bookkeeping classes. You can attend at your own pace, either online or in person. Community college is also fairly affordable, so you can make it fit into your budget. These courses typically lead to a certification, but be sure to check before enrolling.
2. Research Your Market and Niche
Every business needs a bookkeeper, so you have a wide variety of customers to choose from. Without picking a market, you might find yourself spread thin by learning the intricacies of every industry. By choosing a niche, you can build specific skills, credibility, and a reputation as the expert in your chosen market.
Once you decide on a niche, do some market research. Reach out to business owners and ask what types of bookkeeping services they need. Do they employ a bookkeeper year-round? Do they have a software preference? What’s their budget?
It’s also a good idea to investigate the competition. Check out how many other bookkeeping businesses there are that specialize in the same industry. Take note of the packages they offer and the prices they charge.
3. Craft a Business Plan
Your business plan allows you to organize your ideas and methods for your bookkeeping business in one place. It can guide your decision-making, but you can also adjust it in the future if anything changes.
Make note of every aspect of your business in your plan. This includes:
- Business name
- Ideal customer
- Services offered
- Pricing per package, hour, and retainer
- Startup costs
- Marketing strategy
You may also use your business plan to get funding. In this case, your business plan will need to be a bit more formal and include:
- Executive summary
- Company overview
- Analysis of the competition
- Marketing plan
- People requirements
- Financial information (startup costs and earning projections)
4. Register Your Business
Establish your business by getting it registered. You’ll need to decide on a business structure. There are four options: sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, and corporation.
If you’re just getting started as a one-person business, you’ll likely do best as a sole proprietorship or LLC. You’ll need to check with your secretary of state’s office to get the exact guidelines for registering your business in your state.
5. Get Insurance
It’s important to get insurance as a bookkeeper because you deal with your client’s finances. If you make a mistake, it is possible that you could get sued.
Liability protection can cover lawyer fees and settling costs. Although insurance isn’t required, it could potentially save your business from taking a huge loss.
6. Choose Your Software
Your chosen software is critical for your business. You’ll also spend much of your time using it, so it should be software that you like. The right software for your business will depend on what services you offer. Quickbooks, FreshBooks, and Xero are popular among bookkeeping and accounting businesses.
Most bookkeeping software companies offer certifications for their products. These credentials can help you work faster and more accurately. Plus, they allow you to market yourself as an expert to potential clients.
You may also need payroll software if you plan on hiring employees. Practice management or customer relationship management (CRM) software can also be useful, allowing you to organize your tasks and sort through client work. QuickBooks offers bookkeeping, payroll, and management software all in one, so it could be a good option if you don’t want to juggle multiple platforms.
7. Set Up Your Foundations
There are a few business elements you’ll need to become fully functional. First, set up a website. It doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, there are plenty of website builders that make creating a website easy with preset options. Your website will allow you to serve customers all over the world and market yourself as an expert.
You’ll need a secure way to share files with customers. This is how clients can send you bank statements, receipts, and more. Some popular options are Dropbox, Huddle, and FileCloud.
A business bank account is also necessary for any type of business. This will ensure that you keep your personal and business finances separate, which is key for liability protection and tax purposes. You’ll want both a business checking and savings account. You might also consider getting a business credit card for any expenses.
8. Choose Your Payment System
The last and most important piece of your business infrastructure is your payment system. How will clients pay you for your services? A good payment system will provide you with a full payment infrastructure, meaning you get a payment gateway, merchant account, and payment processing services.
Your payment system should make it easy for your clients to pay you – you never want to lose a sale because of a poor user experience. It should support a wide variety of payment methods and let you offer your clients multiple ways to pay, like via invoice, checkout, or link.
Pay.com offers all of the above, making it simple for your clients to pay for your services. Plus, Pay.com is super user-friendly. In just a few clicks, you can set up your payment system via the Pay Dashboard – no technical experience required.
9. Market Yourself and Find Customers
With your business fully set up and certifications in place, you’re ready to accept clients. There are a variety of ways to market your business. You can run paid ads online, send cold-pitch emails to your ideal customers, or utilize direct mail marketing.
Consider your niche and target market. Where does your ideal customer spend their time? For example, you might build an Instagram presence if you want to specialize in helping solopreneurs and online coaches. On the other hand, direct mail is likely a better option if your niche is the automotive industry.
Networking is also critical. Connect with friends and family and ask if they know anyone who can use your services. Join online groups for bookkeepers, where people may be looking to offload clients. Ask any existing clients for referrals. You might also join industry associations related to your niche, which can connect you with potential clients in person and online.
The Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Bookkeeping Business
Bookkeeping can be incredibly lucrative – there’s always a demand since every business needs someone to track its money. Still, there are benefits and drawbacks to consider before launching your business.
- Consistent demand means you’ll have dependable income.
- Startup costs are fairly low compared to other types of businesses.
- Virtual or in-person work is available.
- You set your own schedule.
- Certifications and degrees are not required to get started.
- There are a variety of industries to choose from, so you can work in any niche that interests you.
- You can decide how you’d like to accept payments from your customers.
- Technology plays a major role, from software to computers, so you need to be somewhat tech-savvy.
- You may run into liability issues.
- You’re responsible for keeping client data secure.
- Most software you’ll use requires monthly or yearly fees.
The Bottom Line: Is Starting a Bookkeeping Business Right for You?
Starting a bookkeeping business is an appealing opportunity. It requires no degree or certification, though you can easily get one online from the comfort of your own home. Startup costs are minimal, so there are few barriers to opening up shop. You can work as much or as little as you like, virtually or in person.
The business itself is easy to set up. You’ll just need to get your business registered and insured before you set up a business bank account and website. Plus, you can easily establish a payment system with Pay.com, which makes getting paid quick and convenient.
Before getting into business, be sure to consider the pros and cons. Be prepared to deal with potential liability issues and marketing may also be a challenge when you're first starting out. However, owning your own business and helping others run successful businesses can be incredibly rewarding. If you love numbers and organization, bookkeeping could be right for you.