Starting a bookkeeping business can be very profitable, but you will need to do some work upfront. In this guide, we will discuss the most important things you’ll need to keep in mind along the way.
For as long as there have been businesses, there has been a need for bookkeeping. Having a good bookkeeper can help a business monitor its financial activity, plan its future expansion, and establish a competitive advantage.
Starting a bookkeeping business from scratch can be difficult, but when done correctly, it can lead to a very rewarding career. With the right business banking partner, plan, and knowledge of the bookkeeping industry, you can open your doors and begin operating immediately. Bookkeeping businesses have relatively low start-up costs and, at the same time, can still be very profitable.
In this guide, we will discuss the most important things you need to know about starting your own bookkeeping business and how you can get started.
Bookkeeping vs Accounting
In casual conversation, the terms “bookkeeping” and “accounting” are often used interchangeably. Generally speaking, the responsibilities of bookkeepers and accountants consistently overlap, it is still a good idea to identify the differences between these two terms.
While bookkeeping focuses on the recording and reporting of a business’s financial activities, accounting takes a deeper dive and also includes things like financial planning and analysis. Essentially, both bookkeepers and accountants keep track of important financial data (“the books”), but accounts are more involved in the financial planning process. Many new companies will offer both bookkeeping and accounting services, depending on what their clients specifically need.
The Benefits of Starting a Bookkeeping Business
Currently, there are nearly two million Americans working as either a bookkeeper or an accountant (or both), making this profession one of the most common currently in practice. So why do so many people choose to start a bookkeeping business?
Large Client Base
There are more than one hundred million businesses in the United States and all of these businesses will have at least some sort of bookkeeping need. Many of these business owners do not have the time or skills to manage their books on their own, meaning there will always be potential clients available.
Bookkeeping is a specialized skill—there are only so many people with the education, experience, and certification needed to keep books and make corresponding decisions. Because the practice itself is specialized, bookkeeping businesses can charge specialized rates.
Low Start-Up Costs
A bookkeeping business does not necessarily need to have many initial costs, especially if the owner will also be responsible for all of the (initial) bookkeeping. The simplest firms—especially in the digital age—can begin from a single computer. Over time, you can then scale your business into something much bigger.
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Bookkeeping Business?
The cost of starting your own bookkeeping business will depend on the services you plan to provide and the initial equipment you will need to purchase. However, if you plan on providing all the bookkeeping services yourself, you can theoretically start your own business for next-to-nothing. The only costs you will need to initially endure include registration costs, business insurance, and other small expenses. A small business insurance policy can be purchased for as little as 50 dollars per month and registration is usually just a few hundred dollars.
How Much Money Can You Make Starting a Bookkeeping Business?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average bookkeeper makes about 40,000 USD per year. However, the most successful bookkeeping businesses can make their owners 100,000 USD per year or even more. To be on the higher-earning end of the bookkeeping spectrum, you will need to minimize costs, attract a more sophisticated client base, and also position your business to quickly scale up.
The 8 Steps to Start a Bookkeeping Business
So far we’ve taken a closer look at the differences between bookkeeping and accounting and we’ve also discussed how much you can earn by starting your own bookkeeping business.
Clearly, with the right plan and business financing in place, your bookkeeping or accounting enterprise can potentially be very profitable. If you do decide to start your own bookkeeping business, be sure to keep these important steps in mind:
1. Earn Your Bookkeeping or Accounting Certification
Obtaining a bookkeeping certification will demonstrate to your potential clients that you are familiar with the principles of bookkeeping and that you sincerely know what you are doing. In many cases, it will also be beneficial to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or Finance, though there are plenty of bookkeepers that are successful without one.
You might also want to consider obtaining other relevant certifications, such as tax certification, an accounting software certification, and financial planning certification. Having these certifications will help you increase your output as a bookkeeper and also potentially offer a wider range of available services.
2. Create a Business Plan
Planning will often be what makes or breaks a bookkeeping business. Additionally, having a firm business plan in place will also be essential for any bookkeeper that wants to take out a business loan or otherwise access outside capital.
Generally speaking, the more details you can incorporate in your business plan, the more prepared you will be to get started. Some of the key features you might want to include in the business plan—which should clearly outline your finances and operations—include:
Initial Balance Sheet
As of right now, what does your bookkeeping business currently own, and what, if anything, does it currently owe? Identifying current assets can help you get leverage for a small business loan.
Projected Income Statement
Over the course of the first year, what revenue do you expect to generate and what expenses do you expect to incur? How will your business change if these figures increase or decrease?
Key Team Members
Besides yourself, who else will need to be involved in your business? Lenders, additional bookkeepers, contractors, and key relationships will all need to be considered.
On a given day, what does your business plan to do, and what will you need in order to actually do it? Think about any office space, software, technology, programs, systems, and pieces of equipment that might be needed on a daily basis.
Your business plan should also contain an executive summary that clearly illustrates how you plan to be successful. Even if you feel you have already thought about all of these key details in your head, you’ll still want to get everything on paper for potential clients, lenders, partners, and even regulators.
3. Create a Marketing Plan
In addition to your business plan, you will also need a well-organized marketing plan before you can get started. It is not enough to say that you want to offer bookkeeping services to “other businesses”—as you might expect, the bookkeeping needs for a company like Google will be very different from the bookkeeping needs of a barber or other type of sole proprietor.
The marketing plan should clearly describe your target audience and how to appeal to them. Will you use digital marketing? Networking? Traditional advertising? Social media? In many cases, each of these strategies might be included in your broader plan. Furthermore, your marketing plan should include a SWOT analysis that clearly outlines your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
4. Open a Business Bank Account
Even if your aspiring bookkeeping business currently has no assets and no employees, it will still be a good idea to create a separate business bank account. Taking the time to separate your personal and business expenses will help give you an additional layer of financial protection and also make it much easier to organize. A cash deposit account, such as those offered by NorthOne, will help improve your current financial performance. Your finances can be managed remotely, with ease, and capital distribution can be adjusted in response to changing circumstances.
5. Register and Organize Your Bookkeeping Business
Just as it is never too early to open a separate business bank account, it is also never too early to officially register and “formalize” your bookkeeping business. In many cases, brand new bookkeeping businesses will begin as a limited liability company (LLC). These are straightforward businesses that, as their name suggests, can help reduce your personal exposure to liability. In other cases, depending on ownership structure and long-term goals, a partnership or even a corporation (C corp or S corp) might be the appropriate structure. Regardless, making an effort to register and organize your business will make it easier to begin officially operating as a business, attract capital and clients, and also effectively manage your finances.
6. Find Your Initial Clients
By this point, you have an official bookkeeping business with its own business bank account, registration, plans, and certifications. If you have already purchased the equipment you think you’ll need, that means you are finally ready to begin pursuing clients. Networking, advanced marketing, freelance platforms, and direct communication are just a few of the ways you might be able to get your “foot in the door” and land the first, important client.
When building a bookkeeping business from the ground up, it often makes sense to start small and work with businesses whose bookkeeping needs are relatively straightforward. Many businesses, particularly sole entrepreneurships, have very straightforward books that likely only require a few hours of bookkeeping per month. However, as time goes on and your business grows, you’ll be able to offer a wider variety of services. You’ll also be able to begin pursuing potentially much bigger clients that have very complex needs.
7. Determine KPIs
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, help business owners determine how their business is progressing over time. After all, in order to make any worthwhile changes to your business, you will need to have at least some sort of objective measure that shows how, exactly, you are doing. Among the most useful KPIs for bookkeeping businesses, you’ll find average revenue per client, cost of acquisition, churn rate, lifetime value, and customer value. Making small adjustments that can help improve any of these KPIs will likely mean your bookkeeping business, as a whole, is moving in the right direction.
8. Plan for the Future
Thus far, the steps to starting a bookkeeping business that we have discussed have mostly related to how you can get your business off the ground today. But a truly successful business will need more than just a successful initial launch—it will also need a firm plan in place for the future. Assuming you are able to meet your initial client and income objectives (which will, by no means, be an easy task), where do you want your business to evolve next? Bigger clients? More employees? A more vast array of services?
In many cases, your future plans as a bookkeeping business owner will likely involve a combination of all three. Using the SMART Goal system—striving for goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely—will help you chart a more effective path forward.
There are already many bookkeeping businesses, making it a competitive industry. However, there are still plenty of ways to create your own bookkeeping business, even without much money. Keep these crucial steps in mind and you will be well on your way to being a successful bookkeeper.