Are you interested in starting a virtual bookkeeping business from home? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a bookkeeping business with NO money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample bookkeeping business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample bookkeeping company marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for bookkeeping businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a bookkeeping business from home. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
What is a Bookkeeping Business?
The best point of take-off is to know the meaning of book keeping, which is simply an activity that bothers on the recording of business transactions. Book keepers are also known as account clerks, accountants etc. Book keeping is therefore an occupation concerned with maintaining financial accounts, auditing business records and preparing financial reports for a business. A bookkeeper’s top responsibility is to keep a chronological list of related debits and credits of a business; which forms part of a ledger of accounts.
As a book-keeper you will be responsible for writing the daybooks, which contain records of purchases, sales, receipts, and payments. The bookkeeper is responsible for ensuring that all transactions are recorded in the correct daybook, supplier’s ledger, customer ledger, and general ledger; an accountant can then create reports from the information concerning the financial transactions recorded by the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper brings the books to the trial balance stage: an accountant may prepare the income statement and balance sheet using the trial balance and ledgers prepared by the bookkeeper.
Why Start a Bookkeeping Business?
From the above, you can relate to how important a book keeper is to the accounting process, which translate to how important a book keeper is to every business venture. Since many businesses especially the small and medium scale ones cannot afford to hire an in house book keeper and also a book keeper, they always outsource their book keeping services which makes it the perfect business for you to go into if you are financially sound and good with figures.
Many individual usually mistake a book keeper and an accountant; but even though they share same goals and are complementary, they fill up a different gap in the financial cycle and there lies a huge border in the two fields. Organized financial records and properly balanced finances produced by the bookkeeping and accounting processes are both key factors to this success. Some business owners learn to manage their finances on their own, while majority opt to hire a professional so that they can focus on the parts of their business that they really love.
Therefore if you see book keeping which is summarized as a systematic recording of the financial aspects of business transactions in the appropriate books of account as a business you can venture into, then read along and learn the basics, statistics and necessary information about the business. Many small business owners prefers to outsource managing their books, either because it’s not something they enjoy, or it’s something they lack the push and urge to learn. This is why starting a business as a bookkeeper for other business owners can be an excellent business idea.
As a professional bookkeeper the services you will provide will range from managing accounts receivable, accounts payable, reconciliation, payroll, reporting, income tax preparation and more. In general, you need experience with bookkeeping and/or accounting on a professional level, plus experience with various accounting software, such as QuickBooks. It’s also necessary to be extremely accurate, reliable and work with a high level of integrity when you’re managing the books for another company.
Starting a Bookkeeping Business from Home – A Complete Guide
- Industry Overview
Do you know that an average book keeper in the United States earn an average of $40,000 annually? Yes and you can even earn more. At the beginning of your book keeping business you might work for at least 20-30hours a week due to taking a book keeping course, networking, marketing, and setting up your website. But as time goes on and you settle down fully into the business, you will work as a full-time book-keeper at an average of 25hours weekly, but if want to practice as a part-time book-keeper, then be ready to work between 10-15hours every week.
- Interesting Statistics About the Bookkeeping Industry
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, seventy-five percent of all Canadian businesses employ less than five people and ninety-five percent of all businesses have less than fifty people. This means that most Canadian businesses are small in size. And we all know that every business needs a bookkeeper. What this portrays is that every business in Canada needs the services of an outsourced book keeper since they are majorly small businesses. The example of Canada also applies to a global stage since 90% of the businesses in the world today are small businesses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2014 median salary for Bookkeepers was $38,070 per year–$16.91 per hour. The industry is expected to add about 204,000 positions through 2022 an average rate of growth compared to other professions. But these stats reference somebody who works directly for a single company. Most bookkeepers earned between $22,000 and $56,000, and the industries with the highest levels of employment were accounting and tax preparation services, management companies and local government.
According to Entrepreneur, independent bookkeepers earn between $25 and $40 per hour depending on where they work and the nature of the job. As you become more established and gain more clients, you may consider bringing in a partner or small staff. How much you can charge as a book keeper depends majorly on your location and the level of work you do, ranging from minimal record keeping to virtually all the tasks leading up to preparation of financial statements. Some bookkeepers also prepare financial statements and do tax work as well.
While doing business is getting more complex, people aren’t getting better at handling their money. Today virtually everybody needs some professional guidance. Yet most small businesses can’t afford to hire or keep full-time bookkeepers.
Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics have predicted an 11% increase in the demand for Book Keeping jobs, the field is full of prospects for new and existing book keeping businesses, and it might surprise you that 550,000 new businesses are started in the United States monthly and they will all need they services of a book keeping since it is mandated by law for all business to keep accounts each month, every business is required to do accounting. That’s how government determines taxes, licenses, and all the other fees and withholdings every business must pay.
Starting a Bookkeeping Business from Home – Market Research and Feasibility
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic component of those who need the services of book keeping services cuts across the public sector, the organized private sector, and individuals from different strata of the society and from all walks of life. But small/medium business ventures are the major consumer of the book keeping services.
Below is a list of the people and organizations that will need your services as a professional book keeper;
- The public sector
- Organized private sector
- Businessmen and Businesswomen
- Event Planners
- Estates Manager
- Religious Centers
- Sport Organizations
- Retail trade
- Healthcare and Pharmacies
- Finance and Technical service Providers
- Business Managers
- Local Government
- Non-Profit Making Organizations
List of Niche Bookkeeping ideas That You Can Specialize in
The book keeping field is not very large as it is a niche of finance and accountancy but there are still specializations in the field that can be considered;
- Full-charge bookkeeping,
- Payroll clerking
- Freelance bookkeeping
- Bookkeeping clerk
- Contract accountant.
- Virtual Bookkeeping
- General Bookkeeping
- Certified Bookkeeping
The Level of Competition in the Bookkeeping Industry
Independent bookkeepers are in demand even during economic downturns because businesses realize that if they aren’t careful about their money, they soon won’t be in business. As a result, bookkeeping can be a good business year in and year out. However according to industry watchers, in down times, you may have more competition, because some accountants need more business to keep busy and will seek to pick up bookkeeping business. Accountants are no longer trained for small-business bookkeeping though, so even they are apt to outsource the bookkeeping work they get.
To be successful, independent bookkeepers need to be thorough, dependable and accurate as well as skilled in using accounting and sometime spreadsheet software. You must enjoy paying attention to details, and honesty and integrity are crucial. If you’d be tempted to go along with a client who asks you not to report or to hide income, it’s best to look for another business because you won’t last long in this one. A client who’ll ask you to use questionable practices may have no compunction about not paying your bill.
List of Well-Known Brands in the Bookkeeping Industry
There are numerous big players in the book keeping industry in UK, US and Canada. Below is a list;
- Brigade Book Keeping
- Abatax Accounting
- Analytix Solutions
- Merrit Bookkeeping
- Book Keeping Express (BKE)
- Moxie Bookkeeping, NYC
- Margo’s Bookkeeping, NYC
- The Bookkeeping Company, NYC
- Mark’s Bookkeeping Service
Even though it is a discipline with a high penchant for accurateness and thoroughness, it is still one you can go into with not so much degree and education. As a book keeper, some formal training will help establish credibility but as long as you have some formal experience managing the financial affairs of a company or organization, you can start your business right away.
Unlike other businesses, as a service provider, you should be rest assured that with the right approach to your business, you will always be smiling to the bank as now you are your own boss and even you can combine it with your day job and go full-time when fully grounded and established on the trade.
Is the Bookkeeping Business Worth Starting from Scratch of is Buying a Franchise Better?
Starting from scratch is the real deal in this field; you shouldn’t only start from scratch from home. Book keeping as a business can be a profitable one as it has a very low startup cost. Even though starting a new business is not as easy as buying an already established name. But as a book keeping firm, starting afresh will benefit the reputation of the business in the long run.
Although a franchise might seem like a good idea on the surface, the need to fully investigate what you’re purchasing is critical. There is a better way to start your successful bookkeeping and tax practice than purchasing a franchise.
For a fraction of the cost of purchasing a franchise, (a franchise will cost up to $80,000 just to start), you can purchase both the Professional Bookkeeper™ program and the Professional Tax Preparer™ program. For less than $3000 you’ll receive a more comprehensive education in small business bookkeeping and accounting, preparing and filing taxes for both individuals and businesses and training from the industry’s leading marketing experts. Not even the most expensive franchises offer this level of training and service. Now that’s a value of starting on a fresh page!
Therefore, if you are going to start a book keeping firm, start anew and afresh with your own ideas and philosophies instead of buying a franchise that might have done some shady businesses in the past which a new owner cannot correct.
Possible Challenges You Will Face When Starting a Bookkeeping Business
Some of the potential challenges you may face if you start a bookkeeping business are the following;
- There could be significant liability issues, you need to take measures to ensure all client data is kept secure.
- It could be expensive to purchase and update various accounting software. You need to comfortable with technology so you can access a client’s computer, if necessary.
- Good or bad, you are accountable for it all. Before seeing significant results you will put in a lot of hours.
- You need to find your own business clients on your own, at first they won’t find you but later they will.
- Experience, knowledge and skills are required.
- You are responsible for staying current with your bookkeeping skills, staying ahead of the competition as well as building a successful company.
- The start-up costs will come out of your available cash.
- Be prepared to spend long hours during peak seasons,
- You will be under immense pressure and stress to meet fiscal deadlines.
- Eye and muscle strain may result from long periods of sitting at a computer
Starting a Bookkeeping Business – Legal Matters
- The Best Legal Entity to Use for a Bookkeeping Business
We all know starting a book keeping business is indeed a serious business and not as easy as it sounds, which is why the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big the business to can grow. Choosing a legal entity for a business is a huge determinant of the size the business will grow into, so choosing the right entity is very straightforward especially if you decided to grow the business big in the long term.
Laws in your state may require that you establish a formalized business structure. A limited liability company, or LLC, is the most common type of business structure for small businesses. In most states it’s easy to set up and costs less than $100. Go to your state’s Secretary of State Website to learn how. There are also business registration services that can help.
Catchy Business Name ideas for a Bookkeeping Business
Any business must have a name that will form the very identity of the business. Hence, choosing the perfect name for any venture is not only important, but is expected as well. You may think that a profession like bookkeeping will be stuck with dry and drab names, this is not true; the bookkeeping profession can have just as many creative, funny, and cool names as any other venture out there. Consider the following names for your business;
- Accurate Book Keepers Inc.
- Ace Bookkeepers
- Better Bookkeeping Services
- Bookkeeping Are Us
- Bookkeeping Plus
- Bottom Line Accounting
- Count Account
- Count On Us
- Direct Tax
- Elite Bookkeeping
- Fiscal Year
- Number Crunchers
- Optima Bookkeeping & More
- The Sharp Edge
- Booker’s Price
- Bookers’ Bargains
- Common Cents Bookkeeping
- Count On Me
- Every Penny Accounts
- Figure It Out
- Go Figure
- Masters of the Books
- Mind Your Assets
The Best Insurance Policy for a Bookkeeping Business
Because of the nature of the business, consider insurance. Errors and omissions insurance is a common type of insurance held by bookkeepers but general liability is another option. E&O insurance is cheap; some policies are around $25 per month. Based on the service you provide, you might consider purchasing liability.
- Intellectual Property Protection and Trademark
In the book keeping industry there might not be a need for intellectual property except in the area of trainings, company logos and brands.
- Is Professional Certification Needed to Start a Bookkeeping Business?
While a bookkeeping service must obtain a business license to operate the business, it is not technically required by law to employ licensed and certified bookkeepers. However, nationally accredited licensing and certification is available for bookkeepers that would increase the overall marketability of the business itself and provide an advantage over the unlicensed competition. The following are certification by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) and National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) for book keepers;
- Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB)
- Certified Payroll Specialist (CPS)
- Certified QuickBooks Advisor (CQA)
- Certified Bookkeeper (CB)
- Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
List of Legal Documents You Need to Run a Bookkeeping Business
Register your business with the government. Laws vary by state. Talk to your local Department of Commerce and Department of Licensing to receive the forms that you need to establish your business and to learn if you need a license to do bookkeeping.
For example, in Texas, you register your business through the Department of State and you need a license to be an accountant, but not a bookkeeper. You can notify the federal government of your business by applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can also create a business name for yourself and file a “Doing Business As” or “DBA” notice.
These are some of the basic legal document that you are expected to have in place if you want to start a book keeping business in the United States of America;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Business License
- Business Plan
- Non – disclosure Agreement
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
- Employment Agreement (offer letters)
- Operating Agreement
- Company By laws
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Insurance Policy
Writing a Business Plan for a Bookkeeping Business
You might wonder why you need to have a business plan. You already know what kind of services you could offer. All you need is to find a client to start your bookkeeping business. If you need to do some marketing, you might say “I will think about it along the way”.
However, one of the most important management functions is planning. Without planning, you don’t know which way your business is going and you cannot measure your progress. A lot of small businesses fail because of poor planning.
Here is a list of items in your business plan to consider:
- Summary of Business Plan
- Management and Operating Plan
- Competitive Analysis
- Market Analysis and Marketing Plan
- Financial Plan
- Summary of Business Plan
In summary, you should include the legal structure of the business, internal and external management and your analysis of competitors and the market. Also, you need to summarize the financial situation of your practice. As a professional bookkeeper, you are a part of external management for your clients; however, as a business owner, you need to have external management as mentioned above.
As you already know, you have to compete with other professional accountants and bookkeepers. A licensed accountant can offer various services such as audit, review and tax services and can deal with more complex accounting issues. Some professional accountants offer bookkeeping as well as other services; therefore, you need to investigate their services. Also, you need to determine what kind of services you can offer by doing some research:
You need to have a target market. Unless you have in-depth knowledge of various industries, you should not accept everyone as a client. If you are familiar with the construction industry, you should focus on this area. You need to know whether this industry requires external bookkeepers or not. You also need to analyze the industry in order to offer value-added services.
Detailed Cost Analysis for Starting a Bookkeeping Business
The cost will depend on where you are starting business from either your home or an office. If you are starting from home this will immediately cut down costs because there will be no office rent to pay.
- The Total Fee for incorporating the Business in United States of America – $750.
- The budget for Insurance, permits and license – $5,000
- The Amount needed to rent a suitable office facility with enough space in the United States of America – $20,000.
- The Cost for equipping the office (computers, printers, fax machines, furniture, telephones, filing cabinets, and electronics et al) – $15,000
- The cost of acquiring software – $5000
- The Cost of Launching an official Website – $700
- Additional Expenditure (Business cards, Signage, Adverts and Promotions et al) – $2,500
- Other miscellaneous – $1,000
Based on this, I guess you will agree with me my gospel of telling you to start your business from your home as the initial cost is a bit on the high side.
- Financing your Bookkeeping Business
Choosing to start your bookkeeping practice on a small scale, you might not need loads of resources to kick start the business, but if you decide to start on a large scale, you will sure need to raise the required start –up capital to launch the business. If you are starting your firm on a large scale, you will need a decent office facility, office equipment and furniture, and money budgeted for the payment of salaries and utility bills for at least a period of 3 months and you will also need money to purchase office equipment and software. In essence you are expected to generate your start – up capital.
When it comes to financing a business, one of the first thing and perhaps the major factors that you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.
Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your private book keeping company;
- Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
- Raising money from investors and business partners
- Applying for loan from your bank / banks
- Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and investors
Choosing a Location for your Bookkeeping Firm
New independent bookkeepers often work from home. They may meet clients in their home office or at a local coffee shop but you are advised to rent a small office as soon as possible. Because clients trust you with their money, having an ultra-professional working environment may be important to some of your clients. And don’t forget privacy. If you have children or other people living with you, clients may see your home as an insecure environment. Finally, having meetings at your home might make your clients feel uncomfortable.
Look for a company that offers office space for rent as needed instead of a traditional lease. Larger cities tend to have places like this. Ask friends who are business owners if they have extra space for rent, and if that fails, look at traditional office space. Single office rentals aren’t as outlandish as you might think.
Starting a Bookkeeping Business – Technical and Manpower Details
If you are planning to start a book keeping business, then you should be ready to purchase efficient and up-to-date book keeping software applications, office equipment, stationeries and good computer system, these are the key technical areas you are expected to spend part of your startup capital.
When it comes to choosing between renting and leasing an office space, the vastness of the business you want to start is a huge determinant, and your entire budget for the business should influence your choice. Even though it is advisable to start small in your home, if you have enough capital, then you should consider the option of leasing a facility for your office; when you lease, you will be able to work with long term planning.
Regarding the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you should consider your financial capacity before making the decision. But good enough, you can be operating solo for a start; later you can recruit and train employees when you have the need to. Over and above, you need a minimum of 7 staffs to effectively run a medium scale book keeping firm. Please note that there will be times when you are expected to go out of your way to hire experts to help you handle some technical aspect of your work.
So also, during peak periods you might need additional hands in easing off your burden of voluminous work. If you are just starting out you may not have the financial capacity or required business structure to retain all the professionals that are expected to work with you which is why you should make plans to partner with other small accounting firms since they are specialized in areas you aren’t
Equipment Needed to Start a Bookkeeping Business
- Desk and Chairs
- Filing cabinet or shelf
- Chair for customers
- Internet enabled computer
- Telephone and Fax
- Kettle and cups
- Bookkeeping Software
- Folders and stationery
- There could be other startup costs such as telephone and electricity connections (unless these are already part of the rental).
The Service Process Involved in a Bookkeeping Business
We’re all probably vaguely familiar with the idea that bookkeepers work with numbers and help to manage a company’s financial records. Summarily On a day to day basis, this translates into; Creating Content, marketing Your Services, bank Reconciliations, bill Payment, invoicing, data Analysis and client Interaction. A bookkeeper’s duty is to set up financial statements so that an accountant can easily perform legal and tax management in a timely manner.
A skilled and compliant bookkeeper should be able to produce financial records that give business accurate information about its financial activities. These records are critical to the future success of any business. Not only are these records necessary for the business, they are also required by law. Australian legislation states that businesses must have up to date financial records to ensure that they pay all necessary taxes and levies.
Records must be kept that are accurate and true for a period of at least 5 years from the date that the documents were prepared, obtained or the transaction completed, whichever occurs the latest. Some records, such as payroll, must be kept for a minimum of 7 years.
A good contract bookkeeper is able to:
- Set up accounting systems and software properly
- Enter transactions
- Perform checks, reconciliations and end of year processes
- Ensure they are up to speed with legislative requirements and management reports
- Undertake payroll duties and compliance
- Provide general business administrative support
Starting a Bookkeeping Business – The Marketing Plan
- Marketing ideas and Strategies for a Bookkeeping Business
Create marketing materials advertising your services. This should include a business card that has your phone number and a simple pamphlet that lists the bookkeeping services that you provide, such as general record keeping, tax preparation and payroll services. Discuss your experience and what you can do to help your clients business.
Send your marketing materials to new businesses that are opening in your area. Many new business owners will soon find that the finances are a bit more than they can handle. Find these new businesses by joining your local Chamber of Commerce or by reading the newspaper for DBA listings. You can also utilize this means for your marketing;
- Create a business name for your business, file your DBA, and get a business license.
- Join the local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, etc.
- Create a tri-fold brochure, business cards and postcards.
- Send your brochure to all the DBA filings printed in your local paper.
- Create and publish a Web site.
- When employers advertise for a part-time bookkeeper, send out a resume with a cover letter.
- Every day, go door to door to businesses, handing out your brochure and business card.
Possible Strategies for Winning Competition
Do not expect a rosy start , as it will be challenging competing as a new firm in the book keeping industry especially in a highly organized market like that of the United States of America, which is why you must be deliberate in choosing the perfect niche and specialization to fit into the industry.
As a book keeping firm, with the required expertise, skills and equipment to carry out your functions to your client with respect to meeting up with deadlines, then you are likely not going to struggle to compete in the industry. Hence, ensure that you put in your best whenever you have the opportunity to handle every of your clients accounts.
You should be known for delivering excellent and efficient book keeping services at all times. Lastly, ensure that your organization is well positioned and if possible form strategic partnership with other key stakeholders in the financial resource sector; it will sure give you competitive advantage over your competitions.
- Possible Ways to Boost Customer Retention
Any business that survives beyond the startup phase knows this instinctively. Going over the top with customer service, is what makes you stand out. Are you available after hours? Do you have a network of trusted professionals you can refer clients to when they need something outside of your expertise? Are you fast an error free? Did you remember to acknowledge their birthday or their child’s high school graduation? Great service isn’t a strategy; its thoughtfulness taking an interest in your clients as individuals will make you a stand out. Customers in all businesses complain of the lack of a personal, human touch in business. This is an easy way to stand out.
- Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
In creating a brand identity for a book keeping business, the caliber and number of clients you have worked for and the importance of accounts you have handled in the past you is always a major brand adrenaline.
It is pretty important to work with your public relations consultants to help you map out publicity and advertising strategies that will help you walk your way into the heart of your target market. First and foremost, you should ensure that your brand is visible and well communicated which is why you should make provisions to work with different class of people in the society.
Below are the platforms you should leverage on to push your brand awareness and create a corporate identity for your new book keeping firm;
- Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to all the corporate organizations, community leaders, schools, hospitals, hotels and government offices in your target area.
- Advertise your business in relevant magazines and websites
- List your business on local directories / yellow pages (both online and offline)
- Maintain a very good online presence
- Make sure you have a very good website with a beautiful user interface
- Promote your business on satellite TV stations and radio stations.
- Attend book keeping related expos, seminars, and business fairs with the aim of creating awareness and promoting your brand
- Engage in direct email marketing
- Leverage on the internet (social media platforms and your official websites) to promote your business.
Tips for Running a Bookkeeping Business Successfully
Not everyone is born to work with numbers, but when you are running a business, you can’t run away from the bookkeeping and accounting. Let’s be real here. It’s challenging enough to own and grow your own professional bookkeeping business. The last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time that you can’t bill out trying to figure how to deliver the services your client is paying you for. They won’t want to pay you to learn new skills either.
But when you specialize in a particular industry or service, you are much more in control of your time, since you already know the ropes. It allows you to focus on being the best in your niche and provide high-quality services efficiently and profitably. It’s a win-win scenario. In reality, your business will naturally grow and change. You can always experiment with new service offerings. It’s perfectly acceptable to change your services (and clients) as you grow.
If you love numbers, organization, and some financial grunt work, bookkeeping is the perfect business for you. Don’t quit your day job. Start small, care about your clients, do a fantastic job, and soon enough, you’ll be your own boss if that is your goal.