woman sitting outside with laptop for article on launching a freelance bookkeeping service

Super Organized? Consider Launching a Freelance Bookkeeping Service

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Bookkeeping is one of those services every business needs, but often gets neglected until tax time rolls around. Well, that’s good for you (unless you’re running a business that isn’t doing any bookkeeping – then that’s bad for you). If you happen to be good with numbers, or if you just like tracking revenue consider launching a freelance bookkeeping service.

The number of visionaries, solopreneurs, and entrepreneurs who are willing to pay real USD to have someone take care of their day-to-day books for them would probably amaze you.  I’m talking about people who just don’t feel like entering Best Buy receipts into their bookkeeping software. Or learning bookkeeping software… 

 And they are more than happy to pay you so they don’t have to think about it.  

As a bookkeeper, the entire purpose of your job is to keep track of income and expenses on a daily basis. That means organizing and filing receipts, and recording transactions. For a micro- business, that may also include fulfilling payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable duties. You will serve as the liaison between the business and its accountant.

So… it’s a good idea to get some training.

No License Required for Bookkeeping, But Get Certified

It’s important for a prospective bookkeeper to know the language of accounting. You can’t wing it on this one. Don’t “fake it till you make it.” If you don’t have previous experience or education in accounting, it will be better for you and for your potential clients if you gain some training and experience first.

States generally do not have licensing requirements for bookkeepers, but trade organizations such as the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offer certification and continuing education opportunities for practicing bookkeepers. These is training you can take on your own and

A bookkeeper is no substitute for an accountant.  Try to stick with businesses that actually do have an accountant who can go over your records to make sure all is as it should be. 

Businesses should have both.  I’m saying that because small businesses are notorious for trying to rely solely on a bookkeeper to do all the heavy lifting. As a bookkeeper, you’ll handle the itemization, categorization, and tracking of income and expenses. 

The Accountant’s job is to review your work reconcile any conflicts (preferably on a monthly or quarterly basis), and ensure the company accurately files its tax returns. The accountant does the heavy-lifting, and, in many cases assumes the heavy risk.  

If you want to learn accounting principles, you can do some research online and enroll in professional development courses at your local community college. 

Learn the Tools of the Trade

There are several popular accounting programs that are staples in modern businesses: QuickBooks, Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree Accounting), Wave, Xero, NetSuite, FreshBooks (not an exhaustive list, by any means). 

While all four software applications are available as cloud-based services, Once you learn one of the bigger programs (Sage 50, NetSuite,  or QuickBooks – QuickBooks is my personal favorite, I was a years-long user during my brick-and-mortar days), the others are pretty easy to learn.

I actually recommend you go with a tool like Quickbooks or Sage 50 if you’re going to be offering bookkeeping as a paid service because those software suites are far more robust, and you’ll be able to keep more detailed books.  But you’ll likely have plenty of clients who use different types of accounting software and they’ll just end up giving you access to the software subscriptions they already have.

Familiarize yourself with the different applications by taking advantage of any and all free trials. 

If you are leaning more toward becoming certified, QuickBooks and Sage 50 have brand-specific certification programs for accounting pros who use their software. 

Depending on the client, the accounting system they choose, and whether company files are cloud-based or stored locally you may have to go into the office a few times a month to do your work. That’s not always the case, however. 

Startups and solopreneurs that are also home-based may prefer that you keep the records at your place until they have a brick and mortar space of their own. That’s especially true now.

That’s good though because if you can keep things organized for them and commit to keeping their books in order, you may find running a bookkeeping business is rather easy for you.

Tips for Launching a Credible and Profitable Freelance Bookkeeping Service

Skills Inventory 

Accounting knowledge, organization, consistency, time management. I would 100% recommend becoming a certified bookkeeper – it’ll be much easier to market yourself as an expert if you’ve taken the steps to become QuickBooks certified or become a certified bookkeeper.

Physical/Virtual Inventory 

Accounting software, computer, a file cabinet, a box of hanging file folders, and a box of folders.

Launch Cost 

A 2-drawer file cabinet will cost about $40 new. Hanging file folders are $7 – $10 for a box of 50.  If you’re really strapped for cash buy closeout and second hand. If you can find a gently used file cabinet at Goodwill, you can probably get it for under $15. 

Marketing

Bid on bookkeeping jobs on Upwork.  Even better, tap into the small- and micro-business community in your area and get the word out about your services.  The guy who just painted your bathroom may have a garbage bag full of last year’s receipts in his garage that his wife refuses to even look at.  Rescue him.