How to Become A Bookkeeper

Sep 11, 2023
How to become a bookkeeper

How To Become A Bookkeeper

Want to learn how to become a bookkeeper but not sure where to start? You're in the right place!

I have been a bookkeeper and accounting professional for over 20 years, and am currently working with clients on a monthly basis. I learned bookkeeping the hard way...on the job.

Learning on the job isn't always a terrible thing. After all, you're getting paid to learn on the job, but it took me years to become a GOOD bookkeeper and I made a lot of mistakes along the way.

I created this site to help people (like you!) interested in becoming a bookkeeper, learn the ropes the quickest way possible and get the knowledge needed to be an amazing bookkeeper by providing tools and training to help you get started.

But first, you need to decide if this is the path you really want to take.

Is a bookkeeping career right for you?

My first job out of college was doing body makeup on a soap opera in LA. Crazy, I know, but my dad worked as a director on the soap opera, so I had connections. I moved to LA and did that exciting, glamorous job for a year. Then, I got home sick for Colorado, so I moved back home.

My first job after returning to Colorado was a bookkeeping job. I didn't have any experience in bookkeeping, but I had taken several accounting courses in college and knew some basics. I was hired at an accounting firm doing books for several small businesses. That was my first taste of bookkeeping and I learned quite a bit.

For the next several years I continued doing accounting-type work in creative businesses (video production). I never really had an "accounting" brain. I was always more creative, yet I always migrated towards numbers.

I used to resist the idea of a bookkeeping career because it didn't feel "creative" enough for me. Looking back, the fact is, bookkeeping work has paid my bills for a very long time and has given me flexibility and exposure to many different businesses and interesting people.

There are so many directions and specialties available to you as a bookkeeper.

Whether you want to be an employee, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, it's all available to you as a skilled bookkeeper. You will not have trouble finding work!

Actually, bookkeeping is an amazing skill to have. It took me a long time to appreciate my bookkeeping skills, but now I certainly do!

I'm got to a point in my career where I wanted to be home more with my son and I wanted flexibility and more freedom over my schedule. Bookkeeping is what gave me the ability to have that flexibility. I

Be let's be real, not everyone should be doing bookkeeping. Most business owners I work with have very little understanding of how bookkeeping works and have no interest in learning it. That's why they hire a skilled bookkeeper.

If you're not a numbers person and deep down you have no interest in it, then don't pursue it just for the flexibility it can give you. You won't be happy. But if it does interest you, then I highly recommend you get the skills to pursue it!

When I changed my mindset around bookkeeping and started thinking like an entrepreneur instead of an employee, that's when things started to change for me. I began charging higher rates, being more selective about which clients I worked with, and started enjoying the work more.

You may not want to be an entrepreneur, and that's perfectly okay!

You may want to sharpen your bookkeeping skills so you can get a bookkeeping job, or advance your current job. If you are an administrative assistant, or an office manager - or even if your spouse or family member owns a business, then learning bookkeeping can only further your career.

So let's dive in and see how you can become a successful bookkeeper!

Keys to Success

Let's first look at whether being a bookkeeper is a good choice for you.

In my experience, here are the skills you need to be successful as a bookkeeper:

  1. Good communicator

I have replaced many freelance bookkeepers who were "fired" because they didn't communicate very well or were simply non-responsive. If you can communicate timely with your clients, you are already many steps ahead of most bookkeepers.

This may sound like common sense, but it really is very common. Freelance bookkeepers can get very busy, making timely communication difficult. Don't fall into this trap.

Of course, being timely doesn't mean being available 24/7. I fell into this issue when I was running my virtual assistant business and hit a serious case of burnout. You must have boundaries as a freelancer!

But, you can have boundaries and impeccable customer service.  This is a recipe for a great business.

  1. Logical

To me, bookkeeping is like putting a puzzle together. When you start working with a new client, or starting a new job, you're often cleaning up "messes", such as things being coded to the wrong account, and trying to make things balance.

The ability to apply logic to your work is going to be one of your biggest assets as a bookkeeper.

Being able to look at a financial statement or a transaction and think, "does this make sense?", is key to producing good work. You need to step back from the weeds and be able to look at the bigger picture. That will help you be superstar bookkeeper!

This is true in most occupations, but many people may not think it applies to bookkeeping. Trust me, it does. If you have common sense and a good logical mind, then you have what it takes to be good at bookkeeping.

  1. Detail-oriented

I'll be honest with you, I'm not a very detail-oriented person naturally. I'm way more right brain than left brain. So if you think, "oh shoot, I'm not detail-oriented, I can't do this", think again.

But, it does help if you are detail-oriented naturally. I've had to train myself to be more detail-oriented by simply just doing the work and knowing what to look for within the numbers. It just takes practice and some experience.

Learn the Skill

I took some accounting classes in college, but I never took a formal bookkeeping course.

I like to say I took the bookkeeping school of hard knocks. I learned on the job over the years and I still learn new things with every new client.  I don't think you can "master" bookkeeping. Like anything, learning is a constant.

But with that said, you must know the fundamentals of bookkeeping before you start calling yourself a bookkeeper.

There are a number of ways to go about learning bookkeeping. Let's talk about them!

  1. Learning on the job

There are a lot of jobs out there that combine admin work with bookkeeping.  It's typically an entry level job that doesn't pay much, but it can provide you the training while getting paid, assuming there is someone in the company who is knowledgeable and can train you.

I think it's better to take a bookkeeping course to learn the fundamentals so that you are better equipped to step into a bookkeeper role with some knowledge under your belt.

Plus, you never know if the person training you in a job really knows bookkeeping themselves. You don't want to learn bad habits!

  1. Take a bookkeeping course

I learned on the job from an accounting person and it still took me a LONG time (years!) to feel confident as a freelance bookkeeper. 

If I was starting over, I would have taken a more comprehensive bookkeeping course before working with any side clients so I had that knowledge and confidence from the get-go.

There are a lot of great resources out there for learning bookkeeping. Of course, my favorite is my own course, Startup Bookkeeper Bootcamp.

I would suggest signing up for my Bootcamp as a starting place. You'll learn what full-cycle bookkeeping is, how to do a month end process and how to set up your business. This is great for complete beginners! I am a bookkeeper and work with clients everyday, so I'm in the trenches and have the knowledge to help you.

Learn QuickBooks Online

The most important thing is that you get good training. Once you get that bookkeeping foundational training, you'll need to learn the most popular accounting tool used by small business owners, QuickBooks Online.

I use QuickBooks Online exclusively for my clients. I suggest getting your QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor certification so you can learn how to use this powerful tool. It's free to get your QBO certification and will most definitely help you land clients (I cover more about this in the Bootcamp).

Xero is another program that is often used by small businesses. You can get certified with them also,  but I have not found a client yet that is using Xero. All my clients use QuickBooks Online. I would focus on QBO as your specialty.

Before you learn QuickBooks or another software program, learn the basics of bookkeeping first!

Get experience

Once you have learned how to do bookkeeping and use QuickBooks Online, then it's time to get some real world experience.

You can do this either by getting a bookkeeping job, or by getting your first client.

There are also alot of companies out there that hire remote bookkeepers. These companies don't always pay a lot per hour, but the experience can be invaluable. Not only will you work with real clients, but you can learn other tools like, Expensify, etc that "plug" into QuickBooks Online.

I worked for one of these companies many years ago because I wasn't sure if I wanted to work for myself or work for a company, but I knew I wanted to work from home.

I didn't love the experience (I felt super micro-managed), but I learned alot in the six months I was there (even after 15 years of accounting experience).

These types of companies could be a great way to build up experience before going out on your own.

When you do go out on your own, I would advise leveraging your friends and family to find your first client. Let them know you are starting on this exciting new career path, you've been trained and now you would like to gain experience.

Most people know someone who runs a small business and would be willing to give you a shot at doing their books.

You may have to start out doing them for a lower rate, or even pro bono to get some experience for a few months, but it will be worth it.

Think about niching

Having a niche is great for bookkeepers, but I don't think you need to niche right out of the gate.

Niching is picking a particular industry to specialize in, such as dentists, non-profits, or construction companies.

I have clients in different industries, but would love to niche. I think it makes bookkeeping so much easier when you know the industry and can specialize.

Feel free to check out an article on how to niche your bookkeeping business.

By specializing, you can charge higher rates and bring more value to your clients.  But don't put pressure on yourself to do that in the beginning. Your niche may have to find you over time.

Price Your Services

Pricing is always a challenge when you are starting out, but if you get proper training and know what you are doing, you can charge anywhere from $50 per hour up to $100 an hour.

I charge anywhere between $50 - $100 hour now, but I am working towards flat rate pricing. It's so much better than tracking hours!

It's okay to start a little lower if you are trying to gain experience. Don't feel bad about that. Your bookkeeping practice will evolve and you can always increase your rates as you gain experience and confidence.

Keep Learning

The bookkeeping profession is constantly evolving. New online tools pop up all the time that will help you become more efficient.

The key is be a GOOD bookkeeper and that means doing quality work, and providing a ton of value to your clients and/or employers.

The truth is, there are a lot of bad bookkeepers out there. The good ones end up cleaning up the messes the bad ones left behind. That is opportunity for you!

There is a TON of bookkeeping work out there, so if this profession interests you, then get started today by enrolling in the Startup Bookkeeper Bootcamp!

Check out the "Become an Awesome Bookkeeper free training!

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