By Holly Reisem Hanna
Do you love working with numbers? Are you detail oriented, and enjoy figures and spreadsheets? Then bookkeeping may be your work-at-home calling!
Working as a bookkeeper is an excellent way to make good money and gain the flexibility and freedom that you crave. Plus, getting started is easy. There’s not a lot of set-up or equipment required, aside from a computer, an internet connection, and bookkeeping software. While learning the ropes of bookkeeping can take some time, almost anyone with a head for numbers and a propensity for data entry can learn with practice.
If bookkeeping sounds like it would be a good fit for you — here's what you need to know.
Bookkeeper vs. Accountant
When you hear the term “bookkeeping,” you may wonder what sort of responsibilities and experience are required. Different than the more formal position of an accountant or CPA (which requires a bachelor's degree and certification), bookkeepers fall under the umbrella of accounting, but they’re more focused on the day-to-day operations, like tracking income, and expenses. While some experience is beneficial to working as a bookkeeper, you don't need a college degree or CPA certification. Therefore, while the bookkeeping role requires close attention to detail and a high level of accuracy, there’s less responsibility than the role of an accountant.
Accountants, on the other hand, are typically in charge of setting up the overall budget and financial direction for a business; they oversee tax information and set up the chart of accounts according to standard accounting practices. Accountants analyze financial information, produce reports, and make strategic recommendations based on data and tax laws.
What Types of Work Do Bookkeepers Do?
Bookkeeping is a back-office position required in almost every industry, so there’s the built-in advantage of being able to work in virtually any field. Once you’re trained in bookkeeping, you can work within many different industries and find work that interests you, whether it’s working with small business owners, bloggers, or even non-profits — every industry needs bookkeepers.
Common tasks often include:
- Entering and managing accounts payable
- Entering and managing accounts receivable
- Maintaining the general ledger
- Managing inventory counts
- Overseeing payroll
- Monitoring project budgets
- Filing accounting reports
- Paying suppliers and following up on purchase orders
- Monitoring petty cash
What Training Do You Need?
If you have a college degree in business, accounting, or mathematics, if you've balanced the books for a family business, or if you've worked as a store manager — you probably have a good foundation to work from home as a bookkeeper. However, if you don’t have a lot of experience, there are ways to get up to speed.
Not sure how to get started?
Try this FREE online bookkeeping training resource: Bookkeeper Business Blueprint (How to Work from Home as a Bookkeeper). Most bookkeeper training courses (including this one) can be completed within a few days, and some include training on accounting software such as Quicken, Xero, Sage 50 (formerly known as Peachtree Accounting) or QuickBooks.
For an example of a successful home bookkeeping business, read about Callie Sitek (owner of TheSmartKeep.com) and her journey toward starting her own home bookkeeping business.
If you have prior experience working as a bookkeeper (or related field/position), and you’ve been out of the workforce for some time, rest assured much of the accepted standard accounting practices have stayed the same over the years, so it’s often a simple matter of learning to navigate new software or bookkeeping materials.
To get started, check out this free online Bookkeeper Business Blueprint.
How Much Do Bookkeepers Make?
According to Small Business Cost Helper, hourly rates for bookkeeping services can run between $20 and $50 per hour, depending on the challenges and nuances of the position. Most experienced bookkeepers who work on a contract or consulting basis make around $30-$40/hour, but many make over $60/hour. The number of hours varies by business.
Working for a company, a bookkeeper’s salary typically runs between $30,400 and $39,898 for full-time positions. The advantage, of course, is that you don’t have to worry about the steadiness of the hours—but working for a company might mean you have to work from an office rather than being able to work from home. On-staff bookkeepers working through accounting firms usually make around $30-$50 per hour.
Where Can You Find Virtual Bookkeeping Jobs?
When it comes to working as a bookkeeper from home, there are a few options. If you have experience, it might be worth it to reach out to your contacts from your previous job to see if they or any of their clients are looking for someone to help with their books. You can also check local listings for bookkeeping services, many of which are looking for remote bookkeepers on a consulting basis.
Here are a few places to find virtual bookkeeping work:
Ready to start your own bookkeeping business?
If you’ve decided running a bookkeeping business is the right path, the first thing you'll need to do is educate yourself on the background and requirements for the position. Some bookkeepers who work as consultants may need business insurance or to be bonded, particularly because they’re often handling finances for their clients.
1. Gather your tools
To start, you’ll need a computer with an internet connection. You'll also need to use some accounting software to manage your client's finances. Popular options include Xero, QuickBooks, or Sage 50 — I haven't used any of these, so you'll want to do some research to figure out what platform is the best for you and your clients.
2. Build a website
To advertise your business and spread the word to your clients, you’ll need to create a website, particularly if you plan to work with several different clients on a consulting basis. On your site, be sure to include your experience, list your services and areas of expertise, and always include client testimonials. Not sure how to set up a website? Check out this post for an easy and inexpensive solution.
3. Market your business
If you’re not sure how to market your business, there are plenty of ways to get the word out. Make up a few business cards to get started and reach out to your contacts on LinkedIn and in your social network.
Other ways to market your business:
- Social media
- Cold calling
- In-person networking
- Email marketing
- Lead generation
- PR opportunities
- Public speaking
- Guest blogging
- Print advertising
- Forum participation
- Email prospecting
- Facebook groups
Once you’ve got your website up and running, you should set a goal to reach out to a certain number of prospective clients each day. The general rule of thumb is five to ten but set your own pace as you build up your client base.
4. Stay up on training and trends
Professional development is a good idea, no matter what your industry. The good news is it’s widely available! Not only do conferences, events, and professional groups enable you to meet other people in your industry, they can help you connect with clients, stay on top of changes you need to know about and keep yourself competitive. Watch for webinars, online courses, books and training sessions relevant to the bookkeeping, finance and accounting industries.
Bookkeeping is a great work-at-home career option with a lot of opportunity. Bookkeepers are needed in nearly every industry and company, and it’s something you can do from home without a large investment on the front end. If you think bookkeeping from home is for you, get started today!
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