How to become a bookkeeper

Become a bookkeeper

 

If you love numbers and math and actually enjoy tracking data in spreadsheets, a career as a bookkeeper can be a great fit for moms — especially since these high-paying jobs are often available on a part-time basis, as a work-at home side gig. Some bookkeepers earn $60 per hour while working from home, and making their own hours.

Many bookkeepers find work with a single organization while others work as freelance bookkeepers for a handful of clients. The high level of skill required for this career has also paved the way for healthy wages that can vary depending on the type of bookkeeping position you accept.

Before you decide to look for work-from-home bookkeeping opportunities, it’s smart to learn more about the job and what it entails.

Keep reading to learn what bookkeepers do, the skills they require, and how much they get paid.

What is a bookkeeper?

In a lot of ways, “bookkeeping” is exactly what it sounds like it would be. It is the act of “keeping books” — or keeping track of financial transactions for a business, individual or organization.

Traditionally, bookkeepers are the professionals charged with creating and tracking financial documents for the company they work for. These workers record financial details, update financial statements, and read over financial documents for accuracy. If there is a problem or miscalculation within an organization’s accounting or books, it is the bookkeeper’s job to find and fix it.

While many large companies employ a bookkeeper full-time, smaller companies often hire freelance bookkeepers to help with finances and accounting. Many individual entrepreneurs also hire bookkeepers to help them stay on top of their cash flow and prepare quarterly income tax payments. Some individuals hire bookkeepers.

What kinds of tasks do bookkeepers do?

While the exact role of a bookkeeper can depend on the specific job they’re doing, these professionals focus on tasks that help businesses and individuals keep their finances organized. Common job duties bookkeepers perform include:

  • Learn and use bookkeeping software, databases, and spreadsheets, including Excel, Quickbooks, and Freshbooks
  • Enter important financial transactions into the appropriate bookkeeping software
  • Monitor and keep track of client payments
  • Keep track of business expenses via bookkeeping software
  • Reconcile discrepancies found in financial records
  • Produce financial reports
  • Help clients keep track of receipts that document their expenses
  • Check financial records for accuracy
  • Help clients stay on top of their taxes, including withholding or quarterly tax payments

A bookkeeper who is self-employed may take on a broader range of duties than their peers. They will likely have to track their own finances including income and expenses, for example. They will also be required to make their own tax payments and make sure their business remains in compliance with local and state law.

Self-employed bookkeepers will also need to learn how to market their businesses to attract and keep new clients — not to mention keep their own books!

What skills do you need to be a bookkeeper?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that you may not need a specific degree to get started in this career provided you want to work for a single employer. Coursework through a community college, or online courses like <Learn to Be a Bookkeeper> will teach you the basics to help you get that first job.

Of course if is very important to show you have strong computer skills, knowledge of spreadsheets like Excel and bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks. Basic understanding of accounting practices is also helpful for those who want to work in bookkeeping.

Often, bookkeepers work several years for an employer before they branch out on their own. This allows them to gain experience and learn everything they need to know about the job before they take on the full responsibility of individual clients.

In addition to technical skill, certain personality traits can also help you stand out. Having excellent attention to detail is a must for bookkeepers since they need to ensure accuracy of financial transactions and a wide range of important figures. Computer and math skills are also required since you’ll be computing numbers regularly with the help of bookkeeping software programs. The ability to communicate effectively is important since you’ll need to interact and discuss financial matters with either an employer or your clients.

How much do bookkeepers earn?

Bookkeepers earn healthy wages in exchange for their work. The BLS notes that, as of May 2017, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks earned a median annual wage of $39,240.

However, they also note that the top 10% earned median annual wages of $60,670. Freelance bookkeepers earn $20 to $40 on average, with some charging $60 per hour or more.

Not all industries paid bookkeepers the same, however. According to last year’s figures, the highest paying industries for these workers included: professional, scientific, and technical services, finance and insurance, and wholesale trade.

Bookkeepers who choose to do freelance work face more variability when it comes to their wages over all. They have the option to earn more by taking on more clients, but they face expenses that employed bookkeepers do not.

Pros and cons of being a bookkeeper

The BLS notes that one in four (25%) of bookkeepers worked part-time in 2017. This is a testament to the flexibility of this job, since many bookkeepers wind up having the option to work less than 20 hours per week or in a freelance role where they juggle multiple clients.

Before you dive into a bookkeeping career, however, make sure you understand both the benefits and the drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons to consider.

Advantages of working as a bookkeeper:

  • You may be able to boost your income if you take on several clients at once
  • You have the potential to work part-time or remotely from home
  • You can help businesses or entrepreneurs manage their financial transactions and tax load
  • You don’t need to have a fancy degree to get started
  • Some employers will train you for this career if you have the right skills or experience

Disadvantages of working as a bookkeeper:

  • Technology means that the industry is constantly changing, which means it can be exhausting to stay relevant
  • You may not be prepared for this career unless you have strong math and computer skills. Other words: this career is not for everyone (but is any career??).
  • If you’re a self-employed bookkeeper, you may not receive any benefits or job-related perks
  • Self-employed freelancers need to spend time marketing and advertising their businesses to find new clients

How do you learn to become a bookkeeper?

We already mentioned how you may not need a college degree to find work as a bookkeeper. Typically, you only need experience in accounting to find entry-level work. Many employers are also willing to hire inexperienced bookkeepers provided they have the basic math and computer skills required to do the job.

If you decide you want to earn a bookkeeping degree, however, you can pursue this field of study and earn an associate degree or certificate. Many colleges even offer bookkeeping programs you can take online, which makes this field of study perfect for those who need to learn new skills from home.

How do you find bookkeeping jobs?

If you’re looking for a bookkeeping job in your area, there are several strategies to consider. The first is reaching out to local businesses and networking to see if you can connect with another business owner who has a need.

Also, make sure to update your LinkedIn profile to reflect your bookkeeping skills and desire for work. That way, you have the potential to show up in searches if someone looks for a bookkeeper in your area.

If you’re looking for a work-at-home bookkeeping job specifically, you should also create a profile on FlexJobs.com. This website connects professionals with sought-after skills with employers who want to hire remote workers in their respective fields.

FlexJobs.com is one of the best platforms you can use to find bookkeeping work you can complete at home, whether you want to work as a freelancer or for a single employer.

Find bookeeping jobs >>

The bottom line

If you have a knack for math and spreadsheets, a career in bookkeeping might be an excellent fit for you and your family. By honing your skills and finding a job that lets you gain valuable experience, you can get on a path to a rewarding job as a bookkeeper.

While traditional, full-time bookkeeping jobs may not be as plentiful as they once were, the recent rise in online entrepreneurship has made it so many more individual business owners are seeking bookkeepers to help them manage their finances.

Bookkeeping jobs are out there, but it’s up to you to find them. What are you waiting for?

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holly johnson money writer
Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

About Holly Johnson

Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and Indiana mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. Her personal finance articles have been published in the U. S. News, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, and Life Hacker. Holly is founder of of the family finance resource, ClubThrifty.com, and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love. Learn more about Holly here.

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