How to become a bookkeeper

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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 $75 per hour while working from home, and making their own hours.

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Sometimes, 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.

Before you decide to look for work-from-home bookkeeping job 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.

Start a work-from home bookkeeping business >>

How to become a bookkeeper

  1. What is bookkeeping?
  2. Who needs bookkeepers?
  3. What kinds of tasks do bookkeepers do?
  4. How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?
  5. What skills or degrees do you need to become a bookkeeper?
  6. Sign up for free training >>

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What is bookkeeping?

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 virtual bookkeepers to help them stay on top of their cash flow and prepare quarterly income tax payments. Some individuals hire bookkeepers.

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Who needs bookkeepers?

Bookkeepers are hired by every single kind of business, non-profit and government agency. Many larger organizations hire full-time bookkeepers on staff. Many accountants, CPAs and tax preparers also work with bookkeepers to help support their clients.

Freelance bookkeepers and those who own their own bookkeeping businesses often report that the variety and types of business and organizations they support is one of the best parts of bookkeeping. This post details how to start a bookkeeping business, and find and grow clients.

Erin Bardsley was a newly divorced single mom in Vermont, and needed a new career.

Erin says that she loves that she helps a bakery, yoga studio, and an arts non-profit — especially since they are local businesses in her local community. Today she earns $70 per hour and is killing it as a bookkeeper:

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:

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

A bookkeeper who is self-employed running her own bookkeeping business 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!

7 business ideas for moms

How much money can you make as a bookkeeper?

As of January 2021, ZipRecruiter reports the national average income for a freelance bookkeeper in the United States is $55,094 per year, or $26 per hour, with higher earners making nearly $100,000.

However, freelance bookkeepers earn $20 to $40 on average, with some charging $75 per hour, and others report earning $150 and more per hour. On a full-time schedule of 2,000 hours per year, that means top bookkeeper businesses can bring in $300,000 per year.

Bookkeepers on salary, according to ZipRecruiter, on average earn $40,406 per year, or $19 per hour, with top earners getting $60,000.

You can find full-time, work-at-home and flexible bookkeeping positions at FlexJobs, a job board started by a mom who recognized the need for at-home, highly paid careers for women.

What skills, degrees, or qualifications do you need to be a bookkeeper?

One of the beautiful things about owning your own bookkeeping business is that you do not need any specific certification, degree or formal training to get started.

Coursework through a community college, or online courses like Bookkeeper Launch will teach you the basics to help you get that first job.

These skills are required to be a successful bookkeeper, whether you have your own business, or get a staff job with another company:

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Math
  3. Problem solving
  4. Ability to see the big picture
  5. Facility with technology
  6. Commitment to technology
  7. Great communicators (clients trust you with their bank account information, and trust vendors who respond quickly and thoroughly)
  8. For entrepreneurs: Good at networking, and gaining the trust of new clients

Most bookkeeper clients will look for some or all of these specific, hard skills:

  1. Spreadsheets — typically Microsoft Excel
  2. Quickbooks, or other popular accounting / bookkeeping software
  3. Basic accounting
  4. Basic understanding of bookkeeping ethics and law

In addition to technical skill, certain personality traits can also help you stand out:

  1. 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.
  2. Computer and math skills are also required since you’ll be computing numbers regularly with the help of bookkeeping software programs.
  3. The ability to communicate effectively is important since you’ll need to interact and discuss financial matters with either an employer or your clients.

Tools for work-at-home careers

Train to be a bookkeeper — 5 bookkeeping courses online

1. Udemy

Udemy is an online educational platform that offers thousands of courses on hundreds of subjects, including bookkeeping. These courses are typically inexpensive, between $50 and $100 on average. This makes them ideal for those who are on a budget, or who are perhaps interested in learning the basics before paying for a more advanced course.

The Bookkeeping Basics #1: Understanding the Fundamentals program is an excellent place to start. It costs $75 and has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, based on more than 15,000 customer reviews.

2. Coursera

Coursera is another online learning platform which, like Udemy, hosts courses about a range of subjects, including bookkeeping. This content is typically created from other educators, who are passionate or knowledgeable about the area of focus.

For example, Intuit, a company that sells popular accounting software TurboTax and QuickBooks, offers two training programs on Coursera for free. The first, Bookkeeping Basics, is designed to teach you the ropes as a beginner. It has a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars based on 322 reviews. The second, Intuit Bookkeeping Professional Certificate, is a bit more technical and has a score of 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 369 reviews. Both are free to enroll in, making them a great free way to gain exposure to bookkeeping.

3. LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning is an online education platform run by the social media company LinkedIn. It used to be known as Lynda.com. LinkedIn Learning offers thousands of online courses and certifications which, once complete, you can display on your LinkedIn profile. This makes them a great option for professionals who actively use LinkedIn to network and job hunt.

LinkedIn Learning offers Accounting Foundations: Bookkeeping, which can again be a good option for anyone who is just getting started.

The course can be purchased for a one-time fee of $34.99. If you subscribe to LinkedIn Learning (at a cost of about $30 per month) you will have access to the course as a part of your subscription. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, can be accessed through your computer, tablet, or mobile phone, and consists of 34 videos.

4. NACPB

The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) is a professional organization that caters to bookkeepers. The organization offers a number of different training programs for bookkeepers, including:

  • Accounting Fundamentals
  • Accounting Principles
  • Accounting Analysis
  • Accounting Analytics Bookkeeper
  • Bookkeeping for Small Businesses
  • Business Entities

The cost for each of these certifications is $599 for nonmembers, or $499 for members of the NACPB. That means that completing all six certifications will cost between $3,000 and $3,600.

Because the NACPB is known in the field, completing their training can be beneficial.

5. Bookkeepers.com

Bookkeepers.com was originally known as Bookkeeper Launch, This is due to the fact that the first course they offered was specifically designed to walk aspiring bookkeepers through every step of launching their own business.

That course is still their flagship product, but the business has expanded into additional offerings, including a free training workshop specifically geared toward individuals who are launching a bookkeeping business. The free course is taught by Ben Robinson, founder of bookkeepers.com.

In addition to their free training, Bookkeepers.com offers a number of paid online courses. The topics range from basic to more advanced topics, such as:

  • Cybersecurity for Bookkeepers
  • Marketing Machine
  • Build a 6-Figure Bookkeeping Business
  • Outstanding Processes & People (OPP)
  • Pricing & Packaging
  • New Client Onboarding
  • Advisory Services

Prices for paid courses range from $97 to $3,000.

How to find bookkeeping jobs if you don't want to start a business

If you’re looking for a bookkeeping job in your area, there are several strategies and tips for finding a part-time, full-time, virtual, or remote bookkeeping job.

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 will show up in searches if someone looks for a bookkeeper in your area. Bookkeeper Launch has a whole section on finding jobs online, including specifically on LinkedIn.

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.  Remember to use promo code FLEXLIFE to get a discount.

Find flexible bookkeeping jobs >>

Entry-level and freelance bookkeeping jobs

If you're first starting out, or you want flexible work, freelance bookkeeping jobs might be for you. You can find entry-level and freelance bookkeeping jobs online at a number of job sites, including:

  1. FlexJobs.com
  2. Upwork
  3. ZipRecruiter
  4. Fiverr — though you'll need to make your own profile and listing

Job market for bookkeepers?

While the job market for bookkeepers and accountants was projected to decline slightly over the next decade because technology makes it easier for individuals to do their own accounts, that may be changing as the economy quickly shifts, staff bookkeepers are being laid off and many more people are finding opportunities to build at-home business — all of which could benefit from a quality bookkeeper.

Related:

If you're great with words, detail and grammar, you may also be interested in a proofreading career, which can pay $15-$30 hour from home, on your schedule. Proofread Anywhere is a great online course that teaches you how to get started, land clients and run a proofreading business.

Ready to launch?  Here are business tools and apps for work-at-home moms to help you get started.

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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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