In college, I built my own bookkeeping and QuickBooks consulting business serving a few local businesses in the area. I even hired a couple of other accounting students to handle some client bookkeeping.
This was before QuickBooks Online got to be as great as it is today, so I only used QuickBooks Desktop and did all my work at my clients’ offices.
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A lot has changed since I was in college. Right now is an exciting time to start a bookkeeping business. Technology and automation are rapidly changing the accounting industry and the roles of accountants, so those who stay on the cutting edge will have an advantage. The tools to serve clients are becoming cheaper or even free.
If I were doing it all over again with today’s technology and the experience I have today, here is what I would do:
Sign up for the QuickBooks Online Accountant Program
One of the first things I did was purchase QuickBooks Desktop Accountant and become a certified Desktop ProAdvisor. This was a significant investment, especially for a college student.
Today, Intuit (the makers of QuickBooks) have made the QB Online Accountant program completely free. It comes with powerful firm management tools, client work organization tools, and a free QuickBooks Online file to handle your firm’s books. This is what I personally use to serve my clients now.
Learn QBO and only work with clients willing to use QBO
As I said before, this was in the early days of QBO. Almost nobody used it, and accountants hated it. Since then, QBO has come extremely far and is constantly being updated and expanded by Intuit. Intuit is making a huge push to get businesses and accountants on their cloud platform.
I firmly believe that any accountant who resists transitioning to the cloud will get left behind and face serious competitive problems in the near future.
Except for some companies advanced inventory tracking needs, such as manufacturers who need to track costs and parts through different phases of production, QBO is now a perfect option for most small businesses.
Working in the cloud has tremendous benefits, most significantly that you don’t need to back up your data and you can access your clients’ live books from anywhere (and so can they).
Choose an industry niche and become an expert in it
In college I worked with everyone who was willing to give me a shot. I had clients ranging from retail to manufacturing to real estate.
I was able to get pretty good at serving all these industries but didn’t ever master them. Since I usually had only one client in each industry, I didn’t gain an understanding of the trends that those companies should see in their financials or industries. I couldn’t compare and contrast clients and make recommendations. Being able to offer this higher level of advising would dramatically increased the value of my services to my clients (and the fees they paid me).
The other huge advantage of focusing on one industry is you can build checklists, templates, and schedules to apply to new clients. By doing that, you can get up to speed with new clients much quicker and get through all of their routine bookkeeping more efficiently.
Become an expert on an industry’s accounting processes, follow its trends and news, and you will become your clients’ most important advisor.
Expand outside my city
In 2019, there is no reason to confine your services to your local community. Cloud technology and video conferencing software make it possible to serve clients anywhere, and it makes your potential client base basically unlimited.
Many professionals are guilty of undervaluing their services. You are providing a valuable service and should only work with people who recognize that and value you.
This is an especially difficult step when you are just starting out. New bookkeepers often suffer from “imposter syndrome” and feel like they “shouldn’t charge too much.” One easy step that I would suggest is to take the rate that you are considering and then add 10-20%. If you believe you are worth X and that clients will pay you X, then they probably can (and should) pay you 10-20% more than that.
Slow down and be thoughtful
If you have the luxury of still being in another job or have a situation where you don’t need to make as much money as you can as fast as possible, it’s wise to move slowly and thoughtfully. I was a full-time student with another part time job, so I didn’t necessarily need to build my business as fast as I could.
But I still took on any client I could, accepting what they were willing to pay me and trying to make it work. In retrospect, this was a mistake.
If I were doing it over again today, I would take some time to identify my ideal client’s profile. I would choose an industry and company size to focus on. I would spend a lot of time to make sure me and the client are a good fit and that I’ll enjoy working with them and they’ll value my services.
I would only work with clients who are willing to use the tools I want to use, don’t require me to work at their office, and are willing to pay my rates.
By building your firm and clientele in a thoughtful manner, you will be able to serve all of your clients better and have stronger client relationships.
There has never been a better time to start a bookkeeping business. Technology is making it easier and easier to serve more clients from anywhere. If this article was helpful and you’d like to hear more about starting a bookkeeping or accounting business from scratch, leave a comment or send me a message to let me know!