Do you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business in 2020?

Great news, because this step-by-step guide will cover the critical 7 steps you’ll need to follow to set up a modern bookkeeping practice and to land your first clients.

In fact, these are the very steps that I followed to help take my heavily bookkeeping focused business from scratch to sale in only 5 years.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to set up a strategic plan
  • How to create your core offering
  • Marketing your services to land your first client
  • Picking the right technology
  • … and more!

Ready?

Let’s go.

Contents


Chapter 1

Create a Strategic Plan

Chapter 2

Create & Package Your Core Offerings

Chapter 3

Market Your Services

Chapter 4

Implement a Sales Process

Chapter 5

Setup Your Technology

Chapter 6

Deliver Your Work

Chapter 7

Stay Up To Date

Chapter 1 - Create a Strategic Plan

In this chapter, I’ll walk you through creating a simple strategic plan to get your business up and running quickly.

You’ll set up a long term vision of what you want your business to achieve and work backward to arrive at immediate priorities to focus on.

After completing this step, you’ll have a clear path for your business.

Step 1 - Define Your Purpose

If you’re starting a business, you should probably know why you’re starting the business.

This “why” is your firm’s purpose and it’s important that your firm’s purpose is incredibly clear to you, your team and your clients.

Here’s why your purpose is important from Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk:

For example, when I started my firm, my purpose was to provide business owners with an easy, pain-free accounting & bookkeeping experience.

Simple.

This simple statement helped become the gatekeeper for all other future decisions in the business. Without it, I would be steering a business without a rudder.

When you map out your strategic plan, writing down your business’s purpose should be your first step.

Don’t overthink it either. Your purpose should be quite evident.

Step 2 - Define Your Target Market

After establishing your firm’s purpose, you’ll need to think about the ideal kind of client that you’ll want to work with to achieve that purpose.

I recommend developing a persona for your ideal client when talking about how to start an accounting business:

  • What industries are they in?
  • What challenges do they have?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • What are their revenues?
  • How do they think?
  • What do they appreciate?
  • Etc.

By developing a clear target market, you’ll be able to better focus your marketing activites which we’ll later discuss.

Step 3 - Create a Long Term Target

If you’re not crystal clear on what you are working towards down the road, prioritizing decisions, projects and initiatives becomes impossible.

To set up a long term target:

  1. Choose a target date. It could be 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, etc. You pick the date that makes the most sense for you.
  2. Think about what you want your bookkeeping business to achieve by that target date. This should be a measurable, lofty goal.

Maybe it’s numbers-oriented like hitting $1,000,000 in revenues or servicing 1,000 business.

Or it could be something less numbers-oriented like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s target of “a world without breast cancer”.

It’s best when you set a long term target that’s measurable. That way it’s easy to determine if you’re on track or not.

Come up with yours and write it in your strategic plan.

Step 4 - Create a 1 Year Plan

Once you have a long term target set for how you want to start an accounting business, you’re going to work backwards to create a 1 year plan for your business.

To do so:

  1. Pick your future date for the 1-year plan. You can choose to end your first 1-year plan to line up with the end of your fiscal year or calendar year, for example. This might only be 6 months from now.
  2. Project your desired revenues at that future date.
  3. Project your profit margin at that future date. This should likely be backed up by some kind of forecast.
  4. Create 3-7 specific, measurable and attainable goals to attain by that future date.

These are goals that are immediate priorities to ensure that you’re on track to hit your 1-year plan which should be in line with your 10-year target.

Examples could be:

  • Hire an assistant
  • Acquire 50 new clients
  • Launch a website

A few words of advice:

  • The more projects you add, the harder it will be for you to tackle them all. That’s why it’s best to focus on just 3-7.
  • Make sure your goals are specific and measurable. The examples I provided above are hard to argue with. You either attained them or you did not.

Step 5 - Establish Your 90 Day Rocks

Let’s now chop your 1-year plan into 90-day priorities (ie. rocks):

  1. Like before, pick a future date. This is likely going to be at the end of your next fiscal or calendar quarter.
  2. Look at the 3-7 goals you created in the 1-year plan and break those further down into 3-7 specific, measurable & attainable priorities for you to attack in the next 90 days.

Example: If one of your goals in the 1-year plan is to acquire 50 clients by the end of that year, one of your rocks in the next 90 days might be to attend 15 networking events and/or write 10 blog posts to help bolster your prospecting activities.

When it comes to how to start a bookkeeping business, write down your rocks to complete your simplified strategic plan.

Rinse and Repeat - How to Start a Bookkeeping Business

Don’t worry if your plan isn’t perfect.

You will revisit your strategic plan every 90 days to update it and to reset your rocks.

This is just your first step of how to start a bookkeeping business. Let’s get to the next…

Chapter 2 - Create & Package Your Core Offerings

After your strategic plan is in place, it’s time to get your services out to the world. But first, you’ll need a core offering that you can market.

This chapter will show you how to create a core service offering and why it’s important.

What is a Core Offering?

The combination of services, processes and technology required to deliver an ideal outcome to your target market would be what I consider a core offering.

Your core offering will be a complete solution to provide to your clients.

So if your target market hates bookkeeping and your bookkeeping business’ purpose is to provide headache-free bookkeeping services, then your core offering should contain everything necessary to provide your client with this experience.

Why Do I Need a Core Offering if I Want to Know How to Start a Bookkeeping Business?

There are three reasons why I recommend taking the time to set up a core offering at the outset:

1) It’s easier to market your services as a complete solution versus marketing it as a commodity (ex: bookkeeping).

2) Your business will be far more streamlined if you only sell your core offering, as you can benefit from more standardization.

3) You’ll be able to determine your baseline service level. Anything below this service level should be rejected. This will ensure that you only admit the right clients to your business.

Creating Your Core Offerings

Core offerings will differ from business to business.

But there is one common denominator:

If you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business in 2020, I strongly believe that your core offering should be built into a subscription model.

You will deliver value to your clients monthly in return for a monthly price.

Your core offering should be broken down into 3 components:

Component 1: Services

Every core offering will contain professional services.

In order to deliver your client’s ideal result, what services do you need to provide?

Monthly bookkeeping?

Sales tax filings?

Financial statement preparation?

Monthly meetings to review KPI’s?

It’s good to think about your core offerings as gold, silver & bronze plans, kinda like this (courtesy of Bookkeeper360):

how to start a bookkeeping business core offering

Notice how they have 3 core offerings with a range of services that will provide a range of noticeably different experiences?

What you’re trying to do is layout a range of packages at the outset so that you know exactly what kind of solutions you’re trying to sell. No need to price them just yet, we’ll get into that later.

And these plans don’t have to be written in stone either. You can tweak and mix and match depending on the client’s needs.

One thing I would suggest however is that your bronze plan should be the absolute minimum service level that you would offer any client. Below this, you would refuse their business.

So go ahead and layout what your gold, silver and bronze services look like.

Component 2: Support

Over and above the services that you’ll be delivering to your clients, they’ll also need help throughout the year for ad hoc questions. Dealing with these ad hoc questions would form part of the support that you’ll be expected to provide.

When it comes to how to start a bookkeeping business in 2020, I don’t advocate charging clients on a per hour basis.

Instead, I recommend bundling different levels of support into your core offerings.

Your bronze plan may just include email support for up to 3 questions per month, while your silver plan could include phone/email/Zoom support for up to 5 questions per month and your gold plan could include unlimited support.

It might also help to differentiate support based on levels of access such as junior bookkeeper support vs. senior bookkeeper support.

Now, add the different levels of support to your gold, silver and bronze plans.

Component 3: Technology

If you’re reading this article, then you’re interested in how to start a bookkeeping business in 2020.

And without the right technology, you might as well pack it in right now.

In fact, using online, automated accounting technology was one of the keys to my success. You cannot provide a modern bookkeeping service without it.

And according to bookkeeping thought leader Jennie Moore of Moore Details:

Apps are the connectors to create efficient systems that will help easily organize the required financial data for report creation purposes to help your clients operate their businesses.”

Meaning, technology cannot be ignored.

While you have a ton of different excellent cloud accounting software apps to choose from, in Chapter 5, I provide specific technology recommendations for two cloud accounting apps that you should start with.

Include these apps in your core offerings.

Your Core Offering is a Total Solution

When it comes down to how to start a bookkeeping business, it’s important that you are thinking of your business as a complete solution to your client. You are not just providing bookkeeping services, you are providing much more than that.

Once you can get your head around that, marketing and explaining your services to clients will become far easier.

By creating a gold, silver and a bronze plan, you are helping to create the limits of your solutions at the outset.

Your gold plan is the top range of what you can provide to your client while the bronze plan is the absolute minimum.

Chapter 3 - Market Your Services

You have a plan and a core offering. Now it’s time to market your solution.

With the right marketing in place, the leads will come to you, not the other way around.

I built my entire firm from scratch and learned what worked and what didn’t from a marketing perspective.

So if you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business, let’s take a look at some marketing strategies you can use early on.

Create Your Website

Your website will serve a few 2 main purposes.

1) It will show that you’re a real business and give you some credibility.

2) Of critical importance, it will serve as a tool to turn visitors into prospects.

To setup your website:

Step 1 - Choose Your Website Platform

When you want to know how to start an accounting business, you have lots of website builder options to choose from:

GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, etc.

For the long term though, there is no better platform than Wordpress, especially if you plan on blogging.

Based on my research, when it comes to SEO (ie. search engine optimization) to help your website and web pages rank high on Google, Wordpress comes out ahead.

So if you want to think long term and you are keen on making your website a tool for attracting visitors and turning them into leads, I would go with Wordpress.

Step 2 - Choose Your Web Pages

Whether you create your website yourself or hire a web developer, you’ll likely need to determine what you want on your website.

Sometimes when you navigate to a website, you’re faced with a million links to click in the menu bar. I recommend keeping options to a minimum and would suggest the following pages at a basic level:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Plans
  • Blog
  • Contact

Feel free to add and/or remove pages as you see fit.

Step 3 - Write Your Webpage Content

Your website should not be a novel. People don’t read websites, they skim. So the content needs to be quick and easy to digest for a website visitor.

Home page

When it comes to your home page, I love having one tag line that hits you right in the face. Something bold and to the point. Nothing fancy is required here. The more to the point, the better.

If you want a good example, check out Bookkeeper360‘s home page, headed by Nicholas Pasquarosa. They’re a great example as the firm went from scratch to Xero platinum in only a few years:

how to start a bookkeeping business website

The tagline is clear and obvious for what they’re trying to achieve for you.

Plus:

They also include a big bright button on their home page as their CTA (Call-to-Action) as a tactic to convert visitors into leads. I recommend you do the same.

Here it says, “get started”, but it can say, “book a call” or anything along those lines…

A clear CTA on your homepage is just one tactic to help turn your website into a tool that converts visitors into leads.

Lastly:

Consider adding 3 more things to your home page:

1) Outline some benefits that clients can expect from your solution. Don’t just talk about yourself. Web visitors don’t care about that. They care about the outcomes they’ll receive from you.

Here’s an example from ScaleFactor:

how to start a bookkeeping business website

2) Showcase a simple “how it works” process so that visitors know the steps they’ll need to follow to reach the benefits and outcomes that you have listed above.

Here’s an example from Bench:

3) Add testimonials to give you some social proofing. If you’re just starting out, you may not have any, but add some later when you do get them.

Bookkeeper360 does this well here:

how to start a bookkeeping business website 2

About page

Your about page is a good place to demonstrate:

  • Who you and your team are
  • Your culture
  • Why you’re capable of handling your target market’s problems.

I think this is a good place to show off your personality. Again, don’t make this into a novel. Make it short and to the point.

Plans/pricing page

Next, showcases your core offerings that were created in Chapter 2.

To do this, set up a pricing table that breaks down your solutions in terms of what’s included.

You may or may not opt to showcase your prices. We’ll get into pricing later on in this post, but for now, I suggest either not showing your prices or indicate “starting at $x” at the bottom of each plan.

Here’s a good example from the Bean Ninjas, an awesome firm with a super cool culture (!) based out of Australia:

how to start a bookkeeping business pricing 2

Make sure you’re included a CTA on this page like the “Get Started” buttons above.

Blog & contact pages

Lastly, your blog and contact pages are pretty self-explanatory.

Your blog page will contain your blog posts while your contact page will provide ways for your website visitors to contact you.

Hit Up Local Networking Events

If you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business, be prepared to hit the streets to acquire your first few clients.

To do that, there’s no better way than attending local networking events.

It’s just a matter of finding the events your target market hangs out at and heading there with some business cards.

To find local networking events:

Check out Meetup.com and then head to their “career & business” category to find events in your area:

how to start a bookkeeping business marketing

In the beginning, you should have enough time on your hands to head to several of these a week.

Collect business cards from everyone you meet. The next day, hop on to LinkedIn and connect with everyone you met and send a personalized message.

You’re now starting to grow your network and some of these contacts will inevitably turn to customers.

Leverage LinkedIn

LinkedIn is my favorite social networking tool for those that want to know how to start a bookkeeping business.

It’s a great tool to:

  • Build your network online
  • Brand yourself
  • Share content that engages your target market

In fact, Jody Padar, thought-leader and firm innovator, now currently VP of Strategy at Botkeeper, has over 200,000 Linkedin connections (yes!) to help grow her brand. She says the following about using Linkedin:

Use social media like it’s a golf course. Be professional but personal and build relationships. Deals get done over time because of the relationships built.”

One caveat…

Your ideal audience may not reside on LinkedIn.

For instance:

If you are targeting restaurant owners, perhaps they’re on Instagram instead. Always consider where your target market hangs out before engaging in any marketing activities.

In order to see results on LinkedIn, here are a few things I would recommend doing:

Step 1 - Update Your LinkedIn Profile

There are 3 basic things that should be on your LinkedIn profile:

1) A professional-looking picture of yourself

2) An “about” section that communicates who you are as a person and showcases your personality. I find writing in the first person is helpful and more personable rather than writing in the third person.

Here’s an example of my LinkedIn about section:

how to start a bookkeeping business linkedin

3) Make sure your experience section is up to date. Ensure that you provide a brief background of what you did at the company as well.

Step 2 - Join LinkedIn Groups and Contribute

Here you’re going to seek out LinkedIn groups where your target market hangs out, you’re going to join them and then you’re going to contribute to them.

By doing so, you’ll start to get known in those circles and you’ll start to get people connecting with you.

Your network will grow and some of these contacts will turn into clients eventually.

To get started:

1) Head to LinkedIn and type some keywords into the search bar that might describe the kind of clients you’re looking for.

In this example, I am assuming that you’re looking for small business clients in Miami.

bookkeeping business linkedin

2) On the next screen, you’ll be able to filter the results by groups and you’ll see the following:

digital marketing for accountants linkedin

Target groups that have a decent amount of members and then join them.

Once you’ve been accepted into the groups, you’ll have access to the exact kind of clients you’re looking for.

3) Contribute to groups that have accepted you by posting helpful, relevant content several times per week.

It could be your comments on a recent new tax credit, it could be articles you share that you think group members might be interested in or any variety of that.

The key is that you’re sharing useful information.

4) Avoid promoting yourself! This will turn people off and perhaps get you kicked out of the group.

If you focus on sharing useful information in the group, people will engage, people will connect with you and you’ll start to build up your profile in the online world.

If people start sending you LinkedIn connection invites coming from these groups, you know you’re on the right track.

How to Start an Accounting Business: Start a Blog

Interested in not only knowing how to start a bookkeeping business but also how to grow one?

Voila!

This is my favorite marketing strategy for bookkeeping and accounting professionals.

Note:

This is a longer-term strategy, but I recommend planting the seeds now to reap the rewards later.

Blogging Basics

Here are the absolute basics when it comes to acquiring clients from blogging:

1) Find topics that your target market is searching for using a tool like Ubersuggest. This tool will tell you how many people search for your topic (ie. keyword) each month.

As an example, you can see here that “small business tax deductions” is searched 1,900 times per month (ie. 22,800 times per year):

2) Write a well-optimized blog that increases your chances of appearing on the first page of Google. For example, if you’re on the first page of Google for the above keyword, you’ll get 1000’s of hits to this single blog post each year.

You can see that the bookkeeping service, Bench, currently is #2 on Google for this keyword for their blog post:

how to start a bookkeeping business bench

Beautiful!

Landing your blog post on Google’s first page will get you a nice flow of web visits.

3) You’ll then need a mechanism to convert these web visitors into leads. You’ll do this with a CTA (Call-to-Action) which asks your visitor to take some kind of action.

Partway down Bench’s above blog post, you’re hit with this CTA:

158464255732899848 (1)

By clicking on “Learn More”, you’ll be prompted to set up a meeting with them.

A very good CRA can convert about 10% of your readers to leads this way. A decent CTA can convert about 2-3%.

Imagine you’re bringing in 1,000 readers per month to your blog and you can convert 2% of them?

That’s 20 leads a month from a single blog post!

Now imagine that you have 10 blog posts performing like this…

There’s a reason why I stopped most other marketing activities to focus on blogging after year 1 of starting my firm.

So how can you replicate this success?

Simple.

Feel free to download my proven 15 Step Blogging Formula to see how you can acquire tons of leads from your blog:

Ditch Paid Ads

The great thing about paid ads on Google or Facebook is that it can bring you instant traffic, which might sound appealing when you’re just starting out.

The bad thing is that it can be super expensive and the traffic you get may not be the traffic that you want.

As you’re figuring out your business in the early days, I feel like unless you have a very clear offering and sales processes, that you’ll just end up wasting your money.

And if you do go down this route, unless you have experience running ads, make sure to hire someone competent in this area.

Want More Marketing Tips for How to Start a Bookkeeping Business?

I have a ton more marketing strategies if you are not only curious how to start a bookkeeping business, but to grow one.

Chapter 4 - Implement a Sales Process

Good news! You now have prospective clients coming your way!

Now you need to land them with a simple, repeatable sales process.

It’s a critical part of how to start a bookkeeping business.

Let’s take a look…

Step 1 - The Initial Consultation

After your prospect contacts you, you’ll schedule a meeting for your initial consultation. This is arguably the most critical step in the entire process.

You’ll want to accomplish 3 things in this step:

1) Understand their busienss

You’ll need to understand what they do, how they do it and what actually needs to get done:

  • What line of business are they in?
  • How do they invoice? How do they collect payment?
  • What kind of expenses do they have?
  • Do they have employees? If so, how many? Who handles their payroll?
  • How many bank accounts? How many transactions per month?
  • Etc.

Here we are just understanding the business itself. These questions can be templated.

2) Uncover pain points

You will never command a great price if you cannot uncover pain-points and challenges that your prospective clients are having as people will not value something unless it solves these pain-points.

Then it’s just a matter of tailoring your core offering around solving these pain-points.

To uncover pain-points:

Ask the right follow-up questions.

Here’s an example:

You: Who handles your bookkeeping?

Prospective client: I do. It’s very easy. It only takes me 5 hours per month.

You: Do you have any bookkeeping training?

Prospective client: No. My bookkeeping might not be totally accurate, but it’s just not a big priority for me.

You: I understand. Seeing as you say your books not be fully accurate, how would it make you feel if the government audited your books?

Prospective client: You know, I’ve never thought about that side of things. I guess I wouldn’t feel too good about it at all.

With this interaction, you have uncovered a pain-point, which then increases the value of what you’re offering.

Conversely, without uncovering that pain-point, the prospect would likely be more price sensitive.

If you want to master these kinds of questions, I really like a book called Spin Selling.

3) Provide a brief background of your business

As a final step, take 5 minutes to talk about yourself, your firm and why you do what you do. You can talk about your background, you can discuss how you help clients and what kind of clients you work with.

Step 2 - Package & Price 3 Service Options

In 2020, I believe most clients like a subscription model where they pay one fixed monthly price in return for a total solution.

Therefore I recommend putting together 3 custom service options in a gold, silver & bronze type approach for each prospective customer you have.

You can prepare something in Excel and convert it into a PDF or you can use something like Conceptboard, a visual whiteboard app, to put these together.

But ultimately, they should look something like this familiar image I showed in Chapter 3:

how to start a bookkeeping business pricing 2

Make sure each of those 3 plans has a price attached to them.

Value pricing is not only my favorite way to price my services, but it’s also Marnie Stretch’s as well. Marnie is well known in the bookkeeping and accounting profession as a QuickBooks expert and she likes value pricing as well because,

What I’m paid is a reflection of my knowledge and not the ticking hands of a clock.

To read more about how you can set your prices, check out my guide on pricing your services.

Step 3 - Present Your Options

Next, setup a separate meeting to present the 3 service options you’ve created to your prospective client rather than just blindly sending a proposal.

By presenting your pricing and service options in a second meeting, you’ll be able to engage in a discussion around picking and selecting the right option for your client.

Step 4 - Formalize the Agreement

Once your prospective client chooses the service option they’re happy with, you’re going to send an official proposal to formalize the agreement.

In my guide on pricing your services, I provide good detail on the process around this and what technology I’d recommend.

Chapter 5 - Setup Your Technology

In this chapter on how to start a bookkeeping business, we’ll look at technology that can facilitate remote work, automate manual tasks and eliminate paper.

Check it out.

All-In on the Cloud When Wanting to Know How to Start a Bookkeeping Business

Want to know how to start a bookkeeping business in 2020?

Just make sure you’re basing your business off the back of cloud technology and other accounting technologies!

The cloud allows you to work remotely (and to offer that option to your clients) and to automate your workflows.

These elements are crucial in 2020 if you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business.

Let’s take a look at the main categories of technology that you’ll need to set up at your bookkeeping business.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of technology, but merely what you need just to get started.

Communication Apps

Video Conferencing

Clients & your team today want the option of being able to work remotely. And if you’re working remotely with your clients and/or your team, there is just no replacing a video call. Telephone won’t cut it.

The most popular video conferencing app these days is Zoom.

A few reasons why:

  • Connecting on Zoom is easy
  • It handles multiple callers exceptionally well (see image below)
  • Screensharing is seamless
  • Meetings can be recorded and re-watched at a later point in time

communication apps for accounting firms

Chat

If you’re just working on your own, then you won’t need this. But if you have a team, Slack is a killer chat app that replaces the need for email inside your company.

Instead of emailing your colleagues, you can just chat back and forth in the app, making communication much more real-time and eliminates a few steps when sending emails.

Plus, I also like the ability to:

  • Set multiple chat channels to segment conversations and people
  • Leverage 100’s of 3rd party integrations to automate workflows

While some companies use Slack with their clients, I typically advise against that in most cases.

communication apps for accounting firms 2

Email

Yup, you still need email to deal with your clients. Down the road, you might want to consider a help desk software to communicate with them, but I wouldn’t recommend getting that fancy right out of the gate.

When it comes to email, my personal favorite is Gmail, mainly because I’m pretty invested in the Google ecosystem, though Microsoft Outlook would suffice.

VoIP Phone Service

When you run a fully virtual business, honestly, there’s not much need for a phone. Email, Slack and Zoom will suffice. But for those that need a phone service over and above this, I would recommend setting up a VoIP phone service, which is basically an internet phone service.

You don’t really need to buy expensive hardware either. Most of these phone services allow you to install an app on your smartphone so that calls are routed there.

RingCentral is a pretty popular, inexpensive option.

If you expect to have clients in different geographical regions, consider getting a local number in addition to a toll-free number.

Want More?

Check out my post here on my 4 favorite communication apps for firms and for those that want to know how to start a bookkeeping business.

Project Management Software

Arguably the most important piece of software in your business, you’ll need something that tracks your tasks, deadlines and provides for one central place to communicate on work.

(so important that I wrote an article comparing the 12 most popular systems on the market).

Please don’t run your business on an Excel spreadsheet!

What do I personally look for in a project management system?

  • The ability to easily & quickly get tasks into the system
  • The ability to collaborate with your peers on tasks within the system
  • Plan my workload and capacity to ensure that the work I bring on can get delivered on time

Here are some of my favorite project management systems for those that want to know how to start a bookkeeping business:

Teamwork

Ah, one of my favorite pieces of software around, Teamwork (affiliate link) is a real winner for project management. Not only did I run my last firm on it, but I also run my current business on it.

I recommend to set up each client as a separate project and within each project, you will have all tasks relating to that client. Whether it be for client onboarding, bookkeeping, sales tax, ad hoc work or any other tasks, they should all reside within the client project, just like below:

how to start a bookkeeping business teamwork

Getting tasks into the system is easy because you can set up task & project templates. When you’re setting up a new client in the system, just drop in the task templates you need.

And the nice thing is that you can set all tasks to repeat at a template level, which means that it’s set it and forget it. Bookkeeping work consists of repetitive tasks, so having repeating tasks are great.

I can also collaborate on tasks directly within the app. If I want to ask my colleague a question pertaining to March’s month-end task for Client ABC, I can have an entire discussion about it at a task level:

how to start a bookkeeping business teamwork 2

Lastly, and maybe most importantly once you start growing, is that it has a wonderful workload planning section:

  • Each task you add in the system can be assigned a time estimate to complete the work.
  • You can then pull up a report that shows how much capacity (in hours) each individual has for a given time period compared to the work assigned to them.
  • This will tell you whether each individual is over or under capacity, allowing you to schedule work better and determine if you’re able to adequately meet your client’s demands.

You can see below that my bookkeeper has a total capacity for the month of March of 176 hours and that only 11 hours worth of work has been assigned. That means I’m able to go out and search for more contracts.

Karbon

Karbon ain’t cheap, but it’s certainly slick and very popular with accounting & bookkeeping teams.

One of the most popular features tends to be its “triage” functionality. It connects to you and your colleagues’ email accounts to suck in all of your emails into a “triage” section of the app. By doing so, you and your colleagues can collaborate on emails together, you can assign emails to other team members and you can get one centralized view of communication across a particular client.

It’s pretty cool.

Another interesting feature is that you can assign tasks to your clients (ie. send me your April 2020 bank statement) and Karbon will send automated reminders to them until they mark the task as complete.

Jetpack Workflow

Jetpack Workflow a simple piece of software that probably has one of the lowest learning curves.

You will definitely want to check this system out as an option as it’s incredibly popular with bookkeeping businesses.

Xero Practice Manager

If you plan to run your bookkeeping business off of Xero, then Xero Practice Manager could be worth looking into as it integrates very well into it. It’s not as user friendly as the options above but it’s extremely powerful and many Xero users swear by it.

Cloud Accounting Software

Step 1 – Choose Your Cloud Accounting Software

Let’s make this simple.

In 2020, I recommend picking and sticking with one of the following:

It’s easier to standardize your business if you build processes around one of them. The more you can standardize, the more streamlined your business model will be.

Clients don’t care about which accounting software they’re on, so just pick the one you like best.

Ditch any and all desktop accounting software.

I recommend those two systems because:

  • They are the two most mature cloud accounting products around.
  • They both have a very rich ecosystem of third-party apps. This is very important if you want to automate processes.

I personally built my entire firm around Xero, though I know many successful firms that build their operation around QuickBooks.

Pick the one you like best.

Step 2 – Get Certified

Based on whether you go with Xero, QuickBooks Online or both, the next thing you’ll want to do is get certified so that you actually know how to use the software.

Click here to get certified on QuickBooks Online.

Click here to get certified on Xero.

Step 3 – Choose an Expense Management App

A nice one-two punch to help automate your client’s bookkeeping is to use cloud accounting software coupled with an expense management app.

How it works:

  1. Clients scan take a pic of their receipts with the smartphone app or email their electronic invoices into the app
  2. The app will extract the data from the documents automatically into the relevant fields, like the supplier name, amount, etc. (ie. eliminate all manual data entry)
  3. Each item will sync across to Xero or QuickBooks and post as an expense on the books there

As you can see, these apps will:

  • Eliminate shoeboxes of receipts being dropped off to you
  • Eliminate all manual data entry

My two favorite apps to look at are Receipt Bank and Hubdoc.

Hubdoc (below) is cool because you can hook up your client’s online suppliers (ex: Google, telecom provider, etc.) so that all invoices can be automatically pulled into the app without your client needing to forward the items in themselves. It’s awesome and provides for a lot of automation.

how to start a bookkeeping business hubdoc

Receipt Bank (below) tends to provide a bit more control over how data is extracted into the relevant fields and therefore to me, has a bit more accuracy. They also have an expense report module so that you can prepare employee expense claims for out of pocket expenses.

how to start a bookkeeping business receipt bank

They’re both very good apps, so again, you’ll have a decision to make. Test them and choose the one you like best. You can’t go wrong with either.

How to Start a Bookkeeping Business - Other Software

What I listed above is the bare-bones basics.

But for those that want to know how to start a bookkeeping business and want more technology suggestions, here are a few more:

Hardware Required

Laptop

I don’t have a ton of suggestions here as there are so many models and it depends on if you’re a Mac or PC person.

But get something with lots of RAM in order to power the cloud-based apps I’m suggesting above.

For work machines, I tend to stick with Lenovo Thinkpads or Macbooks (my current machine is a Macbook Pro which I’m enjoying).

Don’t skimp here. This is your main productivity tool!

Dual monitors

If you’re working from home, get two big monitors. I personally like two 24-inch monitors. You can find them for pretty cheap these days. If you’re not gaming or watching movies on them, you don’t need the highest quality ones out there.

Headset

If you’re going to be working remotely and holding video calls on Zoom, I highly recommend getting a good headset that is comfortable, but more importantly, has good microphone quality.

Clients will get frustrated with remote experiences that aren’t up to par with in-person meetings. If your audio quality is poor, your meetings will suffer.

Personally, I recently upgraded my $50 Logitech H390 headset to the Jabra Evolve 75’s (shown below) recently in an effort to upgrade my microphone quality.

Whatever you do, please don’t use your computer’s internal mic.

Alternatively, you take take the suggestion of Blake Oliver, one of the co-hosts of the exceptionally popular Cloud Accounting Podcast:

I’m a huge fan of my new Airpods Pro. I love how they cancel out background noise, making it easy for me to focus on what others are saying even in a noisy environment. And the microphone does a very decent job of canceling noise for my listeners, as well. And as a bonus they don’t take up any room in my backpack!

Webcam

Again, with remote meetings, it’s important that your clients and team can see you very clearly. So get a good webcam. Don’t rely on your computer’s webcam. Upgrade it.

I use a Logitech C920 1080p webcam. There are updated models of this on the market.

A strong internet connection

It goes without saying that if you’re going to be working online, that you’ll need a solid internet connection. Upgrade your internet plan to something with decent download speeds (100mb/second+). I also use a wired internet connection as opposed to wifi as much as possible.

Chapter 6 - Deliver Your Work

Without a high-quality deliverable, your client will leave to go elsewhere.

The best way to help ensure you have a high-quality deliverable is to ensure that you have a strong process around the work you’re delivering.

Since all businesses are different, I won’t be able to provide you with detailed SOP’s (standard operating procedures) here.

But I do have 3 tips that you can follow:

Tip 1 - Create Standardized Processes

By standardizing core processes, you’ll be able to better streamline your operations and ensure quality control when delivering client accounting services (CAS).

To do this:

First: Identify your work delivery processes.

It should include everything you deliver to your client and you shouldn’t have a ton.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Month-end bookkeeping services
  • Paying your client’s suppliers
  • Processing payroll
  • Preparing & filing sales tax returns
  • Etc.

Second: Document the A-Z steps to complete the task.

For each process, create a step-by-step account for what needs to take place from the beginning of the process until the very end.

So for bookkeeping, you might have the following process:

  1. Process expenses in Receipt Bank / Hubdoc
  2. Reconcile bank & credit card transactions
  3. Prepare month-end bank reconciliation
  4. Peer review of month-end
  5. Notify client of month-end completion

This is an overly simplified version of what a process may look like. It’s up to you to determine the best step-by-step way of handling your service from top to bottom and then document it.

You should have one way to deliver the work, not 10.

Tip 2 - Create a Knowledge Base of Documented Processes

All processes that you document will become your standard operating procedures.

Make sure these are saved somewhere and accessible for everyone at your business to view so that they can perform these tasks without your help.

Tip 3 - Update & Iterate Your Processes

You will not have perfect workflows and processes right off the bat.

When you notice areas in your initially documented processes that aren’t smooth, it’s time to update your process (and documentation) to eliminate points of friction.

Chapter 7 - Stay Up To Date

This guide has been largely about how to start a bookkeeping business.

But:

To make sure your business stands the test of time, you’ll need to engage in continuous improvement.

Below are a few ideas…

Stay Up To Date to Grow Your Business

Here are a few suggestions for how you can stay up to date:

Now It's Your Turn!

I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to start a bookkeeping business.

And now I’d like to hear from you.

Which tip from today’s guide did you like the most?

Will you be using Xero or QuickBooks Online?

Receipt Bank or Hubdoc?

Or maybe you think something is missing?

Either way, let me know by leaving a quick comment below!


Ryan Lazanis

I’m Ryan Lazanis. I’m a CPA by trade but definitely don’t consider myself a normal accountant. I identify more with being an entrepreneur and I love disruptive technologies and business models. My aim is to help modernize the old, traditional accounting profession by giving firms the tools they need to modernize. Each week I send off a curated newsletter recapping the top 5 things on the internet affecting your modern firm. Click here to subscribe to my Future Firm Top 5 Weekly newsletter today!