How To Start a Bookkeeping Business: Your Step-by-Step Guide

how to start a bookkeeping business

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Do you want to build a successful bookkeeping business but don’t know where to start?

You’ve come to the right place.

As a self-made entrepreneur who built his own business from the ground up, I know a thing or two about creating a successful, profitable business.

I want to share my strategies with you, so I wrote this guide on how to start a bookkeeping business.

I will discuss nine crucial steps for starting a business offering modern accounting and bookkeeping services. I’ll explain training and certification, business expenses, marketing, finding clients, and more.

Let’s start your journey to financial success.

How To Start a Bookkeeping Business: 9 Steps

Here’s a quick overview of the nine essential steps that will pave your way to success:

  1. Create a business plan. Lay the foundation for your bookkeeping venture with a comprehensive business plan to keep you on track as you grow your business.

  2. Earn your certifications. Gain the necessary qualifications and certifications to boost your credibility in the field.

  3. Register your business. Officially establish your bookkeeping business, ensuring compliance with legal requirements.

  4. Choose a bookkeeping software. Select the right software to streamline your accounting processes and enhance efficiency.

  5. Set up your business. Organize your workspace, equipment, and resources for optimal productivity, like creating a client database, developing bookkeeping processes, and setting up payment processing.

  6. Create your website. Establish a professional online presence to attract potential clients to learn more about you, showcase your services, and contact you.

  7. Finalize your services. Define the scope of your bookkeeping offerings and pricing structure.

  8. Market your business. Marketing strategies help you reach your target audience and advertise your business. You can do online advertising, networking, and content marketing.

  9. Keep learning. Stay up-to-date with industry trends and continue to expand your knowledge and skills.

Do you want to know how to start your own bookkeeping business and profitable startup?

Keep reading to gain insights and valuable tips for your successful journey.

1- Create a Business Plan.

Making your bookkeeping business profitable requires a solid business plan.

A business plan is a project management tool to help you shape your bookkeeping and business operations.

Consider it your road map that will help you organize your thoughts, set goals, and make the right choices.

Learn how to craft a successful business plan with the following components:

  • Executive Summary Provide a brief overview of your business, its purpose, and primary goals.

  • Overview Articulate the reasons behind starting your bookkeeping business, its structure, and the unique value you bring to the market.

  • Industry Analysis Present the results of your market research, including trends, opportunities, and the likelihood of success in your area.

  • Competitive Analysis Analyze your competitors, detailing their strengths, weaknesses, and what sets your business apart.

  • Marketing Describe your strategies for client acquisition, lead generation, brand development, and deal closure.

  • Management Establish your credibility by showcasing your industry experience and leadership qualities.

  • Operations Plan Outline your operations and systems to ensure smooth business functioning.

  • Financials Project cash flow, expenses, revenues, and profits for your first five years in business.

I’ll break down some of the most important parts of your business plan to be a useful guide as you start your own small business here.

Key Questions Your Bookkeeping Business Plan Should Address

  • What are the bookkeeping services you plan to offer?

  • Who are your target bookkeeping clients? Do you have a particular business niche or size in mind?

  • How will you structure your pricing, encompassing hourly rates, monthly retainers, and package options?

  • What strategies will you employ to market your services and reach potential clients effectively?

  • Can you thoroughly summarize your initial expenses to avoid unexpected costs?

Your business plan may change as you grow, especially as you learn more about your market. However, it’s a vital reference that serves as your strategic compass.

Set Your Goals.

Clearly define your business goals, making them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

Having well-defined goals keeps you on track and motivated, whether revenue targets, client acquisition goals, or business growth objectives.

Determine Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

Your UVP is a critical element of your marketing strategy, helping you attract and retain customers by highlighting what makes your offering special.

You must identify what sets your bookkeeping business apart.

Highlight your strengths and how they benefit your prospective clients.

You must answer the question: Why should customers choose your product or service over others?

Communicate your unique value proposition clearly in your marketing materials and consistently deliver it.

Be adaptable and ready to refine your UVP as your business model evolves and market conditions change.

Your UVP should continually resonate with your target audience.

Define Your Target Market and Niche.

In your journey on how to set up a bookkeeping business, decide which services you’ll specialize in, whether it’s accounts payable, bank statements, reconciliations, or tax returns.

Consider focusing on a particular business or industry niche, like real estate or the food industry.

Avoid offering too much—start small and build from there.

Identify your ideal bookkeeping clients and create tailored service packages for them.

Discuss pricing in person or on calls, and provide multiple payment options for the prospective client’ convenience.

2- Earn Your Certifications.

Certifications enhance your bookkeeping skills and establish credibility in your field.

Consider getting the following certifications:

Bookkeeper Certifications

American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB)

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Becoming a Certified Bookkeeper (CB) through AIPB involves completing a 3,000-hour work experience requirement and passing their certification exam.

This path is suitable for those without formal bookkeeping or accounting experience.

National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB)

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The NACPB certification, Certified Professional Bookkeeper (CPB), requires candidates to complete QuickBooks, payroll, accounting, and bookkeeping courses.

Newcomers to bookkeeping must gain one year of on-the-job experience before becoming eligible.

Software Certifications

QuickBooks ProAdvisor

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QuickBooks is a widely used business accounting software, and certification can enhance your appeal to potential clients. You can certify for free through the QuickBooks Online program, while the QuickBooks Desktop program requires an annual software purchase.

FreshBooks Partner Program

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If you plan to serve service-based businesses, consider certifying with FreshBooks. Their partnership program includes skills training beyond certification.

Xero Partner Program

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Xero offers a cost-effective alternative to QuickBooks and may appeal to certain clients. Certification through Xero can broaden your service offerings.

IRS Enrolled Agent:

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If you wish to offer tax return services without being a CPA, consider getting an IRS Enrolled Agent certification. It involves an initial exam and ongoing continuing education requirements.

Qualifications Before Starting Your Small Bookkeeping Business

Before launching your bookkeeping and accounting business, I recommend acquiring relevant training and industry knowledge.

Consider courses these organizations offer:

The IAB offers regulated courses in bookkeeping with three levels of qualifications. Most bookkeepers begin with Levels 1 and 2, progressively adding more qualifications as their careers advance.

Certification as a bookkeeper is optional but can demonstrate your commitment and competence to potential clients. It may also be a requirement as industry regulations evolve.

Organizations like the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and AAT offer certification programs. The AAT’s highest certificate allows you to become an AAT licensed bookkeeper, denoted by the letters AATQB.

While certification is not mandatory to become a bookkeeper, it can strengthen your professional standing and ensure compliance with evolving industry standards.

3- Register Your Business.

As you inch closer to launching your new bookkeeping business or firm, it’s time to tackle registering your new business.

Here’s what you need to know.

Choose a Business Name.

Your business name is your identity in the market. Ensure it reflects your professionalism and expertise.

Check for name availability and any legal restrictions in your jurisdiction. You want a name that’s unique and legally viable.

Consider a name that communicates the essence of your bookkeeping services or showcases your uniqueness.

Choose a Business Structure.

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Selecting the right business structure is vital as it impacts your legal, financial statements, and operational aspects:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The simplest structure, where you and your business are one entity. You’re personally liable for business debts and obligations.

  • Partnership – If you work with others, a partnership allows you to share responsibilities and profits. Each partner is personally liable.

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Offers personal liability protection and flexibility in management. LLCs are common among small businesses.

  • Corporation – Provides strong liability protection but involves complex administrative requirements. Suitable for larger businesses.

Sole Proprietorship
Personal LiabilityTaxationFlexibilityPersonal LiabilityTaxationFlexibility
Simple and easy setupPass-through taxationComplete control over business decisionsUnlimited personal liabilityLimited tax benefitsMinimal complexity
Minimal administrative requirementsBusiness income reported on personal taxesNo need for formal meetings or documentationPersonal assets at risk in legal disputesSole proprietor’s tax bracket
Personal LiabilityTaxationFlexibilityPersonal LiabilityTaxationFlexibility
Shared decision-making authorityShared tax responsibilitiesShared responsibilities and profitsPersonal liability for partnersShared tax responsibilitiesModerate complexity
Pass-through taxationBusiness income passes through to partnersCollaborative decision-making processPotential for disagreements and disputesPass-through taxation
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
Personal LiabilityTaxationFlexibilityPersonal LiabilityTaxationFlexibility
Limited personal liability for membersTaxation flexibilityManagement flexibilityInitial setup and compliance requirementsAdditional administrative responsibilitiesModerate complexity
Personal assets shielded from business debtsChoose taxation as sole prop., partner, or corpFlexible management optionsAnnual filing and reporting obligationsTaxation flexibility
Personal LiabilityTaxationFlexibilityPersonal LiabilityTaxationFlexibility
Strong personal liability protectionPotential for lower tax ratesStrong personal liability protectionComplex administrative and legal dutiesDouble taxation potential for C corporationsHigh complexity
Separate legal entity, distinct from ownersAbility to retain earnings within the corp.Separate legal entity, distinct from ownersMore formal meetings and record-keepingComplex corporate tax structure

Ultimately, the best choice for new bookkeepers is a sole proprietorship or LLC due to their simplicity and personal liability protection.

However, you should only decide on the business structure after carefully considering your circumstances and goals and consulting with legal and financial advisors.

Each structure has advantages and disadvantages. Your choice should align with your long-term business strategy.

4- Choose a Bookkeeping Software.

Choosing the right bookkeeping software is a strategic investment in your business’s success. It will empower you to deliver exceptional bookkeeping services, manage your clients’ finances effectively, and grow your bookkeeping business.

There’s small business accounting software and software designed for enterprise-level bookkeeping businesses. Evaluate various software options based on your specific needs and preferences to find the one that aligns best with your business.

QuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Online Plus ($45 monthly)

*Depends on availed plan
Invoicing, expense tracking, bank reconciliationTRY QUICKBOOKS ONLINE
QuickBooks DesktopAnnual Subscription ($2250 yearly)Advanced accounting features, industry-specific versionsTRY QUICKBOOKS DESKTOP
XeroGrowing ($9.25 monthly)

*Depends on availed plan
Online invoicing, payroll, multi-currency supportTRY XERO
FreshBooksFreshBooks Plus ($15 monthly)

*Depends on availed plan
Invoicing, time tracking, client portal, expense managementTRY FRESHBOOKS
Zoho BooksPremium

$30 monthly (billed annually)

$36 monthly (billed monthly)

*Depends on availed plan
Expense tracking, automated workflows, multi-currencyTRY ZOHO BOOKS

Benefits of Finding the Right Software

Discovering the perfect bookkeeping software yields numerous advantages.

  • Streamline bookkeeping tasks, reducing manual work and saving time.

  • Minimize errors in data entry and calculations, ensuring precise financial records.

  • Access detailed reports for a deeper understanding of your finances.

  • Accommodate business growth with software that can handle more clients and transactions.

  • Enhance communication and transparency through client portals.

  • Protect sensitive financial data from unauthorized access or breaches.

  • Stay compliant with tax regulations and accounting standards.

  • Long-term savings through improved efficiency and accuracy.

  • Stand out in the market by offering high-quality services.

5- Set Up Your Business.

When starting your bookkeeping business, one of the foundational steps is registering your business, which involves several key aspects to ensure your enterprise is legitimate and professional.

Obtain a business license to ensure your bookkeeping firm operates legally in your city.


Be prepared to cover the expenses associated with business registration, which may include registration fees, permit costs, and legal or professional advisory fees.

Bank Account

Opening a dedicated business bank account is essential even for small business owners.

It shows the IRS that you’re operating a legitimate business, not just pursuing a hobby.

Maintaining a dedicated business bank account is crucial to keeping personal and business finances separate, ensuring financial clarity and tax compliance for your accounting firm’s bookkeeping business.

Building a relationship with your local banker during this process can potentially lead to valuable business referrals.


Depending on your bookkeeping approach, you may need essential equipment like computers, printers, and office furniture to create an efficient and productive office space.


Incorporating the right technology is crucial if you want to learn how to run a bookkeeping business.

Consider investing in bookkeeping software that aligns with your business needs.

This software will help streamline your processes and keep your financial records organized.

Ensure seamless integration of financial transactions between your bank account and accounting software to maintain financial transparency and efficiency.


Consider acquiring business insurance, especially liability insurance tailored to bookkeepers.

This insurance can protect your business and personal assets in case of legal claims.

It’s prudent to safeguard your interests and provide peace of mind as you serve clients in your bookkeeping business.

6- Create Your Website.

Creating a professional website is one of the most important things you can do to get your bookkeeping business, especially if it’s a virtual bookkeeping business.

Why is a website important to your business?

Your website will be a powerful tool for marketing your services and attracting clients.

Your professional website is optimized for search engines (SEO), and you can use it to showcase your expertise and credibility.

You can also engage in content marketing by sharing valuable insights through blogs and articles, positioning yourself as an industry expert.

Create a Facebook business page and include client testimonials to build relationships and gain trust within your community.

Consider email marketing, Google My Business optimization, paid advertising, and ongoing performance analysis to continually refine and improve your marketing efforts, ultimately attracting a steady stream of clients to your bookkeeping business.

Choose a Hosting Plan.

A reliable hosting service is crucial for your website, ensuring it remains accessible to potential clients 24/7.

Consider reputable hosting providers like BlueHost and HostGator, which offer robust hosting plans.

If you’re unfamiliar, consider learning more about hosting services and their function to make an informed choice for your website’s hosting needs.

Set Up Your Pages.

Your website’s structure is essential for presenting your bookkeeping services effectively.

Create pages that convey your business’s value and professionalism.

Here are essential pages to include.

  • Homepage The welcoming gateway to your services, introducing visitors to your business.

  • About Us Share your story as a business owner, your qualifications, and what sets your bookkeeping business apart.

  • Services Provide details about your bookkeeping services, emphasizing their benefits to potential clients.

  • Contact Us Make it easy for visitors to contact you, including contact forms and essential contact information.

  • Blog (Optional) Consider sharing valuable insights and industry knowledge to establish your expertise through a blog.

Optimize your website’s design and content to engage visitors and encourage them to take action, such as contacting you or requesting your services.

7- Finalize Your Services.

Finalizing your bookkeeping startup services is a pivotal step in launching your bookkeeping business successfully.

As a bookkeeper, you play a crucial role in helping businesses manage their finances effectively, including the following services:

  • Managing corporate funds with accounting software

  • Handling Accounts payable and receivable

  • Providing a financial overview to help firms understand their habits

  • Making financial statements

Here’s an overview of what you must consider when finalizing your services.

Create Your Offerings.

Define the specific bookkeeping services you intend to provide to your clients.

These services typically include managing a business’s finances using accounting software, overseeing accounts payable and receivable, and helping businesses gain insight into their financial habits.

Consider offering additional services such as generating financial statements, which can be instrumental in helping businesses make informed financial decisions.

Price Your Services.

Deciding how much to charge for your bookkeeping services depends on various factors, including your experience, the market’s needs, the range of services you offer, and the size of the businesses you work with.

Common pricing models include hourly rates, monthly fixed fees, or negotiated retainer fees.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average hourly rate of a bookkeeper is $19.23 to $26.92.

It is essential to carefully calculate the estimated startup costs, which include expenses for software you use, marketing, and office equipment.

8- Market Your Business.

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To ensure the success of your own business in bookkeeping effective marketing is essential to ensure your business’s success in bookkeeping.

Understanding your target audience and employing various strategies to reach them is crucial.

Here’s how you can strategically market your bookkeeping business.

Social Media

Utilize social media platforms to connect with your audience and showcase your expertise.

Share valuable content and industry insights, and engage with potential clients.

Leverage platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to expand your reach and establish a strong online presence.


Networking is a powerful way to build relationships and gain referrals within your local business community.

Attend networking events, join professional associations, and connect with potential other bookkeeping firms and clients.


LinkedIn is a valuable platform for professionals.

Create a compelling LinkedIn profile highlighting your expertise, like if you are a certified public accountant, certifications, and services.

Connect with fellow professionals and potential clients, and join industry-specific groups to expand your network and gain visibility.

Content Marketing

Share your knowledge and insights through content marketing that can uncover promising bookkeeping business opportunities to connect with potential clients and expand your reach.

Create informative blog posts, articles, and resources related to bookkeeping and financial management.

Establish yourself as an industry expert by offering valuable information to clients seeking financial guidance.

Paid Ads

Consider utilizing and investing in paid advertising campaigns to reach a broader audience.

Platforms like Google Ads and social media offer targeted advertising options.

9- Keep Learning.

In the dynamic world of bookkeeping, the pursuit of knowledge is not only beneficial but necessary.

By staying informed and continuously learning, you can provide high-quality services, adapt to industry changes, and position your bookkeeping business for long-term success.

Ensure you continuously learn and update yourself on the following:

  1. Evolving Regulations

    Tax laws, accounting standards, and financial regulations undergo frequent changes. Staying updated ensures you can provide accurate and compliant services to your clients.

  2. Technological Advances

    The world of bookkeeping is becoming increasingly digital. Embracing new technologies and software can boost your efficiency and competitiveness.

  3. Expanding Services

    As your bookkeeping business grows, you may want to offer additional services like tax planning or financial consulting. Expanding your skill set can open new revenue streams.

  4. Competitive Edge

    Continuous learning allows you to stay ahead of the competition. Clients are more likely to trust bookkeepers who stay current with industry trends.

6 Tips for a Successful Bookkeeping Business

  1. Enroll in bookkeeping courses.

  2. Set reminders for critical deadlines.

  3. Determine whether to choose a virtual or physical location.

  4. Create a brand identity.

  5. Build a strong online presence.

  6. Offer exceptional customer service.

1. Enroll in Bookkeeping Courses.

Consider your budget, learning style, and career goals when choosing a bookkeeping course.

If you are just starting, a free course can be a good way to get an introduction to bookkeeping.

However, if you are serious about pursuing a career in the bookkeeping profession, you may want to consider a paid course that offers certification.

Here are some suggestions for free and paid bookkeeping courses:


  • AccountingCoach – This website has many free accounting and bookkeeping courses, including “Bookkeeping Basics.”

  • Alison – This online learning platform offers a free course called “Diploma in Effective Bookkeeping and Payroll.”

  • edX – This online learning platform offers a free course called “Introduction to Bookkeeping” from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

  • OpenLearn – This online learning platform from the Open University offers a free course called “Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting.”


  • Skillshare – This online learning platform offers a variety of paid bookkeeping courses, including a popular course called “Bookkeeping for Freelancers.”

  • LinkedIn Learning – This online learning platform offers a variety of paid bookkeeping courses, including a comprehensive course called “Become a Bookkeeper.”

  • Udemy – This online learning platform offers a variety of paid bookkeeping courses, including courses on specific bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks Online and Xero.

  • Coursera – This online learning platform offers a variety of paid bookkeeping courses, including a course from Intuit called “Intuit Bookkeeping Professional Certificate.”

2. Set Reminders for Critical Deadlines.

Stay on top of crucial accounting, tax filings, and financial reporting deadlines.

Utilize tools like calendars and task management apps to ensure you never miss a critical date.

3. Determine Whether To Choose a Virtual or Physical Location.

Decide whether it will be a home-based bookkeeping business that will operate virtually or from a physical location.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each, such as cost savings and accessibility.

4. Create a Brand Identity.

Establish a strong brand identity for your bookkeeping business.

Develop a professional logo, choose a distinctive color scheme, and craft a compelling brand message that differentiates you from competitors.

5. Build a Strong Online Presence.

Create a professional website to showcase your services and expertise.

Use social media and online marketing to expand your reach and attract potential clients.

6. Offer Exceptional Customer Service.

Provide outstanding customer service to your clients. Promptly respond to inquiries, address concerns, and maintain open communication to build trust and loyalty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Do I Need To Start a Bookkeeping Business?

Here’s a brief list of what you’ll need to start a bookkeeping business:

  1. Acquire the necessary bookkeeping knowledge and skills.

  2. Create a comprehensive plan outlining your business strategy.

  3. Choose a suitable legal structure for your business (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC).

  4. Obtain the required licenses and permits to operate legally.

  5. Register a unique and available business name.

  6. Open a separate bank account for your business finances.

  7. Invest in reliable bookkeeping software.

  8. Develop a marketing plan to attract clients.

  9. Create clear and effective client contracts.

  10. Set up a functional workspace and acquire the necessary equipment.

Is Bookkeeping a Profitable Business?

Yes. Bookkeeping can be profitable with the right strategies, pricing, and client base.

Is Bookkeeping Hard for Beginners?

Bookkeeping can be challenging for beginners, but it is learnable with practice.

The most important thing is understanding basic bookkeeping concepts, such as debits and credits, accounts, and financial statements.

What’s the Difference Between Accounting and Bookkeeping?

Accounting involves interpreting financial data, analyzing trends, and making financial decisions, while bookkeeping focuses on recording financial transactions and maintaining accurate records.

Can a Non-CPA Do Bookkeeping?

Non-CPAs can do bookkeeping if they have the necessary knowledge and skills.

CPAs have additional qualifications but aren’t required for basic bookkeeping tasks

How To Start an Online Bookkeeping Business?

Here’s a quick rundown of what I discussed in this article that also applies to starting an online bookkeeping business.

  1. Get the necessary skills and certifications.

  2. Choose a business structure and name.

  3. Get the necessary licenses and permits.

  4. Set up your business infrastructure.

  5. Market your business.

How To Start a Bookkeeping Side Hustle?

Learn the basics of bookkeeping, and you can do this by taking a bookkeeping course, reading a book on bookkeeping, or watching online tutorials.

How Much Does It Cost To Start a Bookkeeping Business?

Expect to initially invest between $2,000 and $5,000 to start your bookkeeping business. These costs can vary based on location and business scale.

The Bottom Line

I hope my step-by-step guide helps you prepare for starting a bookkeeping business. Lot of the steps mentioned are the same is you want to start any business but have no ideas.

Remember to create a solid business plan, offer valuable services, and stay updated.

A high-quality, responsive website will also be essential to your bookkeeping business. The best web hosting services for small businesses can provide you with the support you need to build a secure and stable website at affordable prices.

Written by: Omar Deryan

Founder of OJ Digital Solutions

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