You’ve decided to start your own bookkeeping business. Great! Now what? How do you get a bookkeeping business off the ground and running smoothly?
You may be surprised to learn that there’s much more to starting a successful bookkeeping business than meets the eye — or the accountant (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
If you’re serious about getting started in this lucrative field, keep reading for ten steps to help make your business a success.
14 Steps to Get an Accounting Business Off the Ground
You’ve decided that you want to start a bookkeeping business. You’ve even done your research and found a need for what you have to offer. You’ve checked out some other online bookkeeping businesses in your area and found that they’re doing well.
But now what? How do you get started?
The good news is that there are only ten steps between where you are now and having your accounting services up and running. And if you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to success in no time!
1. Research the Competition
You may have an idea of what kind of services you want to provide. However, it’s essential to research the competition in your area.
Are there other bookkeepers offering similar services? How much do they charge, and how are they marketing themselves? What different types of businesses do they work with?
You need to know how they attract clients. This will help you figure out where your niche is within the industry. Also, how much money can you make by offering similar services at a lower price point?
2. Choose Your Niche
Once you understand your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses, you should decide on the niche that best fits your skill set, experience, and interests.
If you want to target small business owners who need help managing their finances, you will have plenty of opportunities.
But if you want to take on larger businesses, there may be more competition from firms with specialized expertise or more resources than you can afford at first.
3. Set Up Shop
You can start a bookkeeping business from home or in an office. If you choose to work from home, ensure adequate space and capacity for running your business.
You’ll also need to consider how much time you’ll spend away from home and the impact on your family life. If you decide on an office, be sure to find a location that is affordable and accessible.
You should have a physical address for your business and office space where you can meet with clients and perform your work. You may also consider investing in business equipment such as computers, printers, phones, and other office supplies.
4. Get Licensed and Insured
You’ll need to obtain state licensing and insurance coverage to operate legally as a business. The exact process varies by state, so check with your local government agency for more information.
You can also visit your national association of state boards of accountancy website for a list of state boards of accountancy contact information and tips on how to navigate the licensing process.
5. Build Your Website (If Necessary)
It might be tempting to think that a website isn’t necessary for a small business. After all, your clients can find you through word-of-mouth or by searching Google. But an online presence is vital if you want to stand out in the crowd.
Websites help potential customers find and make an appointment with you quickly and easily. They also help establish your brand as an industry expert in their eyes.
If you choose not to have one, potential clients may assume that you’re too small or new for them to take seriously.
Make sure that the site is designed in a professional, easy to navigate, and displays all of the services you offer.
6. Set an Accounting Software Budget
Before you embark on your new business venture, you must be realistic about how much you can spend on software, equipment, and other resources.
When starting a bookkeeping business, the most important investment you’ll make is in accounting software. The right software can make the difference between success and failure — but it’s not cheap.
If you’re starting and don’t have much capital, consider using cloud-based software that doesn’t require any upfront costs.
7. Get Organized with Technology Tools
Several great tools can help you stay organized. You can also try QuickBooks Online or Mint, a free personal finance app.
These tools will allow you to track your expenses and income in one place while ensuring they match up correctly at the end of each month.
Some people prefer to use Excel spreadsheets or even paper journals, but we think those methods only work well if you have someone else keeping track of the numbers for you.
8. Decide Whether You’ll Outsource Certain Tasks
If you’re starting as an independent contractor or sole proprietor, there are likely some tasks that you’ll want to outsource.
Especially if they’re not part of your core competencies or something that comes easily to you (like the bookkeeping).
For example, if taxes aren’t something that comes naturally to you and you’d rather spend your time working on growing your business, hiring someone else might be a good investment.
9. Know Your Tax Laws
You need to know all the tax laws regarding running a business in your state to avoid any penalties or fines. They can be from the IRS or other agencies that oversee taxes for small businesses in the U.S.
Make sure that you know what needs to be paid when it comes time for tax season each year. So that there are no surprises when it comes time to file returns with these agencies.
10. Advertise Your Services Online and Offline
There are two main ways to advertise your bookkeeping services: online and offline.
You can create a website and post content that shows off your skills and experience online. You can also use social media to share content about your business.
Promoting yourself on these platforms is free, but it may be challenging to get new clients this way if you don’t already have an existing audience.
Offline, you can use traditional methods like flyers and brochures to advertise your services. If possible, meet with local business owners or call them on the phone. It is to discuss how they’re using their current bookkeeper or what they’re looking for in their next one.
11. Set Up Backups
Before you even think about starting your business, make sure that your computer is backed up. This means saving all of your data to an external hard drive and cloud storage service.
If you don’t have these backups set up and something happens to your computers, such as a virus or hard drive crash, it could devastate your business.
If you’re using a cloud-based system, check to see if it offers automatic backups or if you need to set them up yourself.
If you’re running QuickBooks or another desktop accounting system, ensure your data is regularly backed up on an external drive, which should be stored off-premises in case of theft or fire.
12. Find Clients — But Don’t Do It All at Once!
Once you start taking on clients, trying to do as much work as possible for each one is tempting. But that’s not necessarily a good idea for several reasons:
It takes time to get familiar with each client’s needs and processes. So the more work you do before getting that knowledge, the less efficient and effective your work will be later.
You’ll have better relationships with your clients if they feel like they’re getting personalized service rather than being just another number on your list of customers.
If you take on too much too soon, there’s a good chance that something will go wrong (when something goes wrong with one client, it can make everybody else nervous).
13. Make Sure You Have Insurance — and That You Use it!
Insurance is a must for any business owner, especially for bookkeepers. If you’re handling other people’s money, you need to have the right insurance. For example, if you have clients who pay you by check, do you know how much liability coverage your bank has?
And what about cyber liability? Are you covered if your computer gets hacked and someone steals client information through malware or phishing emails? If not, get some coverage! It’s not only suitable for your peace of mind but also your bottom line.
14. Prepare a Business Plan and Marketing Plan
A business plan will help you determine how much you can afford to spend on your new business, how much time you need to devote to the company, and what goals you want to achieve.
It will also show potential lenders and investors that you have thought carefully about starting a bookkeeping service.
A marketing plan will help you determine where to get clients, how much they are likely to pay, and how many clients you can reasonably expect to attract.
Your marketing plan must be realistic and well thought out before you begin advertising.
Starting a bookkeeping business can be a very lucrative venture, especially if it’s done the right way.
When you want to start your own business, in addition to starting with a clean slate, taking a few severe steps will go far in helping you to achieve your goals and priorities.
When you feel your business is ready for clients, offering them exceptional services is the best way to ensure that your business succeeds.
About the Author!
Sarah Howard is a business writer and accountant associated with Acgile Accounting Firm. She comes into writing with a passion for blogging, making businesses profitable, and helping small businesses grow. Her goal is to help others build a solid foundation for their business and achieve success.