If you're sure-footed with figures and yearn to escape the rigors of a full-time job, starting a home-based bookkeeping business might be the answer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for your services to grow 11 percent by 2022 -- fueled by the retirements of the current generation of bookkeepers, as well as small and large business owners' desire to find topflight professionals to take on these functions. However, succeeding in this competitive field requires a keen grasp of marketing and business savvy.
Assess Your Skills
Determine what attributes of your professional background will create value for potential clients. Without training in specialized software like QuickBooks, for example -- which many manufacturers and community colleges offer -- you won't stand out above the crowd, recommends the BusinessKnowHow.com website. Get familiar with "must have" aspects of the field like Certified Payroll Professional and Microsoft Excel, since training and experience is the key to convincing clients that you're their best option, says David Bybee, president of the National Bookkeepers Association.
Gain an additional edge by obtaining certification through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, which shows you have the knowledge to carry out basic tasks like balancing accounts. You can also take the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination through the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, advises the BLS. An 80 percent or better score is required to get it.
Choose Appropriate Software
Ensure that whatever software programs you choose meet industry standards, or else you'll risk losing credibility with clients. Double-check the software's ability to handle multiple accounts, track current orders and inventory, and monitor payroll requirements, advises The Frugal Entrepreneur website. Also, your software should include a Customer Relationship Management, or CRM component -- so you can track what kinds of services customers are buying, and using.
Develop a Budget
Work out what types of costs you'll need to absorb when you're starting out -- including errors and omissions insurance, which costs around $25 per month, for example. You'll also need to include the costs of licensing and registering your business. Keep in mind that it'll take time to build the client base that will allow you to earn a full-time equivalent salary or better, observes Wanda Medina, a bookkeeper interviewed for Lioness magazine. If you plan to rent office space, make sure your proposed budget can cover that cost, too.
If your estimates suggest you can't support yourself without a full-time income, don't quit your day job yet, warns the Frugal Entrepreneur website. Delay your business's launch -- or keep it as a part-time income -- until your new projections show that you can make it a full-time proposition.
Market Yourself Aggressively
Create a professional presence that lets clients know you're available, and what kinds of services you're willing to offer. At a minimum, you should set up a website and blog -- which allows you to post regular updates -- and look into getting social media accounts on pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, according to The Frugal Entrpreneur website. If you're really strapped for cash, visit business forums related to the markets that you're planning to target -- as well as websites like Craigslist, which put in direct contact with potential clients. Make the rounds of business functions, such as your local Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greet, where you can build relationships with other financial professionals -- like local accountants -- whose referrals will prove crucial in building a business.
- BusinessKnowHow.com: How to Start a Bookkeeping Business
- Lioness Magazine: Wanda Medina Brings Simple Bookkeeping Solutions to Entrepreneurs
- The Frugal Entrepreneur: Starting a Successful Bookkeeping Business
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Bookkeeping, Accounting, or Auditing Clerk
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job Outlook: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
- U.S. News & World Report: Best Business Jobs: Bookkeeping, Accounting and Audit Clerk
Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.