August 08, 2020

A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting Your Own Bookkeeping Business.

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Starting Your Own Bookkeeping Business.

So you’ve been working as a bookkeeper or maybe a tax consultant or similar, but you are feeling the job getting to you. Maybe it’s the hours, or the management style of your superiors or even the outdated, cumbersome software your bosses insist on using that’s making you not as content as you should be. Or maybe you just want to spend more time doing things you love during those coveted daylight hours. But you have a set of skills that you already know are useful to pretty much everybody who runs any kind of business. So how do you leverage your skills and expertise into a thriving business? How do you pivot from a bookkeeper to a business owner?

It might be less daunting than you think. We hope that this detailed guide will help you get started.

You’ll learn:

  • How to create a proper business plan
  • How to create your core product/service offering & pricing models you should consider
  • How to begin marketing your new business without breaking the bank
  • Tools of the trade that will make running your business a breeze

Let’s get started!

Chapter 1

A Business Plan

A solid business plan can make a difference between your new venture succeeding or not, but it doesn’t need to be a 100-page behemoth. Think of it more as a roadmap. In this chapter, we’ll walk you through the process of creating the sort of roadmap that’s just right for your ideal business, so it can get you to your destination faster — and will fewer hiccups along the way!

Step 1 — Define your purpose

In simple terms, any new adventure we embark on should have a distinct purpose behind it. Money alone is not a good enough motivator to keep us going. So before you do anything else, try to define who you want to be as a business. It should be something that does not change with the seasons. Something that goes to the very core of your enterprise.

“Help small business owners with bookkeeping” is too generic and doesn’t provide enough detail. “Help independent medical clinics streamline their books” is a lot more specific, for example, and as such, makes for a much better purpose statement. So start with where your personal passion is, and your purpose will stem from there.

Step 2 — Who do you want to work with?

Unless you plan on creating a company with tons of employees with niche specializations, you’ll want to define a fairly narrow target audience for your business. You can always expand on it later if you choose to. But for now, selecting your target demographic will make it easier to craft the rest of your plan, and ultimately your business’ offerings.

In simple terms, your target is your ideal client. What sort of business are they in? What tools/software are they likely to currently use for bookkeeping? What could make their life easier?

Step 3 — Place Your Goal Posts

Your plan should include both long-term and short-term goals. For long-term goals, jot down where you see your business five or ten years from now. The goal here should go beyond just revenue numbers. You should consider other aspects of running a business, such as the number of employees, offices/franchises, expansion to other regions/industries, etc.

Your short-term goals should be quite simple. For example, year one goals: 

  • Hire a marketing firm to create brand & website development
  • Increase the client base to 100
  • Have revenues of >$245,000

Now break these down into what it would look like for even smaller increments. If your goal is to get to 100 clients in your first year of business, then you will need to acquire 10 new clients per month (assuming that some attrition will occur). Repeat with all the other tasks in your first-year plan.

Chapter 2

Creating Your Product/Offering

When you run your own business, your time becomes your most valuable asset, but time is the one thing you cannot scale. Because of this, it is imperative that you create and package your core offering so that your processes are repeatable, and the service provided to your clients is up to your business’ standards.

Here are steps you should take in creating your offering:

  1. Determine what services you want to provide (ex: monthly expense reports, tax filing help, retained earnings reports, invoicing and billing, payroll, etc)
  2. Determine which business model will work best to provide those services (subscription model or one-time fee model)
  3. Using the above, figure out an appropriate pricing structure (will you be offering different levels of service and support depending on the industry or other factors?)

You should now have a solid product offering to begin the next phase. Getting those clients to choose you!

Chapter 3

Marketing/Client Acquisition

Marketing is often thought of as selling. When we think of marketing, we generally picture those ridiculous call centers dialing numbers and following some script. But the reality is any business requires marketing in order to thrive, and a startup requires great marketing to put down roots that’ll keep it going for years to come. As a discipline, marketing encompasses a lot more than simply selling something. Marketing is design. It’s storytelling. It’s understanding human psychology. It’s SEO and SM. Your business might not need the expertise of all of the branches of marketing, but to get you up and running, you’ll at least need to go through the following steps:

Step 1 — Branding

At the end of the day, your brand is how every person who comes in contact with your business feels about it. It’s far more than a logo or a nice font set your designers have picked out. It’s also your business’ aura, if you will. Think of a company you’re familiar with, Apple, for example. What goes through your head when you see that icon? How does it make you feel? Chances are, you’ve had experiences with the company that will color your perception of it, whether good or bad. But you’ll also likely think of their Design First philosophy, the minimalism, the pushing of boundaries. If you have a budget to hire an ad agency or a branding firm, you should do so. Ask professionals you know and whose visual identities you like to refer you to whom they’ve used. Or post a query on LinkedIn or in your local marketplace. But whatever you do, stay away from logo factories who promote themselves as brand creators. They are not. They simply recycle and repackage logo elements and call it a brand.

When your branding is complete, you should have the beginnings of all the collateral you will need for print and web. At a minimum, you should have your icon, your logo, your color palette, all the fonts, and the guidelines on their usage,  and your tagline (that should be related to your purpose statement). Some agencies will include the creation of some actual collateral such as business cards, letterheads, social media covers, and icons, etc.

Step 2 — Findability

Now that you have your purpose, offerings, new shiny brand — how do you get folks to find you, and then how do you get them to hire you? Assuming you had picked out a fairly narrow target demographic, your journey to being found is likely going to be unique to you, but there are some things that are simply expected from any business. In order of importance, these are:

  • A mobile responsive website with lead generation capabilities (you can build one yourself, but unless you have some expertise in technology, we’d recommend hiring a professional company to do it for you.)
  • Facebook Business Page (you will want to reserve a custom URL for your business, as well as make sure you provide as much information in all the tabs that come with the business page by default (About, Contact, etc.).
  • LinkedIn profile — any professional service should have one!
  • Google Business Profile — again, make sure all the fields are properly filled out, including your hours, location, etc. And don’t forget to provide a link to your website.
  • Reputation Management — you will need testimonials from everyone you’ve done bookkeeping for in the past. If you can’t use those because they were given to your previous company and not you personally, then consider doing a bit of work at a reduced rate for a few business owners you know locally in exchange for getting those reviews.

All of the above should give you a good starting point. Your next steps will depend on the target demographic you’ve decided on. For example, if your target is small chiropractic offices, then you’d want to start attending healthcare-related events in your area, as well as network in those circles.

You can also start blogging on your website about some specifics of bookkeeping for the medical field. Maybe some of these practitioners have been doing their own books so far and haven’t really seen the need to hire the service out. Or they might have a company they’re not terribly happy with but don’t have the incentive to switch. It will serve you well in the long term to volunteer some information and resources for those small business owners. Write a few succinct posts on anything you think might benefit your readers. It can be something as basic as a primer on what is bookkeeping or explaining the accounting equation or it can be something nuanced, such as how to properly track and use retained earnings. On the one hand, it will allow you to show your expertise. On the other, they’ll become accustomed to your name, brand, and tone, so when the time comes and they’re looking for a bookkeeper, you’ll be the first business they think of.

In conclusion, if you build a solid foundation, you should be able to create a thriving bookkeeping business. After all, every business needs the services you provide, whether they know it or not. Take your time crafting your plan. Be deliberate about what sort of business you are building. And don’t let your mistakes, and there are always, always mistakes, discourage you from pursuing your goals.

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Author: Charles Lutwidge

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