Business ideas
8 min read

How to Start a Profitable Bookkeeping Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a profitable bookkeeping business in 11+ easy steps. From marketing to pricing, we cover everything you need to know. Start earning today! #bookkeeping #business #profitable

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 05, 2024

image of a bookkeeping business
This page may feature products from our affiliate partners, which could influence the products we discuss due to potential compensation. Despite this, our evaluations are impartial, based solely on our independent analysis. The content here is intended for informational purposes and should not be seen as legal advice. For professional guidance, consulting with a legal expert is recommended.
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1. Perform market analysis.

When starting a bookkeeping business, a thorough market analysis is crucial to understand the competitive landscape and identify potential clients' needs. This step lays the foundation for making informed decisions about your services, pricing, and marketing strategies. Here's how to go about it:

  • Research the local and online market to identify existing bookkeeping services and their offerings.
  • Analyze the demand for bookkeeping services among small businesses, sole proprietors, and larger organizations in your target area.
  • Examine the pricing structures of competitors to determine a competitive yet profitable pricing strategy for your services.
  • Identify gaps in the market where your bookkeeping business could specialize, such as specific industries or types of services not currently well-served.
  • Assess the potential client base's familiarity with and openness to using digital bookkeeping solutions versus traditional methods.
  • Understand the legal and regulatory requirements for bookkeeping businesses in your region to ensure compliance and competitive advantage.
  • Conduct surveys or interviews with potential clients to gather insights into their specific needs and challenges in managing their finances.
image of a bookkeeping business

Are bookkeeping businesses profitable?

Yes, bookkeeping businesses can be very profitable, depending on the size of the business and the services offered. Many bookkeepers charge hourly fees for their services and have the potential to earn a good income. Additionally, some bookkeeping businesses may offer additional services that can generate additional revenue.

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2. Draft a bookkeeping business plan.

Creating a business plan is a critical step in laying the foundation for your bookkeeping business. It will serve as a roadmap for your startup, guiding you through setting up your operations and achieving your business goals. Here's how you can draft an effective bookkeeping business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Begin with a concise overview of your business, including the mission statement, services offered, and your unique selling proposition.
  • Market Analysis: Research the bookkeeping industry, identify your target market, and analyze your competition. Understand the needs of your potential clients and how you can meet them.
  • Organization and Management: Outline your business structure, detail the roles and responsibilities, and describe the leadership team's experience.
  • Services Offered: Clearly define the bookkeeping services you will offer, such as general ledger maintenance, accounts payable/receivable, and financial reporting.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Describe how you will attract and retain clients, including your marketing channels and sales approach.
  • Financial Projections: Provide an estimate of startup costs, projected income, expenses, and profit margins. Include a break-even analysis.
  • Funding Request (if applicable): If you're seeking financing, specify the amount needed and how it will be used.
  • Appendix: Include any additional documentation that supports your business plan, such as resumes, letters of reference, or legal documents.

How does a bookkeeping business make money?

Bookkeeping businesses make money by providing services such as balancing accounts, compiling financial statements, and providing support with filing taxes. These services are often billed as either a flat rate or hourly fee based on the services needed. Bookkeeping businesses typically target small business owners and entrepreneurs who may not have the resources or time to manage their own bookkeeping. For example, a bookkeeping business could target aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a spice business, offering an 11-step program to help them get set up with their bookkeeping needs.

3. Develop a bookkeeping brand.

Creating a distinctive brand for your bookkeeping business is crucial as it sets you apart from competitors and fosters recognition and trust with your clients. Your brand is much more than just a logo; it encompasses your company's identity, values, and the promise you make to your clients. Here's how to develop a compelling bookkeeping brand:

  • Identify your unique value proposition (UVP) – Determine what makes your service special and why clients should choose you over others. This could be your expertise, your customer service approach, or specialized services.
  • Choose a brand name that reflects your services – It should be easy to remember, spell, and ideally give insight into what you do.
  • Design a professional logo – Your logo should be simple, memorable, and convey your brand's essence. Consider hiring a professional designer.
  • Establish your brand's voice and personality – Decide on the tone and personality you want to communicate through your marketing materials and client interactions. This could be friendly, professional, informative, etc.
  • Create a consistent visual theme – Apply your logo, color scheme, and visual elements consistently across all your marketing materials, including business cards, website, and social media profiles.
  • Build a professional website – Your website should reflect your brand identity and provide clear, informative content about your services.

How to come up with a name for your bookkeeping business?

When coming up with a name for a bookkeeping business, it is important to make sure the name is easy for clients to remember and connect with. Think of words or phrases that convey accuracy, trustworthiness, and attention to detail. Additionally, use words that reflect the services provided by the business such as 'Bookkeeping' or 'Accounting'. Finally, consider the target audience that you are looking to attract and create a name that will appeal to them. With careful consideration and a bit of creativity, you can come up with a unique and memorable name for your bookkeeping business.

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4. Formalize your business registration.

Formalizing your business registration is a crucial step to ensure your bookkeeping business is legally recognized and compliant with regulations. This process varies depending on your location, but typically involves registering your business name, obtaining necessary licenses or permits, and deciding on a business structure. Here are some key points to guide you through this process:

  • Choose a Business Structure: Decide whether you'll operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation. Each structure has different legal and tax implications.
  • Register Your Business Name: If you're using a name other than your own, you may need to register it with the appropriate state agency.
  • Obtain an EIN: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees.
  • Register for State and Local Taxes: Depending on your location, register for applicable state and local taxes, including sales tax and unemployment insurance tax.
  • Apply for Licenses and Permits: Check with your local city or county about necessary business licenses or permits for bookkeeping services.
  • Open a Business Bank Account: Keep your personal and business finances separate by opening a dedicated bank account for your business transactions.

Resources to help get you started:


5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for bookkeeping.

Starting a bookkeeping business involves compliance with various legal requirements. Ensuring you have the necessary licenses and permits is crucial for operating legally and avoiding potential fines. Here's a guide to help you acquire what you need:

  • Business License: Apply for a general business license in the city or county where your business will operate. This is the fundamental permit allowing you to conduct business legally.
  • Specialized Bookkeeping License: Some states require a specific bookkeeping or accounting license. Check with your state's Board of Accountancy for details.
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN): If you plan to hire employees, you'll need an EIN from the IRS, which also serves as a federal tax ID.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: While not a license, obtaining professional liability insurance is highly recommended to protect your business from potential lawsuits related to errors and omissions.
  • Home Occupation Permit: If operating from home, this permit ensures your business complies with local zoning laws.
  • Check Local Regulations: Some localities have additional requirements. Always verify with your local government to ensure full compliance.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a bookkeeping business?

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to obtain a business license, a sellers permit, or both. In addition, you may need to obtain specific bookkeeping licenses as well as other permits. Check with your local government to determine what types of licensing and permits are applicable in your area.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

Opening a business bank account and securing funding are crucial steps in establishing the financial infrastructure for your bookkeeping business. These steps will help you manage your finances effectively and ensure you have the necessary capital to operate and grow. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Choose a bank: Research and select a bank that offers business banking services with favorable fees, good customer service, and convenient online banking options.
  • Prepare documentation: Gather required documents such as your business license, EIN, and formation documents to open your account.
  • Account features: Look for an account with features that suit your business needs, such as low transaction fees, easy integration with accounting software, and high transaction limits.
  • Secure funding: If you need funding, consider options like a business loan, line of credit, or small business grants. Prepare a solid business plan to increase your chances of securing funding.
  • Keep records separate: Always keep your business transactions separate from personal finances to maintain clear financial records and simplify tax preparation.

7. Set pricing for bookkeeping services.

Setting the right pricing for your bookkeeping services is crucial to ensure you are competitive while also valuing your expertise and time. You should consider several factors to establish a fair and profitable pricing strategy. Here are some guidelines to help you with this step:

  • Assess Your Costs: Calculate the cost of running your business, including software, office expenses, and your own salary, to determine the minimum you need to charge to cover these costs.
  • Research the Market: Look at what others are charging for similar services in your area to ensure your prices are competitive.
  • Value-Based Pricing: Consider charging based on the value you provide rather than just the time it takes to complete tasks.
  • Service Packages: Offer different packages or tiers of service to appeal to a variety of clients and their specific needs.
  • Hourly vs. Fixed Rates: Decide whether you’ll charge an hourly rate or a fixed fee for your services. Hourly rates might be better for one-time projects, while fixed rates could be more suitable for ongoing services.
  • Clear Communication: Be transparent with your pricing. Ensure clients understand what they are paying for and what constitutes additional charges.
  • Adjust as Needed: Revisit and adjust your pricing regularly to reflect your growing experience, changes in the market, and the evolving needs of your clients.

What does it cost to start a bookkeeping business?

Initiating a bookkeeping business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $4700 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your bookkeeping business.

8. Acquire bookkeeping equipment and supplies.

Starting a bookkeeping business requires not just expertise in financial management but also the right tools to ensure accuracy and efficiency. Here's a rundown of the essential bookkeeping equipment and supplies you'll need to get your business off the ground.

  • Computer: A reliable and fast computer is crucial for running bookkeeping software and managing digital records.
  • Bookkeeping Software: Choose a reputable software that suits your business needs. Options include QuickBooks, Xero, Sage, or FreshBooks.
  • Printer and Scanner: A multi-function printer is ideal for printing invoices, scanning receipts, and copying documents.
  • Secure Storage: Invest in secure filing cabinets for physical documents and encrypted digital storage solutions for electronic records.
  • Backup System: Use external hard drives or cloud-based services to back up client data regularly.
  • Basic Office Supplies: Stock up on pens, notebooks, staplers, and other office essentials for daily tasks.
  • Calculator: A good calculator is necessary for quick calculations and double-checking figures.
  • Desk and Chair: Ergonomic furniture will help maintain your comfort and productivity during long hours of work.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a bookkeeping business:

  • Accounting software: $250-$2,000
  • Office suite software: $50-$400
  • Computer/Laptop: $300-$1,500
  • Printer/Scanner: $100-$300
  • Fax Machine: $100-$250
  • Business Forms: $25-$60
  • Telephone system: $20-$450
  • Secure storage for documents/filing cabinet: $50-$150
  • Calculators: $15-90
  • Bank account/credit card services: Free -$20/month

9. Obtain business insurance for bookkeeping, if required.

As a bookkeeper, obtaining the right insurance is crucial for protecting your business against potential liabilities and risks. Different types of insurance cover various scenarios that could otherwise be financially devastating. Here's a guide to help you understand the insurance you may need for your bookkeeping business:

  • Professional Liability Insurance: Also known as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, this protects against claims of negligence, errors, or omissions that may occur while providing professional bookkeeping services.
  • General Liability Insurance: This insurance covers basic business risks such as customer injury or property damage. It's essential for safeguarding against everyday operational risks.
  • Data Breach Insurance: Since bookkeepers handle sensitive financial data, this insurance can provide protection in case of a data breach or cyberattack.
  • Business Owner’s Policy (BOP): Often a cost-effective option, a BOP is a package that combines general liability and commercial property insurance, and may sometimes include business interruption insurance.

Always consult with a licensed insurance professional to determine the exact coverage that aligns with your business needs and compliances required by your state or region.

10. Begin marketing your bookkeeping services.

Launching your bookkeeping business into the market is a pivotal step in establishing your brand and attracting clients. A targeted marketing strategy will help you reach potential customers and communicate the value of your services. Here are some effective ways to market your bookkeeping services:

  • Create a Professional Website: Your website should showcase your expertise, services offered, and how to contact you. Include client testimonials to build trust.
  • Leverage Social Media: Use platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to connect with potential clients and share useful content related to bookkeeping and finance.
  • Network Locally: Attend local business events and join chambers of commerce to meet small business owners who might need your services.
  • Offer Referral Discounts: Encourage existing clients to refer new clients by offering them a discount on their services.
  • Utilize Paid Advertising: Consider using paid ads on Google or social media to target specific audiences who may be interested in bookkeeping services.
  • Educate Your Audience: Host webinars or workshops to educate business owners about the importance of bookkeeping, positioning yourself as an expert in the field.
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What licenses and permits are needed to run a bookkeeping business?

  • Accounting software: $250-$2,000
  • Office suite software: $50-$400
  • Computer/Laptop: $300-$1,500
  • Printer/Scanner: $100-$300
  • Fax Machine: $100-$250
  • Business Forms: $25-$60
  • Telephone system: $20-$450
  • Secure storage for documents/filing cabinet: $50-$150
  • Calculators: $15-90
  • Bank account/credit card services: Free -$20/month

11. Expand your bookkeeping business.

Once your bookkeeping business is well-established and running smoothly, it's natural to think about expansion. Expanding your business can take several forms, from increasing your client base to offering new services. Consider the following strategies to help you grow your business effectively and sustainably.

  • Hire Additional Staff: Recruiting skilled bookkeepers can help manage a larger client load and provide specialized services.
  • Extend Services: Offer complementary services such as tax preparation, payroll processing, or financial consulting to become a one-stop financial shop for clients.
  • Invest in Marketing: Boost your online presence through SEO, social media, and targeted advertising to reach a wider audience.
  • Network More: Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and build partnerships with related businesses to get referrals.
  • Embrace Technology: Utilize the latest bookkeeping software and tools to improve efficiency and attract clients seeking tech-savvy bookkeepers.
  • Expand Geographically: Consider offering your services remotely to clients outside your immediate locale or even internationally.
  • Franchise Your Business: If you have a successful business model, franchising can allow for rapid expansion with reduced direct management responsibilities.