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Starting a Bookkeeping Business

If you're detail-oriented, a lover of numbers, and honest to a fault, a bookkeeping business might be the perfect match for you.

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The fact that so many people dislike doing bookkeeping is goodnews for anyone who enjoys the ins and outs of financial recordkeeping. Lacking time or inclination, entrepreneurs and growingbusinesses often need help with their financial housekeepingdespite the availability of easy-to-use accounting software. As oneLos Angeles bookkeeper told us, "While doing business isgetting more complex, people aren't getting better at handlingtheir money. Today virtually everybody needs some professionalguidance." Yet most small businesses can't afford to hireor keep full-time bookkeepers.

Independent bookkeepers are in demand even during economicdownturns because businesses realize that if they aren'tcareful about their money, they soon won't be in business. As aresult, bookkeeping can be a good business year in and year out.However, Adrian Seaford, who operates a New Orleans bookkeepingservice, offers this admonition, "In downtimes, you may havemore competition, because some accountants need more business tokeep busy and will seek to pick up bookkeeping business."Accountants are no longer trained for small-business bookkeepingthough, so even they are apt to outsource the bookkeeping work theyget.

To be successful, independent bookkeepers need to be thorough,dependable and accurate as well as skilled in using accounting andsometime spreadsheet software. You must enjoy paying attention todetails, and honesty and integrity are crucial. If you'd betempted to go along with a client who asks you not to report or tohide income, it's best to look for another business because youwon't last long in this one. A client who'll ask you to usequestionable practices may have no compunction about not payingyour bill.

If you've already done financial or accounting work for anemployer, you're probably ready to take on clients on your ownwithout special training. If you enjoy working with numbers butlack such a background, you can acquire the training you need to gointo bookkeeping from a number of sources:

Start-up costs in this field are minimal, and most independentbookkeepers charge between $25 and $40 an hour. How much you cancharge depends on your location and the level of work you do,ranging from minimal record keeping to virtually all the tasksleading up to preparation of financial statements. Some bookkeepersalso prepare financial statements and do tax work as well.


Paul and Sarah Edwards are the authors of Best Home Businesses for the 21st Centuryand 14 other books.

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