Whether you’re still studying, or in a completely different role, working as a self-employed bookkeeper is attractive. Being self-employed brings great freedom and flexibility to your life, and the demand for freelance bookkeepers is always high.
Becoming self-employed isn’t complicated, but it’s important to make sure you follow some critical steps to set yourself up for success. We look at how to become a self-employed bookkeeper by gaining the right bookkeeping qualifications, how to set your prices and market your bookkeeping business.
Do you need to be qualified to become a self-employed bookkeeper?
The short answer is no, you don’t have to be qualified to be a bookkeeper. However, it is better if you hold a relevant qualification. This will arm you with the right knowledge and skills to be an excellent bookkeeper, and help to provide a top quality service for your clients.
AAT (the Association of Accounting Technicians) offers a standalone bookkeeping qualification, the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping. In this short course, you’ll cover the basics of bookkeeping, including double-entry bookkeeping, preparing invoices, processing ledger transactions, and other topics.
There are more AAT qualifications available to broaden your knowledge and skillset, but the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping is a great foundation. If you wish to look at more complex processes and accounting, you can progress to the AAT Advanced Diploma once you have completed the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping.
When you have achieved the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping you can join AAT as an associate. With your membership, you can enjoy many benefits such as using the designatory letters AATQB after your name.
Before you go it alone, it’s hugely beneficial to have had some real experience in a bookkeeping role. Even if you’ve gained all the right qualifications, you need to have had the chance to apply your knowledge to real-life situations.
A great way to gain some experience is to find a part-time role while you’re studying, or start out in a junior role such as Accounts Assistant before you become a self-employed bookkeeper.
Getting started as a self-employed bookkeeper
Before you officially announce you’re open for business, you need to make sure you’ve done the following:
- Registered as a self-employed/sole trader with HMRC
- Purchased relevant insurance policies
These will ensure you are protected in the instance anything goes wrong with a client and you are going to pay tax on what you earn. As well as the know-how, you’ll need the right equipment to set up on your own. Costs are likely to include:
- Office space (at your own home, or rented)
- Suitable accounting software
- Storage for documents
Think about what you want to offer and who you want to work with. You should think about the size of the company, industry, job title, and what their needs are. Market research will help you to understand what other bookkeepers are offering, and how you can offer services that are appealing to your ideal clients.
How to charge for your bookkeeping services
The most common way of charging for bookkeeping services is by the hour. How much you charge per hour depends on a range of factors, including your level of qualification and experience, what services you are offering, and your location. As a guide, many bookkeepers charge between £12 and £25 per hour, depending on their experience and expertise.
Of you charge an hourly fee, you know that you will get paid for the hours you work, and won’t lose out if a job takes longer than you think. However, you can risk feeling rushed by the client, meaning you could be under more pressure and making less money.
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Charging per job
The other option is to quote per job. You will need to carry out an assessment to ensure you know the full scope of the job, and can accurately guess how much time the job will take you. You can decide your fees based on factors other than time, such as how challenging the work is, or how much you think it’s worth to the client.
When deciding how to charge for bookkeeping services, consider the preferences of your target market. It’s not all about how much you want to make, but also about attracting the right kind of clients. The right clients will value your time and your services, and also pay you what you’re worth, and pay you on time.
Marketing yourself as a bookkeeping business
Marketing may not have been something you’ve thought of before. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but you’ll need some way of telling potential clients about your services, like your own website, online listings, or business cards.
Marketing your bookkeeping services involves gaining a thorough understanding of the needs and wants of your potential customers, and ensuring that you meet them.
Once you’ve defined your offering in the context of your market, it’s time to reach out to your audience and tell them who you are and what you do.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create your own website and blog
- Attend local networking events
- Join relevant social media platforms
- Advertise in a local newspaper or magazine
- Send sales letters to local businesses
It can take some time and effort to get going, but once you start getting a good reputation and regular clients, you charge what you’re worth and work the hours you want. Having a qualification in such as the AAT Level 2 Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping can provide you with the foundation and confidence to deliver a great quality service for your clients.