If you think that you need to be a CPA or have a four-year college degree to be a bookkeeper, think again. Bookkeeping is one of the fastest and cheapest careers to enter, yet this career pays a decent $40K/year (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Best of all, thanks to the advent of cloud computing and shared online documents, many bookkeepers work from home.
What does a bookkeeper do?
A bookkeeper maintains a company’s financial records, which includes tasks such as paying bills, creating invoices, analyzing expenses, and generating bank reconciliations (i.e., balancing the checkbook).
You probably already do most of these tasks in your day-to-day life. If you’re a freelancer or contractor, you certainly perform all the tasks of a bookkeeper.
The difference between balancing the checkbook as a private individual or freelancer and balancing the checkbook as a bookkeeper for a business is protocols. Protocols must be followed for businesses because all purchases and expenditures , and profits and losses, must be officially noted. Such protocols are in place in case fellow investors, the IRS, accountants, etc., wish to study the business’ books and understand how much money was spent in a year, why the business did/didn’t reach its profit target, or why the business overpaid/underpaid on its income taxes.
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Incidentally, a bookkeeper is not an accountant. An accountant typically analyzes the money-making, money-saving and money-spending strategies of a business and makes recommendations to those ends. A bookkeeper, on the other hand, is involved in the day-to-day details of sorting through accounts receivable/payable, creating receipts, totaling expenses and deductions, reviewing financial statements, posting entries into accounts, and recording the sale of goods or services.
How do you get trained as a bookkeeper?
In the past, bookkeepers prepared by taking accounting classes at their local college or university. Nowadays, many bookkeepers get their start by enrolling in online education courses through sites like Lynda.com or Udemy. Many of these courses are offered at very low cost, or even for free.
For example, one site that offers free bookkeeping training is Accounting Coach:
Another item you’ll need in your bookkeeping ‘toolbelt’ is accounting software. Such software will not only streamline your bookkeeping workflows and do a lot of the number-crunching for you, but it will even provide you with calculation reminders and how-to’s on performing certain accounting steps. In a pinch, good accounting software can be your tutor in case you don’t know or forget how to perform a financial task.
One example of good bookkeeping software is QuickBooks. Another highly recommended software program for bookkeepers is Xero.
Once you’ve mastered the principles of bookkeeping and have completed your training, you may wish to take the next step in your bookkeeping journey. And that step would be…certification.
Why become a certified bookkeeper?
You don’t technically need anything beyond bookkeeping know-how to work as a bookkeeper. However, because many businesses want to avoid lawsuits and/or IRS audits, they will be looking for certified bookkeepers; i.e., those bookkeepers who have taken the time and effort to get tested on their bookkeeping skills.
In order to land bigger and better (i.e., higher paying) clients, you will want to become a certified bookkeeper.
How do you get certified?
The National Bookkeepers Association (NBA) provides extensive information and training on certification as a bookkeeper. The NBA is also closely linked with the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB), which provides the actual Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) designation. To qualify for this certification, you must have one year of experience in the accounting or bookkeeping field, pass the certification examination, and sign a code of conduct agreement.
Many novice bookkeepers attain the one year of experience by working internships with area businesses. Keep in mind that many of these internships can also be completed from home.
The NACPB also offers access to discounted QuickBooks software and its networking community. You can find bookkeeping jobs here and get answers to all kinds of questions and issues.
An alternative certifying organization is the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB). To qualify for certification through the AIPB, you must have two years of bookkeeping experience. After passing the exam with a minimum of 70%, you must sign the organization’s code of ethics.
Once you have two or more years of experience as a bookkeeper, you may also wish to apply for a bookkeeping license. Having a license, much like certification, proves your worth to potential employers and clients. In this case, a license tells potential employers and clients that you have experience as well as know-how in your field.
Where do you find bookkeeping jobs?
Several online resources offer bookkeeper jobs, which can either be perdormed either on-site or completely off-site.
AccountingDepartment– Bookkeepers with varying levels of experience can get matched up to client businesses through this site.
BookkeeperLink– This site lists job postings and offers a platform where potential employees and employers can send private messages.
Flexjobs– This telecommuting job site lists several bookkeeper jobs for remote workers.
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HireAthena– Formerly known as BlackOps, this site keeps a roster of accountanting and bookkeeping agencies and is always looking to recruit more bookkeepers for its various clients. All work is remote.
Indeed– Several remote bookkeeping jobs are posted here, with many starting out at $16-$20/hour.
Upwork– This freelance work site lists both hourly and project-based bookkeeping jobs, all of which are remote. This site is a good place to gain some meaningful experience before you go for certification and/or licensing.