How to Make Money as a Bookkeeper

Making Money / Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Note: A side income or extra stream of income can make a big difference in your ability to meet your financial goals. Sometimes that’s as simple as selling stuff around your house for extra cash, and sometimes it looks more like working a part-time job or starting a full-fledged side business. This post is about one potential way to do that: how to make money as a bookkeeper.

I am an accidental bookkeeper.

I shouldn’t be completely surprised. I was a business major in college and accounting classes (along with finance) were some of my favorites.

But I chose to get a general business degree and – aside from a short stint as a commercial credit analyst for a bank – spent the rest of my time until my kids were born working in human resources and employee benefits.

But then my husband started an insurance agency. And – since I did all our personal banking and bill paying and also prepared the taxes for our CPA – it made sense for me to keep his agency books and do the payroll as well.

And then my dad semi-retired, and asked me if I would keep the books for his small business and I agreed.

Finally, from 2007-2009 I worked part-time as a business manager for a consulting company and kept not only the books for that business, but the owner’s personal books as well.

So, yeah, I’m a bookkeeper.

And here’s the thing: it’s not a bad gig if you like numbers and – more specifically – if you like organizing numbers. Because, in my experience, that’s what a bookkeeper is: a professional organizer who specializes in numbers.

Here are some questions to ask to see if bookkeeping would be a good fit for you too:

  •  Do you try to get to the bank statement out of the mail pile first so that you can be the one to balance the checking account?
  •  Do you enjoy bill paying day at your house?
  •  Do you like making budgets?
  •  Are you a whiz with financial software and applications like Quicken and Mint?
  •  Do you enjoy your doing your own taxes or preparing your records for whoever does your taxes?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may enjoy bookkeeping. Read on for how to make money as a bookkeeper.

Bookkeeping as a side gig

Bookkeeping can make a great side gig because it can be done on a part-time basis and can sometimes be done from home. Bookkeeping can often be done on your own time as well. As long as you’re observing the deadlines for things like payroll and taxes, it usually doesn’t matter if you’re crunching numbers at 12 PM or 12 AM (provided your boss or client is okay with it of course).

And you can vary the amount of time you work based on the jobs you apply for or the number of clients you take on. That’s a plus too.

My friend and fellow blogger, Carrie Smith, comes from a bookkeeping background. Here’s what she said about the different kinds of roles bookkeepers play:

  • A general bookkeeper is someone who is an organizer and keeps all the numbers straight.
  • A full charge bookkeeper specializes in payroll, financial statements, reporting and handles figures from small to medium sized businesses.
  • And a Certified Bookkeeper (CB) has extra training and work experience and does many of the things that a CPA does, although without that title.

Training to be a bookkeeper

Let’s assume for a moment you have no experience or training in bookkeeping. The good news is that you can get up to speed relatively quickly.

My training was very informal, because, as I said at the top, I didn’t actually realize I was becoming a bookkeeper. I was using Quicken for our personal finances (still do), and then eventually progressed to Quickbooks for the bookkeeping jobs I took on.

Quickbooks is easily the most popular bookkeeping program for small businesses so it’s well worth learning. I’ve taught myself to use Quickbooks, learning as I go depending on what I need it do, but if I were planning on pursuing bookkeeping as an official side gig I would absolutely invest in more Quickbooks training, for both my own benefit and as a credential to offer potential employers and clients.

As far as general bookkeeping knowledge, community colleges usually offer basic bookkeeping classes and there are some official certifications you can earn through organizations like the National Association of Certified Professional Bookkeepers and the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. You can also earn a two-year degree in Accounting. The community college near me describes their two year accounting degree as being good for those looking for bookkeeping jobs.

Where to find bookkeeping gigs

All the usual job sites (Monster, Indeed, Careerbuilder) have bookkeeping jobs, but if you’re interested in a flexible bookkeeping arrangement as a side gig I would suggest you make Craigslist a regular stop.

It’s on Craigslist that I’m the most likely to see an ad for something like this:

  • A work from home bookkeeping arrangement.
  • A desperate business owner who doesn’t have the time, skills or interest to keep his or her books (that’s a pretty common situtation!).
  • Occasionally a plea from someone whose books are a mess and they want someone to help untangle them. (Do you enjoy working puzzles?)

And old fashioned networking, putting the word out, and asking around are always good options too.

Do you have experience in bookkeeping? Is it a side gig or full-time job for you?

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6 Replies to “How to Make Money as a Bookkeeper”

  1. It seems as though this article may have been written for me. My answers were emphatic yeses to all of your questions. I’ve been a treasurer for numerous volunteer organizations. My spouse has been encouraging me to get a paying gig, but I hadn’t considered bookkeeping. Thanks for the idea!

    1. Sounds like a natural thing for you to explore, Brenda. That volunteer treasurer experience will be helpful on your resume, too.

  2. Julie – Great article. I have tried using Craigslist, but most of what I run across are jobs that require you to be in an office. Are there any search techniques that help find the jobs that allow you to work remotely? Thanks!

    1. Chris, the only thing I’ve found is that checking often helps. The work from home are certainly less common but they do pop up from time to time. If you’re interested in working completely remotely, you can try the listings from other cities as well.

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