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Justine Lackey running her virtual bookkeeping business at her computer.

Are you a bookkeeper who is ready to branch out and start a new bookkeeping business instead of working for someone else? Maybe you are a new mom who is looking for a way to have an income without sacrificing staying home with your kiddos. Or perhaps you landed here because you have a bookkeeping firm, a desire to scale and you need to know your next step. Whatever stage your bookkeeping business is in, I am here to, and can, help. 

If you are new here – it’s nice to meet you! I am Justine Lackey, the founder of Good Cents Management, one of the very first virtual bookkeeping businesses in all of America. I am not a certified public accountant, I am not a certified bookkeeper, and when I started I didn’t even have a ton of previous experience. 

Believe it or not, I turned my lil ‘ol virtual bookkeeping business (with one employee…me!) into a firm run by a team of dedicated employees that served incredible clients. The most amazing part is I sold my firm with wild success in 2023.

While I didn’t have a fancy college degree, or letters after my name, what I did have was a knack for numbers. I also had a deep desire to support my family, as a single mom, while not working a 9-5. I didn’t even have a business plan, but I had determination, grit, and a deep desire to learn.

My journey proved to be so successful I now run a free community to help other bookkeepers achieve their dreams. I have free resources, and a number of products and programs, that will help you fast-track your way to success.

My bookkeeping business gave me the freedom to create my own schedule, the opportunity to work with incredible people, and the financial freedom I so desired.

If you want your own bookkeeping business, think of this as your step-by-step guide to launching your business, or making your existing business even better.

I am going to cover how to find your first client, accounting software, deciding on a business structure, your business name, and how to decide if your own bookkeeping business is a good idea for you.

Before You Begin – Professional Certification

One thing I get asked often is if you need a professional certification, be a certified bookkeeper, or have a bookkeeping certification to be successful in this industry. The official answer is NO!

That said, I do think getting certifications help you tremendously. First, your clients will be small business owners, and they will feel more comfortable saying YES to working with you if you have some credentials and certifications. Second, as a bookkeeper and financial pro you should always be learning – certifications will help you do just that.

Some examples certifications you might want to obtain are: 

  • QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification
  • American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers Certification
  • National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) Bookkeeper Certification
  • Gusto Payroll Certification
  • Gusto People Advisory Certification

Don’t let this list overwhelm you, you don’t need to get all of these. I think the QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification is probably the most useful. Chances are you will be using QuickBooks Online often, and this certification will help you master this accounting software.

If you have no bookkeeping experience at all, I recommend that you look at local community colleges. Many of them have bookkeeping courses, or basic accounting classes (at least in the United States).

Understanding the fundamentals of accounting and bookkeeping is the most important thing as you begin this journey. Taking classes at community colleges is a great way to acquire the skills you need to succeed.

The Start-Up Phase

The great thing about the bookkeeping industry is it’s virtual! You can run an empire from your home office (I have a beautiful she-shed. It’s a whole vibe!). Remote work is especially awesome if you have children or little ones at home.

You might prefer to have an office space to meet potential clients, or even to have a quiet space to work out of the home. I have done both, had an office space, and worked virtually from home, and each option for different reasons. The nice thing about bookkeeping is there are generally low startup costs. The biggie is legal guidance so you are on the up and up.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS 

The first step to creating a new business is often creating a business legally. You will need to consider what type of business or type of entity you should form – a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation. 

Every jurisdiction has their own legal requirements; you must check with an attorney and get legal advice on what is best for you. Your local town or municipality might require business licenses – even if you operate out of your home – so contact your local government office to make sure you are on the up and up. 

Once you have your ducks in a row – set up your business bank account; you may also consider getting a business credit card too. In our industry, it is crucial to have business insurance or professional liability insurance so get that immediately. 

Sales: How to Find Bookkeeping Clients

Sales can be really scary for people.  Bookkeepers are analytical and detail-oriented. Translation? They’d rather spend their time lost in a spreadsheet than on the phone trying to drum up business. Sales is one of the most essential ingredients to achieving your goals, your dreams, and ultimately, your financial freedom.

So while most people shudder at the thought of sales, I am the COMPLETE opposite. I LOVE SALES, and I don’t care who knows it!!

I’ve figured out the secret “sales” sauce that helps me avoid sounding like a used car salesman and instead create genuine connections with my ideal audience.

Before we get into it, I want to make sure you are crystal clear on who your target market is. Is your target small businesses? Artists and creatives? Construction Companies? Internet Marketers? Get clear on your I.C.A. – or ideal customer avatar – so you can speak and market to them specifically. How much money to they make? What industry are they in? How many years have they been in business? Sketch out all of these characteristics – you will refer back to this ICA for many years! 

 

Sales Secret #1: First Impressions Are Hiding EVERYWHERE

As they say, first impressions are lasting impressions.

And they can happen anywhere: In-person at a networking or social event or even online via your website, your LinkedIn page, or other social media channels.

Wherever there’s a chance a prospective client might see you, think about what sort of message and vibe you’re putting out. Remember: How you act, speak, and visually represent yourself is all a reflection of your brand and the quality of work you do.

Your website is a perfect example of this. If your website is hard to navigate and full of typos, that reflects poorly on you. Remember bookkeeping is incredibly detail-oriented, so put your best foot forward.  Once an interested client does contact you (whether it’s a phone call, email, or online submission through your website), BE RESPONSIVE. We live in the age of instant gratification, and that means clients want to know that you’re going to communicate and answer their questions in a timely manner. If you wait a week to respond to an inquiry, chances are they’ve already moved on to the next virtual bookkeeper. 

 

Sales Secret #2: Your Success Lies in Your Sales Call

Sales call, discovery call, consult call… whatever you wanna CALL it (pun intended!) this is the key ingredient in your sales process. 

At the very least, think of the sales call as a job interview. Show up as you would for an in-person interview for the very best job in the world. I am fond of saying you must follow the 3 P’s – be prompt, prepared, and polite. 

Pro tips for the 3 Ps::

Prompt: If the meeting is virtual, and on video, show up a few minutes early to make sure your tech software is working correctly. If you have to be late for any reason, communicate that with your prospective client immediately. 

Prepared: The more prepared you are, the better the call will go—as will your chances of being hired. Approach your sales calls similarly to how you would prepare for a job interview – research the company or individual who is hiring you. The best place of course it to look at their website, facebook business page, social media platforms and LinkedIn. 

Polite: No matter how the person on the other end may act, even if it’s a bad fit from the start, conduct the sales call with grace and politeness. How you act is a reflection of your professionalism (not theirs), and word of any impolite or inappropriate behavior can spread quickly (especially if you work with a small niche audience that all knows each other).

 

Sales Secret #3: Referrals Are Your Bookkeeping Firm’s New BFF

As you build your business you will read a lot about marketing strategy and the “mythical” marketing plan. I have good news! You are about to learn the BEST no-cost way to build a profitable business (with your ideal client!). 

One thing I know is “Money is like medicine.”

Why? Because when people want a new doctor what are people most likely to do?  Ask for referrals! When people are looking for a new bookkeeper, they usually ask their network to recommend a professional they trust and respect.  This means your existing clients likely know prospective clients and people in your target audience.

In essence, social proof is critical. New clients want to know (before they ever meet you) that you have a proven track record of helping others with their bookkeeping needs. What is the best way to get referrals? 

First, be good at what you do! If you provide current clients with exceptional customer service, they will refer you.  Second, always “ask for the sale”.  If your clients are happy with your services, they’ll probably be more than happy to send colleagues and friends your way. But if you never ask them, chances are they won’t think to do it—or may not know if you’re open to taking on new business.

If you want every sales tip, trick, template, and script I’ve developed over the last two decades, you’ll find it all in Multiply: Your System to Skyrocket Sales.

Female sorting through business bookkeeping files.

Systems: Building the Foundation for Your Virtual Bookkeeping Business

Systems are vital to scaling and a successful business. 

Strong systems mean: 

💪 Strong customer service

💪 Strong business 

💪 Strong team

💪 Strong financials

🌟 And finally, happy clients

When’s the Best Time to Implement Systems?

Bookkeepers who are just starting out have a natural tendency, rightfully, to focus their time and effort on client work.  But what when you bring on more and more clients, but don’t have any organizational systems in place? Your customer service experience will suffer and you may lose clients. 

It’s best to pause and implement systems into your firm when you’re still brand spanking new. 

Recall the customer experience is everything. You need a rock-solid system to create an outstanding customer experience. Systems often decrease the probability of making mistakes (crucial in our industry!) and create the checks and balances that are vital to any bookkeeping business.

I have designed systems for running a firm from soup to nuts including:

🌟Marketing systems to help find bookkeeping clients

🌟A strong QuickBooks Online diagnostic process

🌟THE best client onboarding experience

🌟A system to keep 1,000s of digital documents organized

As a bookkeeping coach, I teach my students the systems you need to run a thriving bookkeeping business. The systems I have created worked for me both when I was just a freelancer, to when I scaled my business to a multi-six figure, nationally known firm. 

The sooner you start implementing new systems into your business, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to stop, step back, and reorganize your business operations. 

Smiling group of bookkeepers at table and computer

Service: How to Provide a 5-Star Client Experience

Here’s some real talk –  you MUST perfect the art of offering an exceptional client experience. This starts from the moment someone becomes a client and ends only AFTER you’ve bid each other farewell.  The key to a successful virtual bookkeeping firm is client retention – and clients stay when they are happy!

Mastering The Onboarding Call

Congratulations! Your new client has said, “Yes!” to working with you, now it’s time to wow your client and start building trust.  This is your moment to help them feel comfortable and confident in their decision to work with you.

To do this, you need to be ultra-organized, prepared, and professional. Offer your clients a streamlined experience that makes it easy as pie for them to transfer their financial records and information over to your firm. 

During the onboarding call take time to educate your client on the types of financial reports they can expect, the financial statements you do – and don’t prepare, how you handle financial transactions and your overall workflow. There are 100 bits of information you need to gather on the onboarding call (which honestly can be 3 or 4 calls depending on the complexity of the client) so it’s crucial you have this buttoned up.

Part of the onboarding call should be reviewing expectations so you and your client are in sync. Share important details about payment terms, availability, communication preferences, the tasks you will complete and anything else you think will be important for clients to know as you get started. Clear communication is the key to any successful relationship – including client relationships. 

My onboarding training has everything you need to get this system set up in your business in just a few hours for just $37! It took me years to master this skill set, and now you can too!

Use my free Onboarding Checklist to create a polished, streamlined, and professional onboarding experience for your clients!

Pair of glasses resting on top of accounting documents

Skills: Advancing Your Bookkeeper Knowledge

Listen, you can be the best salesperson in the world, get your business ultra-organized, and offer an amazing client experience.

As a bookkeeping business coach, I am a huge advocate for constant education and evolution.

If you don’t continue mastering your bookkeeping and business skills… eventually you will hit a wall. Continuing to get more efficient and growing your skillset is crucial (especially so in the fast-paced accounting and bookkeeping industry). For example, you need to make sure the right types of clients are paired with the right software. You need to stay up to date on how to manage sensitive information, such as social security numbers and tax returns. Don’t forget these privacy and security laws change often and can vary by state!

Why a Bookkeeping Business Coach Is Critical to Your Success

Whew, I know that was a TON of information I just threw at you. If you feel overwhelmed, I understand *exactly* how you are feeling because I was there not so long ago. I often felt lonely and lost and I lacked the confidence to take decisive action or know what the right next step was. Building my business wasn’t easy but I know now that it led me to my life’s purpose which is “to help the world by helping people.” 

I developed my mentorship and self-study programs so I could help others like you figure out the best, most efficient, most profitable way to offer virtual bookkeeping services. 

It’s totally possible to build a successful bookkeeping business all on your own—I did it. But if I had the option to do it over again I would hire a bookkeeper business coach in a HOT MINUTE. 

There’s an art and science to running this type of business and I KNOW my methods work. If they didn’t I would have never built the type of business that I could sell (and sell very, very, veryyyy successfully!).

If you are ready to ignite your success with the systems you need to scale, click here

Conclusion

I hope you found this how to run a bookkeeping business guide insightful! I know I shared lots of resources throughout, but feel free to access my complete list of resources here. If you haven’t yet joined my free Facebook community, I highly recommend it! We’re a group of strong, supportive women at all skill levels helping each other build successful bookkeeping businesses.

And of course, the waitlist is always open for my Bookkeeper’s Business Incubator program for when you’re ready to fast-track your way to becoming a full-fledged founder of a highly profitable bookkeeping firm.

If you have any questions about my mentorship program or the 4 S’s, don’t hesitate to reach out anytime. I am always rooting for you!

With love, 

Justine

The Bookkeepers Coach