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Justine Lackey running her virtual bookkeeping business at her computer.

Are you a bookkeeping professional who is ready to branch out and start a new bookkeeping business instead of working for someone else?

Maybe you are a new mom looking for business ideas for home-based businesses? 

Starting a bookkeeping business is a great way to make an income without sacrificing staying home with your kiddos.

Or perhaps you already have a virtual bookkeeping business, want to scale but you don’t know how, or are drowning in bookkeeping tasks and looking for a better, more efficient way to run your business.

Whatever stage your bookkeeping business is in, I am here and I can help. 

I am Justine Lackey, the founder of Good Cents Management, one of the very first virtual bookkeeping firms in America.

I am not a certified public accountant or bookkeeper, and when I started, I didn’t have a ton of previous experience, just some basic bookkeeping skills. 

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 after 15 years of ownership 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 and a deep desire to support my family, as a single mom, while not working a 9-5 or being chained to a desk.

When I started, I didn’t have a business plan (or more specifically, a bookkeeping business plan) but I DID have 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 also have a ton of free resources and a number of tiny trainings that will help you fast-track your way to success.

My virtual 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, I am here to help guide your way.

In this article, I will cover:

📜Professional Certifications
⚖️Legal Requirements
💰Finances & Insurance
🖥️ Software
✉️Website & Emails
💸Sales
🛎️Customer Service
✅& More!

PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS

One question I often get is whether you need a professional certification, be a certified bookkeeper, or have bookkeeping certifications to be successful in this industry.

The official answer is NO! 

That said, I do think getting certifications helps tremendously.

First, your clients will be small business owners, and they will feel more comfortable saying YES to working with you if you have credentials and certifications.

Second, as a bookkeeper and financial pro you should always be learning – certifications can help you polish your professional skillset and get better at providing a range of bookkeeping services. 

Some examples of certifications you might want to obtain are: 

  • QuickBooks Online Certified Pro Advisor Certification
  • American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers Certification (AIPB)
  • 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. You certainly don’t need two bookkeeping certifications (like the AIPB *and* the NACPB).

I think the QuickBooks Online 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, 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 very important to being a successful bookkeeper. 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!). 

And, if you want to know how to start a bookkeeping business from home, keep reading! 

Although at various points in my 20 year career I had a physical office, I always had the ability to work from home. This was essential when I had little ones (and not so little ones).

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS 

The first step to starting a bookkeeping 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 state and jurisdiction has its own legal requirements; you must check with an attorney and get legal advice on what is best for you.

Your state, town or municipality might require a business license – even if you operate out of your home – so contact your local government office to make sure you are on the up and up. 

FINANCES & INSURANCE

Now that you have your legal your ducks in a row, it’s time to set up your business bank account and, perhaps, getting a business credit card.

It goes without saying that you do not want to mix your personal and your businesses expenses so don’t skip this step.

PRO-TIP – You must make it easy your customers to pay you (ka-ching!). Set up merchant services so you can accept credit card, ACH payments and/or Zelle and your clients can pay invoices with the click of a button. Better yet collect this information when you onboard them so you can automatically collect payments and never have to chase anyone for money.

You will thank me for this later when you start making financial projections and models for your growing virtual bookkeeping business. 

In our industry, it is crucial to have business insurance or professional liability insurance, so get that immediately. A quick google search for “business insurance for bookkeepers” will give you a lot of options. 

SOFTWARE

One of my top recommendations for any bookkeeper – is specialize in one bookkeeping software. Your bookkeeping tasks, and your ability to complete them as quickly as possible without compromising accuracy, will come down to your mastery of the business accounting software that you choose. 

The three big bookkeeping platforms to choose from are QuickBooks Online, Xero, and FreshBooks.

When I first became a bookkeeping professional QuickBooks was pretty much the only kid on the block, so naturally progressing into only offering bookkeeping services using QuickBooks Online was a natural progression for me and my firm.

The one bookkeeping certification I required all of my team members to have was the QuickBooks Online Pro Certified Advisor certification. I would recommend it to anyone, but Xero and FreshBooks also have their own certifications. 

WEBSITE & EMAIL 

I will keep this section short because in my marketing post I share a lot of information all about your website BUT I do want to share something super important.

It’s really important you put your best professional foot forward. Make sure you get yourself set up with a proper business email address. For example, don’t use a general or personal gmail or yahoo address. It should be your name at your web site address – for example betty@bettysbestbookkeeping.

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 happens 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 and a solid project management tool can help you here. 

Recall the customer experience is everything. Systems 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 and when I scaled my business to a multi-six-figure, nationally known firm. 

One of my most popular tiny trainings is document management training which is Your Toolkit for Storing, Saving and Retrieving Client Documents Organize is the exact method I used in my bookkeeping business to keep all of our clients’ documents perfectly organized. If you are a freelance bookkeeper – or you own a bookkeeping firm – this system is a game changer and will help you manage documents with ease.

Smiling group of bookkeepers at table and computer

Sales: How to Find Bookkeeping Clients

Now that you have launched your bookkeeping business, now you have to learn how to how to run a bookkeeping business!

It’s time to start building your client base.

How to find potential clients is a skill, but I have you covered! 

You can check out my article How to Find Bookkeeping Clients here.

In the article I teach all about building an online presence, social media marketing, building an effective website, the power of LinkedIn, and a few secret marketing hacks that have worked wonders for me, and my students. 

The trick about finding potential clients – for any business – is it ultimately involves sales.

And sales can be really scary for people. 

Bookkeepers in general are analytical and detail-oriented.

Translation?

Many bookkeepers would rather spend their time lost in a spreadsheet or handling administrative tasks 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!!!

[Gif: https://media.giphy.com/media/l1AvzOcybgkRFy5gI/giphy.gif]

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 defining your target market, or what your business niche is.

Is your ideal target market or business niche:

  • Artists and creatives
  • Construction Companies
  • Internet Marketers
  • Real Estate Professionals
  • Coaches or Consultants

Get clear on your I.C.A. – or ideal customer avatar – so you can speak and market to those clients specifically. 

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 bookkeeping 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. Bookkeeping business 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. 

Clients want to know that you’re going to communicate and answer their questions in a timely manner, and responding promptly to a new business inquiry is a no brainer. If you wait too long 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 want to 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. Of course, the best place to look is 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 that “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.

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

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 business 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 them 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. 

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!

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 skill set is crucial (especially so in the fast-paced accounting and bookkeeping industry).

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 start a bookkeeping business on your own – but you will grow it quicker and be more profitable with help.

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 in learning how to run a bookkeeping business 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 guide on how to run a bookkeeping business 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