With a thriving online community, Kate is teaching small business owners to navigate their bookkeeping. Here’s why she believes FreshBooks is the vehicle to help them on their way.
Think accountants are trapped in the past? Then you haven’t met Kate Josephine Johnson.
Four years ago, Kate launched Heritage Business Services, drawn in by the flexibility of working remotely as a bookkeeper. A mom of three and a Navy spouse, Kate had already quit two jobs because of military moves. So it seemed like the perfect way to be a better steward of her time and to future-proof her career.
What she unlocked felt like a secret—one that she now shares with her community as the “chief hustler” at Bookkeeping Side Hustle, a community dedicated to helping other bookkeepers and tax professionals start working virtually. Since then, more than 17,000 people have joined her membership-based Facebook Group, and 3,500 have subscribed to her YouTube channel.
But creating content and using social networks to build her business isn’t the only thing Kate does differently. Midway through 2021, she became a FreshBooks Accounting Partner and started focusing on working exclusively with FreshBooks customers. “Because I think that FreshBooks’ ideal customer is my ideal client,” she says.
In 2022, Kate was invited to participate in the FreshBooks Partner Council to help guide the direction of the Accounting Partner Program moving forward.
We sat to speak with Kate about why she’s decided to specialize in serving clients using FreshBooks, why content creation has become a critical part of her business model, and what she thinks the future of accounting looks like.
What sets Heritage Business Services apart from other bookkeeping firms?
Kate: Well, one is that I recently decided to niche in FreshBooks customers. I like helping the smaller start-up solopreneurs who are serious about their businesses. And that’s the kind of person FreshBooks helps. So becoming an expert in the software specifically built for those business owners seemed like a good strategy.
I’ve spent the last 6 months really trying to learn the software, and capitalizing on the new Accounting Partner Program to get better at using the software and serving clients on the software. That’s something that sets me apart right now.
I also offer a subscription model for people who aren’t quite ready to fully outsource their bookkeeping. It’s a private community only for FreshBooks users, where they have access to me via a group chat and weekly office hours. These are clients who are doing their own bookkeeping, but they need to ask questions and learn from an expert. And they learn from each other, too. I call it DIY Your Bookkeeping.
FreshBooks allows business owners to do what they need to do, without making things complicated.
Why did you decide to niche in FreshBooks software, specifically?
Kate: At some point, I noticed FreshBooks had certification training for Accountant Users. If you hadn’t had that, I probably would not have felt comfortable serving people on the FreshBooks software because I would have been worried that I wouldn’t have the support I needed as an Accounting Partner.
So once I saw that FreshBooks had a professional certification program, it said to me, “Okay, this is real.” I took the certification training and met the Accounting Partner Program team. And the support was just excellent. They answered all my questions. They understand why small businesses need experts like me. So I knew that I would have a team behind me wanting me to succeed.
When you meet a new client who isn’t using any accounting software yet, why do you recommend FreshBooks?
Kate: Ease of use, affordability, and simplicity. I always preach the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Silly. I think that most business owners—especially those who will be doing their own bookkeeping—need to keep their accounting streamlined.
Other bookkeeping software is built to serve big enterprises that need a lot of bells and whistles. When small businesses try to implement those bells and whistles, it’s too overwhelming.
FreshBooks has guardrails built-in. It allows business owners to do what they need to do, without making things complicated. So people can keep their accounting simple.
In terms of keeping it simple, are there any FreshBooks features that stand out for you?
Kate: I actually just did a YouTube video about using the Expense Report grouped by Merchant. That report makes it very clear where people are spending their money. Most people are bad at knowing exactly how much they’re spending. They have a lot of automated payments and subscriptions that they don’t review. Running the Expense Report grouped by Merchant makes that plain as day.
Why have you chosen to incorporate video tutorials in your business?
Kate: The world is heading toward more video communications. And FreshBooks—compared to competitors, which have a more stodgy accounting flavor to them—is likely appealing to a younger generation of business owners, who are already into video, like on TikTok or YouTube. Videos are appealing to clients who are more modern and tech-forward. So it’s a nice way to connect with the type of client I want.
I also do my monthly reporting with clients via video. I’ll send my financial statements with a short 2 to 3-minute debrief talking through the highlights. I think clients like it. It’s a good way to give them the high-level information they need.
What other qualities are you looking for in your ideal client?
I’m looking for people who are coachable. If someone is coming to me acting like they already know everything, they’re not going to be a good fit. I have a real teaching mentality behind my bookkeeping practice. I’ve always been a teacher. I started as a teaching assistant in undergrad and grad school. I like making tutorial videos. I have a teaching spirit about me and I want clients who can benefit from that.
Is there anything you’d like to share with other accounting professionals looking to build or grow their practice?
Kate: Other accountants need to know that the space is wide open for businesses who need FreshBooks experts. By becoming an early adopter, as a FreshBooks Accounting Partner, you will be one of the first people to really learn the software and start serving all these businesses that are moving to FreshBooks.
I’m taking the approach that it’s going to be great software to serve clients in. FreshBooks is continuously improving and investing a lot of money in software development for Accountant Users and their clients.
It’s an exciting time to be an accountant learning all the ins and outs of FreshBooks. I’m one of the first accountants out there to be FreshBooks-certified, and I think that’s really going to benefit my business.
about the author
Jessica Wynne Lockhart is an award-winning journalist and fact-checker, who splits her time between Canada and Australia. She has bylines in the Toronto Star, Chatelaine, and The New Zealand Herald. She writes about e-commerce, personal finance, health, and travel. Learn more about her work at jesslockhart.com.