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11 Min. Read

How to Become a Bookkeeper: A Step By Step Guide (2023 Edition)

How to Become a Bookkeeper: A Step By Step Guide

Did you know that you can learn how to become a bookkeeper in less than one year with no experience? It’s true. This makes bookkeeping a popular choice for those without degrees or those ready for a career change.

There are several benefits to being a bookkeeper. But as with any other enterprise, running your own bookkeeping business takes some key elements of preparation and knowledge.

Learning how to become a bookkeeper is also a great career choice if you like the idea of working remotely.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps needed to become a bookkeeper and start your own bookkeeping business.

Key Takeaways

  • The job responsibilities of bookkeepers
  • The differences between accountants and bookkeepers, both in terms of their duties and the steps needed to be qualified for each role
  • Typical wages and remote work opportunities of bookkeepers
  • Simple steps to create your own thriving bookkeeping business

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

Can I Really Become a Bookkeeper Without Qualifications?

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

Bookkeepers Vs. Accountants

How Much Does a Bookkeeper Make?

How Do I Get Started in Bookkeeping?

Become a Bookkeeper From Home


Frequently Asked Questions

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Can I Really Become a Bookkeeper Without Qualifications?

Yes! It’s completely possible to become a skilled and successful freelance bookkeeper without the need for a specialized degree or lengthy certification. While more education is always a bonus, many successful freelance bookkeepers start right out of secondary school.

Many people confuse accounting and bookkeeping. To be an accountant, you generally need education requirements like a bachelor’s degree in accounting. To be a bookkeeper, you don’t.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

Simply put, bookkeepers are responsible for all financial activity and oversight of a business. They record and organize financial statements, ensure compliance with important tax rules, and facilitate all ingoing and outgoing payments on specific business accounts.

Most bookkeepers will have a few other responsibilities, including:

  • Generating and filing financial statements and reports
  • Keeping all financial records updated
  • Regularly reviewing important financial records
  • Creating and editing business budgets
  • Monitoring for any financial discrepancies
  • Handling payroll for employees
  • Overseeing accounts payable and receivable

Bookkeepers Vs Accountants

Bookkeepers are administrators first and foremost and are responsible for updating and maintaining financial transactions and reports. Accountants, on the other hand, are more like financial strategists. An accountant is the one to help the business owner make sense of their numbers, generate financial documents, and plan for the upcoming tax period. Accountants are required to have advanced certification, while bookkeepers are not.

How Much Does a Bookkeeper Make?

In January 2023, the average bookkeeper in the United States earned an annual salary of $42,751. However, depending on a bookkeeper’s location, niche, and clients, they may command a higher salary, sometimes reaching $50,000 per year or above. 

How Do I Get Started in Bookkeeping?

You only need a few basic skills to get started in bookkeeping. These don’t require you to go to school or gain any special training, but they may be skills you’ll need to develop over time.

These skills can help set you up for success as a bookkeeper:

  • Math skills: You’ll regularly produce and maintain accurate financial reports for clients. Although technology does a lot of the calculations for you, basic math skills will help you determine if the numbers generated by the software are reasonable or if an error has occurred.
  • Computer skills: You’ll regularly use accounting software, bookkeeping software, and some form of a spreadsheet like Excel.
  • Time management skills: You’ll often have to go from client to client.
  • Attention to detail: Your day-to-day tasks will include regularly recording financial transactions where even being a couple of dollars off can be problematic. The data you input must be 100% compliant and accurate so your client can do tax returns easily.

You’ll be dealing with a lot of financial data and numbers in this career path. If you’re not a numbers person, it may be worth practicing some basic accounting and math skills to prepare for this type of career.

Step 1: Determine if You Want to Work From Home

As a bookkeeper, you’ll have three options:

  • Work as an employee in the office
  • Work as a virtual bookkeeping employee
  • Work as a virtual bookkeeper by starting your own bookkeeping business

If you want to become a bookkeeper and also start a bookkeeping business, there are a few things to consider.

Being Your Own Boss

As a business owner, you’ll have startup costs to consider. These include:

As an independent business owner, you’ll have to learn how to do your freelancing taxes too.

Benefits of this option include potentially fewer hours, choosing how many clients you work with, and the freedom to partner with bookkeeping companies to free up even more time.

Working as an Employee

This is a great way to gain real-world experience as you become a bookkeeper and, potentially, a bookkeeping business owner. Previous work experience makes finding clients as a bookkeeping business owner much easier.

Bookkeeping jobs are flexible, so if you hate telecommuting, you can still work from home by looking for remote bookkeeping jobs.

Step 2: Gain bookkeeping skills

Some bookkeeping skills you’ll need to begin developing as you learn how to become a bookkeeper include:

  • Accounting software proficiency
  • Personal and business finance basics
  • Basics of tax returns
  • Financial reports

The good news is that you can do bookkeeping training from the comfort of your home. There are a lot of cheap bookkeeping courses online and a lot of free content too. You can find bookkeeping courses on standard bookkeeping work tools like bookkeeping software and financial reports.

If you’re looking for a cloud-based bookkeeping software that doesn’t require hours of training, try FreshBooks. It’s simple to work with, yet it doesn’t compromise on essential functions and features.

Click here to try FreshBooks for free.

Bookkeeping software

Although you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, it can make you more competitive. Only 12% of entry-level bookkeepers have a bachelor’s degree, so having one is an easy way to gain an advantage. Consider a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business administration, or finance.

Step 3: Get First-Hand Bookkeeping Experience

Once you’ve had some bookkeeping training, you’re ready for real-world bookkeeping jobs or experience.

Finding Work as an Employee

Search through popular job sites. Pay attention to the job description to identify which jobs are remote bookkeeping jobs and which are in-house.

Another way to get valuable bookkeeping experience and on-the-job training is through an internship. You can then learn how to use multiple accounting software programs and work tools on the job. Internships can also provide ways for you to get your foot in the door with a specific organization.

Find job opportunities and internships through job boards, your university’s networks, and by asking around.

Finding Clients for Your Bookkeeping Business

Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Mostly every business could find value in having someone look after their financial books and records. Spread the word.

Another way to find clients is through marketing yourself. Follow these tips:

  • Niche down: Choose to focus on a specific industry. This makes you stand out from the crowd if done correctly. Each industry has unique financial challenges when it comes to financial activities, so niching down allows you to become an expert to certain businesses quicker.
  • Write blogs: Write blogs that answer popular questions potential clients would have about bookkeeping to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Use LinkedIn: Become active in making connections and interacting with potential clients. Demonstrate your expertise by providing insightful posts, engaging with potential clients and their posts, and optimizing key sections of your profile.

Step 4: Research Bookkeeping Certifications

Once you’ve learned how to become a bookkeeper and have two years of work experience, you can become a certified bookkeeper. Becoming a certified bookkeeper requires passing an exam to get a bookkeeping certificate.

Becoming a certified bookkeeper enhances your credibility and increases your earning potential.

One organization to look into is The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. They provide bookkeeping certifications and training, which can officially make you a Certified Bookkeeper.

Another route to take is to look into the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers’ online Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam, which will also allow you to earn a bookkeeping certification to be a Certified Public Bookkeeper. You can take this exam from anywhere, as long as you have a reliable internet connection.

These exams test your knowledge of analyzing business transactions, payroll taxes, financial statements, and more.

Taking software-specific certifications can also enhance your credibility. These will help prove your expertise in specific bookkeeping and accounting software to clients.

Become a Bookkeeper From Home

As you can see, the steps of how to become a bookkeeper and creating your own virtual bookkeeping business are quite simple. Every bookkeeping skill you need to become a bookkeeper can be found in your home.

Maybe you enjoy the idea of being your own boss, or you’re still wondering if it’s for you. Check out this guide on how to start a bookkeeping business.


Professional bookkeepers are vital to their clients. Bookkeepers help clients manage finances, oversee the creation and filing of important financial reports, monitor financial transactions, and overall support the business’s financial health for the long term. 

If you’re interested in an analytical, business-minded career, becoming a bookkeeper (especially a virtual bookkeeper) might be the right choice. And with no requirements for special certification and education, there are almost no downsides to seeing if it’s a good fit. 

Suppose you’re looking for support with your everyday bookkeeping needs. In that case, whether you’re a freelance bookkeeper with several clients or simply looking to handle the bookkeeping for your own business, FreshBooks can help. Our cloud-based bookkeeping software solution is quick, efficient, and capable of saving you countless hours of administrative work. 

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FAQs on How to Become a Bookkeeper

More questions on how to become a bookkeeper? Here are some of the topic’s most frequently asked questions.

How long does it take to train as a bookkeeper?

Although you certainly can do formal bookkeeping training (e.g., online bookkeeping courses, relevant degree), many bookkeepers simply learn the ropes through on-the-job training. It usually takes about six months of practice to get the hang of it. 

Is a bookkeeping certificate worth it?

Possibly. Bookkeeping doesn’t require certification to practice, meaning you can teach yourself and start right away if you’re confident. However, more knowledge is always an asset, and a bookkeeping certificate can make your resume look more attractive, potentially helping you to gain clients.

Is bookkeeping a good side hustle?

Bookkeeping can be a great side hustle if you’re good at it and enjoy the work. Because you don’t need special certification to offer bookkeeping services, it’s simple to learn how to become a bookkeeper, and since you can easily run your own virtual bookkeeping service from home, there is a very low startup cost, meaning you’ll be profiting as soon as you start work.

What is a bookkeeper’s salary?

The average salary for a bookkeeper in the United States is about $43,000 per year. However, some bookkeepers can earn less (around $37,000) or more ($50,000 and above) depending on their bookkeeping skills, experience, location, niche, and the quality of their clients.

Is bookkeeping a stressful job?

Bookkeeping can be a stressful job, but it doesn’t have to be. There are high stakes when managing a business’s financial statements, which can lead to stress. However, if you have a rigorous organizational system and a solid knowledge of rules and regulations, it can be straightforward and easily manageable. Remote bookkeeping jobs also tend to be less stressful.

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