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As a stay at home parent myself, I’m really happy to be able to share this interview with Kate, a SAHM who’s been able to start and build her own business and is now able to work from home around her kids and still keep a great work and family balance.
If you’re looking for ways to work from home, this is a great example of a business that’s possible to learn and grow in your own time, around your existing commitments, that is scalable from providing a little extra income to a full time wage equivalent.
Kate tells us about what she’s doing, how she got started, and has some practical and valuable advice for anyone also wanting to start their own home business.
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Making Money As A Bookkeeper – Interview With Kate From Heritage Business Services
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your blog
I’m Kate, a mostly Stay-At-Home-Mom but also a virtual bookkeeper. I am the proud wife of a (hot) Navy Fighter Pilot and mom to three young kids very close in age (less than 3 years between the first and third, yikes!). I love American college football, my alma mater Baylor University, and leading a children’s choir at my church teaching young voices to sing the praises to the Lord.
In the last few months, so many people have asked about how to become a virtual bookkeeper that I first started a FaceBook Group called Bookkeeping Side Hustle Group. Even that platform eventually got too clunky to manage answering everyone’s questions, so I tossed up some helpful resources on a blog attached to my business website. It is called the Bookkeeping Side Hustle Blog, and it is a great place to quickly learn if this sort of work would be a good fit for you.
What’s your ‘money maker’ and what does it involve?
As I already mentioned, I am a virtual bookkeeper for small businesses. With all the improvements in cloud-based technology, the back-office task of bookkeeping can now be outsourced to freelance contractors like me instead of a small business owner having to hire someone to keep the books (and usually answer the phones, and schedule appointments, and open the office, etc).
I am a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor. Each month I serve my clients by categorizing their business transactions, reconciling their bank statements, providing them with monthly financial statements and interpret and advise them on their business finances.
How long have you been doing it & why did you start?
I started learning how to do this in May 2017, and found my first client two months later in July 2017. I started at that particular time because I knew that in the fall of 2017 I would have my first “kid-free” time in several years as my youngest child was going to be starting pre-school 3 mornings a week. I wanted to be a good steward of those upcoming few hours a week without children, and so as I looked ahead a few months I decided to use my nature as a (very-early) morning person to study what I needed to be able to get that first client.
I personally needed training on how to build this business because, though I have an MBA, I was not familiar with the software programs needed to serve clients as a virtual bookkeeper. I also was just a bit rusty on my marketing skills. This business can be learned without taking the course I took, though, and that is why I created the Bookkeeping Side Hustle Facebook Group and the Bookkeeping Side Hustle Blog. I want to help other people take the leap into this business because it has been such a blessing to me and my family.
How much money is it possible to make?
So, the beauty of having your own virtual bookkeeping business is that you can use a value-pricing model where you have a set monthly fee rather than an hourly rate. Once your client agrees on a rate then you get to use all the features of the online products to make your job continually easier and easier. You can “train” your software programs.
So each month you know that client’s business better and you’ve set up “rules” and “recurring transactions” and such and you are able to complete your work in less time. Your client is happy because they feel they are paying you a fair price for something that often loathe doing and also are not really trained to do. You are happy because your hard-earned knowledge about efficiency has increased your implicit hourly rate.
I do have a subcontract gig for a great friend who has a big bookkeeping business. He pays me $25 an hour, that is as low as I would work for, but I really like working for him because I learn a lot from him and we love to “talk business”. He is sort of my mentor, so I often feel like I get more out of our professional relationship than he gets from me for the work he pays me for. For my own clients, I try to keep my pricing such that it equates to around the $75 per hour range. Some months might require more work. Some less. It kind of evens out.
I can say from direct knowledge of people actually doing this that this line of work can DEFINITELY become a full-time, wage replacing job, if you want it to. It takes work. Lots of networking in the early days to get clients. But eventually, for people who have large operations and are GOOD at their job, it almost seems like their businesses eventually just grows from referrals. This business is not a get-rich quick scheme.
This job can also work for people who don’t want to have their own business, but want to work for an accounting or bookkeeping firm.
What’s your favourite thing about it?
There are many things I like about this business. I’ll name a few, in no particular order.
1) I get to really help small businesses. The typical entrepreneur is built a certain way. She is an excellent salesman or he is a great creator or she is great at a technical skill. But they are more often than not terrible at bookkeeping! And they don’t like it one bit! They know it. Their husband or wife knows it. Their tax accountant knows it. To take this task off of their plate and to give them a clear picture of their business finances means that I am really providing a valuable service.
2) The job is portable. I’m a military spouse. Before we had children and decided that I should be home with them while they are young, I had to resign from two different positions that I loved because of moves required by the military.
After that second time, I was pretty devastated and decided at that time that I didn’t want to have to do that again. So, even on the days that I don’t just adore bookkeeping (and there are some days like that), I remember that I also am a virtual business owner and that keeps me motivated to keep going.
3) The hours are very flexible and it can be scaled at any rate that I want. I am always up early in the morning so much of my work can be done then. And I work while my youngest is at pre-school 3 mornings a week. Yes, I do need to be available to communicate with clients, but even that can largely be done via email. Overall, the size of my business is a great fit for my family right now. I have 5 clients, with a goal of having 7 by the end of 2019. I have no doubt that I could grow faster than that if I wanted to and really hit the marketing hard, but for me, I know what I want our overall family life to look like, and so I get to build my business around our overall family calendar.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge I have found is onboarding new clients. Very rarely does a client come to you with a “clean” set of books. Usually they have tried to do it themselves or they are firing a previous bookkeeper that didn’t know what they were doing. That initial clean-up period can be a big puzzle.
I’m not scared of the puzzle, but it is difficult to price that part of the proposals because sometimes you can’t tell how messed up something is until you really dive into it. So for me, since I’m deliberately growing my business slowly, I never take on more than one new client at a time. Not everyone has that luxury, though, so just know that that intro period with any new client is a struggle until you get things running smoothly.
Is there any advice you’d give to someone wanting to try it?
Since I communicate with A LOT of people who are considering this business/side-hustle, one thing I usually recommend to quickly find out if you are suited for this line of work would be to become certified in a cloud-accounting software like QuickBooks Online or Xero. It is free to become certified. And I have a few guides on how to get those certifications on my blog.
Those certifications certainly do not teach you everything you need to know to be a virtual bookkeeper, but I think that if you find you are liking the software and the sort of work and the online communities you’ll find as you learn the programs, then you’ll know if you should keep pursuing this path.
Where can we find you?
And if you or someone you know needs a bookkeeper, come find me at Heritage Business Services, I’m looking for a couple more clients this year!
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