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How to Become an Independent Bookkeeper

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Independent bookkeepers provide financial record maintenance services for large and small businesses. Bookkeepers typically track common business components such as income and expenses, sales and accounts receivable and payroll. A capable bookkeeper can help a prospering business owner keep track of his growing company, or she can track financial operations for a struggling company owner seeking to run his business more economically. A bookkeeper frequently provides the company's certified public accountant with regularly updated reports that help the accountant chart a financial course for the business.

Complete your certified bookkeeper designation. Obtain your certified bookkeeper credential from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. Ensure you meet the certification prerequisites; these include two or more years of bookkeeping work experience and successful completion of a four-part test. Confirm your adherence to the bookkeeping code of ethics. Prepare to complete continuing education courses every three years.

Create an appropriate business entity. Select a business format with informed advice from a certified public accountant. Consider a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, S-corporation or general corporation. Ask your accountant about the advantages and disadvantages of each business structure, especially for a service-focused business.

Complete your business registration process. Obtain a business license at your county or city clerk's office, and ask if you need a permit to operate your bookkeeping business in that jurisdiction. Speak with a commercial insurance agent about professional liability insurance. Call your state's Department of Revenue about your service business' need for a sales tax license (see Resources).

Purchase versatile bookkeeping software. Review current versions of small business bookkeeping and accounting software. Compare features, prices and applicability for varied business types and sizes. Consider each package's suitability for retail, service and production-based companies. Purchase the program that best meets your potential clients' needs (see Resources).

Advertise your services to local businesses. Place a concisely worded ad in the “Services” section of your city's newspaper. Appeal to small business owners who require bookkeeping services but operate within budget constraints. Develop affordable rates for different service levels.

Market through your city's Chamber of Commerce. Join your city's Chamber of Commerce, and use every opportunity to meet fellow business owners. Attend business mixers regularly, staff a table at the chamber's Business Expo and meet members via scheduled appointments. Give each member your professional resume containing your bookkeeping credentials and services you are qualified to provide (see Resources).

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

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