Since bookkeepers do not normally have advanced degrees, it can be difficult to advance professionally when employed at an organization. As a result, independent bookkeepers can usually earn higher salaries than those working for a company. Salaries can also vary depending on the location of the bookkeeper in the United States.
Entry-Level or Start-Ups
If you are just starting out as an independent bookkeeper, you will likely not be able to charge high prices. This is because you may lack the experience of other more seasoned independent bookkeepers in your local area. However, if you have a proven track record working as a bookkeeper for another organization before becoming independent, you will be able to charge more. Entry-level independent bookkeepers typically charge by the hour.
If you are an experienced independent bookkeeper with more than one satisfied client, you will be able to charge more for your services than some of your less-experienced competitors. While you can charge by the hour, it is common for more-experienced professionals to charge a set rate, or flat fee, for keeping a business’ books. With steady clients, this setup allows you to make a set amount of money each year.
Hourly National Average
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles wage estimates for many different industries and occupations, including bookkeepers. As of July 2011, the last update to this information was in May 2010. All salary information is current as of that update. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average hourly salary for independent bookkeepers as $16.99. As an independent bookkeeper, jobs are done on a per-project basis, which means your number of hours worked varies each week.
Yearly National Average
Annual salaries have also been compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of July 2011, the last update to this information was in May 2010. All salary information is current as of that update. For a more-experienced independent bookkeeper, the average annual salary is listed as $35,340. More-successful independent bookkeepers can make much more per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the salary range going as high as $51,470 annually. Since independent bookkeepers can work as much or little as they want, this average may not be accurate for the number of hours you intend to work.
Wage Differences by State
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the Washington, D.C., area as the top-paying locale for bookkeepers. The average annual salary in D.C. is $48,470. In Connecticut the average is $40,490, with Alaska showing an average of only $40 lower. The other two top-paying states are Maryland, with an average of $39,870; and California, with an average of $39,820. Some of the lowest-paying states include Montana, Iowa, South Dakota and West Virginia. In the lowest-paying states, the average salary range is $22,580 to $31,190. (All figures are as of May 2010).