Running your own bookkeeping firm offers more flexibility and control than you can get working for an employer. You also have to set up an office, find clients, manage your time, and deal with countless other small tasks. If you’re ready to make the jump from an in-house bookkeeping position to starting your own practice, here are some points to think about as you begin this journey.
Even if you have a host of experience, you may want to consider certification. Certifications show your clients that you have extensive training, and it helps to reassure them that they can trust you with their books. Consider applying for certification with some of the following organizations:
- Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada: To become a certified IPBC member, you need to score at 80% or higher on the certification exam. You also need at least four years of bookkeeping experience and a letter of recommendation from a previous employer, client, or accountant. That makes this certification ideal for people who already have experience under their belt. If you’re still gaining experience, you can join this organization, at one of the non-certified tiers and work your way up.
- The Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping: To earn IPBC certification, you need to complete at least nine college-level classes, but if you already have at least five years of experience, you may be able to waive part of this requirement. The certification level varies based on your experience. Student Members are taking courses and building experience. Associate Members have at least five years of experience but are still working on the educational requirements. Certified Bookkeepers have completed all the courses and have at least three years of experience.
- Software Specific Certifications: In addition to traditional certification options, you may want to look into certifications that are tied to specific types of accounting software. For instance, the QuickBooks ProAdvisor Program offers online courses and training, and you can take certification exams for free.
Choose Your Work Space
When you’re launching your own practice, you need a productive and comfortable work space. Eventually, you may want to rent a standalone office, but while you’re building your client list, a home office can be ideal. Alternatively, take a hybrid approach by combining a home office and a shared office space. A shared space gives you access to amenities such as conference rooms, copy machines, and potentially even a receptionist.
Find Out If You Need to Register Your Business
As a sole proprietor, you usually don’t need to register if you operate the business under your own name. But, if you want to name your company something fun, you may be required to register a business name. The rules vary from province to province, so check the requirements in your area.
Create a Website
In a lot of situations, your web presence can make or break your business, and you may want to create a website. Your website acts as a digital brochure, and it’s an easy way to show prospective clients your offerings and your prices. You can also use your website to detail your experience, list your certifications, and share testimonials from former employers or clients.
Network to Find Clients
With the right approach, you can optimize your website to increase traffic, but you’re probably more likely to find clients through networking. Talk with your personal and professional contacts to see if they know anyone who needs a bookkeeper. Many businesses hire based on referrals, so word-of-mouth advertising can be a great first step.
Then, you may want to try cold calling. Simply, pick up the phone and call businesses in your area. Consider focusing on small businesses that are unlikely to have an in-house team. Let them know about your services and refer them to your website to learn more.
Market Your Services on LinkedIn
To cast a wider net, consider networking online with LinkedIn, a social media platform primarily used for business purposes. When you sign up, you can sync your contacts from your email and social media accounts. Typically, this list consists of your friends and former colleagues, but if they own businesses, they may be interested in your bookkeeping services.
Then, you can make connections with friends-of-friends or other people who are tangentially connected to your network. To let them know what you do, just fill out your profile or publish blogs on the platform. You may also want to search for business owners to add to your network. When you do that, reach out to them with a custom message explaining what you do and how you can help them.
Ideally, you should have set marketing goals every day until you secure enough clients to keep busy. For instance, you may want to commit to making x number of phone calls or sending x number of messages every day.
Launching your own business takes a lot of hard work, but you can do it. Bolster your experience with certifications. Then, gather positive comments from your previous employers to use as testimonials on your website, and let people know about your services by talking with friends, making a website, and networking online. One client at a time, you can build a successful bookkeeping firm.