Chapter 5

Creating your business plan

It’s time to get things down on paper. Your business plan is vital to reality checking all those ideas you have.

What to do on day zero

If you already know what you want to be called, lock down the name and register the URL. Now take some time to see what’s working for other bookkeepers. Find the ones in your area and check out their websites – plus their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles – to see what makes them tick. How do they speak to the market? What services do they offer? How much do they charge? Use this research to help start the plan for your bookkeeping business.

But what if I already know the plan?

It’s great if you already know how you’re going to get started, but it’s still important to write everything down. For one thing, you’ll want to record all your golden ideas before they’re forgotten. Plus the writing process will help you interrogate those ideas.

Putting them on a timeline, costing them out, and fitting them around each other might reveal a thing or two. Perhaps some assumptions will need to be rethought, or some ideas will have to be skipped in favour of others. It’s a great way to organise your thinking.

Start with a working one-pager

The key to a business plan is to start out simple, and build on it as you go. Begin with a few headings and bullet points that map out your vision, goals, milestones and predictions.

Don’t let it get out of hand or bog you down. That’s not what a business plan is for. It’s supposed to help you get started. So set yourself a target of producing a one page plan to start.

Choose your words carefully

Decide how you’re going to talk about your business, and which words you’ll use. It’ll be helpful in settling on a value proposition and relating to clients. You can use your chosen terms in your elevator pitch, on your website, in blurbs about your business – and in your business plan.

Sections for a one-page business plan

1. Value proposition: Explain why clients will be better off with you.

2. The problem you’re solving: Describe the status quo and say why it’s not ideal.

3. Target market and competition: Profile the clients you want, and the bookkeeping solutions they use now.

4. Sales and marketing: Show how you’ll reach your target market, and what you’ll say to them.

5. Budget and sales: Work out your costs and predict how much you can earn over the first couple of years.

6. Milestones: Identify all the things that need to happen and map them against a timeline.

7. The team: Identify the people that will be involved (including consultants) and outline their roles.

8. Funding: Show how you’ll bankroll the business, especially as you wait for fees to start rolling in.

9. Contingency plan: What will you do if your cash flow isn’t what you budgeted?

You may eventually draw up a longer business plan, or you may stick with a short one. It depends on your working style, and the level of risk you’re taking on. Your plan will probably be more detailed if you’re taking on a lot of debt.

You can download a copy of our one-page or multi-page business plan template.

Staying alive

Once you’ve got your plan nailed down, remember you really don’t. You should treat your plan as a living document and keep tweaking it as things evolve. That’s another reason why it’s good to have a short plan, which you’re much more likely to update as you go. Try to be agile and open to change.

The discipline of maintaining your business plan will help you:

  • discover and solve problems – putting things in black and white will show up holes in your thinking.
  • get feedback from others – you can share your plan to get feedback from trusted advisors.
  • go for more finance – an up-to-date business plan (and budget) means you’re always ready to apply for loans.
  • guide growth – regular focus on the big picture will help you make strategic decisions rather than instinctive ones.

Have a succession plan

You will also need a succession plan. What will happen when you step away from the business? Will you sell it? Who to? A family member, a staff member, or someone on the open market?

A good succession plan will make sure the business can survive and thrive without you. That it will perform for its clients and its new owners. And it should give you the flexibility to step away from the business at short notice, if required or desired.


Xero does not provide accounting, tax, business or legal advice. This guide has been provided for information purposes only. You should consult your own professional advisors for advice directly relating to your business or before taking action in relation to any of the content provided.

Starting a bookkeeping business

Work through the big decisions around accreditation, services to offer, fees to charge, and how to find clients.

  1. How to become a bookkeeper

    You’ll need some training and certification to become a professional bookkeeper. Find out where this is available.

  2. Bookkeeping from home

    With a foundation of knowledge, skills and experience, take the next steps in setting up as a bookkeeper.

  3. What services will you offer?

    You need to nail down what services you’ll offer, who to, and how. Don’t promise more than you’re able to deliver.

  4. Niche and virtual bookkeeping businesses

    Designing your bookkeeping business around a specific type of client or your strengths can be a successful way to go.

  5. Creating your business plan

    It’s time to get things down on paper. Your business plan is vital to reality checking all those ideas you have.

  6. Pricing and charging

    How do you walk the line between profitable for you and affordable for your clients? And help clients budget?

  7. Marketing your bookkeeping business

    You might deliver an awesome service at a great price, but what if no one knows? Let’s look at marketing your services.

Download the bookkeeping business guide

A guide to help you work through the big decisions around starting a bookkeeping business. Fill out the form to receive the guide as a PDF.

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Access Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.