Chapter 4

What types of bookkeeper are there?

With their variety of skills and tasks, bookkeepers come in many shapes and sizes. You may even be one and not know it.

Bookkeeper roles

Bookkeepers can serve a wide range of functions, from standard data entry to advising on business strategy. They come from all walks of life too.

Here are some of the types of bookkeepers that keep businesses running today:

Unofficial ‘kitchen table’ bookkeeper

This might be the small business owner, their spouse, partner or family member. Or it may be someone with another role in the business who ends up working on the accounts by default. They’re doing the basic tasks of data entry, bank reconciliation, invoicing, payments, and filing the paperwork for the accountant. They’re probably self-taught.

Sole trader

This is a one-person bookkeeping firm. They may have started out as a kitchen table bookkeeper and loved it, or maybe they left a big firm. Now they’ve set up business and taken on a few clients of their own through referrals from friends, colleagues and other people who’ve heard they’re bookkeeping. They’re likely to have some training and certification.

Bookkeeping practice

Just as there are accounting firms, so there are bookkeeping firms. They often sell off-the-shelf service packages ranging from basic bookkeeping, all the way up to strategic advice.

Department in accountancy firm

Some accounting firms have a bookkeeping department that keeps your accounts up to date and produces monthly reports. These people may also be called accounting technicians.

In-house bookkeeper

These bookkeepers work in a business doing the full spectrum of bookkeeping duties. They often report directly to the owner (or management) and they may work with an external accountant to deliver all of the business’s accounting needs.

Virtual bookkeeper

Virtual bookkeepers deliver their service remotely by using online accounting software and meeting mostly via video conference. Doing business this way allows them to keep their prices down. They might be a sole trader, inside a practice, or be based offshore as an outsourced service.

Bookkeepers are generally good with people. They like breaking down concepts such as finance and tax so that any business owner can understand them. They’re also interesting characters. Meet some of them in our series of accountant and bookkeeper stories. You can also read more about a bookkeeper’s main jobs, and how they’re done in our guide How to do bookkeeping.


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.

What is bookkeeping?

Whether you’re bookkeeping for a family business, or planning a career in it – this is a good place to start learning.

  1. Introduction to bookkeeping

    What does bookkeeping involve? What’s the end product? And how does it compare to accounting? We take a look.

  2. Double-entry bookkeeping explained

    With double-entry bookkeeping, you create two accounting entries for each of your business transactions. Find out why.

  3. What does a bookkeeper do?

    Keeping the books is just one of the tasks modern bookkeepers might handle. Here’s a breakdown of bookkeeping duties.

  4. What types of bookkeeper are there?

    With their variety of skills and tasks, bookkeepers come in many shapes and sizes. You may even be one and not know it.

Download the guide about bookkeeping

Find out what bookkeepers do, and get an intro to double-entry bookkeeping. Fill out the form to receive the guide as a PDF.

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