Chapter 1

How to become a bookkeeper

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

What qualifications do you need to become a bookkeeper?

Some people get their first bookkeeping role with a high school qualification, then learn everything else on the job. But it certainly helps to get further education. A degree isn‘t required. Most bookkeeping qualifications are at diploma or certificate level.

Training and certification

Courses are available through private tertiary education providers and industry associations. There are online courses where you can learn the basics of bookkeeping.

The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) is the largest bookkeeping institution in the world and offers certificate and diploma courses through accredited providers.

Learning the technology side

Software will improve your efficiency and reporting capabilities so many clients will expect you to use it. If you plan to learn a particular software package, find one that provides good learning resources and certification.

As an extra tip, look for software that is commonly used by the types of clients you want to work with. Some types of software are more suited to certain industries.

Key skills to become a top bookkeeper

Beyond your bookkeeping training there are some other crucial skills you should have. You’ll need:

  • numerical accuracy and attention to detail – you’re being employed to keep things tidier than the business owner can
  • an analytical mind – you enjoy solving problems and persist in getting an answer
  • strong communication skills – you need to be able to explain things simply to the business owner and gain their trust and confidence
  • good organisation and multitasking skills – if you have your own business, you’ll have more than one client on the go and you’ll need to juggle regular tasks with unexpected requests
  • strong computer skills and a willingness to keep learning – software and apps keep improving and you need to stay on top of things in order to understand what can best help your employer’s or client’s business

What do you need to set up your own bookkeeping business?

To get yourself to the stage where you’re ready to start your own business, a combination of education, certification, and mastery of the work tools are a good foundation. And most clients are going to want to see that you have some experience, including endorsement from business owners like themselves. On top of that, a desire to help others run their business well is a sound driver for starting a bookkeeping business.

You don’t need accounting qualifications but some level of knowledge can’t hurt, especially when you’re often the messenger between the business owner and their accountant.


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.

Start using Xero for free

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