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chapter one of six

How to become a bookkeeper

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You’ll need some training and certification to become a professional bookkeeper. It's also a good idea to check out local government requirements for setting up a bookkeeping business.

What qualifications do you need to become a bookkeeper?

Some people get their first bookkeeping role with a secondary 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.

What training can you get?

Courses are available through technical colleges and universities. There are online courses where you can learn the basics of bookkeeping. 

Certification and training through institutes and associations

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

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has a range of bookkeeping qualifications, with the highest certificate allowing the bookkeeper to use the AATQB letters after their name. Once you’ve achieved that level, you can apply to become an AAT licensed bookkeeper so you’re licensed to offer services.

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.

Check out Xero learning resources.

Key skills to become a top bookkeeper

Beyond your bookkeeping training there are some other crucial skills 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.

Chapter 2: Bookkeeping from home is an option

Running a bookkeeping business from your home can be a great option. Read how it could work for you.

Read next chapter

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A guide to help you work through the big decisions around accreditation, services to offer, fees to charge, and how to find clients.

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