The Freelance Bookkeeper’s Credentials

bookkeeper's-credentialsOne of the most common questions I hear is about what are the successful freelance bookkeeper's credentials? How do I know if I qualify?

The real answer to that question has more to do with the type of freelance business you want to build. But for the purposes of this article, we will assume that you are focusing on handling the month-to-month bookkeeping of your clients as their sole bookkeeper.

You've Got Choices

I've found that most freelance bookkeepers are primarily concerned with the technical skills needed to provide quality service. Of course, that is a good place to start.

So, if you're starting from zero, the bookkeeper's credentials start academically. Here are a few choices to consider:

the basics you need may be available locally in a classroom setting. Check a nearby community college or continuing education programs to see if there are any live classes offered for bookkeeping certificate programs.

If that is not available in your area, or you can't fit classroom training into your schedule, you may want to consider self-study training courses available online. Penn Foster Career School offers a couple of choices for self-paced training that are good quality.  You can either get a Certificate in Accounting or take their Bookkeeping program.

Universal Accounting's Professional Bookkeeper training is another option.
This training is a self-study program that takes the traditional paper-and-pencil approach. It is a course that centers on small business bookkeeping, designed and taught by a CPA. It also includes a module on practical steps for starting your freelance business.

Are You Certifiable?

If you already have a good understanding of double-entry bookkeeping, but want the credibility (and confidence) that comes with a few letters to add after your name…

AIPB's Certified Bookkeeper training which provides the CB (Certified Bookkeeper) certification is probably your most economical and recognized option for a professional bookkeeping designation. This is a thorough self-study, traditional debits-and-credits approach from the oldest industry association for our profession. I suggest that you pursue this after you already have a good, basic understanding of bookkeeping under your belt. You will also need some on-the-job experience in order to qualify for the certification.

NACPB's Certified Professional Bookkeeper training provides the CPB (Certified Public Bookkeeper) designation. This is another self-study training option geared toward those who wish to start their own bookkeeping business, created by a CPA.

Of course, the best training, after you have the academics down, is real-world experience. But you can only get that kind of “training” by actually doing client work.

There are a variety of ways to get that hands-on experience, which range from offering to do the books for a friend or two who own businesses, to subcontracting from an established freelance bookkeeper, to working directly for an accounting firm. Working as an accounting temp may also give you the opportunity for varied experience, if you can land gigs with small businesses. (Experience with large corporations will be of little help in running your freelance bookkeeping business.)

It goes without saying here (though I'm saying it), that you should walk your talk. Meaning, you will also want to set up your own books and keep good financial records so you can apply what you've been learning AND see what it's like to be the business owner! Bookkeeper's credentials, while important, won't build the bond that empathy and knowing how it feels to be your client will.

Finally, when you've got the bookkeeping principles and practices firmly ingrained, there will be one other major technical learning curve to tackle in the freelance bookkeeping puzzle. You must learn to use QuickBooks. The vast majority of small businesses use this software, and you will need to learn to use it correctly and well. Just knowing accounting principles does not mean you know how to use this “user-friendly” software accurately.

There are many bookkeepers (as well as CPAs!) who think they can just “fake it” with QuickBooks. That is certainly not the case, and those who do, often cause their clients frustrating problems rather than providing quality services.

So in my next article we'll tackle this topic – Which QuickBooks credentials and training do freelance bookkeepers REALLY need?

In the meantime, if you need to brush up on your bookkeeping know-how, or start pursuing a certification program, for credibility and confidence before starting your business (or to enhance your existing services), then check out the options above and take action this week. Then let us hear about your success!

Remember, in tough economic times, small business actually need clean books more than they do in fat economic times. Opportunities abound right now for qualified freelance bookkeepers.



Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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49 Responses to “The Freelance Bookkeeper’s Credentials”

  • DL Brigman on March 24, 2009

    As a Certified Bookkeeper, I completely agree that certifications are extremely important.
    I have had no experience with Universal Accounting. Therefore, I will not comment.
    I have had dealings with NACPB that left a very bad taste in my mouth. I do not find them to be very reputable. I also don’t agree with open-book exams. All that proves to me is you have the ability to read and pay money.
    AIPB is great. I absolutely LOVE them and have faith in their certification process. Final exams are not open book. They are completed at prometric centers. Furthermore, you must have more experience to gain their certification.
    In my own very humble opinion – AIPB is a very highly respected organization and the best bang for your buck.

  • Diana on March 25, 2009

    That’s wonderful to hear good things about AIPB! I looked into them a couple of years ago and have asked around since and haven’t found someone who interacted witht them directly. Still, most advice I get is to be careful with “correspondence” certifications. Probably good advice, but I don’t have the right schedule or the money to go the community college route.
    I have been a member of the AIPB for two years now and I do really appreciate their newsletter.
    I only have on-the-job training and it has been really great. I’ve learned a lot. But for those jobs where I have to clean up someone else’s mess it’s hard for me to understand the accounting principles they had in mind when I find a journal entry that’s not connected to a source document. I also need more expertise in analyzing financial reports. I’m hoping an academic foundation will help with that.
    Thanks for the comments!

  • kathy on March 26, 2009

    I am in agreement with having certificates, education, and job experience. I have learned the most form working free lance at many different types of businesses. I would have never picked everything up in a classroom. However, I do believe in life long education. My weakest point in the bookkeeping world is also analyzing financial reports. In this economy I am getting more and more requests for this. I am now searching for some classes in this particular area.

  • Chris on March 27, 2009


    I’m a CMA and a CFM, and will be starting my own bookkeeping business after tax season is over. Analyzing financial reports is actually a specialty of mine, so I thought about using that as a niche. What is it your clients are asking for in the analysis? Are they looking for you to explain the financials, or do they want some type of trending or ratio analysis?

    Just curious. Like I said, I am trying to find a niche beyond the bookkeeping, so any ideas are helpful.

  • Kimberly on April 5, 2009

    Great article Gabrielle! I purchased Universal Accounting a few years back and I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say I’m still not finished with it! Overall it’s a good course to learn accounting, however I had a pretty good understanding of accounting when I purchased it. I thought it was more geared to telling me how to start a bookkeeping business. There is a very small section on it but don’t feel it is enough information.

    I also was a member with AIPB and am looking to join again. I also have a few of their course books and am looking at some point to get certified through them.

    Does anyone know of someone, something that will give you a guide to starting a freelance bookkeeping business?

  • Gabrielle on April 7, 2009

    Hi everyone! Great comments. I always appreciate hearing about your experiences, questions and challenges. The synergy is great!


    Yes, in this economy and based on a recent survey done by Intuit (the makers of QuickBooks software), we will be called on by small business owners more and more for guidance in understanding their financial reports. That’s great news! But it also means we have to be sure we are understanding them well too.


    Yes, specializing in the area of financial analysis will be helpful to small business owners, since they are now more concerned in using their financial information to tighten up their business. Just remember to stay in simple, practical terms they can understand and use. They want to take action based on what they can learn from their financial information (and they are SO hungry to have someone there to advise them). This traditionally has been more the role of CPAs, but the smaller businesses will look to us for that advice as well because we are right there in the trenches with them in their business. It is a very valuable service we can provide (and build into our rates).


    Yes, Universal Accounting’s course primarily teachees the bookkeeping mechanics, but one module surrounds the basics of going freelance. It’s a good foundation, but I agree more is needed.

    That’s why I recently co-authored a book on the subject (available at Amazon) called, “How to Start a Successful Home-Based Freelance Bookkeeping and Tax Preparation Business” You will find helpful information there as well.

    In the coming months I also will be putting together additional helpful information on the specific different aspects of running a freelance business. Most available information (including the one mentioned above) tend to provide “wide and shallow” info. I’d like to provide more detailed and deep resources. So do let me know about what kind of information you need most, and keep your eyes peeled for these new resources. You guys will be the first to hear about them! 🙂

  • Terri on April 25, 2009

    I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone comments. They have been very helpful. I have not pursued furthering my education as of yet, but now I have a good idea where to start. I myself had started a freelance bookkeeping business and was noticing I had a lack of knowledge in some prime areas. I started looking for alternative ways to broaden my knowledge due to being short on funds (single mom). The library only took me so far so I found a bookkeeping job with a CPA firm. It has been a GREAT alternative. Not only have they helped me in the areas I was lacking but also, I have had the opportunity to work with some very high end clientele as well as non-profit. They have offered to pay for schooling but I still would like to pursue freelance full time in the near future. So I have declined the offer. I was wondering how being a quickbook pro-adviser could help bring in clientele? Any thoughts or wisdom? Thanks!

  • […] 30 Apr 2009 at 11:03 pm | Department: Articles, Everything Else, Training In my previous article, The Freelance Bookkeeper’s Credentials, we discussed the training and certifications most often recommended for bookkeepers who gear their […]

  • Sheila Bodford on May 1, 2009

    I got my bookkeeping certification through Universal Accounting. I’m also as someone eles mention, in that I had already had enough high school, college, and work experience to where I already knew the basics anyway. And my real reason was to see if I could learn something about how to really go about starting your own bookkeeping business. Althought the course got me motivated in starting my businss, I fizzeled out when the clients were became far and few in between. I did not have anywhere to go to learn more about how to get and keep clients. So if you already know bookkeeping, I would not spend the extra money on taking that course. But for someone who needs to learn bookkeeping from scrach it is very user friendly and helpful.
    Someone once gave me a bit of advice about bookkeeping in businesses. Sadly they said that most businesses (especially the small businesses) only needed to know if they had money in their bank account. And while I listened to her advice. I became more clear to me that I needed to give businesses good reasons why bookkeepers were needed in their businesses. So that is also when I started looking at being able to explain what the numbers mean in the financial statement, cash flow, and business ratios to help managers and business owners make decisions about their businesses. So someone asked the question where to get such information on learning these type of things. If someone does know any good books or study programs let me know. So far I have thought about AIPB study course. I also went way backed to my old accounting college book and they did have a chapters on ratios and understanding financial statements.

  • Gabrielle on May 3, 2009


    Working for a CPA is fantastic experience – smart move! If you like working with non-profits, that is certainly a niche that has a BIG need for competent bookkeepers.

    Regarding becoming a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, you’ll want to check out the April article Consulting and The Freelance Bookkeeper.

    In it, I give you some more food for thought about becoming a consultant. But specifically, you asked how becomging a ProAdvisor helps bring in clients.

    The short and most immediate answer is that once you are certified, Intuit adds you to their ProAdvisor database, where potential clients can (and do) find you based on your geographical location (among other criteria). Intuit also heavy promotes this database. So you will get calls as a result. But certification also allows you to use the ProAdvisor logo on your marketing materials, as well as gives you credibility (and something to talk about) when talking about what you do with prospects.

    Those are just some of the ways the ProAdvisor program helps you grow your business. I highly recommend it.

    Hope that helps.

  • Gabrielle on May 3, 2009


    You bring up a GREAT point! Many, many small businesses do not pay attention to their financial reports except when it comes time to pay taxes. But then it’s too late to use them to manage their business.

    So yes, part of our value to our clients is to show them how their financial reports help them make their business more profitable.

    That being said, I suggest that you don’t get too technical about the numbers with your clients (such as with ratios) unless the client readily understands them. That is what a lot of CPAs do, and it is like they are speaking another language. If you, on the otherhand, can show you client in simple, easy-to-understand language what their numbers mean each month in practical terms, they won’t be able to live without you – especially in challenging economic times.

    Look for books on understanding financial reports for non-accountants to learn how to do this.

  • Wendy on November 9, 2009

    I have decided that I would like to get my bookkeeping certification and start my own freelance business, however in researching the best methods for getting this certification I have ended up very confused. I am interested in taking the course from Universal Accounting but worry that it will be a disappointment and it is a lot of money to purchase the program. I have been a full charge bookkeeper for 14 years for a construction company, now I am looking to expand my skills to benefit other areas. Does anyone have any advice about the Universal Accounting program and if it’s worth it or should I just stick to the selft study for AIPB? Or do I go through Gatlin Education Services and the local community college? I want a program that will leave me confident that I can handle the books for any type of small business. I am very confused as to the best approach and would appreciate any feedback.

  • Gabrielle on November 10, 2009


    If you have over 14 years of full-charge bookkeeping experience, you don’t need the Universal Accounting course. That course teaches basic bookkeeping from zero. The marketing / business establishment module is helpful, but you should not buy the whole course just for that one module.

    For certification so that you have confidence and can fill in any general knowledge gaps, my best suggestion is the AIPB Certified Bookkeeper designation. Additionally, you will, if you don’t already, need to be well versed in QuickBooks. So I highly recommend that you get certified as a ProAdvisor too.

    As far as being able to handle bookkeeping for all types of businesses, my best advice is to specialize instead in the businesses you are already familiar with, such as construction. Each business type has it’s own unique situations and you will be far more valuable and be able to charge higher rates as a specialist than you can as a generalist.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take on clients in industries that you are not familiar with, but you will need to educate yourself to do right by them. It is far easier (and more profitable) to build up your reputation and confidence by using the experience and expertise that you already have.

    Focus on your strengths!

  • Michael on January 21, 2010

    There is alot more to this story but this is the jist of it. I recently approached a bookkeeper after being refered to them through a Quickbooks Advisor hyperlink. I have owned a small construction company for two years and have done no bookkeeping and have not payed my taxes. I thought it would probably be in my best interest to hire a professional since I have no bookkeeping or accounting experience. I sat down with the owner of the company, told her my story and she assured me she was very good at clean up work and her prices were fair. She said it would take roughly one day to complete. I figured I should budget for two. It has now been over two months, my Quickbooks file is incomplete and seems to be inaccurate. I have paid $1,150.00. My bookkeeper has offered to finish up my bookkeeping through 2009 for free, but she can’t get to it for another two weeks. My quesetion is what action can I take. Should I continue to let her “fix” my books and lose another two weeks time and risk them being inaccurate or do I move on to another bookkeeper. HELP!

    • Gabrielle on January 25, 2010


      As you say, it sounds like there is a lot more to this story than is mentioned here. The fact that you have not done any bookkeeping for two years tells me that it is a huge job and would wonder about the availability of the details needed to complete an accurate set of books. I do believe that hiring a professional was the right choice, however, as I’m sure you can agree, not all bookkeepers are the same. In fact, you may find the article I wrote on my Smart Money Choices blog on how to hire a bookkeeper useful for future reference, if needed.

      You asked for advice as to whether you should stick with your present bookkeeper to complete the work needed or to go elsewhere. Since your current bookkeeper obviously underestimated how much work/time was involved to complete your work, and she has promised to complete the work for free, it does not sound like waiting a couple extra weeks will really make a substantial difference. Likely it will take more than that to find someone else and get the work done anyway.

      You mentioned that the work done so far appears to be inaccurate, yet you also mentioned that you have no bookkeeping or accounting experience yourself. Given that you have not yet filed your taxes for the past two years, I would expect that once the books are up to date, you will do so, with the help of a qualified tax accountant (CPA or Enrolled Agent). At that point in time, the accountant can assist you in any “correction” that may be needed to the books before preparing the tax returns. I do, however, suggest that you do not have the current bookkeeper prepare your tax returns (even if she is qualified to do so), since that will provide you some extra quality assurance.

      Hope that helps.

  • Earl on February 24, 2010

    Can anyone tell me anything about the Penn Foster bookkeeping program? Their cost is considerabley less than Universal.

  • April on June 22, 2010

    Earl, I just finished the diploma program in Bookkeeping at Penn Foster. At first, I thought it was going to be a gravy class because the tests are open book. Boy was I wrong! To say that the class is rigorous is an understatement.

    It starts off easy enough for the first couple of modules. And the excel and pc sections are pretty easy. But, in later modules you are taking all the cumulative knowledge and creating sets of books and financial statements and getting your multiple choice answers from their. So, if you don’t set up the books or create the statements correctly, you won’t come up with the right answer.

    The kicker is the course project final. I spent quite a bit of time on it. I managed to get a 100 on it, but the instructor told me that less than 1% are able to do so. *pats self on back*… it was HARD. But, I probably learned more during the project phase then in the rest of the class.

    The main drawback I see in the class is that it only teaches pen and paper bookkeeping. That is, of course, the most important thing to learn. If you know that, then you can apply that to any number of accounting software applications. However, I would have liked at least an overview of quickbooks.

    One perk of graduating is that I received, as part of my graduation module, the study guides to AIPB’s CB exam and a voucher so I can take the first test for free.

    As soon as I finished the bookkeeping course, I enrolled in the 1-year accounting certificate program. It does include an overview of quickbooks and peachtree, btw. They recently reconfigured it and it costs alot less. I highly recommend taking the bookkeeping course first. The next step is to actually take the CB exams and enroll in the ProAdvisor program.

    As far as cost is concerned, you really cannot beat PF. I put $10 down when I started the bookkeeping program and paid $47 a month. I made extra payments to pay it off on time, but did so when it was financially convenient to me. When I enrolled in the accounting program, I think I put down $39 dollars and pay $49 a month.

    I think the bookkeeping class is equivalent to Accounting Principles I and II. You would probably have to have it evaluated to transfer credits. However, the accounting classes are ACE certified credits. So, if a college accepts ACE credits, then your classes transfer. This would come in handy if you are pursuing an accounting bachelors degree. Currently, PF only offers Criminal Justice and Business Management(or administration, I can’t remember) bachelors degrees.

    So, to sum up, the bookkeeping course is a great way to learn pen and paper bookkeeping, but you need to learn QB on your own. The accounting certificate takes you to the next level and gives you a deeper understanding of accounting and the ability to drill down into financial statements and really speak the language of business. And the credits are transferable…and both of these courses are affordable for just about anybody.

    • Gabrielle on June 22, 2010

      Wow! Thanks April for sharing your in-depth experience with the Penn Foster training. That is very helpful for all who are considering.

      Thanks so much!

  • April on June 22, 2010

    No, thank you. I just added this blog to my favorites list.

  • Anj on October 8, 2010

    I am currently working as a bookkeeper. I have 3 years of experience. My goal is to become a CB and CPB as I want to open bookkeeping business in the future. I am confused whether to go with AIPB or NACPB. I know AIPB only offers CB where as NACPB offers both CB and CPB but NACPB’s requirement is same as AIPB’s requirements. I heard CPB weigh more. Shall I just go get AIPB certification or go thru NACPB for for CB certification and then CPB which one weighs more? any suggestions?

    • Gabrielle on October 10, 2010

      The CB designation has been around longer and is more recognized (within our industry). From a client perspective, they don’t generally know the difference, and certainly won’t know the difference between CB or CPB. They will only know that you have some kind of certification. So your decision should be based on which will give you more confidence in your true skill level to provide high quality services for your clients.

  • Nicole on February 6, 2011

    I’m in the same boat as Anj. I looking into getting a certification and not sure which association is best. I have about 8+ years exp. I currently work for a small CPA firm in Houston, TX. I have been steared away from alot of the bookkeeping process to focus on sales tax and payroll processing and quarterly payroll taxes.I know there are areas in bookkeeping process and mainly data entry that I’m clear on mostly the bascis such as debits/credits, and being able to read finacial statements.I do mostly after the fact bookkeeping since it is mainly for tax purposes. I would like more day to day processing to learn more. I also looking to being a Quickbooks ProAdvisor, because I use the program day in and day out. I already do some training for our current clients and new clients. Can you give me input on pursuing further education? I would like to work at home in future.

  • Gabrielle on February 9, 2011


    If you are looking to start your own freelance bookkeeping business, yes, you will need to fill in the technical gaps in your knowledge. Pursuing bookkeeper certification is one way to do that.

    I suggest you choose ONE of the available certifications. My best recommendation is for the CB designation through AIPB or if you want more in-depth education, take the Penn Foster training inclusive of the CB certification testing.

    As far as QuickBooks, yes, it is a great idea to join the ProAdvisor program and get certified at least in QuickBooks, but there are additional certifications available (for no additional charge) as well. You can go as deep as you’d like with QuickBooks.

    As far as working from home, if you plan on starting your own business, credentials will NOT bring you clients automatically. You need to learn how to set up a PROFESSIONAL business AND how to market your services. Being a freelance bookkeeper is not the same as working for an employer. There is much more involved than just knowing how to properly handle a company’s bookkeeping functions.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

  • Dawn on February 14, 2011

    Does anyone have any experience with the self-study books available through AIPB versus the online course through Gatlin Education? The outline of the online course looks like it follows the books almost verbatim. The online course is more expensive – is there a benefit to doing it through Gatlin?

    • Gabrielle on February 26, 2011

      I’m not 100% about this, but I believe that Gatlin uses the AIPB training materials, which is why they include the actual certification test as part of their program. As I understand it, the advantage with Gatlin is that you are getting “from scratch” training, and it is therefore, more comprehensive for something just starting out.

      If anyone has gone through this course and obtained your CB via this program, please correct any misstatements here. I have not done this program myself.

  • Narayana Devineni on March 12, 2011

    My education is High school. I learned accounting and MS

    Excel to bookkeeping level. Now I am learning QuickBooks

    Pro. Before attempting for certificate exams I want to

    work for Freelance Bookkeeper as assistant to learn

    practical work. Please advise how to get an assistant job.

  • Sunny on June 2, 2011

    Wow this is a very useful blog. I am in the same boat with most others who are commenting. I began reading in a very confused state but now after reading I feel I have a direction. It’s all so scary, Where to spend the money and for what.
    My question is NACPB talks about a Uniform Code Test. When I first read this I was very impressed, it sounds so official. Am I mistaken? What does it really mean?

    • Gabrielle on June 2, 2011

      Hi Sunny,

      The “Uniform Code Test” is just something created by NACPB for their own certification testing. The bookkeeping industry does not require state licensing (other than a local business license like any other business) or required to follow the same kinds of strict standards that CPAs are required to follow in line with the AICPA.

      There are two US trade associations for bookkeepers – the AIPB (American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers), which is a non-profit organization and has been around since 1987, and the NACPB (for freelancers) and NBA (for bookkeeping employees), which is about 5 years old and a for profit organization. The AIPB also has a certification program, which has also been around longer and is generally more recognized. There are other certifications, as well, as noted in the article above.

      Again, a bookkeeper is not required to have an accounting degree nor certification. Those credentials are more so that YOU can be sure that you have the adequate training to provide competent service to your clients.

  • Sunny on June 2, 2011

    I signed up for AIPB training today. Thank you for getting back to me. I’m also ordering your book. And I will be getting the Certification for Quick Books proadvisor.

  • Jane on December 17, 2011

    I just got a bachelor degree in accounting and have recently passed the CPA exam. I will start to work as an auditor for a CPA firm in January. I am interested in being a freelance accounting business. I have no work experience in either bookkeeping or tax preparation (I actually don’t have any work experience yet since I just graduated). I have been looking at Universal accounting and NACPB and not sure which one is better for me or whether there is something other than these two that will fit my needs better.

    I am kind of a booksmart person but lack experience. I can finish a program fairly fast but applying what I have learned to the real world will be a bigger concern for me. For example, I finished all four sections of the CPA exam within 4 months with high 80s but I am ashamed to say that I don’t know how to use the knowledge in my future freelance accounting business.

    What program or what approach will be a better fit for a person like me?

    Thank you.

    • Gabrielle on December 19, 2011

      Congratulations, Jane, on passing the CPA exam. I hear that is no small feat. As far as additional training, the only reason I can see for you to consider a program that adds letters after your name would be for credibility when marketing your services before you qualify to be a full-fledged CPA. You don’t need the actual technical knowledge, since you clearly have that. If you feel that your training has been weak on small business bookkeeping, then you might want to consider the Universal Accounting program, since that does give you hands on (paper and pencil) experience doing small business bookkeeping. But it is still “perfect world” academic learning.

      As you stated, what you need most is REAL WORLD EXPERIENCE! Working at the CPA firm (albeit as an auditor) will give you some eye-opening experience to see the gap between academic knowledge and what really goes on. 😉 So that is a good start. From there, my best suggestion is to start taking on a few clients “on the side” to get your feet wet. You could certainly take on the books of a service-based business without getting overwhelmed. The easiest way to find your first client (especially part-time) is to simply let your friends and family know that you want some freelance work to spread the word around. Word of mouth is the quickest free advertising! You might also consider asking for subcontracting/referral work from your CPA firm, if they have small clients that need seasonal year-end work or even those that they might turn away because of now being “worth it” for them. So there’s a few ideas for you.

      Point is, as you have already stated, you need to get hands-on experience in the real world. So focus on doing that and you will find your first few clients! 🙂

  • Jane on December 19, 2011

    Thank you so very much Gabrielle, for your great answer!

    I also wonder what kind of software I might need, if any, for freelance bookkeeping and tax preparation. Thanks.

    • Gabrielle on December 20, 2011


      You are very welcome.

      If you plan to serve businesses in the USA, you should use QuickBooks Accountant edition (most small businesses use QuickBooks) and for taxes you have many choices. For the years I was doing taxes (I decided to specialize on the consulting side of my business a few years back and dropped my tax services), I liked working with Intuit’s ProSeries the best. And of course, it integrates perfectly with QuickBooks.

  • Jane (Ayameko ) on December 21, 2011

    Thank you for your great advice! I actually just ordered a copy of proseries evaluation (2010 edition they offer for free). I am exploring the software and find it a great product. I also watched the vedio about the quickbook accountant edition in the link. It looks like a strong product.
    I am going to order your book “how to start a successful home-based freelance bookkeeping and tax preparation business” and learn more about starting an accounting practice.
    Thank you again Gabriellle, for helping me with my questions.

    • Gabrielle on December 22, 2011

      You are very welcome, Jane. And you will most certainly meet with success because you are taking swift ACTION! That is the part where most people get stuck. (They take in all the academic learning, but never take action to start using it!) Bravo!

      Please do check in and share your journey from time to time with us! We’re all encouraged when we see a fellow accounting professional growing her business no matter what. Thanks for sharing your next steps. 🙂

  • Ruby on February 10, 2012

    I am also confused as to what I should do. Currently I am going to school for Masters in Accounting and at same time I am taking CPA prep courses. I can sit for the CPA exams, however in order for me to get the license I need to have 2 year experience. I have no work experience at all. I have been just going to school to get it over with then work. Now I feel like I am stuck because everywhere I tried to apply for a job so I can start getting some experience and hands on training, everyone is like I need to have previous experience. I thought about getting certification in bookkeeping before going for CPA exams to see if that helps me get into a job, but not sure if that’s a good idea. I need guidance on what I should do…how can I get hands on experience to have better knowledge and understanding of the accounting world?

    • Gabrielle on February 13, 2012

      You are not alone Ruby. I have heard a lot lately from people who have plenty of education but no practical work experience. My best advice to you would be to apply possibly for temporary positions where your skill is important but you might not need a lot of experience to get started. You will also have to be willing to start at an entry-level job. Because education is important, it will help you, but your real learning will happen on the job. If you want to know whether or not having a bookkeeping certificate will help you get a job, when you apply for your next job, just ask them if that would be helpful, especially if they’re going to turn you down because you don’t have any real world experience.Hope that helps.

  • Karen on February 23, 2012

    Hi, I have no accounting experience or background but am looking to get into bookkeeping for various reasons. I already have a bachelor’s degree and professional experience in the publishing industry. My time and resources are limited (2 young kids), however, so I am looking at basic accounting training right now to try to get my foot in the door. I noticed that you mentioned Penn Foster, and it seems like a good program, but its limitation is that it does not include Quickbooks, which seems to be a requirement for getting any accounting job nowadays. On the Intuit site, there is a training bundle for nonaccountants that includes basic accounting principles plus Quickbooks 1 & 2.

    My question is, would I be better off skipping Penn Foster and AIPB, and just working toward a Quickbooks certification?

  • Karen on February 28, 2012

    Hi, I should add that I’m looking to break into bookkeeping at entry level and am wondering whether learning Quickbooks via the nonaccountant’s training program would be enough to get hired at entry level.

    Alternatively, is the Penn Foster program worth the time and money? Does anyone know the success rate of their Bookkeeping Diploma graduates?

    Any advice would be very much appreciated.Thanks!

    • Gabrielle on February 28, 2012

      hi Karen,

      My first question to you would be, are you just looking to find an entry-level bookkeeping job, or to start working as a freelance bookkeeper?

      Since you have no bookkeeping or accounting experience and no QuickBooks experience, I suggest you try to get an entry-level job AFTER you have at least some training in both bookkeeping and QuickBooks. While you likely don’t need the skill level as an employee that you would need as an independent freelance bookkeeper, if you expect to be paid for your skills, you need to have skills. You can build skills in two ways 1. Through education (initially), and 2. Through experience. Experience is generally more valuable than even education, but very few will ever want to pay you to learn via trial and error on their financial information.

      Bottom line, you are trying to start a new profession. If you ultimately want to be paid well, you really should learn bookkeeping before learning QuickBooks. If you use the Intuit training for non-accountants, that may be helpful, but your lack of understanding of true double-entry bookkeeping will ultimately slow you down with QuickBooks because you won’t understand what the program is doing behind the scenes. That can get you into a lot of trouble. You could probably get by with the overview training as an employee, but you would likely not do very well as a freelance bookkeeper in the long run.

      Sorry to not be especially encouraging, but in this profession there are many “hackers” who sell themselves as bookkeepers who have no experience or understanding of bookkeeping, and give the profession a bad reputation. And I’ve Been called in after so-called “bookkeepers” who SAID they had experience with QuickBooks, but really messed up the clients’ books and cost them a lot of money to get the books cleaned up and straight. So I cannot honestly support that shortcut approach.

      If you really do want to do bookkeeping, I do think the Penn Foster program is a good one. Your success will depend on how well you apply what you learn. Employers want to know that you can do the work. If you do well on the Penn Foster program, you should be able to handle an entry-level position, and learning QuickBooks thereafter will also be easier.

  • Karen on February 29, 2012

    Thank you so much, Gabrielle. I will take your advice. Your site is so helpful!

    • Gabrielle on February 29, 2012

      you are very welcome, Karen. I’m glad this has been helpful to you. 🙂

  • Gil Isiminger on April 11, 2012

    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you can be a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will come back in the future.

  • chelcie wimmer on May 16, 2012

    Good post. I’m experiencing some of these issues as well..

  • Briana Woody on June 21, 2012

    I’m so late to the party here. I scanned through the responses to get an answer to my question, so I’m sorry if I missed it. I’ve done very well as an independent bookkeeper without a certification for years, so I’m not going to pursue the testing at this point, but I’ve always wondered if I wasn’t using a credential that my experience alone would warrant (seems a bit naive, but best to be sure). What is the “public bookkeeper” distinction?. I get CPB and CB, but what is a plain ol’ PB or other non-certified credentials?

    • Gabrielle on July 4, 2012

      Hi Briana,

      It’s a common question. PB is for Professional Bookkeeper and it is a certificate program through Universal Accounting. It is used very much the way you described, as a “credential” so that the client knows that one has been trained and passed a recognized standard of competency. And I agree that if you have plenty of experience, you can do plenty fine without any letters after your name. There are certainly “credentialed” bookkeepers who are not competent in real world situations, too! The bottom line is, whether you can provide high quality services for your clients or not. To me the credentials serve two purposes which don’t necessarily relate to competency:

      1. For our own confidence, since many bookkeepers doubt their own abilities.
      2. For a marketing purpose for any clients who may have had a bad experience with an incompetent bookkeeper in the past.

      They prove we do have basic knowledge of bookkeeping, enough to pass a test. But the real proof of a qualified bookkeeper is in the work she can perform for her clients.

      Hope that answers your question.

  • Kjerstin Gould on September 2, 2014

    I’m so delighted to have found your blog. I am preparing to launch a freelance bookkeeping business. I have so many questions about how to get started and how to ensure that I can offer a quality product. Thank you, just signed up for your emails!

    • Gabrielle on September 3, 2014

      Glad you’ve found the blog helpful. There’s a lot in the archives, so do take advantage of them as well. Welcome aboard! 🙂

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