10 Tips for Becoming a Highly Successful Freelance Bookkeeper

successful freelance bookkeeperIs it easy to become a successful freelance bookkeeper?

Let’s be honest. Starting your own freelance bookkeeping business is NOT the same as getting a job as a bookkeeper to make money. Truth is, there are a good number of freelance bookkeepers who don’t make it. The reason is usually not because they don’t have competency as a bookkeeper (though there is a percentage who do fail because they don’t have professional level bookkeeping knowledge). The bigger reason why many struggle to make the money or create the flexible lifestyle they want most is because they have not mastered the essentials of running a successful bookkeeping BUSINESS.

Here are 10 tips for how you can fast-track your success as a freelance bookkeeper and dramatically increase your odds of building the successful freelance lifestyle business you really want.

1. Goals“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

It’s a famous line from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it’s true. Many bookkeepers start there business with only the goal of “making some money,” often to pick up the slack from a lay-off or some other reason why working outside of the home is not an option. But without a clear vision and planned destination for your business, you are creating a job for yourself. And it could turn out to be worse than working for any employer!

Tip: Take time to envision how you WANT your ideal freelance bookkeeping business to be – your income leve, the hours you want to work, and any other specific benefits or results it will give you. Commit them to paper and use them as your compass as you grow your practice.

2. Independence“You don’t get harmoney when everybody sings the same note” – Doug Floyd

Employees are given instructions and told what to do. When you are a freelance bookkeeper you have the freedom to make your own decisions and choices. Get into the habit of using your freedom as a FREElancer to make your own choices and build your business to be uniquely your own.

3. Communication“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Bookkeepers who succeed and get a constant stream of new referrals have great communication skills! Especially if you’re working on a virtual basis (via the Internet and phone) you need to become a proactive communicator for smooth and timely interaction with your clients. This skill alone is a linchpin to smooth bookkeeping workflow.

4. leadership“Lead or be led” – unknown

Professionals lead, employees are led. If we expect to be treated and paid as professionals by our clients, we need to act like them! Being proactive by definition means… “causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” Guide your clients in compliance issues and help them learn how what you do benefits them, and you will have clients for life.

5. Insight “The best vision is insight” – Malcolm Forbes

Much of what we do is historical in nature. But the information is invaluable for providing valuable information about where your clients’ businesses are headed financially. Sharing this knowledge with them, can open new opportunities for add-on consulting services. Insight into the meaning in the numbers can also save you from continuig to work for clients who can’t afford to pay you! Do the books, but pay attention to what the numbers are telling you and your client.

6. Being a Giver “A man reaps what he sows” – The Bible (Galatians 6:7)

Running a successful freelance bookkeeping business creates the opportunity to benefit everyone you touch. If you are willing to contribute toward the success of others without always expecting something in return, you set the wheels of an abundant mindset in motion and position yourself as an attractive expert. This will spark the inclination of others to send you referrals and give back to you in ways you can’t even imagine.

7. Failure“There is no failure. Only feedback.” – Robert Allen

Fear of failure holds many of us back from getting started or making needed changes to reach our goals. As a business owner you will make mistakes. That’s okay! Learn from the results you get so you can move closer to what you want — better clients, higher fees, improved service offerings. The cure for failure is taking action. Consider yourself a scientist experimenting to see what will work best for you in your business, and then take action to get the test results. Make adjustments until you get what you want.

The only way you can fail in your freelance bookkeeping business is to not take action to get what you want.

8. Technology“Learning and innovation go hand in hand” – William Pollard

While bookkeeping principles don’t change, technology is advancing at a break-neck pace! It can be overwhelming. But as freelance bookkeepers we need to stay abreast of new developments that can improve how we work with our clients and improve our profitability or that of our clients. Plan to invest in training on an annual basis to stay up on the technology that will benefit your business most, especially if you are or plan to work virtually with your clients.

9. Systems “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing” – W. Edwards Deming

A successful freelance bookkeeping practice is built on systems. As described by Michael E. Gerber in the business classic The E-Myth Revisited, systems should run the business and people run the systems. As a freelancer, you may be relying on your skills to perform your work. But when you can document each step you take to create a specific, repeatable and consistent system, not only will you find that you can produce your work more quickly and consistently, you set yourself up for expansion by being able to replace yourself, either through hiring help as your business grows, or by being able to ultimately sell your business. Systems turn what you do into a valuable asset and not just a job you do.

If you’d like a kick-start the development of your own systems, policies and best practices quickly, you’ll want to join us this month in TFB Premium where we go in depth on “Profitable Bookkeeping Policies and Best Practices”

10. Marketing “Marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers” – Seth Godin

Believe it or not, the most important activity in your business is NOT bookkeeping. Yes, your clients may be paying you to get the bookkeeping done. But it is the communication that will connect you with the clients who want your services. As mentioned in #3 above, communication is vital to your success in working with your clients, and it all begins with their first contact with you. That is your marketing. Whether it is done through word of mouth or advertising or a myriad of other ways. You must market your services in order to get clients and be successful.

Make marketing a regular part of your weekly plans and you will easily have as many clients as you want! If you’d like to learn EXACTLY how to market your services in a way that attracts strangers and turns them in to friends who want to hire you, join me on my brand new training, The Freelance Bookkeeper Marketing System. You’ll learn the step-by-step process for getting a steady stream of new clients started in 30 days or less.

Is it worth honing all these skills to build your own freelance bookkeeping business? It all comes back to #1 – your goals. If you just want to make some extra money, getting a part-time job may be the easier route. But if you want the freedom and rewards that come with building something solid and scalable with your own custom-made business, then jump in with both feet and join us in serving the small businesses that need our help. The rewards can be far more than simply a paycheck.

What results are you looking for in your own bookkeeping business?

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About Gabrielle

Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and support true win-win business success.
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7 Responses to 10 Tips for Becoming a Highly Successful Freelance Bookkeeper

  1. Mike says:


    You nailed it again. Food for though and for building a successful practice.

    Each of the ten points is vitally important for success. However, I’m gravitating back to and pausing at point number one: “Goals”.

    To design your own niche (system or brand); to be able to do business the way you prefer to work; and, to serve those special clients/industry you prefer working with is what being self-employed is all about – at its highest and most rewarding level. Not merely being one of a long line of ‘bean counter/number cruncher’.

    That is where the real planning, preparation and inner work comes into play…. Aum! Gets me thinking…?

    Again, thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.


  2. Billie Anne says:

    I have what I call a workflow in place for each of my clients (I’ve been using Trello, but I am switching to Evernote so I have access to the workflows offline.) Because they are all pretty different in regard to which services I provide them each workflow is different. Since it’s so customized I don’t really consider these workflows to be systems, but are they? They seem more like to-do lists to me, so I guess the question is what is the difference between a to-do list and a system?

    • Gabrielle says:

      Billie Anne,

      Mike’s definition is a great one!

      In your situation, what you’ve done is let your client’s needs determine how you get the work done. As you said, totally customized. That is why they have become more like to-do lists, instead of standardized systems. When you produce a true system, you are solving a problem and standardizing how it is worked through for more than one client so that it is scalable. The problem with a to-do list business is that it is not scalable and can be more time consuming. So it’s hard to grow your business. However, if you do have it all documented, you can at least train someone else to do it if you have plans to grow the business beyond yourself. Creating standard systems and then taking on clients who will best be served by them, is the ideal, scalable model for bookkeeping businesses that want to grow beyond solo freelancer (or a solo who wants to make maximum revenue in minimum time). Hope this clarifies it on an operational level too.

  3. Mike says:

    Billie Anne,

    By system(s), we generally mean the design and work-flow of our business operations. How the work and processes proceeds from start to finish. How work is received, how it is worked through to produce the end product. Think processes when you think system.

    A to-do-list, on the other hand, is a list of things needing to be done. The use of a to-do-list (and tools such as Evernote and Trello) becomes a part of your system; and, therefore, is useful in working your (time-management) system through. Think time-management when you think of to-do-lists.

    Hope this might be a bit helpful.

  4. Rory Lewis @Apparel logistics says:

    This is really interesting. I think marketing yourself should be emphasized a lot though. There are many qualified people but they just don’t do anything to really stand out.

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