A Bookkeeping Business in a Box?

As you know, I often lead classes on how to streamline workflow and bring in more clients to your bookkeeping business. In all my years of doing this, there’s one thing that keeps coming up again and again – and it drives me nuts!

It’s some kind of subconscious belief that someone else has figured this all out, and if we just copy do what they do, we’ll suddenly have a bookkeeping business packed with clients and systems that work smoothly and efficiently every time.

Have you ever wanted that? The thought has crossed my mind too. And if you’re running a virtual bookkeeping business, it seems some of the apps we use like to make promises that smack of this idea too!

It’s a Lie! 

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to running a bookkeeping business! Period.

When you decided to start your practice, you wanted to be your own boss. You wanted to decide how much you make and with whom you’d work. Right? Well all of that is 100% possible and you CAN have a highly successful and profitable virtual bookkeeping business. No question.

But your bookkeeping business is NOT going to look like my business, and mine won’t look like yours or even bring in the same revenue. That’s true even if we worked closely together.


Because there are too many variables that go into running a true business. With the most important one being YOU! In fact here are just a few of the key aspects involved:

  • Your long-term goals and aspirations for what you want your business to look like when it’s “done” (solo, small firm, mini-empire, or big company)
  • Your business structure and model (local or virtual / contractors or employees)
  • The clients you serve (general practice or specialty)
  • The services and scope offered (compliance only or advisory or boutique level)
  • The technology you use (high-volume automation or personalized, high-touch client-centric focus)

Add to all of these your experience, level of expertise and even the ethics of your staff and your leadership style. The combinations are nearly endless!

So when someone asks me for a workflow that they can just ‘plug and play’ into their bookkeeping business I cringe. It doesn’t work that way. The best I can do is provide a basic bare bones chassis of a workflow or marketing methods, and you need to build it out to fit your own vision.

What’s your vision?

Choose Your Path and Stick With It!

It’s a risky time to be in business, especially without a clear direction. But in that dark statement there is a beam of light.

Small businesses are desperate for guidance and direction right now too. They need our financial expertise during these precarious times. We have the experience to support them, and we should!

If you want to thrive amid the increased demand, you need to be clear on the type of bookkeeping business you want to build and then custom fit your services, workflow and marketing to fit that plan. No one else can give you a perfect-fit bookkeeping business but you.

We have many choices, as mentioned above. But after all that ranting, there are some “short-cuts” you can take, especially if you feel like you could go in any direction and you’re willing to build the skills you need to create your brand of success.

Here are some of the models that are working during these shifting times…

  • Highly optimized compliance-focused bookkeeping with a twist
    • Small, price-conscious businesses want this
    • Charge flat fees and optimize your workflows with automation
    • Your selling points will be speed and efficiency
    • Protect pricing for the long term by focusing in a general industry, like legal or medical.

This combination allows you to be ‘specialized’ enough to avoid being seen as a commodity and get the efficiency (and profitability) that comes with standardization.

  • Premium bookkeeping plus CFO or Advisory level services
    • Established to mid-market clients who want more than ‘just bookkeeping’
    • Opportunities for premium level advisory services
    • Higher touch, proactive contact with management / executive level
    • Flat fees and value pricing to reflect the premium level results clients can expect

This model can work with a small bookkeeping practice or with a sizable virtual team. So there’s flexibility to grow.

  • Small, highly focused boutique specialty bookkeeping plus
    • High-quality, loyal clients who are leaders in their field and want top-level, quality, responsive services
    • Premium fees; value pricing works best here
    • Proactive and high proportion of advisory services
    • Current knowledge of trends and tech in the specialty industry needed

This model is the most profitable and can be either a very small practice or a mid-sized firm with top talent. With this model you make more with fewer clients and long-term relationships.

As you can see from these descriptions, it’s not about finding a client onboarding workflow or a new practice management app that’s going to build the perfect bookkeeping business for you. It’s about learning to lead your business to what you want it to become and involves far more than your day-to-day workload. It’s being a business owner.

How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be

As with any journey, it’s one step at a time. When you know the big picture then it’s just a matter of assembling the pieces to fit together.

Whee to begin?

Start where you are. If you’ve just been offering compliance services to your clients to date, but you know you want to move toward more premium level services, start by becoming more proactive. Ask your clients what they are most worried about or focused on financially right now. Then listen.

In fact, nearly all clients are focused on cash flow, especially now. They worry how to make ends me, and how taxes are going to affect them (and where they’ll find the money to pay).

While bookkeeping is not a one-size-fits-all business, taxes just by their nature are more uniform and our clients need help. Sadly, most CPAs and tax preparers are not meeting this need. And this is where there’s a crossroads that can give you a boost without trying to design it all yourself.

Consider whether offering tax services may be a “check the boxes” stepping stone in the right direction for you.

I prepared taxes for many years and the knowledge has been invaluable in supporting and gaining the trust of my bookkeeping clients. It’s also the easiest path to moving toward advisory, premium level services. Clients value tax knowledge and support immediately.

Want to find out if tax services are a good fit for you? Do you want a BIG, reliable revenue boost every year without fail? Then come to the FREE “4 Month Fix Workshop.”

This is a workshop that starts on August 24th, led by Ben Robinson (CPA who had a tax practice for many years) It’s all about how to realistically start your own tax preparation business from scratch. You’ll walk away with a clear direction you can implement right away. He uses a Learn-Do-Results approach you’ll love!

I’ll be attending this workshop myself. Please join me and together we’ll create our own success that no one else can copy.

Even if you could find a bookkeeping business in a box, it would go obsolete very quickly in these changing times. It’s a formula for getting left behind. Instead, we can put together the pieces that will build a unique business that drives your vision, improve profitability now and become worth so much more in the long run.

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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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