The simplest way to become a bookkeeper is to pass a basic bookkeeping certification, such as the Accounting for Everything online course available on this site, or to step up to the highest level through the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB).
Whatever you choose to do, get some basic bookkeeping tuition first before you start the bookkeeper’s journey.
Another way to do that is to buy a self-study book. Once again, the IAB is excellent for this. They offer text books to buy online for all three levels you will need to become a registered bookkeeper.
The alternative to all the above is to apply as an accounts junior or apprentice in a firm who are willing to help you train. And if you do choose to go down that path, then having a basic knowledge of the following topics will help you pass the interview with ease:
- Double-entry principles
- Debit and credit system
- Day books
- Nominal ledger
- Accounts receivable
- Accounts payable
- Journal entries
- Trial balance
- Profit and Loss statement
- Balance sheet
You don’t need to know all these accounting terms and processes inside out (that can take years of training), but an overall knowledge of what they mean will certainly help.
You can use the Accounting Glossary here on the Accounting for Everyone website to get up to speed with that (click any of the terms above to discover what they mean – you will need to scroll around though as the links only take you to the sections in which the accounting terms appear – a new tab will open for each term so you don’t lose your place here).
Another great resource is our FREE Definitive Guide To Bookkeeping, also on this site. This will give you a deeper look into most aspects of becoming a bookkeeping, especially if you are thinking of opening your own bookkeeping business.
After you have taken your basic training, the next thing is to decide if you want to become a bookkeeper as a career, or if you want to become a self-employed bookkeeper in business.
Taking up bookkeeping as a career will always be a smart move as this is the one thing ALL businesses require.
Smaller businesses usually attempt to do it themselves, and almost always come unstuck because the legislation (no matter which country you are in) is rarely simple. As a result, very few business owners know how to keep their accounting books properly.
Which means, if your decision is to start a bookkeeping practice, then you’re also in a large market due to the sheer number of businesses already established, but also an ever increasing number of new businesses that are appearing in every industry and walk of life.
If you’ve been reading along this far, you will know the steps:
a) Get a solid understanding of double-entry bookkeeping skills
b) Make a decision on bookkeeping as a career or as a business
Next up, you need to consider your country’s legislation regarding how you can legally operate as a bookkeeper.
If your choice was bookkeeping as a career, this should be taken care of by the firm who employs you, since they must also operate legally and ultimately, it’s the owners of the firm who are responsible for their books and accounting statements.
But if your choice was to set up in business, then things do get more complicated. There are far too many countries around the world for me to keep track of for the purposes of this guide on how to become a bookkeeper, but generally there are two types:
- Certification mandatory
- No certification required
In the UK, it is the latter. You do not need to prove anything at all about your knowledge of bookkeeping. BUT, you will need to register with the UK’s tax office, called HMRC if you want to practice as a commercial bookkeeper. And there is a cost to that.
This is why I also recommend joining a professional bookkeeping organisation such as the IAB, who will cover you. Note also, that in most countries you will also need insurance to operate.
This can be on many different levels including:
- Public Liability Insurance
- Professional Indemnity Insurance
- Employers Liability Insurance
Following this, the key to becoming a proficient bookkeeper is simply practice. As much of it as you can get.
Which is why becoming an accounts clerk is always the best way to start. You will usually get free training as well as a paid job, and you will get to work on a large number of different client accounts.
On top of that, your CV will start to shine over the years, thus giving you greater chances of promotion, as well as the opportunity to go into business yourself.
I wish you very good luck in your new career and hope it serves you well.
Quentin Pain FIAB FIoEE