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Does bookkeeping pay?

I had plans to be a sole practitioner but wonder if I would be much happier finding a number of part-time bookeeping jobs, but am unsure how to go about finding the work since this isn't something the local recruitment agencies seem to deal with?

Also what can I charge as a bookkeeper? Is it reasonable to be asking £25 an hour in East Anglia? I know that the larger regional firms must be charging at least that for bookkeeping, even at their reduced rates.


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Essex Bookeeper required
Not sure if I should post this here, but if any of you are Essex based (Southend) We are in need of a Bookeeper for a few hours a week.

Feel free to email me.

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Richard ...I am a self-employed bookkeeper in Chelmsford. How many hours a week were you looking for?

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Nice to know nepotism is rife down there.
Two new clients today and generally speaking I'm picking and choosing clients now. I would suggest again that you should just get on with it but you seem to be getting support to just keep on researching.
I would now recommend just seeing as many clients as possible and convert to clients. Most of us manage around 100% conversion rate.
Or carry on that dreary research with CLM. We dont need to research and neither do a few other businesses so just again get on with it. Thats; my last advice on this. Tally Ho down theya

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CLA's approach seems sound to me
Given that the forum is themed 'Any Answers' I am often surprised by the tone of some responses. I do think some SPs spend a little too much time by themselves.

1. As a bookkeeper you could approach accountants for work (some only do this) or clients directly (more lucrative, more hassle, maybe less regular). Small companies can be a good source of regular work and life may be easier if you have a few larger clients rather than loads of small STs. Tax return work will give your income a bit of a lift. Generalist SPs often complain how difficult it is to keep up to date with legislation changes, for example, and this is reason to consider specialising. But you'd have to look at how to avoid losing clients just because their circumstances changed.

2. Of course you need to be happy that there is a market for your services - and only a fool would suggest otherwise. However, in London you’ll thrive if you have a personality. Others have criticised your 'research' - but you didn't mention whether you spent 1 month, 1 week, or only 1 hour on this!! Having heard from some of your 'competitors' you must be feeling a bit more confident …

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Current position?
I'm planning to set up in the autumn doing bookkeeping etc. plus tax returns for STs. My research suggests this is a good mix of work.

But I'm interested to get a sense if the market is as bouyant as previously given the affects of the so called credit crunch etc. I fear that businesses may be tightening their belts now.

I am based in London. I am interested in others perceptions of the viability of a bookkeeping business and what sort of scale and profitability is achievable. From reading other posts I get a sense that remaining a OMB is attractive after all?



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the spectrum
I think the essence of disagreement on this discussion is attributable (in addition to the obvious geographical variation) to the broad spectrum of technical skill covered by the term bookkeeper - some people who call themselves bookeepers may be just data inputters whereas others are the equivalent to managment accountants/part time finance directors - thus it is not surprising that rates vary so much

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London's Buzzin' For Bookkeepers
Ther's a definite shortage in the South east. I just hooked someone up to a central firm who were willing to pay £300 per day for someone on site once a week.

Refer back to my previous post re Hays' salary rates - Hays have published this year's rates since - and if you resaerch for your area you will see that bookkeepers generally earn more than eg assistant accountants or AATs. IMHO anyone who charges less than £25 per hr is leaving money on the table; anyone who charges less than £20 per hour is a mug!

Your prime market has to be those businesses who have experienced a dog's breakfast of a job, here's a good example:
These people will pay a premium rate once they've had bad experience of penny pinching by getting their neighbour's best friend's daughter to operate their books and finances.

For me the best research has to be Value Pricing: read Ronald J Baker's "Professional's Guide To Value Pricing" and you'll successfully negotiate your way past the professional hustlers (ie most business people) who will wish to employ your services at a knock-down pittance, and learn to nail them for every penny they can afford!

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I think you will need to go a long way to beat the utter hog wash talked about by CLM. He seems to think you hear rumbles amongst clients and talks about pitching to clients.
I cant imagine what rumbles my hairdresser client might say to my joiner who might say to the taxi driver who may say to my piano player. Have you heard any rumbles Mr Taxi Driver that i can pass on to this piano player. Thank god i researched this properly as if I did not know about the rumble Mr Sparky my clients hair may stand on end.
While you are pitching to your potential clients and boring them to death, the rest of us are happy to provide a quality service to the businesses who will always be there in either large or larger numbers.
CLM surely needs a bit of sharpnness on whatever he is sitting on and then perhaps he should be thankful for this common sense reply.

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A little sympathy with Ronald
If you you are within reach of a population of 50,000 there will be a market for bookkeeping services. It's something that all businesses need to do. So as far as researching the market is concerned, we are not talking about a new invention or substantial R&D, a niche retail outlet or something unique or out of the ordinary that might merit significant research.
Ronald may be a little blunt in his message . . . . but actually he's right.

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There's nothing wrong with researching the market.

I hear it widely said that Accountants in business forget that not only are they accountants, but that they are managers, marketers and business owners as well. And we would all advise our clients to research their field before setting up in business! So there is certainly nothing wrong with you doing the same.

I haven't seen any difference in the number of people in OMBs since the 'credit crunch' and there are still plenty of startups. Very few of my clients seem to have been adversely affected.
There will always be some businesses who want to cut costs and do their bookkeeping themselves, but equally there are plenty who want it looking after for them, especially the VAT registered ones.

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What's your beef Mr Angus?
From a quick search I note that you tend to post with the sort of wind up unhelpful tone which you display here so I shant personalise it.

I trust you do not advise your clients to 'just get on with it' and not ask questions plus not consider their niche?

By way of clarification:

1. I understand that it is good practice for someone planning to set up in business to research the market for their product? I will be 'getting on with it' in the autumn.

2. A bouyant economy gives rise to growth in numbers and size of small businesses and the opposite is also true. Therefore someone who intended pitching to this sector might do well to gain an understanding of the current economic climate. He could also ask accountants etc what the rumbles are amongst their clients.

3. There has been much discussion on AWeb about the future of the general sole practitioner, whether bookkeeping is profitable and recently others have suggested that bookkeeping plus ST tax with farming out more complex work by way of 'partnership' is a way to go. That, Mr Agnes is called a business model and its considered beneficial to have one.

Bookkeeping for real men :-)

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What's all this tosh about your research tells you this. Just do it. Find some clients and provide them with bookkeeping, accounts VAT and Tax and leave your research to some other time wasters.
Bouyancy of the market? I have to laugh. JUST GET ON WITH IT.
Mind you just carry on assessing the market and whether the pound is strong enough against the mongolian giraffe and the rest of us will provide a service and a voice worth listening to

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What's an aspirational income for a bookkeeper in practice?
Just picking up on this interesting thread in the spirit of 'I need to make more money this year'.

I am interested in what others think a top end bookkeeper can make (London based). I know its as difficult to answer as the length of a piece of string but,

Is £40K (or more) realistic. Should it be combined with say sole trader accounts & SA tax returns too for a healthy business?


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Not an easy choice?
My own attempt at self-employment a year or two ago wasn't terribly successful but that was I think due to my wrong approach and lack of knowledge of the market and what I could and couldn't do. People are paying £20 per hour in London but I think that's normally tops? and good bookkeepers can be in the range £13 to £20.

The issue for me was the amount of non-billable time including holidays etc.. The job I took was £30K which probably equates to £20/hour self employed after allowing for unpaid time.

I think self employed bookkeepers who want to make money should be looking past the TB and probably taking on tax return work. That could make all the difference financially.

I'd have to be sure the rewards were sufficient before I ventured into self-employed work again.

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Too expensive?
The best bet to find bookkeeping work is to approach local accountancy firms who may well be willing to sub-con work to you. I have done this many times in the past BUT in Hampshire the going charge rate for bookkeeping is about £15 p/h and from that I would take a few quid as a cut. I know in London £25 p/h is quite normal but outside of there I would be dubious.

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Limited income
As a part-time employee you will certainly be capping your income and probably at a lower level than the value of your skills.
Why not go for smaller businesses, particularly professional 'one-man band' companies on a self-employed basis. Many of them are dubious about hourly rates because it doesn't tell them what the service will cost them. If you offer your services on a fixed fee basis then your hourly rate can be disguised.

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I currently do a mix of both.

For bookkeeping, if I had 5 full days at £130 a day, for example, that would do me nicely. However in reality I have one or two days like that, and other bookkeeping jobs are a few hours a month, or a half-day a quarter. So unless you are very lucky and find 5 full days, it's likely to be less profitable than an nice hourly rate might initially suggest.

It's probably more realistic to get 2 or 3 full days as bread and butter money, and fill the rest of your week with nice tax return work, where you can earn much more in a day than bookkeeping.

I get my bookkeeping appointments by advertising and word of mouth, and am self-employed as opposed to being a part time employee of various businesses. Don't spend money on Yellow Pages but get a free line entry - I was surprised at how many people have called me for both accountancy and bookkeeping from a free ad in Yell. Local parish magazines are great, as is Dentons (if you have one in your area, I don't know if they are national).

As to hourly rate, I would say between £15 and £25 an hour. I know that's a big jump but it depends. I recently quoted £20 an hour to be told that was fine, that's what everyone is charging (South West). I've recently begun thinking about charging a day rate, and billing by a half day or full day, not by the hour, as this safeguards your income; if you only have 5 hours work to do at a place, you can't really do anything else but take the rest of the day off, thus limiting your earnings. I've not tried this yet and would be interested to hear other peoples' ideas on it.

Good luck.

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Thanks... any ideas on bookkeeping vacancy?
Thanks Steven, Andy & Faerie Girl, all useful comments.

I've found a one day/7hrs a week bookkeeping job locally where they're looking to employ someone rather than outsource. I'm wondering how to go about persuading them that outsourcing is the better alternative?

I will be mentioning the sick and holiday pay savings that they'll be making and also the employers' NIC, but still am not sure that I'll be able to convince them to fork out as much, or any more than £15/hr for the pleasure?

I'm guessing that they're unlikely to be expecting to pay more than £10/hr (pa £18k) for the part AAT qualified individual that they're looking for.

Any ideas? Perhaps I could offer a daily rate which includes more hours than the suggested 7/wk and emphasise the added value that they'll be getting from a qualified, so as to go for something more like £100/day minimum...?

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£10p/h - £15p/h sounds about right
I do a mixture of self-employed/sub-contract & part-time employed bookkeeping. I'm based in Leeds, although clients through sub-contract are mostly North Yorkshire.
I think £10p/h for employed work & £15 p/h for the other stuff is about right, its what I get usually. Although I have seen part-time jobs advertised in Leeds city for less than this. You have to way up the pro's & con's of an employment. I like the fact that I can have paid time off & would be entitled to SSP if I needed it - without any of the hassle of claiming as a SE individual. My job also allows me to learn things that I don't do as self-employed, in the safety of a company, with training etc.

£25 sounds very high, although if you do VAT returns or payroll, you can earn this by agreeing fixed rates for each job. Check out other local bookkeepers near you & find out what they charge & go from there!

Hope this helps.

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Could lead to other things....
Although I am in practice, I do perform and offer book-keeping for a few clients. It may be somewhat boring (for me anyway) but more often than not, I get the annual accounts as well.

I also get to know customers and suppliers of the businesses and get work that way as well (usually the accounts).

So if you are looking to go down the practice route, maybe book-keeping could be the right way. If not, find yourself a friendly and reliable local accountant who you can direct offers of work to (in return they might refer other book-keeping jobs to you).

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I wonder what we're all waiting for ...
Correspondents may be interested in this story from The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

"How Steven R. Hinds started up
After working for 5 years as a controller, I decided I could double my money working for myself. I already had 3 or 4 clients that wanted me as a consultant.

I started by offering only bookkeeping and taxes at $10/hr. It took about 6 months to get 10 clients and become established. Today I charge $25 to $200 an hour, have over 100 clients and net $150,000 a year. Here's what I did—and you can too: ... "

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Hays Publish Geographic Rates
CL has hit the nail on the head with non-billable time. Finishing a job at 3pm meant CL had to take the rest of the day off.

There's more than that to non-billable time: many clients, although happy to tip bullying waiters generously or shell out £50 a time to their alleged hairdressers, will not want to pay a bookkeeper for the free advice they feel entitled to receive for providing that bookkeeper with half a day's work each week. You will be asked difficult technical or compliance questions, often complex VAT or compliance related which can be quite involved and involve many hours research. Too tight-fisted to run such issues by their accountants, such clients will place little value on a bookkeeper's time, and can be prone to tantrums when billed.

And watch them blame you when they get pulled for their infringements at a VAT/PAYE visit. The bookkeepers we use are only too happy to work under our wing, if only to avoid that sort of flak. will tell you the going rates for bookkeepers geographically. Divide the annual salary by the 1700 hours you will attend work each year to obtain an hourly rate. Add on 13% for ER NI, and you have the lowest possible hourly cost to the employer. Now add on at least 25% to cover your slack time/insurance/advertising etc. Voila, you have the minimum hourly rate you should charge your clients - if your local market will not stand that rate then you'd be better off taking a job as an employee.

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Tax returns for S/T's

Are any qualifications required to be able to deal with tax returns for S/T's?

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