Bookkeeping isn’t just a side hustle; it’s a pathway to financial independence. You can work from anywhere, set your own hours, and use your love for numbers to make extra money. You can also do it without formal experience or a degree.

However, you need to develop specific skills and business practices to succeed. This guide will cover how to learn bookkeeping, from essential skills and training options to how much money you can make and how to get started.

What Is Bookkeeping?

First, what exactly is Bookkeeping? Bookkeeping involves recording financial transactions, including tracking sales, purchases, receipts, and payments. A bookkeeper ensures that a company’s financial records are accurate and up-to-date. 

Think of bookkeepers as the organized superheroes behind the scenes, playing a crucial role in keeping everything running smoothly. Your work is essential and valued, especially for small business owners trying to do it all themselves.

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Is Bookkeeping the Same as Accounting?

While bookkeepers and accountants play crucial roles in managing financial information, their key responsibilities differ.

  • Bookkeepers record and maintain financial transactions, handle data entry, reconcile accounts, and produce basic financial statements.
  • Accountants take the information provided by bookkeepers to a higher level. Accountants analyze financial data, prepare tax returns, and offer strategic advice. They often need higher qualifications and certifications, such as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license.

Bookkeepers lay the groundwork that accountants build upon. Both roles are essential, but bookkeeping is a welcoming entry point for beginners looking to break into the finance world.

What Do Bookkeepers Do?

A typical day for a bookkeeper includes a variety of job duties, but here are some everyday tasks you might perform:

  • Recording transactions: This includes entering financial transactions into accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero.
  • Reconciling accounts: Ensuring that bank statements match the records in the accounting system.
  • Managing invoices: Handling accounts payable (money going out) and accounts receivable (money coming in).
  • Generating reports: Creating financial statements like income statements and balance sheets.
  • Maintaining records: Keeping accurate records of all financial transactions for future reference and possible audits.

What Skills Do Bookkeepers Need To Learn?

While you don’t need a degree or experience, you need attention to detail, organization, and basic math skills. Attention to detail is crucial as you deal with numbers and financial records.

Organization is vital to tracking transactions and ensuring everything is in order. Basic math skills are necessary for calculating and recording financial data.

Good communication skills and reliability in meeting deadlines help clients see you as a serious professional, whether you work from your basement or camper in between hikes.

Consistently demonstrating these skills helps you keep clients (retention) and acquire new clients (acquisition) through testimonials and referrals. 

💡 Learn more about how to become a bookkeeper in our comprehensive guide.

How To Learn Bookkeeping Skills

Training vs. Experience

Learning bookkeeping doesn’t have to be daunting. Unless you’re already familiar with how to keep financial records for a company, you can learn basic bookkeeping skills at your own pace. You can learn on the job, through a training course, or both.

Bookkeeping Training

Plenty of great bookkeeping courses let you complete training virtually right from your computer. The best courses offer:

  • Online comprehensive courses: Comprehensive courses like Brilliant Bookkeeper let you complete training virtually on your computer. These courses teach you more than bookkeeping skills; they cover topics like finding clients, setting your rates, and paying taxes as an independent contractor.
  • Training sites: Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer comprehensive bookkeeping courses, although these organizations don’t specialize in bookkeeping, so you may not get the same level of detail as you do with a platform solely focused on training bookkeepers. 
  • Community Colleges: Many local colleges offer affordable bookkeeping courses with hands-on training.
  • Certifications: While not required, certifications like the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) or the QuickBooks ProAdvisor certification can enhance your credibility and potentially increase your earning potential.

Bookkeeping Experience

You may discover internships or mentoring programs if you are open to being a company employee instead of freelancing. Some businesses prefer to teach you their bookkeeping methods and offer to train you on the job.

You can also gain experience working part-time or seasonally, especially when companies are desperate for help, such as during tax season.

More ways you can get experience:

  • Volunteering: Offer your bookkeeping services to a local nonprofit or community organization.
  • Internships: Look for internships with small businesses or accounting firms.
  • Freelancing: Start by offering bookkeeping services to friends or small business owners in your network.

Bookkeeping Certifications

While a formal degree isn’t necessary to start your bookkeeping journey, obtaining certifications can set you apart from the competition and boost your earning potential. 

Do You Need Certifications?

Ultimately, while certifications are beneficial, they are not a strict requirement. You can begin your bookkeeping journey without them and choose to pursue certifications later as you advance in your career.

If you do commit to getting certified, here are some popular bookkeeping certifications:

  1. Certified Bookkeeper (CB) from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB):
    • Why get It: This certification demonstrates your professional competence and commitment. It covers essential bookkeeping tasks and ethical practices.
    • How to get it: You must pass exams and have at least two years of full-time bookkeeping experience or the part-time equivalent.
  2. QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification:
    • Why get it: QuickBooks is widely used accounting software, and being certified can enhance your credibility and attract more clients.
    • How to get it: You must complete the QuickBooks ProAdvisor training and pass the certification exam. The training is self-paced and available online.
  3. Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB):
    • Why get it: This certification is recognized nationwide and covers accounting principles, payroll, and QuickBooks.
    • How to get it: You must pass four exams and have one year of bookkeeping experience or an equivalent amount of college education in accounting.
  4. Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Certification in Excel:
    • Why get it: Excel is a critical tool for bookkeepers. This certification validates your ability to use Excel for financial reporting and data analysis.
    • How to get it: You must pass the Microsoft Office Specialist exam for Excel.

Pros and Cons of Bookkeeping Certifications


  • Certifications can significantly enhance your resume when looking for a job.
  • They can help you validate your skills before they even hire you.
  • They can also help you gain more clients if you’re freelancing.
  • You don’t need a degree to get certifications.


  • Certifications require time and money — often $2,000 to $3,000!
  • They are not mandatory to start a bookkeeping career, and many successful bookkeepers work without them.
  • They might be expensive, you have to know which ones are worth it for you.
  • Some companies might not recognize your certification.

Bookkeeping Software

Don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of bookkeeping software out there. Pick your favorite and focus on learning it well. One of these popular options will most likely meet all your needs:

1. Quickbooks

2. FreshBooks

3. Xero

4. Zoho Books

5. Wave

Consider prioritizing software certification over getting a bookkeeper certification. Having mad skills in the tools that help you deliver accurate financial records quickly builds your credibility with clients.

How Much Money Do Bookkeepers Make?

Let’s talk numbers — how much can you make as a beginner bookkeeper? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that bookkeepers average a little less than $20/hour as company employees.

However, once they have built up experience, freelancers and small business owners often make much more.

Earnings can vary depending on location, experience, and whether you work full-time, part-time, or freelance.

  • Entry-level salary: On average, entry-level bookkeepers can expect to earn between $20 to $30 per hour. Annually, this can translate to approximately $37,000 to $48,000 for full-time positions.
  • Freelance rates: Freelance bookkeepers often charge by the hour, ranging from $20 to $50 per hour. You can increase your rates as you gain experience and build a reputation.
  • Side hustle potential: If you’re looking to do this as a side hustle, even working part-time can bring in a significant supplemental income.
Brilliant Bookkeeper

Make up to $5,000/month bookkeeping!

Learn the skills and strategies necessary to start a successful bookkeeping business from the comfort of your home.

How To Find Bookkeeping Jobs

Landing your first client might sound scary. After all, you’re convincing a business owner to trust you with their money! 

Fortunately, you have several options and can experiment to find your most comfortable path.

  • Freelance job platforms: If you’re more interested in working as a freelance bookkeeper, Fiverr and Upwork are legitimate options.
  • Friends and family: Don’t be shy when you’re launching a business. Post on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn that you offer bookkeeping, and ask friends and family for referrals.
  • Job boards: There are dozens of job boards online, and some of the best choices for bookkeepers are FlexJobs, Indeed, SimplyHired, ZipRecruiter, and Hire My Mom.

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Specializing in a niche may help you connect with potential clients faster or more naturally. For example, you may know the construction business well and be able to pitch your services to a local remodeler. 

Or, think about your favorite local businesses — your hair salon, sub shop, or spa — and talk to them about their bookkeeping needs. 

You can create a simple marketing strategy that includes inbound and outbound activities. Inbound means you advertise on social media, write blog posts for bookkeepers, or do something that attracts clients to contact you. 

Outbound means contacting the customer you want to work with and trying to schedule an appointment to offer your services. You can send direct messages through social media, email, or call a business owner. 

Final Words

The beauty of bookkeeping lies in its flexibility and accessibility — no need for a degree or prior experience to get started. With a few online courses and hands-on practice, you can learn bookkeeping, offer services, and make extra money.

Remember that certifications may boost your credibility and open doors to higher-paying opportunities, but they’re not mandatory. Start with a comprehensive online course, build confidence, and gradually expand your skill set and qualifications.


How much can I make as a bookkeeper?

Freelance bookkeepers can make around $20 to $50 per hour. Once you have an established relationship with a client, they may pay up to $5,000 monthly.

Can I learn bookkeeping on my own?

Yes! You can take a course online at your own pace and learn bookkeeping skills. To build your confidence, you need a community of mentors to help you avoid common mistakes and recognize small victories. Look for private bookkeeper groups or social media groups for support.

Can I work from home as a bookkeeper?

Yes, many bookkeepers work remotely. You can manage clients’ books from anywhere with a reliable internet connection and the necessary software.