How to start making money with bookkeeping and maybe even work from home

“I'm trying to re-learn bookkeeping with the idea of working from home. My health now requires me to look for a way to earn a living where I can have a more flexible work schedule”



The work from home dream

Ahhh bookkeeping and the dream of working from home. Picture with me for a second, late 90s clipart with a happy person on a lonely tropical beach watching their four inch laptop screen, blocked only by a delightful pineapple cocktail sporting an umbrella only slightly smaller than the umbrella that is providing shade from that darn tropical sun – enough shade so that the mysterious (coincidently young and beautiful) person can just barely see the money rolling into what is also presumed to be tax free offshore accounts. Yes this is the fantasy life of remote accounting, which I think (myself included) to aspire to.

Just say NO to cubes


Remote accounting and my reality

After two years of working 60 hour weeks (when counting BS and networking time) I finally felt comfortable to work remote for three weeks in Panama. I picked Panama for two primary reason, one that personifies the accounting stereotype “it was cheap” and one a little more interesting “surf on two coasts!” Conveniently I was also able to get my USA iPhone to work down there sufficiently for about fifty bucks, not bad. Let me contrast the clipart scene with reality. Imagine a younger male dude, face white from extra dosses of sunscreen sitting in the restaurant bar as close to wifi as possible, headphones in to block distractions, hoping the electricity does not go out, and answering email. I mean, hey, it kinda worked!


Bookkeeping as a profession is rapidly evolving

Back in my day I had to walk to my first job at Snyder Accountancy uphill, both ways, in the snow, which is quite rare for the California coastline. I was hired because I took one semester at junior college which consisted of USA taxes 101, accounting, and accounting with software. On the first day my wonderful manager Dacia Mendoza sat me in front of some archaic PC based software and I started entering transactions from cancelled bank checks. This was a Carmel Valley taqueria I was salivating as I entered in the food and beverage costs… tortillas, cervezas, salsa… After entering in the transactions and coding them to appropriate accounts, I then performed a bank rec. Day 1 I was learning the ropes and useful to the firm. But now the same task that took me two hours can take twenty-four minutes.


Getting hired in the new era requires experience and education –

It is very difficult to show up to an accounting firm and be valuable without some formal training “these days.” The issue at hand is that the training headache does not create any benefit for the firm. Unfortunately CPAs and firms often adopt, “It is just easier for me to do it” mentality. The answer to this is to get the education that gives you the most value for the money. The reciprocal result is that the more valuable your educational choices are the more valuable you will be to the firm. Here are some thoughts:

Junior college is your best friend

  • Take low cost junior college courses: Accounting basics / bookkeeping, Excel for accounting, Excel in general, Beginning tax preparation classes
  • Study to learn
  • Beware of certificate courses – you are much better served going to junior college, owning your classes, and getting any kind of experience possible
  • Some Junior Colleges offer even intermediate accounting, may have more engaged instructors with smaller classroom sizes, hopefully connected to the community, and often have online options

One semester of junior college (JC) courses: Excel, Accounting 101, Computer Software and Accounting, and Taxation 101 was enough to land me my first internship. Yes I was fortunate, but if you really live and love the material there is enough information in a basic accounting textbook to make a career out of! I would suggest taking courses and start beginning for paid or unpaid internships at the same time. For $1,000 and a year of accounting focused JC you can restart your career. NO EXCUSES. My $200 Accounting 101 class at Cabrillo College, thank you Michael Booth, was better than my $2,000 class at the university. I continued to take JC college classes online to fill in credit so that I could sit for the CPA exam.


Enter the era of Quickbooks Online, Xero, Excel, and automated software

The manual, repetitive, and time consuming nature of bookkeeping is rapidly being phased out by robust web-based software. Transactions import manually and the software will even categorize things automatically. Software empowers skilled accountants to assist in bookkeeping at higher rates. But for beginner accountants there is basic work to train with.

We are in an era of accounting software, so you need to be a software expert as much as an accounting expert

To be competitive new entrants to the field must be skilled with software before entering the field. Here are some ways to learn software without an internship:

  • Free Quickbooks Pro Advisor program
  • Xero and other software training provided for free
  • Junior college online and in person courses
  • Using free online accounting software demos to run transactions


Find your edge – be an expert

Corporations and even small businesses love an expert. Be amazing at Quickbooks or Excel and you will find a job somewhere. Combine your academic education with the tools of the trade. If you are going to prepare tax returns firms are going to want Pro-System or Lacerte experience. Corporations are going to want ERP software experience like Great Plains, Oracle, and Netsuite. Some small firms might even appreciate that you are an expert in website building and all things technical.


Enter the catch 22: You need job experience before you can get a job

Internships, internships, internships. I studied Spanish for 10 years so that I can now order some food and even open a checking account en Español: Muy Bien! But in 3 months in Italy I learned Italian better than Spanish. The point? Getting onsite experience and using your skills is far more valuable than most of your education. More on internships on THIS blogpost. Even if you are adding up your old neighbors medical receipts, you are learning! Use excel for your own personal finance. Do anything and everything accounting related and beg to help.


The truth about CPA firm hiring of career restarts

Internships that show up online or on firm websites are geared towards those just graduating from four year institutions, were active in accounting activities, and fit a certain profile. Let’s be honest. Career restarts are going to generally have an unrelated education background and are going to face age discrimination. Most CPA firms don’t want to train at all. Note the amount of job postings for 3+ years of experience versus no experience? The good news is that you don’t want to work for the discriminatory firms anyway. But to get in somewhere you need to prove yourself and learn along the way. Get yourself in somewhere even if volunteering. Adding up receipts, being and accounts payable clerk, sending bills out for an office, and anything involving numbers will be a good first step. Apply the theory around what might seem like a mundane job and climb the ranks.


The good news is that you are only limited by your own hard work

Merica’ I love this country. All you need is a soap bucket and a sponge. Start ringing door bells, get to washing, and someone will pay you for it if you have enough drive. And so the story goes. With accounting, you need only a laptop and that same drive. Education is cheaper than ever. Get a job somewhere, get your year, and take courses online at the same time. Eventually you can climb the ranks or even build your own client base.


Try and work for someone before being self-employed

Some inexperienced bookkeepers manage to start bringing in clients right away and even make money. But I believe what some sacrifice for a quicker but, loose out in longer term training. Public and private accounting is hierarchical for a reason. Deep accounting knowledge takes years to develop. I jumped ship after six years working with firms and I still could have learned more had I stayed on. You are well served to be earning relatively little and receiving training. If you have an independent mindset like me, work for others and slowly build your client base in the evenings.


Tell me how Accounting Play can help you.

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