Join today get up to 75% OFF for the first 3 months!*

How to start a bookkeeping business in Australia: 8 steps to success

how to start a bookkeeping business

A career in bookkeeping offers aspiring financial wizards a stable and rewarding career path. But where do you begin?

This comprehensive guide is your one-stop shop for navigating the exciting world of establishing your own bookkeeping business. We’ll guide you into everything you need to know, from registering your business and choosing the right software to building a strong online presence and attracting your ideal clients.

Whether you’re a seasoned accounting professional or a newcomer eager to break into the bookkeeping field, this guide will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to launch your business successfully.

What is a bookkeeping business?

A bookkeeping business is essentially a service that helps clients manage their day-to-day financial transactions. The bookkeeper acts as the record keeper, ensuring all the financial details are documented accurately and organised. This frees up the client’s time to focus on running their business.

Bookkeeping businesses offer several services, such as regularly reconciling bank statements, how to do payroll, creating financial reports, and managing cash flow. Starting a bookkeeping business of your own can highly complement your accounting expertise, allowing you to give clients comprehensive financial advice and services.

How to know when you’re ready to start a bookkeeping business

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Continuously funding your business and finding clients are known challenges that take time, dedication, and the ability to go above and beyond. However, it can also be rewarding.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new accountant or a seasoned professional; you have the skills to succeed in your own business environment. But how do you know if it’s the right move for you? 

You want professional flexibility

While there will be times when focus and attention are required to meet deadlines, owning a bookkeeping business offers a significant degree of flexibility compared to traditional office jobs.

As the business owner, you control your schedule. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, you can structure your workday to suit your preferences instead of working at appointed hours. Need to attend a child’s school play or have a doctor’s appointment? You have the freedom to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Beyond that, you also get to decide who you work with. This allows you to build a client base that aligns with your interests and personality. You’ll also have the ability to grow at your own pace, whether that means continuing as a sole practitioner or employing staff.

ATO & Fair Work
payroll software

Make payroll simpler with Payroller, the payroll solution for bookkeepers.

Sign up today and take the first step toward a more efficient and compliant payroll process.

You want to start a business with minimal start-up costs

Compared to other businesses, bookkeeping can be launched with relatively low upfront costs. You don’t need a fancy office setup, just a reliable computer, a good internet connection, and a comfortable workspace. Software to help you do your work is a must-have, but cloud-based accounting technology makes this possible on a manageable subscription basis.

By being resourceful and focusing on essential needs initially, you can keep your start-up costs manageable. The beauty of a bookkeeping business is that the core service revolves around your knowledge and expertise, not a massive physical setup or inventory.

You want full control of your career growth

A bookkeeping business can certainly empower you if you crave control over your career path. As a business owner, your success is directly tied to your efforts. You have the flexibility to choose the services you want to offer, allowing you to specialise in areas you find most interesting.

As your bookkeeping business scales, you can take on virtual assistants or even hire additional bookkeepers to manage your workload. This allows you to focus on strategic aspects like client acquisition and business development while delegating tasks. Eventually, you could even build a bookkeeping team, transitioning from a solopreneur to a business owner who manages a team.

Skills you need to set up your own bookkeeping business

Leaning on your accounting background is a great advantage when starting a bookkeeping business. Your financial management abilities will help you understand business needs, like budgeting, recordkeeping, and tax obligations. But what about other skills should you train up on to truly succeed?

Soft skills

  • Organisation & time management
    Juggling multiple clients’ financial records requires excellent organisation and time management skills to meet deadlines effectively.
  • Attention to detail
    Accuracy is paramount. A keen eye for detail will minimise errors and ensure the integrity of your client’s financial data.
  • Client communication & management
    Building trust and clear communication with clients is essential. You’ll need to explain financial concepts in a way they understand and confidently answer their questions.
  • Self-motivation & initiative
    As your own boss, staying motivated and taking the initiative to grow your business is crucial.

Technical skills

  • Marketing & sales
    Attracting new clients is an ongoing process. Develop marketing strategies and potentially network to build your client base.
  • Software knowledge
    Familiarity with popular cloud-based accounting software will streamline your workflow and client collaboration. AI in payroll and accounting is a must-have!
  • Industry specialisation
    Consider specialising in a specific industry, such as bookkeeping for tradies, e-commerce businesses, or startups. This will allow you to cater to their unique needs and become an expert in that field.
  • Professional networking
    Build genuine connections and relationships with other professionals who can help you grow your business. Join industry associations and events, connect with them online, and become part of their community.
set up a bookkeeping business

How to start a bookkeeping business in Australia: A complete roadmap

So, you’ve decided you want to move forward into the exciting journey of starting your own bookkeeping business. The Australian accounting industry is a dynamic and growing sector, and it’s yours for the taking.

Follow the steps below to jumpstart your new bookkeeping venture!

1. Get accredited

First, getting the right certifications and memberships can enhance your credibility and attract clients. While a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping (FNS40217) is a nationally recognised qualification in Australia, it may not be enough to set you apart from your competitors.

Pursue professional memberships with the relevant associations across the country. The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) is the largest of its kind in Australia, and membership allows you to enjoy its resources and networking events. Work towards ICB’s Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation, which requires meeting experience and education criteria. The National Tax and Accountants’ Association (NTAA) is also a good place to get business and educational resources for accounting professionals.

These accreditations help you build a strong reputation for your bookkeeping business.

2. Choose a market and niche

Start by reflecting on your strengths, areas of expertise, and what kind of clients you’d enjoy working with. Do you have experience in a specific industry? Do you prefer working with fast-paced startups or established businesses?

Look for industries with a projected increase in businesses, indicating a potential rise in demand for bookkeeping services. Think about the potential for long-term client relationships within your chosen niche. Recurring clients provide stable income and allow you to build deeper industry knowledge.

Need ideas for your specific bookkeeping niche? Consider the following:

  • Tradies businesses
  • E-commerce businesses
  • Real estate
  • Restaurants and hospitality
  • Medical practices
  • Legal practices
  • Non-profit organisations
  • Start-up and early-stage businesses

3. Create a bookkeeping business plan

A well-crafted business plan represents your roadmap to a successful bookkeeping business. You’ll use and update it again and again over the course of your venture, and it’s a valuable tool to secure funding and attract clients.

Here’s a breakdown of key sections that your business plan will need:

  • Executive summary
    This is a concise overview of your entire business plan, highlighting your company’s mission, target market, competitive advantage, and financial projections. It should grab the reader’s attention and entice them to delve deeper.
  • Business description
    This should include a company overview, introducing your bookkeeping business, its location, and the services it provides. Add a mission statement to define your purpose and core values, and decide on a business structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, etc.).
  • Market analysis
    Clearly define your target market and ideal client profile, considering industry, business size, and location. Analyse trends and future projections related to your bookkeeping business. Determine who your competitors are, their strengths and weaknesses, and how you’ll differentiate yourself.
  • Marketing & sales strategy
    How do you plan to reach your target market and acquire clients? What is your pricing strategy? You can implement online and traditional marketing strategies or even networking events and partnerships with other professionals. Consider industry standards for your pricing and your unique value proposition.
  • Operations plan
    Specify the equipment and accounting software you’ll use and how it’ll help your workflows. Outline your processes for delivering bookkeeping services, including turnaround times and communications. Since much of your work will happen on the cloud, explain your business’s cybersecurity measures; your clients will thank you later!
  • Management team
    Who is the master behind the madness? Highlight your experience, qualifications, and what makes you a strong bookkeeping business owner. If you have partners or plan to hire staff, provide an overview of their skills and qualifications.
  • Financial projections
    List and qualify the cost of your initial expenses to set up a bookkeeping business. Calculate projections for your estimated income for the next few years based on your pricing strategy and the industry you want to occupy. Your future profitability can help you secure funding and support later on!

4. Get a TFN, an IBN, and ASIC registration

Time to handle the admin work! To start, you’ll need a tax file number (TFN) to register your business and let the Australian Taxation Office track your tax obligations. Registration is free, and you can apply for it online through the ATO website. Next, you’ll need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) through the ABR website.

An ABN for your bookkeeping business is required to register with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), which has an associated cost. During the registration process, you’ll need to provide details like your company name, business structure (e.g., sole trader, partnership), office address, and nominated directors/shareholders. You may register through their website as well. 

5. Build your presence online

Modern businesses exist in the digital world, so a strong online presence is necessary for the success of your bookkeeping business. Start with a professional website that talks about your business values, services, and how potential clients can reach you. Use your website as a library to share content about your expertise and positive testimonials from previous clients.

Create social media profiles on platforms you know your target audience frequents, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. This is a great way to flex your branding on bookkeeping or small business groups and invest in paid advertising to attract leads.

Online directories and review sites are great ways to reach local businesses that want to work with a bookkeeper in their area. Directories also make it easier for future clients to find feedback on your services.

A great marketing tip is to always use high-quality visuals on your website and social media profiles. Even online, present yourself professionally so you can win clients over with your expertise!

6. Create a professional network

Having a network of professionals is a goldmine for bookkeeping startups. Other accounting associations with ICB and NTAA and organisations in your industry typically hold conferences, workshops, and seminars. These are great opportunities to meet potential clients and referral partners and build your reputation. Make sure you participate in discussions, exchange business cards, and follow up with interesting connections. 

You can also find complementary businesses to work with. This could include financial advisors, business coaches, or even tax accountants. These professionals can introduce your bookkeeping business to their network and give you a wider reach to your target audience.

7. Invest in bookkeeping software

Choosing the right bookkeeping software is a critical decision for your Australian business. The ideal software should streamline your tasks and boost efficiency. To ensure compliance with ATO regulations, find a Single Touch Payroll-approved platform.

Your cloud software should support multiple entity management to help you manage your clients’ bookkeeping needs. Having different clients’ data easily accessible will make delivering insights an easier task to do solo, especially when the software can generate reports for you.

Avoid on-premise solutions, as they come with heftier upfront and maintenance costs and become more inconvenient as your business grows. Bookkeeping and accounting practices on the cloud have the advantages of working from anywhere on the go and better data security.

With just a few clicks, you can integrate your accounting files with Xero.

Take control of your payroll and stay compliant with Payroller today. Visit our website to get started.

Use Payroller
with your
Xero account!

8. Secure funding options

Securing funding for your bookkeeping business can give it a crucial boost in the early stages. While bootstrapping offers complete ownership and control over your business, opportunities like business loans or government-backed grants can help widen your horizon and find more revenue streams.

Behind every successful funding round is a solid business plan and a good understanding of your market. Provide evidence that your target audience needs your services, and it’ll be easier to gain investments. It might be wise to start by seeking a smaller amount of funding initially and demonstrate your business viability before seeking larger investments.


Streamline your bookkeeping business with the right tools and support

The bookkeeping industry offers a stable and rewarding career path. With the knowledge you’ve gained from this article, you’re well-equipped to navigate the initial steps. Remember, the key to success lies in meticulous planning, continuous learning, and building strong relationships.

By focusing on your niche market, investing in software for accountants, and establishing a robust online presence, you can attract clients and stay competitive. The Australian bookkeeping landscape is dynamic and evolving, so staying updated on industry trends and regulations will ensure you can deliver exceptional service to your clients.

Explore feature-rich options that cater to the Australian market. Payroller is an easy-to-use cloud-based payroll solution that saves time for bookkeeping businesses and their clients. Use our agent portal for free!

Frequently asked questions about starting a bookkeeping business


The startup costs for your bookkeeping business depend on factors like your chosen business structure, location, and services. Here’s a breakdown of some potential expenses:

  • Registering your business with ASIC: Approximately ~$300 for a company registration.
  • Applying for an ABN: Free
  • Tax File Number (TFN): Free if you’re a sole trader using your individual TFN for business purposes.
  • Bookkeeping Software: Subscription plans typically range from approximately ~$20 to ~$100 per month, depending on features and the number of users.
  • Website: Building a basic website can cost anywhere from a DIY approach for free to hire a developer for approximately  ~$1,000 or more for a custom design. Free AI website builders are a great option to jumpstart your business.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: Consider this to protect yourself – costs can vary depending on coverage.

Australian small businesses typically need assistance with tasks like:

  • Bank reconciliation: Matching bank statements with accounting records.
  • Accounts payable & receivable: Managing bill payments and customer invoices.
  • Payroll processing (including STP compliance): Ensuring employees are paid correctly and payroll tax is reported to the ATO for total payroll compliance.
  • BAS preparation and lodgement: Quarterly reports for the Australian Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • Financial reporting: Generating reports like profit and loss statements for informed decision-making.

The timeframe for profitability depends on your initial client acquisition strategy, pricing structure, and operating expenses. Building a client base takes time and effort. Some bookkeepers start seeing profits within a few months, while others may take a year or more.

Absolutely! Working from home is a viable option for many bookkeeping businesses in Australia. You’ll need a dedicated workspace and ensure you have a reliable internet connection to access software and client data securely.

As a sole trader working from home, you may be entitled to claim deductions for home office expenses like rent (portion used for business), internet, and office supplies. Read our sole trader tax guide or consult with a registered tax agent to understand your specific tax obligations and potential deductions.

Payroll made accessible.

Create your free account now.

*By clicking “Try For Free“, you agree to our terms of services and privacy policy.