Coming from the corporate world, leasing office space seemed like the obvious choice when I started my own company. But after 18 months of commuting to an office and paying rent and other overhead expenses, my two partners and I realized the cost—and time—savings of transforming into a virtual business. Luckily, we all had space to work from our homes, and with the right equipment, we made the transition to being a virtual business without a hitch.
If you’re just starting out or, like us, tired of paying for office space, there is another option: Become a virtual bookkeeper.
With the right business technology, attention to legal compliance and marketing savvy, you could become a virtual bookkeeper and make your entrepreneurial dreams come true—right from your own home.
All the Right Tools to Become a Virtual Bookkeeper
As a virtual business owner myself, I know both the pleasures and the frustrations of working at home. According to a survey by Endurance International Group, the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs face when working from home are:
- Time management (41%)
- Attracting new clients or customers (34%)
- Family or friends interrupting my workday (32%)
- Limited resources (26%)
- Scaling my business (23%)
- No time for my personal life and interests (22%)
Fortunately, there are plenty of tech solutions to help. To become a successful virtual bookkeeper, effective time management is a crucial skill. Working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by home projects or even the refrigerator. Start by tracking your time with an app like Toggl. Simply create an account and connect the Toggl timer to your computer’s apps. Just click to start the timer whenever you begin a task and then click again to stop when you’ve ended the task or whenever you take a break.
It also helps to have a project management app you can use to keep projects on track, as well as a customer relationship management (CRM) program to track progress on leads and keep notes on clients’ personal and business details. HubSpot CRM is a popular option that’s free for multiple users. Nimble is a simple solution, offering contact management, sales and marketing automation, business intelligence, social listening and engagement and mobile/browser apps.
You’ll also want to store your business data in the cloud so you can easily access your files and get work done wherever you are, making you more efficient.
Because you’re most likely on a budget, you don’t want to overspend on equipment when you’re just starting out. On the other hand, outdated technology could slow your growth and hinder your productivity. Consider leasing office equipment instead of buying it outright. This can save you money, and you’ll get the most current technology, plus the support you need to keep the equipment running smoothly.
Compliance and More
Starting a virtual bookkeeping business, like starting any business, requires adhering to the rules and regulations established by the state in which you do business. A good first step in starting a successful bookkeeping business is choosing your legal form of business.
Sole proprietorships are the most prevalent form of business for solo entrepreneurs but provide no protection for your personal assets. If you want to shield your personal assets (and enjoy some other benefits), you can register your business as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC). Be sure to learn the differences between the various business structures before you commit. The business structure you choose affects everything from your tax filings to your legal status and more, so it’s important to do your homework. Check CorpNet to get help understanding your state’s compliance requirements and choosing your business structure.
To learn your city’s regulations on virtual home-based businesses, you need to check with your city’s business development office. Your city not only wants to ensure you’re running a legitimate business, it also wants to be sure you’re not violating the rights of the other residents in your neighborhood. All cities and towns have specific zoning laws concerning physical changes, traffic restrictions, and nuisances that could affect how you run your business.
Restrictions on physical changes might include prohibiting exterior physical changes to the home for the purposes of conducting business and prohibiting business signage on your home. There may also be traffic restrictions such as limiting the numbers of visitors to your home, where visitors can park, or whether or not you can have employees working in your home.
Marketing Savvy for the Virtual Bookkeeper
If marketing skills are not one of your strengths, it’s wise to outsource these important tasks to someone else. In fact, since starting a business takes a lot of your time, getting expert help with marketing is a good way to becoming a successful virtual bookkeeper Although getting referrals from happy customers is one of the best ways for a bookkeeper to get new clients, you also need to develop a well-planned marketing strategy so you have multiple ways to attract customers, including social media and direct mail.
To keep costs down, look for a freelance marketing person who can handle everything from website SEO to social media campaigns. Outsourcing doesn’t mean you can completely let go of the responsibility for your own marketing. After all, you want to make sure your marketing efforts truly represent your business. Make sure your marketing person sets you up to get reports on the progress of marketing campaigns, social media activity, and website analytics. Because search engine optimization (SEO) algorithms are always changing, staying on top of what works for your industry is not always possible. There are plenty of programs available to keep track of SEO trends if you want to do it yourself, but most small business owners quickly realize their efforts are better spent elsewhere. If you choose to outsource, make sure your marketing person understands SEO for the bookkeeping industry and your particular target market.
Once your business grows and you need to hire employees, you don’t necessarily have to leave the virtual business world behind. Today’s workers appreciate and sometimes expect to be allowed to work remotely, assuring your virtual bookkeeping business can stay virtual and still be successful.