Guest blog from Zoe Whitman, owner of But the Books:

Bookkeeping can be an excellent additional service for Virtual Assistants to offer, every business has an element of bookkeeping work and it’s often the thing that’s on the bottom of the to do list. Business owners don’t always know what exactly they should be doing in terms of their business finances each month so adding an additional service like bookkeeping is a simple up-sell to clients you’re already working with.

If you have a logical mind, a bit of experience (you probably do your own books after-all) and know your way around an accounting system or two you might well decide to offer this as an add-on to your clients, but beware, there are a few hoops you must make the effort to jump through to make sure what you’re doing is all above board.

I’m Zoe Whitman, I run a bookkeeping practice in Bristol called But the Books and here are my tips on what you need to know before you get started with offering bookkeeping services to your clients.

Get the right qualifications

It took me four years to qualify as an accountant, and I spent another six months taking additional bookkeeping exams when I started the business so it’s worth noting that you might need to do some studying. The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) and the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) are the well known professional bodies in the bookkeeping world and you should look at their websites to find out how to train and become a member before you take on your first bookkeeping client. If you search for “bookkeeping course” online which I’m sure lots of people do, you’ll find lots of expensive online and classroom courses, but if you’re not sure yet whether bookkeeping for you, I’d suggest ordering a textbook from the bookkeeping bodies to have a look through before you commit to any large costs.

Ensure you’re insured

So, I’m starting with the downright obvious ones and no doubt you will have some kind of insurance for the work you’re doing as a VA, but it’s important to make sure this covers you for bookkeeping work as well because it can be quite different, so speak to your insurer before you get started.

Understand your client’s businesses and needs

The golden rule I have for myself in business is to never take on something that I don’t know how to do. All businesses are set up differently, they have different processes, different systems for taking payments, they register for different VAT schemes and have different reporting needs and requirements. Finance gets technical and if you don’t have experience in a certain area you can quickly find yourself out of your depth so be open and honest with your clients about what you can and can’t do and don’t promise a client that you can do something you have no experience of. A good place to start is with some of the more simple bookkeeping tasks, the ones that cross over into the admin world. By helping businesses with things like raising invoices and chasing payments (lots of tips on that here) you’ll take a large amount of work off a business owner’s to-do list, which will add a great deal of value to them.

Understand and comply with the Money Laundering Regulations

As a bookkeeper, it’s crucial to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) and this is about knowing your customers and how they’re financing their businesses. There are a lot of boxes to tick every time you take on a new client, and big penalties if you fail to notify the right people or tip off a client you believe is money laundering, so it’s important to know your stuff in this area. Your bookkeeping body should be able to support you with your MLR obligations and it’s important to get this all in place before you take on your first client.

Protect your clients’ data

We all know about GDPR and if you’re not already registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) you must do this before you provide bookkeeping services. Bookkeepers handle sensitive information on behalf of their clients, and you must be clear with your clients about how you’re using and processing their data and their rights in that respect as well as making sure your own systems and processes are appropriate.

Enjoy making a difference

I started my bookkeeping practice because I can really make a difference for people with something I enjoy doing, but which they at best hate and at worst dread. For me, there’s nothing like sitting down and working through some accounting transactions and being able to show a client how much profit they made at the end of it. I love talking to people about their business finances and making it easy for them to understand. I try to avoid jargon as much as possible because I believe that’s part of the reason people find numbers so terrifying, and I love answering questions which people really puzzle over like “what’s the best way to file my receipts?” or “how much will it cost my business to run a sale?

If you’ve got a good head for numbers, are good at following a process and enjoy the odd puzzle, I expect you’ll feel the same as me about bookkeeping and you’ll find you can really get a lot out of offering bookkeeping as an additional service to your VA work.

If you’re looking to add additional services to your portfolio let’s work together to see where your business is now and map out a learning plan of action. Book your Power Hour with Catherine now.