You’ve heard how popular Xero is right? Over a million subscribers worldwide, with more than a quarter of a million in the UK alone!!
So, now you want a slice of the action and who can blame you? Think of the benefits …
- You can earn a decent living
- You can be your own boss
- You can have flexible working hours
- You can work from anywhere
OK, that sounds great. But let’s do this sensibly. “Stop and think before you dive in” is regular advice I give.
I’ve written this blog post to help anybody keen to earn a living as a successful Xero bookkeeper. It’s not meant as an exhaustive guide, that’s covered in my online course. But if you follow my recommended steps it will get you well on your way to becoming a successful Xero bookkeeper.
I’ve tried to list the steps in order, but there will be overlaps and you will need to be dealing with more than one step at a time, especially if you are impatient and just want to get started.
So here goes …
1 Do your homework, then make the commitment
Are you sure that you want to be a Xero bookkeeper? Do you have an idea what life as a Xero bookkeeper would be like? There’s loads of Xero bookkeepers around, so go and talk to one.
Do you have any previous knowledge of bookkeeping? If you have then that’s great. If not don’t worry; although it helps, it’s not a necessity. Here’s what I think are the skills required to be a successful Xero bookkeeper:
- Comfortable with numbers
- Like helping people
- Happy using software (no technophobes!)
Are you going to be doing this full-time or maybe just part-time initially? During the early stages are you financially secure enough to spend some time with no income while you get things up and running? Getting your first client may take longer than you think, it can be slow to gain momentum at the beginning.
Don’t make the decision lightly, talk to others, take advice but once you have committed it’s time to get your creative juices working.
2 Create your brand
You can always go back and revisit some parts of your branding at a later stage, especially if you are starting out on a tight budget. But you do need to give it some thought before you open for business.
What do you want to call your business? Is there a domain name available to give you the opportunity to create a website. You can check domain availability using a website such as 123-reg.
Do you have a logo for your business? Have you thought about the colours you would like to use. My suggestion would be that you find a good graphic designer to do this for you. If you are on a tight budget you can either create your own logo or use a low-cost option such as fiverr.com.
If you want a website, do you know somebody who can do it for you? If you plan to create a d-i-y website, do you have the required skills and is it really the best use of your time? I’m not a fan of d-i-y websites but again if money is tight it might be ok to get you started; you could try out a free website builder such as Wix.
How will you be contacted? Do you have a mobile number or do you want to have a landline? Many businesses will start out with only a mobile.
What about an email address? I recommend g-mail for getting you started. If you purchase a domain then you can get a more professional email address for a small monthly charge. I’m sure you will agree that firstname.lastname@example.org is a more professional email address than email@example.com.
3 Sort out all the legal stuff
You need to decide how you want to set up your business. If you are UK based, then starting out as a sole trader is the easiest option. Or you may be more comfortable trading through a limited company. You can always start out as a sole trader and then switch to a limited company once your business grows.
To run your business as a sole trader you need to register with HMRC which can be done here. If you have previously submitted a tax return online you will already be registered for self- assessment and have a UTR (10 digit Unique Tax Reference). Registering online is then done simply by filling in this online form. If you haven’t submitted a tax return online before (and don’t have a UTR), then you complete this online form instead.
If you want to run your business as a limited company there’s helpful advice on the HMRC website about the details needed before setting up your company. It can be hard finding a company name that hasn’t been already taken, so it’s worthwhile checking this out when you are deciding a name for your business. Once you have all the information available you can go ahead and register your company online with Companies House for a small fee (currently £12). Registration is fast and relatively straightforward, but do seek advice if you are unsure.
You will need to have a business bank account. If you are a sole trader, you can use a personal bank account but if you are a limited company, it’s a legal requirement to have a separate bank account for your company. You may want to check out the best UK bank accounts for Xero before deciding who to bank with.
Before you start trading, make sure you have insurances in place. The best advice I can give is to talk to a reputable insurance broker who will help you decide the cover you need.
A final consideration is whether or not you need to be VAT registered. The current threshold is £85,000 so it’s not something you will need to worry about initially. But you do have the option to register for VAT voluntarily, something you may choose to do to allow you to claim back VAT on your business expenditure. Advice on VAT can be found on the HMRC website here and registering for VAT can be done online here. VAT is a complex subject, so if unsure seek advice from an accountant before deciding whether or not you should register.
If you are outside the UK, you will have different legal considerations based on your business location.
4 Improve your skills
OK, you need to get your Xero skills to a certain level before you can start offering your services as a Xero bookkeeper. With a fair bit of hard work, determination and some help along the way, that’s not going to be difficult.
Maybe you are already familiar with Xero. If so, then that’s brilliant. Or maybe you are already a bookkeeper, just not a Xero bookkeeper (yet). You need to start off getting to grips with Xero, so make sure you sign up for your 30-day free trial. Then you can start using Xero in your own business, as entering your own transactions is a great way to learn. I learned Xero firsthand from using it in my own business on a daily basis. I was mainly self-taught, but it doesn’t have to be that way…
- There are online courses – here’s what’s available on Udemy (including mine).
- Xero offers live and online training, webinars and events.
- And there are other Xero trainers in the UK, whether you prefer face-to-face or online training.
The best advice I can give is that you don’t have to know everything there is to know about Xero before getting started. You can find work as a Xero bookkeeper, even if all you do is the day-to-day routine transactions.
5 Become a Xero Partner
You can become a Xero bookkeeper and go it alone. Some bookkeepers prefer to be “jack of all trades” and don’t specialise in Xero. But my advice would be that it’s better to specialise and naturally my choice is going to be Xero.
And if you’re going to specialise in Xero, it makes total sense to become a Xero Partner. Once you become a Xero Partner you will be given a dedicated account manager who will help you get started and answer any queries you may have. And as an added bonus your own Xero account will be free!
All the information you need can be found on the Xero website here.
And when you’re ready to sign up here’s where you need to go to.
6 Market your business
You’ve decided to go for it, sorted all the legal stuff, improved your Xero skills and now what? Well, there’s not much point in any of it if you can’t find some work.
As a Xero partner, you have your own entry in the Xero Advisor Directory which you should put a lot of effort into both completing and keeping up to date. Try to be you, and ‘dare I say it’ more interesting than your competition on there!
Then you need to think about where your clients are going to find you. Do you have a large network already that you can tap into? Do you want to work with clients locally? Remember, the beauty of Xero is that you are not restricted to a local client base but if that is your preference then I would recommend you do some local face-to-face networking.
Once your website is live you can start blogging regularly. The idea behind blogging is not to show off your daily life but to be as helpful to your clients as you can be. Think about what their problems are, and help with solving them. The more you write, the easier it gets and visitors to your site will feel they know you before they even make contact.
Apart from your website, where else do you want to have an online presence? Think about where your target audience hang out and make sure you are there too. But don’t try to be everywhere. It’s much better to concentrate on one social media platform and do it well. Once you decide on a platform, take some time creating your profile, connecting with others and then look at joining and contributing to any Xero/business online groups and forums.
7 Manage your business
Remember that you are a business owner, and although hopefully doing what you love you need to earn some money to make it all worthwhile.
Spend some time thinking about how you want to price the work you do. Do you want to charge an hourly rate or a rate per job?
Do a budget for your first year, estimating what you expect your income and costs will be. It’s very hard to estimate accurately in your first year so I suggest you update your budget quarterly.
Keep your own finances up to date (which shouldn’t be difficult using Xero), and ensure that as well as being profitable you are managing your business cash flow.
8 Continue learning
My advice (which I also follow) is to never stop learning. Once you become a Xero Partner it’s a good idea to become Xero certified. You can then market yourself as a ‘Xero Certified Advisor’. You can learn all about becoming a Xero Certified Advisor here. Once you are Xero certified you want to ensure that you keep your certification up to date.
If you commit to getting to know Xero really well, you can become an expert in Xero Projects or Xero Payroll.
There are also over 600 hundred Xero add-ons , time saving apps that connect with Xero. Because there are so many, my advice is to pick no more than a handful and learn about them. Check out the list on the Xero app store and only look at the add-ons you know your clients will benefit from.
Then there is the opportunity to specialise, become an expert, discover a niche market where you have a lot to offer.
In addition to knowing Xero, many bookkeepers have other qualifications and as well as the day-to-day entries will prepare VAT returns, year end accounts and tax returns for their clients.
It’s your choice what you want to do!
And finally …
Being a successful Xero bookkeeper is definitely achievable but don’t embark on the journey lightly. Being self employed is not for everybody, and it might take longer to establish yourself than you think. But, (andI’m biased) it’s definitely a rewarding career path to choose if you are prepared to put in the hard work and stick at it.
What the experts say
While researching for this blog post I spoke with 3 Xero bookkeepers and asked them to share their 3 top tips for becoming a successful Xero bookkeeper.
Here’s what they had to say …
Debra has a background in both accounts and Xero and has now been running her own business Balance Bookkeeping since October 2016. She is Xero certified and is most active on LinkedIn. In addition to her Xero expertise, Debra has an HNC in Business and Finance. Here’s Debra’s top tips:
- Make sure you know what you are talking about – a mixture of training and real life business experience is mandatory.
- Keep yourself informed and up to date with everything you can – including, but not limited to, software , add ons, apps, HMRC updates.
- Keep plugging away – use social media to promote yourself and your expertise, be ready to give free advice when asked and follow up all leads – although business won’t bite your hand off straight away you will find leads and customers will trickle through.
- Keep your Xero directory up to date. (An extra one sneaked in by Debra, but I’ve got to agree with her!)
You can connect with Debra on LinkedIn here.
Tracy has a wealth of experience in desktop software but she is now discovering the benefits of Xero for her clients. Here’s what Tracy suggests:
- Be organised.
- Be as flexible as you can, without it impacting on your personal time.
- Get out there and talk to people! Having your head buried in figures can feel quite isolating at times.
Karen launched her business in early 2018 and quickly gained her Xero certification. Her recent experience has been in the charity sector but prior to that she worked in financial services. In addition to her Xero expertise, Karen is a member of the Institute of Bookkeepers. Karen is very active networking locally and has a Facebook business page. Here’s what Karen recommends:
- Set yourself specific goals (know exactly what you want to achieve and by when).
- Get to know your clients – not just their financials, get to know their goals and aspirations too. This helps you help them achieve them.
- Knowledge is key. Keep up to date with legislation and technology updates e.g. Xero. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are not sure. Most software providers will provide additional training and use support from HMRC and ICB etc.
Over to you
Has this blog post encouraged you to go ahead? If so, I would love to hear from you. And if you are already a successful Xero bookkeeper is there anything you would add to this post?