Bookkeeping as a Business

There has never been a better time to be a bookkeeper in business. The historical demand for bookkeepers has always been great, but that demand is increasing, and is now at a record high.

Of course, the IAB’s purpose is to spread the word about professional bookkeepers and the work we do, so we’re bound to say that. Let’s back it up with some data.

Courtesy Wikipedia and United Nations

The global population is growing, which partly explains the need for more bookkeepers. It’s just over 7 billion today and the best statisticians on the planet estimate it will reach 11 billion by the end of the century.

But it’s not just global populations that are increasing, it’s the number of businesses too.

Huge Increase In Business Startups

The global increase in business startups means bookkeepers are, and will continue to be, in more demand than ever before. Setting yourself up as either a sole-trader bookkeeper or in a partnership is one of the few industries you can be involved in today that is the closest thing you can get to a job for life.

In 1979 there were 750,000 businesses operating in the UK. In 2016, this increased to 5.5 million (source: UK Government). That’s a 700% increase in growth.

The graph below shows the growth in just the VAT and PAYE registered section of UK businesses.

Source: Office of National Statistics

During that time, the UK population has grown from around 56 million to 66 million. That’s only a 15% growth in comparison.

In the late 70’s there was approximately 1 business owner per 75 people, whereas today it’s 1 business owner per 12. And by ‘business owner’ we mean people who actually own and run a business (not silent partners or private shareholders).

If you take the number of people who run businesses and divide it by the number of people who have formal bookkeeping qualifications, we discover a very large skill gap.

And due to the increase in population and the number of new businesses being formed, that skill gap is getting larger, which in turn leads to an ever increasing opportunity for people willing to start their own bookkeeping practice.

Why do Business Owners need Bookkeepers?

The skill gap is at its worst among small and micro businesses with well over 99% lacking any formal qualifications in, what is arguably, the most important part of running any business – bookkeeping. Here’s why:

Without accurate bookkeeping, a business owner has little to no idea of where their business is going.

  • They won’t know if it’s currently in profit.
  • They won’t know if it’s about to have a cashflow issue.
  • They won’t know how much they are owed, or how much they owe.
  • They won’t know whether they are approaching any important thresholds such as the threshold for mandatory VAT registration.

Furthermore, without a proper bookkeeping process in place (as well as an accurate set of books) accountants aren’t able to do their work properly.

And so the demand for professional bookkeepers comes not just from business owners, but also from accountants who are happy to outsource their work to bookkeepers who have nationally recognised qualifications.

Why become a Member in Practice?

You may be wondering how the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) can help you become a professional registered bookkeeper and help you set yourself up in practice.

First, let’s look at the reasons you might want to join the IAB and become a registered Member in Practice:

  • Credibility. Qualifications from the IAB are globally recognised and Ofqual accredited.
  • Trust. Gaining trust from your prospective clients is the most important part of building a bookkeeping relationship and practice.
  • Confidence. Passing your bookkeeping qualification not only gives you confidence in your abilities, it gives your customers confidence too.
  • Prestige. As a member of the IAB, your professional qualification allows you to add recognised letters after your name.
  • Support. The IAB offers a very large range of support. You can read more about what you get over here, but one of the benefits of being a Member in Practice is access to the IAB’s tax and accounting support lines (if you’ve got a difficult question, we’ve got the experts to help – at no extra cost).

How Do You Become a Member in Practice?

To apply to join the IAB as a Member in Practice you must first join the IAB as a professional member.  There are two paths depending on your current status. 

The first is if you are already qualified to level 2 in bookkeeping or payroll either through the IAB or another recognised awarding body. In this case, you’re already eligible to join as a professional member. You can find out more about becoming a member here

The other way is to gain your qualifications through the IAB. The IAB is an international organisation available in over 70 countries, so you have an extremely wide set of options to choose from.

Where To Study For Your Qualifications

The IAB has three ways to study for your qualifications:

  1. Self study.
  2. Distance learning.
  3. Classroom based.

If you like the idea of gaining your qualifications at home, then the self study option is the way to go. You can get your text books direct from the IAB online store here.

If you would prefer some guidance, then distance learning may be for you. There are many options to choose from including dedicated tutors.

Or you may prefer a more formal classroom based learning. Many colleges and adult learning centres run IAB courses, and you can find your nearest centres here.

Becoming a Member in Practice

The IAB is one of only 26 organisations approved for anti money laundering (AML) by the Treasury, and as a Member in Practice, you get free advice and help on all matters to do with AML.

The IAB is also recognised by HMRC and as a Member in Practice you are automatically approved by HMRC to operate as a registered agent. If you were to apply to HMRC independently, it would cost you £215 in your first year, and then £115 per year thereafter.

You can find out more about the costs of IAB membership here.

Support for Members in Practice

The IAB run regular seminars, which also help with your Continuous Professional Development (CPD) requirements as well as regular updates and other ways to improve your skills.

We also have various training courses to help you run your business efficiently as well as professionally, so you will never feel alone. Our ethos is to ensure that every member gets the help they need. We like to think of ourselves as one big family.

This is why the IAB operate as a non profit organisation run by its members for its members. This is another aspect that makes the IAB unique and the only dedicated bookkeeping organisation in the world to do this.

Next Steps

If you’d like to find out more about joining the IAB, becoming a qualified bookkeeper or payroll professional, or becoming an IAB Member in Practice, please contact the IAB.

Here’s What Sir Richard Branson Has To Say About Bookkeepers

Richard Branson at the UN on using professionals to do the work

Sir Richard Branson

...on bookkeeping and the bookkeeping profession...

“You name it, I did it: writing, editing, advertising, marketing, accounting. I soon realised that I just wasn’t suited for some particular roles – namely those that involved working with numbers.  I learned to hand over those responsibilities to people who did them well.”