What is a bookkeeper?

Every business by law must ‘keep the books’ – hence the term bookkeeping. But what do you know about bookkeepers? Ever wondered:

  • What tasks they do every day?
  • Why they are highly sought-after?
  • What opportunities there are for qualified bookkeepers?

Good bookkeeping is essential business maintenance. In short, a bookkeeper keeps track of monies coming into and out of the business. By maintaining accurate financial records, bookkeepers help SMEs and micro businesses:

  • Prepare for year-end tax and VAT returns
  • Keep on top of day-to-day cash flow
  • Efficiently run their finances

Traditionally, bookkeepers kept paper records of business transactions. Today, a bookkeeper’s tasks are diverse and highly sophisticated – requiring skilled knowledge.

Top reasons to be a bookkeeper

Bookkeeping is an extremely rewarding career and has many benefits.  If you are considering a career in bookkeeping, please view below the top reasons to become a bookkeeper.

If you are considering a new career path in bookkeeping, we hope that this will inspire you to gain bookkeeping qualifications and make your dream a reality.

  1. Be in demand: Qualified, professional bookkeepers have a vital role to play in the health of the country’s small businesses.  A bookkeeper will often be the first to spot signs that a company is heading into difficulties by flagging up late paying debtors and cash flow issues.  All businesses, no matter what size, require someone to manage their finances and highlight any issues as soon as they arise to ensure the company continues to be profitable.  In 2016 nearly 660,000 companies were established in the UK according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs, a think-tank.  There is plenty of demand out there for bookkeepers, especially as one of the most common reasons for businesses failing in the first year is due to poorly managed finances.  There are also numerous firms looking for qualified and talented staff, while larger corporations will often have bookkeeping positions within their accounts department.
  2. Ideal for flexible working:  A career as a bookkeeper is the perfect ‘work from home’ profession enabling you to build a successful career whilst managing family life as well as any other commitments you may have, resulting in you having flexible work hours.
  3. Be your own boss: Bookkeeping is the ideal profession if you want to be self-employed.  A profitable, successful bookkeeping business can be run from home with little financial outlay and minimal overheads.  Some self-employed bookkeepers also choose to take on staff to increase the number of clients they can support and increase their profitability while enjoying being their own boss.
  4. Routes for progression: There are plenty of career options and progression routes within bookkeeping.  Many people choose to offer bookkeeping and related services either on a self-employed basis or working for a firm.  From there you can choose to become an accounting technician or a chartered accountant with a variety of awarding and professional bodies to help you on the way.
  5. You don’t need to go to university: Bookkeeping is a profession that presents students with a variety of affordable entry routes and paths along which they can grow and pursue a career.  Anyone who is good with numbers is eligible and able to study to be a bookkeeper.  IAB qualifications are an excellent way to ensure you have all the required skills and are fully qualified for when it comes to gaining employment.  IAB qualifications start at Level 1 and progress to Level 3 which is equivalent to A-Levels.
  6. Keep your skills and knowledge updated: If you join the IAB as a professional member, you will be up to date with legislation changes which you can in turn brief and advise your clients or employer on, putting them a step or two ahead of the game.  A good bookkeeper will become a vital and trusted advisor for the small business person.

What’s on a bookkeeper’s ‘to do’ list?

As well as keeping a financial ‘paper trail’ to balance the accounts, a bookkeeper’s role is extensive. Here’s just a snapshot of different tasks undertaken:

  • Purchase orders and invoicing
  • Sales accounting and credit control
  • Cash and banking admin
  • Completing VAT returns
  • Data processing
  • Payroll accounting

On top of this, bookkeepers use data to prepare financial statements – ensuring annual returns are smoothly administered.

And because qualified bookkeepers are experts at accounting ledger systems, they help business owners stay in complete control of their finances.

How to get qualified … and what opportunities there are

You can study a range of level 1-4 bookkeeping, payroll and accounting qualifications through the IAB. As well as flexible study options, you can also get on-the-job training through an apprenticeship.

Afterwards, with recognised qualifications under your belt, you can opt to:

  • Enrol onto a degree course to further your accountancy career
  • Set up a lucrative business as a Registered Bookkeeper™ – providing financial skills to a host of industries
  • Secure a job as a bookkeeper or payroll clerk in a local accountancy practice

Whether you’ve just left school, you’re ready for a career change or want to extend your skills, bookkeeping qualifications open new doors to a better future.

Bookkeeper and accountant… What’s the difference?

In essence, bookkeepers are technical wizards! They set up and oversee day-to-day record keeping in a client’s business – then monitor the accounts ensuring they are up-to-date.

By comparison, it’s the accountant’s job to interpret bookkeeping data to assess whether a business is running efficiently. Without well-kept books to refer to, an accountant can’t give invaluable tax and financial advice to business owners.

So if you’re meticulous, have a head for numbers and enjoy problem-solving, bookkeeping offers you countless career choices.

Ready to find out more?

Check out the four steps to starting a new career in bookkeeping here. For further enquiries or to talk to one of our advisers, contact the IAB team.