How To Become A Bookkeeper

Bookkeeping isn’t just about filing receipts, tracking data or filing VAT returns. Bookkeeping is about supporting a business, helping to improve the flow of money and freeing up time for staff to help grow the business.

In the United Kingdom, it is a legal requirement for all businesses to keep a record of financial transactions, but a bookkeeper is an essential element for any business to keep track of where cash flows in and out of the business.

The only way to know if the business can continue operating and turn a profit is with the help and support of a bookkeeper, who ensures legal requirements are complied with.

How do you begin a career in bookkeeping?

Despite common belief, you don’t need a degree or any prior bookkeeping knowledge to begin learning about bookkeeping.

The most common route for someone new to accountancy is to study the AAT Professional qualification. This gives you a firm overview of accounting principles, with modules dedicated to the services involved in bookkeeping as well as the preparation of accounts.

The next stage is to complete your AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping

Level 2 – Gain the skills and essential knowledge needed for completing the manual bookkeeping activities that underpin all accountancy and finance roles.

Once you have level 1 & 2 it’s time to gain your AAT Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping

Level 3 – Learn enhanced skills and expertise in bookkeeping activities, critical for the smooth and efficient running of all finance departments.

Starting your own Bookkeeping Business

Running your own bookkeeping business can be very rewarding and gives you the opportunity to be flexible, whilst meeting some wonderful people. 

You can work at any business, in-house, at home, or set up your own office.

You could be working for many different companies, so you’ll need to make sure you have all the correct software in place to be able to do the job properly. 

What software will you need?

You’ll have to register your business with HMRC, manage your own taxes, and do all the usual tasks that anyone who is self-employed has to do. You will also need the right software. 

Many bookkeepers running their own business will use a variety of software so they can provide a professional service. 

  • Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, or iWork
  • Ability to open and produce spreadsheets
  • PDF Software such as Adobe
  • Your own bookkeeping software, such as cloud based Quickbooks, Sage or Zero for example.


Do you need a license to operate as a bookkeeper in the UK?

To operate as a bookkeeper in the UK you must have a money laundering license by law, also known as AML – Anti Money Laundering. You must be registered for AML otherwise you will be breaking the law if you start a bookkeeping business from home or your own office.

License holders are offered a range of resources and guidance to help complying with your AML duties. You can apply for the AML at any time of year. Applications are processed within 28 days.

How much can a bookkeeper earn?

In-house (working for a company) bookkeepers earn between £25-35k a year, whilst hourly rates are between £11 – £20 per hour. But salaries and rates can depend on the type of business, the location and your own experience. As a self-employed bookkeeper you can earn between £15 – £25 per hour.

For more information about this rewarding career head to

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