The biggest mistakes I made in my bookkeeping business

Starting a bookkeeping business is fulfilling, but it’s not without challenges. A lot goes into building a bookkeeping business from the ground up, and there are sure to be some missteps. The good news is that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. That’s why I’m sharing the biggest mistakes I made in my bookkeeping business and how you can avoid them.

Truth be told, I have made my share mistakes while building my bookkeeping business. I’ve struggled with many of the things that you’re probably struggling with right now in your own bookkeeping business. Let’s go over these errors and talk about how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: The wrong mentality

The employee mentality is the first mistake you’re likely to commit if you’re coming into this journey from any type of job where you were not your own boss.

When I started, I had a client who insisted that I go to their office once a week, regardless of whether there was any work for me to do. I had to sit there and wait even if there was nobody there. It wasn’t long before I realized that they were trying to treat me as their employee, and I learned some very important lessons.

I am not a contractor, I’m not an employee; I’m a professional and a business owner, and I’m in control. I don’t allow any clients to dictate to me how, when or where I will provide services to them.

Here’s the strategy that I use: I always do a paid diagnostic review to assess my client’s books so that I can determine what’s wrong with the books and give them my report of findings and recommendations. Doing the diagnostic review puts me in control and sets the tone for the entire relationship.

Mistake #2: The wrong mindset

The second biggest mistake that I have made is having a scarcity mindset.

I remember going to a client’s office – or so I thought. It was really a garage, and it was located down a very long, muddy dirt road. I was greeted by a goat and a chicken. Yes, instead of a receptionist, a goat and a chicken received me when I got out of the truck.

I really should have turned around and gone home, but I didn’t, and I was really sorry that I didn’t. But when I first started my bookkeeping business, I took on any clients for absolutely anything they needed. I would take on the most complicated projects, difficult clients who didn’t appreciate what I did… and in some cases didn’t even pay me.

My scarcity mindset also extended to my pricing. I used to tell myself, “My client won’t pay for that service. My client won’t pay for that software subscription.” And I kept underpricing my services and making it difficult on myself to serve clients because I didn’t have the right tools.

But I started coming across clients who were more concerned about what I could do and how I could solve their accounting problems and less concerned about money.

That’s when I learned a really big lesson. Never project your attitudes about money and value to your clients. There are plenty of clients who want a premium experience and are willing to pay for it. Remember that you deserve to be compensated for your time and talents.

Mistake #3: Boundaries

Now listen to me very carefully. “No,” is a complete sentence.

You need to get used to saying no. Repeat after me. “No.”

One of the hardest things I had to do as a business owner was learning how to say no. I just couldn’t do it. I was too embarrassed. It was impossible for me to say, “No, I don’t want to take on your crazy cleanup project.”

We all have a desire to help people, and we want to help everyone. But ultimately, you are running a business and you need to say no to the wrong clients and the wrong opportunities.

Now, how do you say no with confidence? You might say something like this:

  • “That’s not a project I’d like to take on right now.”
  • “I don’t think we’d be a good fit for working together.”
  • “Effective December 31, I will no longer be able to provide bookkeeping services to you.”
  • “That service is not on our service agreement. I’ll need to price that separately and send you a new service agreement.


I hope that by sharing my experiences, I’ve helped you become aware of some of the mistakes you can avoid as you start your bookkeeping business. And if you’ve already made some of the same mistakes, that’s more experience under your belt!

If you’re looking for some resources to get started, check out my free Virtual Bookkeeper’s Toolbox or visit the 5MB Academy to see all my free and paid resources.

You can also connect with me and get plenty of bookkeeping advice, stories, and resources in my online community. Join the 5 Minute Bookkeeping Community on Facebook to connect with fellow bookkeepers, where you can ask questions and share your journey. Check out the 5 Minute Bookkeeping YouTube channel for my library of tutorials and new videos every two weeks. On the 5 Minute Bookkeeping Instagram, you’ll find bookkeeping inspiration and tips throughout the week.

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This post originally appeared here 5 Minute Bookkeeping