How much should I pay a bookkeeper?
The cost of bookkeeping largely depends on two components: data entry and accounting application. Straightforward bookkeeping services that only involve data entry will generally cost lower compared to a job that involves other accounting tasks such as balancing the books.
Aside from the scope of the work, a bookkeeper’s level of expertise is also the main factor that affects the price. If a bookkeeper is working under a certified accountant, they will probably charge a higher rate for their services.
When looking for a bookkeeper, one of the things that you might be interested in is knowing – how much does a bookkeeper charge? The most common quotes that you will receive are hourly rates, but that is not always the case. They may also provide a flat fee for each type of bookkeeping services that they offer.
For new businesses, you can look for an accounting or bookkeeping firm that offers start-up pricing. They will provide you with the support that you need to get your business off the ground.
The amount bookkeepers charge naturally varies across the country, but further down this page, we provide a guide for bookkeeping rates for level 1 to level 5 bookkeepers and accounts professionals.
The bookkeepers on the National Bookkeeping Directory operate their businesses; hence there are no standard bookkeeping charges across our network.
You will need to speak with your chosen bookkeeper directly regarding their rates and expectations.
Hourly Rate or Set Fee?
Most bookkeepers in the directory charge an hourly rate, but it is possible to request a bookkeeper who can provide a tailored package for a set fee. The bookkeepers determine hourly rates in our directory based on their:
- Experience in the field
With so many bookkeepers located around Australia, it is entirely possible to find a bookkeeper who perfectly suits your needs and your budget.
Setting Your Bookkeeping Prices And Rates
The rates you charge as a contract bookkeeper are much higher than the hourly rate you’d earn working for someone as a bookkeeper. After all, you need to cover all your own expenses. How much should your bookkeeping charge rate be?
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers offers some great calculations on how to set a bookkeeping charge rate on their website – What Charge Rate for Bookkeepers? At the time of writing, they recommend a minimum price of $45 per hour for bookkeeping services.
However, their calculations are relatively simple and don’t take into account some of the expenses we’ve previously explored in our article, 12 Key Expenses Bookkeeping Business Owners Should Not Forget. Assuming you’ve worked out your ‘cost’ price for services, should you charge more or try to minimise your expenses?
Cost Price Vs Actual Price
As a Bookkeeper, make sure you charge the right amount for your services. Cost price is especially important for a new business – it’s a solid indication of whether or not you have a viable service.
Once you’ve worked out the cost price of your services, you can use that as a basis to work out the actual price you charge for your bookkeeping services.
To do that, you should see if you’re competitive with other services in your area and also decide if you add enough extra value to your service (experience, skill, speed) that you can demand a premium rate.
Cost Price Is Lower Than Market Rates
Hopefully, your cost price is actually lower than the rates your competitors are charging. This means you have the opportunity to increase your price to the market level and bump up your income or profit margin.
You can also use the price difference as a selling point. This can be a great way to attract customers to your new business. If there are only a few competitors (or a few major bookkeeping businesses), they might undercut you in order to force you out of the market – even if that means operating at a loss for a while! If you set your bookkeeping rates at your minimum price straight away, then you have no margin to play with if you need to lower your prices.
Your Cost Price Is Higher Than The Market Rates
If your cost price is more than the market rate, you’re starting from a weaker position. You should examine your competitors to work out how they can charge a lower rate. You also need to revisit your expenses and work out if they’re truly justified.
Try to trim down office costs and shop around for better rates on utilities, computers, software and insurance. You might need to rethink your income expectations too, especially if you’re just starting your business or need to compete on price to get a foothold in your area.
At the same time, don’t immediately assume that you need to cut down your income. There are many valid reasons why you can justify paying yourself a higher income – if you’ve made savings elsewhere, if you have the experience to justify a higher price or if you’re quick and can bill more work than other people each day. So what is the real value of your bookkeeping services?
The Real Value Of Your Bookkeeping Services
Cost price and real value are two different things. There are genuine reasons why you deserve more or can charge more than competitors.
Find out the real value of your Bookkeeping services trust is essential in the bookkeeper-client relationship. Clients are giving you their most sensitive financial data and expecting you to process it correctly and maintain confidence in their finances. As a result, many clients will be willing to pay more if they trust you and your services.
Trust is built over time, but you can also instil trust through the manner in which you present yourself and your business, your qualifications, accreditation, and experience.
Experience is a component of trust, but it goes beyond that. Experience implies you have the skills and knowledge to deal with any situation that may arise. You may be less likely to make mistakes (important for legal, financial documents!) and have answers to any question the client might have.
Experience also means you’ve had a great deal of practice, which make you much faster than competitors. If you charge twice the rate of competitors but only take one-third of the time, the client actually saves money overall.
Skills & Accreditation
Skills and accreditation are also useful when you’re trying to instil trust and justify higher bookkeeping rates. Courses and qualifications you’ve completed (like the Certificate IV in Bookkeeping), registration to become a BAS agent and membership of professional associations are all selling tools. These all cost you time and money to complete, so it’s only understandable that you charge more for having them. The client can expect a better bookkeeping service in return.
Invest in your Bookkeeping Skills. There are many ways you can enhance your ‘convenience’. Start with the simple stuff – be prompt with your work, return phone calls and emails, be prepared to do a little extra when it’s required.
After that, there are still many ways to stand out. Being in the right location is a big help – people often don’t look outside their local area and will pay extra to be able to drop by when they need to talk.
You could also offer services such as picking up and dropping off paperwork or set up transfer systems that automatically forward your customer’s data so they don’t even need to think about it.
Being available outside of normal business hours can be a big benefit for business owners. Offering other value, like running your own blog and explaining and answering simple bookkeeping problems, can be a huge help to other people. It can create value for your customers and prompt them to choose your services, even if you don’t charge the lowest price.
Charge Different Rates For Different Services
Remember you don’t need to charge a flat rate for all your services. Some tasks are highly complex or require extra training and accreditation to perform. BAS services are one of the most complex bookkeeping services you can provide. On the other hand, data entry work can be done by most bookkeepers or even by small business owners themselves because of the simplicity and power of modern bookkeeping software.
Charging the same rate for these services is silly; you’re underpricing BAS services and overpricing data entry. Adjust your pricing, so you’re compensated fairly relative to the complexity and difficulty of the work you do.
Re-Evaluate Prices Regularly
Bookkeepers regularly re-evaluate their charging rates keeping prices at the same level for long periods of time is good for business. Clients expect prices to stay the same and can resent paying more for the same service they’ve previously received at a lower price.
It creates an incentive for them to look at other bookkeeping services and consider taking their business elsewhere. However, you will need to increase your prices occasionally.
Costs typically increase over time. You may find your income, and profit margin starts to get eaten up by rising expenses.
You’ll need to re-evaluate your expenses and adjust your prices accordingly regularly. Perhaps review monthly or quarterly to start with so you make sure you’re not losing money at the start, then change to a 12-month review cycle when you have a year or more of business data to look back on.
Conversely, developments in technology and bookkeeping processes can reduce expenses or make a service more efficient to deliver. The cost of technology also tends to decrease over time, so your expenses in this area can actually decrease. These can help you keep your prices the same, or even reduce rates to compete on price.
When to Charge Freelance Bookkeeper Hourly Rates
Charging by the hour is typically how most freelance bookkeepers bill their clients. Besides, there are certain situations that billing by the hour makes more sense than charging a flat rate. To help you determine if freelance bookkeeper hourly rates are right for your bookkeeping business, I have provided you with three scenarios where I would recommend hourly billing over flat-rate pricing.
The three scenarios where hourly billing over flat-rate pricing is recommended are:
New Freelance Bookkeepers
You have been a freelance bookkeeper for less than six months, and you don’t quite know how long it will take you to complete basic bookkeeping tasks like invoicing customers and paying bills. Since it’s difficult to compute a flat rate without having an estimate of the number of hours it will take you to complete the work, hourly rate billing would be best in this situation.
One-Off Client Consultations
Clients who prefer to contact you on a periodic basis to ask questions or to have you review their QuickBooks file to ensure they are doing everything correctly should be billed by the hour.
Annual Service Clients
For those clients that you see once a year between January and April, to complete their tax return or perhaps take their shoebox of receipts and enter the data into an accounting software program, hourly rate billing would work best since you do not perform work for them throughout the year.
How Much Does a Bookkeeper Charge?
On average, standard bookkeeping services will cost you around $72.01 on a per-project basis. This rate only covers simple jobs that can be done in about two hours or less. More complex and in-depth jobs will increase your cost of hiring a bookkeeper.
The cost of hiring a bookkeeper is not astronomical, but it not neglectable either. Of course, you would want to know what you are paying for. This is a list of duties and responsibilities your bookkeeper has towards your business once you hire them.
- Using bookkeeping software (MYOB, QuickBooks, Intuit, Xero, or something similar) to record financial transactions and create databases.
- Conducting the payment of accounts.
- Taking care of invoices and receipts.
- Processing payrolls.
- Keeping detailed employee records.
- Going through with bank.
- Dealing with Business Activity Statement (BAS).
- Monitoring financial transactions and reporting on them.
- Keeping all financial records and producing them on demand.
Length of Client Relationship
The length of time that you will provide services to a client should also be considered when you are trying to decide what to charge for your bookkeeping services. Some customers will be one-time customers and others you will provide services on a recurring basis: monthly, quarterly or annually.
Ideally, the clients whose books you review most often should have a lower rate than those that you see on a one time or annual basis. In my experience, monthly and quarterly clients require less work than those who you see once a year because you review their books more often.
Bookkeeping clients typically fall into one of the following four categories:
- One-time service: Businesses that hire you to do a QuickBooks company setup and train them to keep their own books; preparing tax returns can also be a one-time service; company file setups and annual tax return prep will most likely require more time since you are not familiar with the client and must get up to speed in a short period of time; the rate you charge for this service should be higher than the rate your recurring clients pay.
- Monthly service: Clients that fall into this group are typically bookkeeping and/or payroll clients that you will bill once a month for services provided during the month. As discussed, monthly clients will be a lot less work than one time or annual clients so you should consider offering a discounted rate to these clients
- Quarterly service: Clients who you file quarterly payroll and estimated taxes for as well as prepare any applicable tax returns generally fall into this group; in general, you are familiar with these clients since you see them every three months or so; this rate should be similar to what the monthly clients pay but adjusted for the type of work done like, tax prep services vs. bookkeeping vs. payroll
- Annual service: The clients that you see once a year are typically those that bring you a shoebox of receipts so you can prepare their tax returns; similar to the one-time service clients, you will need to invest some time to get this client’s books in order; the hourly rate that you charge should be similar to what you are charging for a one-time service client
Type of Bookkeeping Services Provided
In general, bookkeeping services include managing all aspects of accounts payable and accounts receivable, reconciling bank and credit card accounts and generating monthly financial reports. If you have the expertise, you could increase your billable rate by offering payroll and tax preparation services in addition to bookkeeping services.
Taking on all three services — bookkeeping, payroll and tax prep — would be ideal not only for your firm from a revenue perspective but it would also benefit a small business to have all of its financials managed by the same firm. To ensure you submit a competitive quote to your client, I recommend that you complete an assessment during your first consultation with a new client.
The assessment will consist of gathering information that will help you to determine the amount of time and level of complexity required to meet the client’s needs before you provide your quoted price to the client. The assessment will include the following information:
- Type of tasks required like invoicing customers, paying bills, payroll or taxes
- A list of all bank and credit cards that need to be reconciled
- Whether the task is automated or requires manual processing
- Estimated number of hours to complete each task
- The hourly rate you charge for each task
- Grand Total estimated hours and amount to bill client
The costs a small business or nonprofit incurs for bookkeeping will depend upon many variables. Company size and lifecycle, number of monthly transactions, number of employees and how payroll is processed, number of expense accounts, credit cards, invoices to send out, bills to pay, number of balances sheets to reconcile, etc. In addition to these basic bookkeeping activities, your costs will be impacted by how your accounting systems, policies and procedures, and reporting needs are set up and administered.