Bookkeeping might conjure up images of counting beans and sitting in front of a computer all day, and while you probably will often be glued to your seat, there really is more variety in most work environments -- and no beans. From an office in a skyscraper to the back room of a restaurant, you’ll have a lot of variety to choose from in this profession.
Bookkeeping skills give you the flexibility to choose your work environment, rather than bending yourself out of shape to fit whatever is available. For example, you can work in the relaxed but busy atmosphere of tech startups, travel to clients' offices through working for an accounting firm that handles multiple clients, or take advantage of employee discounts offered by retail stores. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11 percent of bookkeepers worked for professional, scientific and technical service firms in 2010. Other top industries included retail, finance and insurance, wholesale and health care.
Computers have long since replaced dusty stacks of ledgers on most bookkeepers' desks, but this also means you need proficiency and comfort with accounting, spreadsheet and word processing software. You might also use document management or project management software, depending on your company and industry. Whether your desk is located in a cubicle or an office with doors, a staple accessory is a 10-key calculator, and you'll likely be surrounded by filing cabinets to hold your output.
Virtual bookkeepers work remotely through online systems to handle the bookkeeping needs of clients. This means you really could stay in your pajamas all day while you talk to clients on the phone, process transactions and generate financial reports from a home office. But many virtual bookkeepers work for companies that offer these services and have to report to an office -- in suitable attire -- just like any other worker.
As a freelancer, you’ll work out of a home office, although you might travel often to clients’ work sites and may do at least some of your work in their offices. It's important to set aside a dedicated work space when you work from home. You can't deduct expenses on a tax return from a home office set up on the kitchen table, and the distractions and interruptions from family members could make it difficult to keep your mind on the numbers.
While most bookkeepers work full time, it's a good profession if you're juggling a career and family because there are opportunities to work part time. The BLS reports that approximately 25 percent of bookkeepers are part-time workers. Even so, your schedule will likely be noticeably busier at the end of the month when it's time to close out the books and during tax return preparation time. The BLS notes that hotel, restaurant and retail bookkeepers tend to be busier during holidays and the summer vacation season.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
- O-Net OnLine: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks
- The Princeton Review: Career -- Bookkeeper
- The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers: 5 Ways to Succeed as a Freelance Bookkeeper
Since 1997, Maria Christensen has written about business, history, food, culture and travel for diverse publications. She ran her own business writing employee handbooks and business process manuals for small businesses, authored a guidebook to Seattle, and works as an accountant for a software company. Christensen studied communications at the University of Washington and history at Armstrong Atlantic State University.