Many women start out in a job or a career which when children come along just doesn’t fit anymore. The lack of flexibility and the new pressures of family life often trigger the search for something new.
This blog answers some basic questions about becoming a bookkeeper but also goes on to look at the bookkeepers at Another Answer and their individual journeys to becoming one, all of which are very different.
How do I know if bookkeeping is right for me?
You don’t have to be extraordinarily clever to become a bookkeeper. However, you should display the following qualities:
- Good communicator
- Willing to learn & develop
- Able to work under pressure to meet deadlines
Is bookkeeping a stressful job?
Bookkeeping, like many other jobs, can be stressful. However, if you naturally display the above characteristics then it shouldn’t be too hard to keep on top of things, assuming you don’t take on too many clients to start off with. Once you are up and running, it provides security and stability which in turn can reduce stress, especially when there are extra mouths to feed.
What qualifications do I need to become a bookkeeper?
The minimum qualification you need to work as a bookkeeper is a Level 2 certificate in bookkeeping. There are different course providers that you can choose from which are widely available online.
Read more information on how to become a bookkeeper.
Paths to becoming a bookkeeper
We currently have six qualified female bookkeepers at Another Answer, all of whom have children, but none of whom ever imagined becoming a bookkeeper. Below we look at their individual journeys which share one thing in common – becoming a mum and the need to be flexible around family life. Hopefully this will encourage anyone who is thinking of bookkeeping as a new career to see that they can embark on training at any time and with no prior experience.
Sue left school after her GCSEs and went straight to work. She started out working with horses at a stud farm and soon became a riding instructor. Following this she claimed a number of roles including Fitness Instructor, Weightlifting Coach, Lifeguard, Dinner Lady & Chef – in fact, she did so well in her last two positions that once she was awarded the title of ‘School Chef of The Year’ in Norfolk!
After becoming pregnant with her daughter, Sue had to think of a new way to earn money. She realised she had always been good with numbers so thought bookkeeping would be worth exploring. She decided this job would be flexible enough to do until her daughter was school-aged and then she would revisit what she actually wanted to do. However, the flexibility that bookkeeping provided after her daughter went to school still provided huge benefits; she even managed to homeschool her daughter for the last year of primary school. 25 years on Sue is still a bookkeeper!
Although Sue now works for Another Answer, she spent many years working for herself, being her own boss and in control of the amount and type of clients she worked for. She loves her job as no two businesses are ever the same, which means no two days are ever the same. Although it can be challenging to get people to provide the information that is needed, she loves the investigative side of things and helping clients get the correct processes in place to ensure their businesses run smoothly. In turn, clients are extremely grateful as they don’t want the extra headache their bookkeeping and accounts process would likely cause if they were to do it themselves.
Sue is one of our most senior bookkeepers and has an array of qualifications. She started off getting qualified in ICB level 1 (which no longer exists), then got her ICB level 2, ICB Payroll and ICB Self-Assessment Tax Return. She is currently working on her ICB Level 4.
She adds “Contrary to what some people think, you don’t have to be the Brain of Britain or some kind of genius. You just need to be organised and methodical. It really is the best job for flexible working around having a child.”
Alisa always wanted to be a primary school teacher – her favourite childhood game was playing schools with her brother and her teddies. After doing A-levels in biology, French & maths she went on to Durham University and completed a degree in primary school education.
Alisa worked in North London as a class teacher and then went on to teach Science in a private primary school in Middlesex. Whilst working here she had her first two children and worked part-time using a childminder for childcare. Being a teacher with young children was tough – there was no slack as she couldn’t just drop things and go home if the kids were sick or if childcare plans fell through.
Alisa had a break from teaching and had another baby. With her oldest child about to start school, she realised she needed a job where she could work from home and something which would be a better fit around family life. A friend in a similar situation mentioned bookkeeping, which sounded like it might be the answer. Although quite excited about the idea, she was worried about retraining in something new.
One of the toddler groups she went to was run by Sylvia who had already set up her Another Answer Boookkeeping & Accounting business. Sylvia recommended a distance learning course and the ICB exams as a route to qualification. A year later Alisa had her ICB level 3 qualification and started working for Sylvia.
They initially worked from Sylvia’s dining room table where Alisa learned Quickbooks. She continued to work for Sylvia after having her fourth child – her family helped with childcare in the day and then she worked in the evenings when the children were in bed. By the time they all were at school, Alisa was working three days a week and changed from self-employed to being an employee.
Initially, Alisa didn’t feel like she knew enough about bookkeeping, but the more experience she got, the more knowledge she attained and in turn the more confident she became. She is now a level 4 qualified bookkeeper and has undertaken additional courses in payroll. She hasn’t finished learning and wants to become more highly qualified in the accounts and advisory side of things.
Alisa says that attention to detail and caring about getting it right are the main criteria for becoming a bookkeeper. “You want to do a good job and you care about giving the right information to your clients so they can make good business decisions.”
Alisa loves providing advice and helping people who are starting out in business. Educating people and encouraging them at the same time is very rewarding.
“In teaching (in a classroom), you help people. Being a bookkeeper, you still help people, just in a different way.”
Now working 4.5 days a week in the office, Alisa still loves the flexibility bookkeeping can provide and loves working at Another Answer as it is such a people-focused firm.
After finishing her GCSES, Daska did a BTEC National Diploma in Management of Thoroughbred Horses which she thoroughly enjoyed. She carried out a placement in America and then came back and worked for a few stud farms as a stud hand, but quickly realised she couldn’t make enough money to get by.
She started doing some office administrative temping roles, where she developed strong skills in MS Office. She then went on to find permanent positions in some of these companies, gaining skills all the time along the way. She ended up as a global IT trainer for a telecoms company where she travelled the world to train the company’s salesforce.
After going on maternity leave with her first son, Daska was made redundant, so she dipped into part-time work while her son went to nursery. She did the same after her second son was born, all positions local to home. Several of these positions involved admin and basic bookkeeping which then led to getting an administrative job share here at Another Answer. She quickly realised her ability and desire to take a bookkeeping qualification. Daska has completed her ICB Level 2 Bookkeeping qualification and has now been a bookkeeper with the company for three years.
After doing GCSES, Emma took 3 A-levels – Maths, Physics and Biology (although she says she didn’t do very well in them). She went on to do a HND in civil engineering (although doesn’t really know why) but never completed it so couldn’t get a job in the industry.
Whilst doing her HND she had been spending a lot of time going to dance clubs in London and watching DJs perform their sets and this was when she decided what she wanted to do with her life – become a DJ. Through somebody she met at a club one night, she landed a job as a sales person in music distribution throughout the UK. Here she had the opportunity to learn to DJ and if wasn’t long before she became the first female resident DJ on Kool FM.
Emma decided she had unfinished business at college and wanted to go back, but this time did a Music Technology HND and passed with the highest grade. She set up her own record label and DJed at music venues around the world living her dream job.
Acknowledging that she was getting older and that this was not sustainable long-term, Emma decided she needed another string to her bow which could provide a more stable source of income. She left her sales job in the music industry and found a job in admin at an events company where she was exposed to the world of business and finance. She went to night school and started studying her AAT qualifications. Not long after this she got married and had two children. She studied all through pregnancy and finished when her youngest started school. She achieved Level 4 AAT, although she hasn’t used this qualification in practice as has worked at a lower level.
Emma got practical experience by doing her husband’s accounts for the plumbing business which he had just started. This was manageable while her two children were at home, before they started school. Later, through meeting a couple of mums in the playground, she found her first ‘real’ clients. A few years on, she came to join Another Answer and feels very chuffed that her hard work and plan to have a career outside the music industry has come to fruition.
Emma believes being a bookkeeper gives you a huge amount of flexibility around having a family and that there will always be work available in the bookkeeping and accounts industry. Apart from having longevity, it is something you can do from anywhere in the world!
Emma adds “To study to become a bookkeeper you choose from doing a number of courses online or you can go to college. You can start with a low-level introduction or go straight in and do a full-on course. To make it work you probably need to have an interest in business as a whole and a general idea of how they run. You also need to be detail-orientated and organised. But most of it can be learned by doing a course”.
Helen never decided that she actually wanted to be a bookkeeper but after working in a newsagent for most of her teenage years and doing three A-levels (Maths, Economics & sociology), she was told by her employer she should seriously consider it as she had a talent for organisation and for numbers. And consider it, she did. She completed a foundation course in Accounting and then trained as a Chartered Accountant and went into industry.
After becoming pregnant she became self-employed. Being a single mother, Helen needed to have maximum flexibility throughout the day. She would often work in the evenings and then during the day when her son was at school. After a few years, one of her clients convinced her to go and work for her in an office environment. She worked with that company for 25 years and made friends for life.
Helen has been with Another Answer now for four years and reflects on the flexibility and security that bookkeeping has provided her within her working lifetime.
Bookkeeping can provide you the flexibility you need to have around having a family. Based on the current demand for bookkeepers, once you are qualified you are likely to never be out of work and there are options to work remotely, or within a team at an office. You will always be learning something new and you will get satisfaction out of the help you provide other people on their business journeys.
Read more about the Another Answer team