The average hourly rate for freelance bookkeepers ranges from $29.21 to $43.40 per hour. Depending on your geographic location, this amount will be more or less than the average national rate of $37 per hour.
A freelance bookkeeper’s level of education and any certifications they have obtained, such as QuickBooks ProAdvisor, are also a factor in determining the hourly rate. Specializing in additional services like payroll or having expertise in a certain accounting application can also be a factor. In addition, the frequency and type of services needed can impact the hourly rate.
Factors Influencing Freelance Bookkeeper Rates
Six key factors will impact the hourly rate you’ll charge for your services. These factors include your geographic location, level of education, the certifications you hold, the amount of experience you have, the types of services you provide, and the frequency with which you provide service.
1. Geographic Location
According to a survey published by Zip Recruiter, the average national rate for a self-employed bookkeeper is $37 per hour, but these rates vary from one state to the next. The hourly rate ranges from $43.40 in Massachusetts to $29.21 in Mississippi. Select a state from the drop-down menu below to show the average rate for bookkeepers in that state.
Average Freelance Bookkeeper Hourly Rate By State
*Data taken from Zip Recruiter survey based on millions of open self-employed bookkeeper jobs across the United States.
2. Level of Education
Your level of education is important to consider when determining the best way to attract potential clients. Having a degree under your belt will give your customers confidence and the willingness to pay more. A bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary to be a bookkeeper. Ideally, you should consider an associate degree from a local community college, but many schools also offer bookkeeping certificates that can be earned in less time.
3. Bookkeeper Certifications
There are three types of certifications for bookkeepers that we recommend: American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) certification, National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) certification, and QuickBooks ProAdvisor certification. Thousands of bookkeepers have completed one or more of these programs successfully and, as a result, have increased their earning potential.
American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers
The AIPB certification program is ideal for someone who doesn’t have any formal education in bookkeeping. Certification exam and materials are $610 for nonmembers and $515 for AIPB members. A one-year membership to AIPB is $45. Upon completion of all certification requirements, you’ll earn the designation of Certified Bookkeeper (CB), which you can include on your business cards and marketing materials.
National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers
The NACPB certification program is ideal for those with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in accounting. The certification exam is $449 for non-members and $369 for NACPB members. A one-year membership to NACPB is $200. Once all certification requirements have been met, you’ll earn the designation Certified Professional Bookkeeper (CPB), which you can include on your business cards and marketing materials.
QuickBooks ProAdvisor Certification
In addition to getting certified through the AIPB or NACPB, we also recommend that you get certified in QuickBooks. The QuickBooks ProAdvisor certification program is ideal for freelance bookkeepers because it allows you to get certified for free with no strings attached. Read our guide on how to become a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. It’s also arguably the most valuable bookkeeper certification, as the vast majority of small businesses in the US use QuickBooks.
To learn more about the benefits included and how to get started with the AIPB or the NACPB certification, check out our bookkeeper certification guide.
4. Bookkeeper Experience
While having a degree and/or bookkeeper certification will give you the knowledge that you need to get your foot in the door, having practical work experience is equally valuable. The more experience you have doing actual bookkeeping work, the more confident you’ll be in your skills, which will translate into higher billable rates.
Consider Becoming an Industry Expert
You can make your bookkeeping experience even more valuable by specializing in a particular industry, especially if that industry has unique requirements. For example, trucking, nonprofits, churches, and restaurants are only a few of the industries where industry-specific knowledge will make you more valuable.
5. Type of Bookkeeping Services Provided
In general, bookkeeping services include managing all aspects of accounts payable (A/P) and accounts receivable (A/R), 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 in addition to bookkeeping services.
Depending on the industry, you might be able to extend your services to include cost accounting for projects and jobs. Because this type of service requires a lot of industry-specific knowledge, you’ll be able to charge a higher rate than on typical bookkeeping engagements.
Before bringing on a new customer, you should meet and assess their entire situation. Is there more you can do than just providing financial statements? As an industry expert, you might help them to recognize needs and opportunities. The assessment will consist of gathering information that’ll 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 them. Remember, more specialized services can demand a higher rate of pay.
6. Accounting Software Used
Another important factor for determining your rate is your expertise in various accounting software. Our article about the best small business accounting software reviews some of the top options on the market. In general, good cloud-based software makes accounting easier and reduces the hours, allowing you to charge more per hour. We recommend QuickBooks Online, which we ranked as the best overall small business accounting software. If you decide to become certified as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, you’ll have the added benefit of a free subscription to QuickBooks Online Accountant.
7. Frequency of Service
The frequency with which you’ll provide services to a client should also be considered when you’re trying to decide what to charge for your bookkeeping services. Some customers will be one-time customers, and others will require your 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. Monthly and quarterly clients often require less work than those 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: You may be hired to perform a specific task rather than ongoing services. Often this is for a new business that needs help with setting up their company file or training to use their accounting software. The rate you that charge for this service should be higher than the rate that you charge your recurring clients.
- Monthly service: Clients that fall into this group are typically bookkeeping and/or payroll clients that you’ll bill once a 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 for which you file quarterly payroll returns generally fall into this group. You’ll be familiar with these clients since you’ll 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 (such as payroll and payroll tax filing).
- 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 one-time service clients, you’ll need to invest some time to get this client’s books in order, as they may lack any sort of organized system. The hourly rate that you charge should be similar to what you’re charging for a one-time service client.
How to Get Started as an Independent Bookkeeper
If you’re just doing your research to see if you want to become a freelance bookkeeper, there are a few key things you need to consider. First, you need to decide if this is going to be your side hustle or if you’re committed to providing bookkeeping services on a full-time basis. To help you navigate through this process, we have created a comprehensive guide on how to start a bookkeeping business.
Many factors contribute to your decision about how much to bill your clients. Once you evaluate the average rate of pay for your geographic location, your level of education, and any certifications, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect in terms of an hourly rate. Your work experience is also key as are the types of bookkeeping services offered, your expertise with accounting software, and the frequency at which you’ll be providing services to your client.