I'm walking out to be a bookkeeper. Or am I?
December 27, 2007 9:37 PM   Subscribe

You know all the boring, tedious stuff that you have to do to keep your business running? The stuff that you think is a waste of your creative genius time that you'd like to just pay somebody else to do? The bookkeeping, invoicing, budgeting ... everything having to do with spreadsheets, numbers, QuickBooks and filing cabinets? Well, what careers might that describe?

I run my own business and I've lost all interest in what I do. I've been agonizing over whether to keep working from home or to go get a full time job doing what I do, because I need a change. But the fact is, I just don't want to do what I do.

The only part of my work that I enjoy is, well, bookkeeping. I absolutely can not WAIT to get my paperwork in the mail so I can start on my taxes. I love tracking my expenses in Quicken. At the end of the week I can't wait to invoice all my clients. And, needless to say, I pay my bills the moment they arrive in the mail.

I could also spend ALL DAY LONG on Scottrade (where I have my brokerage account). And sometimes I do. I love crunching numbers and creating my own investment strategies, even though I know nothing about this stuff other than what other small potatoes retail investors know. No economics courses or anything remotely related.

(What I really want to be is a day trader, but I don't have enough money to start and I don't know enough yet to take that kind of risk.)

So. What do I want to go back to school to study? What are the available degrees here? I never thought I had any interest in "business," per se ... I don't want to run or build businesses; I only care about the numbers. I imagine it's "finance" I'm interested in. Or is "accounting" enough? I know that's what's required to start down the path to the CPA exam. Are there any careers that involve numbers but that do not involve paperwork? Because I'd like to avoid those. I love paperwork. I love having a desk job. This is counterintuitive to everything that everybody bitches about, but it's time I faced the facts. I want a desk job and I want to do your lousy paperwork. And it must be lucrative. Which direction should I go? Is there anything that doesn't require another degree? (I want to study, but the thought of going through another degree program kind of makes my belly ache. Except in this case, I imagine I'd be working with a lot of numbers, so I might enjoy it.)

I'm looking for people who have experience in these fields and who could throw some ideas my way. Be my career counselor for 30 seconds.
posted by iguanapolitico to Work & Money (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This is the book you need. Really. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by The Deej at 9:42 PM on December 27, 2007

Have you considered becoming an actuary? Lots of numbers involved (you do need some math/statistics skills) and the job can be quite lucrative. Best of all, you become qualified by taking a series of tests for which you can study on your own time (no particular degree is required).
posted by ssg at 9:56 PM on December 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in "finance" you might want to take the CFA exams.

You can check out the study topics and see if they seem like things that interest you.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 10:22 PM on December 27, 2007

Accounting? A lot of Malaysian parents pressure their kids to take it up due to the lucrative-ness.
posted by divabat at 10:47 PM on December 27, 2007

I think you want to become a CPA.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:53 PM on December 27, 2007

I'm in your same situation--have my own business and much of the time have no interest in my work except for answering the siren song of QuickBooks. I know I'm not an actuary or accountant at heart, though--I'm pretty sure I only love this part because it's the one thing I do all day where I feel completely competent. So I would just advise you to make sure that this is something you will continue to love when it is no longer an escape from more unpleasant tasks.
posted by Enroute at 10:53 PM on December 27, 2007

A friend of mine has a very lucrative business helping professionals bill clients correctly. She works mostly with lawyers and doctors who haven't been billing effectively. She doesn't call people and harass them to pay; she goes through the physician's files and finds work that was never invoiced. Then she sets up a system to invoice effectively in the future. People want to get paid, but most professionals/small business people hate the chore of billing.

She built her business slowly based on word of mouth, but now she's got a very established client base. She's not a CPA, but she does have a bookkeeping certification.
posted by 26.2 at 11:17 PM on December 27, 2007


That sounds pretty close to what you're describing. If getting a CPA isn't feasible, some sort of certification or at least some coursework in bookkeeping might be what you need to get your foot in the door. You might also want to look into Financial Analysis generally, although that's sometimes more about doing research and presenting data.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:05 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am a qualified accountant in practice - currently in audit in a big 4 firm but I started out my professional life in a small local firm with the sort of clients described by some above.

Couple of thoughts really -

It is worth considering what, if any qualification you need in order to do what you want to do. If a 9-5 deskjob that involves a degree of admin work is what you are after you will be doing bookkeeping (sales/purchase ledger, cash book, reconciling control accounts), filing and possibly draft simple sets of accounts. In that case you should be ok with a more basic certification (if any). If on the other hand you want to be involved in more complex work you will need to look at higher level qualifications.

Depending on your answer to this question you may want to consider finding employment in bookkeeping/accounting/finance role and get an employer to sponsor your qualification. Keep in mind that initially you are going to be looking at an entry level positions as accountancy and finance in general require relevant experience to progress not just exam passes.

Also, if you want to be self employed and prepare somebody else's accounts beware that there is a difference between taking your own records relating to your own business and making the numbers work and picking up information from somebody else's records/system and making the numbers work.

In the first case you should know what all these transactions mean anyway and they should make inherent sense to you, in the second case you will find yourself banging your head against a brick wall because information is not recorded in an accessible/sensible/reliable method or indeed using any method at all that anybody can identify...and whilst you can 'train' some clients to use a system of record keeping some will resist all your efforts to 'train' them...
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:36 AM on December 28, 2007

In my little paragraph about finance roles I forgot to mention that in a lot of small to medium sized businesses the finance person often has to take on a management role and ends up dealing with anything to do with money, it and hr...so if you wish to go beyond the basic number crunching the role often broadens considerably and not nescessarily to do with numbers...
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:41 AM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic -- thanks to everyone for giving me different things to think about. This is exactly the kind of response I was looking for.
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:11 AM on December 28, 2007

I am not an accountant but I do work for some. (IANAABIDWFS) :) You don't have to get an accounting degree to do bookkeeping. In fact, that's kind of overkill in my experience. With your experience, especially with Quicken/Quickbooks knowledge you could possibly jump right in. Call some local accounting firms and ask about bookkeeping jobs. My firm calls it Accounting Outsourcing (which is a tad misleading but hey...). Also even if they don't have jobs available they may have clients looking for a bookkeeper. This happens every couple months that I've seen. I don't think you'll need additional schooling. Good luck!
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:18 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

Our nearest firm branch is a couple hundred miles away from ya though, I see. Nevertheless, mefimail me if you want more info.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:22 PM on December 28, 2007

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