Reading time: 8 minutes

If you want to start a bookkeeping business in New Zealand, it is a good idea to research the market for opportunities and to define your service offering. You can choose to serve a specific niche, like businesses in the construction industry. Some of the crucial decisions you will make as part of starting your venture include choosing a business structure and setting up your technology systems. This article discusses:

  • the various steps you need to take to start your bookkeeping business in New Zealand;
  • your legal and tax obligations; and
  • how to promote your services.

Get Your Licences and Qualifications 

To become a professional bookkeeper in New Zealand you will need some training and certifications. Most bookkeeping qualifications are at diploma or certificate level. You can start working as a bookkeeper with only a secondary school qualification. However, if you want to start your own business, it is best to: 

Most prospective clients will also expect you to have some experience, including an endorsement from business owners like themselves.

Further, to become a registered tax agent, you have to register with Inland Revenue and meet specific criteria. 

For example, as a bookkeeper, you must have signed authorities to act for ten or more other clients in relation to their tax affairs, social policy entitlements, or both.

Create a Strategic Plan for Your Bookkeeping Business

As a bookkeeper, you can offer a number of services, such as assisting clients with:

  • managing their accounts payable and accounts receivable;
  • preparing their bank reconciliations; 
  • meeting their tax obligations, such as preparing and filing tax and GST returns; 
  • managing their payroll and PAYE; 
  • software migration, set up and training; 
  • financial reporting; 
  • managing backlogs; and 
  • correcting errors. 

It is tempting to offer as many services as possible to widen your potential client base. However, if there is already a lot of competition servicing your target market and you want to differentiate your offering on quality, you may have a better chance of succeeding if you: 

  • specialise in a few areas; or 
  • find a niche, like construction businesses. 

Creating a business plan can help you identify opportunities in the market and determine the profitability of your offering. You can also access free mentoring programs and support provided to business owners in New Zealand. 

When doing your analysis, you should also think about how you will price your services. You should tailor your pricing to the needs of each client. Therefore, it is best to not advertise a general price on your website. You can combine multiple services into a package and allow your clients to choose the general service level they want. Once you have agreed on the level of service with your client, you should charge your fees upfront. 

Set Up Your Bookkeeping Business

Some of the crucial steps of setting up your bookkeeping business include deciding on how to structure your business from a legal perspective. It is common for bookkeepers to start as sole traders or partnerships. However, a company structure, even though more time consuming and expensive to set up and manage, can also have some financial advantages, such as: 

  • a lower tax rate compared to the highest bracket for individuals; 
  • limiting your liabilities and protecting your personal assets; and 
  • better access to finance to grow your business.

Once you have decided on a structure, setting up your business is generally an easy process that you can carry out online, using the New Zealand government’s website. Some of the key tasks you need to complete include:

Set Up Your Tech Stack

To run a bookkeeping business you do not need to invest in expensive or complex hardware. However, you will need reliable accounting software. The more you can automate manual tasks, the more you can free up your time to focus on other crucial business decisions, such as winning new clients. 

Some of the benefits of using smart accounting software include: 

  • reducing the amount of in-person meetings with your clients, as you can both login into the system at the same time and discuss any issues over the phone;
  • reducing the amount of time spent on data entry; and
  • automating daily bank reconciliations and payroll.

You should also consider investing in some form of practice management software to help you manage your workflows. When choosing your software, you should compare different providers and look beyond in-product features. Some providers also offer a partner program, which can help you grow your business.

Build a Digital Presence

To attract new customers and keep a regular flow of work throughout the year, you need to build a strong digital presence. This requires you to develop and implement a marketing strategy

First, you have to understand your potential customers and how they consume information online. A good tactic is to break up your ideal customers into buyer personas based on their demographics and behaviour.

Once you have defined your service offering and buyer personas, you can set up your website and blog. Your website should clearly: 

  • outline your service offering;
  • explain how you price your services; and 
  • allow your customers to contact you easily.

Even though having a blog is not imperative, it is a great way for your potential customers to find you online. If you have limited time and resources, you can connect with guest bloggers or join a referral program that allows you to share content. If blogging is not for you, investing in Google ads can be a cost-effective way to compete with other bookkeeping businesses online.

You should also invest in a marketing platform like Mailchimp to help you send more effective email communications based on your customers’ purchase behaviour. Local marketing tactics can help you attract more local customers. 

Finally, social media is an easy and affordable way to reach potential clients. Importantly, it will take a significant time investment to build your small business’ profile on social media before you start to gain traction.

Key Takeaways

From obtaining your qualifications and registrations to protecting your assets, starting your own bookkeeping business requires a bit of planning. Some of the key tasks include: 

  • creating a business plan to help you define your service offering;
  • deciding on a business structure and registering your business with the NZBN or Companies Office;
  • registering your business with Inland Revenue and as a tax agent if you would like to act on your clients’ behalf; 
  • choosing an accounting and practice management software; and
  • developing a marketing strategy to help you grow your business and maintain a regular flow of work.

If you need help with the legalities of getting your business off the ground, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.


What does a bookkeeper do for their clients?

As a bookkeeper, you would be responsible for assisting clients with managing their accounts payable and accounts receivable, meeting their tax obligations, filing tax returns, managing their payroll and financial reporting, among other things.

Do I need any qualifications to start my own bookkeeping business?

Yes! Although you can start working as a bookkeeper with a secondary school qualification, you will need specific training and certifications to work as a professional bookkeeper. Many clients will also expect you to be a part of The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers NZ and to have endorsements from past clients.

What are the legal requirements to set up my bookkeeping business?

To start your bookkeeping business, you should first decide whether to structure your business as a sole trader, partnership or company. You should also choose a name, register your business with the NZBN and register with Inland Revenue for tax, employment and GST purposes.

What tech and software do I need to start my bookkeeping business?

You should search for a reliable accounting software that you are comfortable using. This will help you to automate remedial tasks and collaborate with your clients virtually. Although a good accounting software will generally require you to pay a fee, it will save you lots of time which you can use to focus on other crucial business tasks.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a commercial law firm that provides businesses with affordable and ongoing legal assistance through our industry-first membership.

By becoming a member, you'll have an experienced legal team ready to answer your questions, draft and review your contracts, and resolve your disputes. All the legal assistance your business needs, for a low monthly fee.

Learn more about our membership

Need Legal Help? Submit an Enquiry

If you would like to get in touch with our team and learn more about how our membership can help your business, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2020 Innovation Award 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Award 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2020 Financial Times Award 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year Award 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2022 Law Firm of the Year Winner 2022 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards