Should You Become a Bookkeeper? Here’s Sarah’s REAL Story

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Do you want to work from home as a bookkeeper?

If you read my interview with Ben Robinson, founder of Bookkeepers’ Business Launch, you already know that bookkeeping is said to be a very profitable business you can do from home. Especially if you have a background or interest in accounting/maths.

So with all the interest that the interview garnered, I decided to chat with a mom who has completed bookkeeping training and even started her own bookkeeping business.

  • Should you become a bookkeeper as a busy mom?
  • What is it really like for moms with young children?
  • Can you actually make money?
  • What do you really need to get started?

These and many more the wonderful mom of 3 and pro bookkeeper, Sarah Barstad, shares with us today.

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Here’s Sarah!

sarah who shares her bookkeeping success story

Hi Sarah, thank you so much for agreeing to chat! Let’s get started with who you are. You know, let’s meet the real Sarah behind all that business, and bookkeeping, and money-making deal. *laughs*

Thank you so much for having me! 

Let’s see, about me… I am married to my amazing husband of 7 years, we have 2 beautiful and crazy little girls and a new baby on the way.

In my “spare” time (what is that again?) I enjoy doing home improvement projects, decorating and redecorating my house, doing crafty projects, reading, traveling as much as is possible with two toddlers, and sleeping in whenever my kids give me the opportunity, which (let’s be honest) is not often. 

Ok, great. Can you tell us how you became a bookkeeper? Why did you choose bookkeeping over other stay at home mom jobs?

When I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, we ran the numbers and realized that I would essentially be working to pay for daycare.

It just didn’t make sense. 

I wanted to find something that would fill my need for flexibility and help me provide for my family. 

Being a new mom, I also wanted something that was going to provide me with mentally-stimulating challenges to balance out the daily tasks of motherhood. 

During my time at the bank, I always enjoyed working with the small businesses that came in and helping people with their financial questions. Since I had 10 years of experience doing this, I wanted to find something that would use these skills and talents I had.

I researched a few options for work at home jobs but kept coming back to bookkeeping. I felt a natural draw towards bookkeeping as an ideal way for me to use these skills, in addition to providing the flexibility I needed as a new mom. 

And what were your hopes and dreams when you got started?

To be honest, I just wanted to be able to buy groceries and gas, and to not live off of our credit card.

I didn’t have any big dreams of turning this into a thriving business. I figured if I got 5 monthly bookkeeping clients, that would be good. 14 clients later, I’m starting to dream a bit more about what my business can become. 

Oh I know the feeling Sarah! It was the same for me and blogging. Did you have any fears and anxieties, can you tell us about them?

Oh, so many! 

I was terrified about starting my own business, and networking, and finding clients, and what if it  didn’t work and I couldn’t find any clients and I’d spent all this time and money on a program that didn’t pay off?

I was afraid of going into debt and having to go back to a full-time job. I was also worried that once I got a client I wouldn’t actually know what I was doing… 

I can totally relate. I think that we all feel that way when we start something new. What about barriers and uncertainties? I know that certain jobs have barriers, especially for busy moms, what barriers and uncertainties did you face getting started as a bookkeeper?

The biggest barrier was my own mindset. 

I had to get out of my head and believe that I could actually do this. 

When I was training new reps at the bank, I always told them that “confidence is key, and customers can tell if you’re not confident in the product you’re selling.” The same goes in my business, I had to be confident about my skills and knowledge, and trust that I can do this and I can be successful. 

I was super uncertain about pricing and what to charge. I wanted to make sure that my pricing reflected what my services were worth, but I also didn’t want to price myself out of a job. 

I was also uncertain what it would be like to work and take care of my little ones that still weren’t sleeping through the night. Because man oh man, sleep deprivation and starting a new business is tough! 

Tell me about it! But it all paid off right? How’s your business now?

My business is incredible!

I am so busy, I am having to make the decision now to either stop taking on new clients for a while or hire some help.

I never expected to be here, it’s very exciting for me. 

It makes me so happy to hear that Sarah. Can I ask how long it took you to get here? 

I officially launched my business in July 2018. So it’s been about a year and a half at this point.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in the past year too.

I’ve lost a few clients, I’ve had projects that were supposed to become recurring clients suddenly disappear, and I’ve had lots of rejections. 

But the bigger picture is that I’ve met some amazing people, gained some really wonderful clients and learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of. 

Thank you for being real about this Sarah, it’s encouraging to know that while you are a success, you had moments of trials. Tell us, what would you attribute to your success as a Bookkeeper?

Three things: 

I remember a time when I had spent 2 months intensively networking, I was exhausted (remember I also had a 4 month old and 2-year-old at this point) I had one client and had been turned down by multiple prospects for various reasons. I was in tears to my husband because it all felt so hopeless and pointless.

But I pushed through and less than a month later I got my biggest client as a result of all of that networking. I didn’t give up, and I was rewarded for that. 

My husband has always been so supportive and believed in me and I don’t think I would be where I am in my business without him having my back the way he has. 

My mom watches my girls a few times a week for me to have meetings and get big chunks of work done, this time has been invaluable and my girls love to get extra Grandma time. 

I did a lot of online research to look for the best education tools for bookkeeping that were out there. Finding Bookkeeper Business Launch, and taking the leap to purchase the course, was by far one of the best decisions I made in this whole process. The support and knowledge I have gained from this course is priceless. 

Wow! So given your background and what you now know about starting a bookkeeping business, who is this business perfect for? 

Many people assume you have to be a math-whiz or a numbers-nerd to be a bookkeeper, and while it is important to have a good grasp of math and numbers, that’s not the main thing you need to have. 

The most important part of being a bookkeeper is being able to relate with your clients. 

It’s first and foremost a relationship business. 

Fellow business owners are trusting you with their finances and many of them are very vulnerable about that.

I’ve had so many people come to me embarrassed about the state of their books and if I had been callous or demeaning, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have earned their business. 

And to be a business owner, you have to be willing to be flexible. 

Things don’t always go as planned, especially being a mom: kids don’t nap, they wake up in the middle of a call, etc, etc. So it’s important to be able to run with the punches, stay up late if you need to finish something and decide that you are going to make it work. 

So in order words, you’ve got to be ready to put in the work to succeed! You talked about the Bookkeeper Business Launch as helping you get started, can you tell us more about this course? What did you like about it?

Bookkeeper Business Launch is amazing. 

I had a little knowledge of how small businesses operate, but no idea how to start my own, or how to do it successfully. BBL provided everything I could possibly need. 

The bookkeeping training is awesome, it is hands-on and really dives deep into what you need to know to serve clients well. 

I took the course in 2018 when it was still BBL 2.0. 

They’ve since upgraded the course to BBL 3.0 and made some incredible changes, so much so that I retook parts of the course again as a refresher. 

I learned how to get my business started and how to structure my fees. 

They provide templates and Q&A sessions and an amazing Facebook group that is so supportive and encouraging.

It’s definitely a worthwhile investment. Since taking the course I have purchased 2 of BBL’s other courses in addition. 

Wonderful! So you are saying it surpassed your expectations or you had no expectations? *laughs*

Honestly, I had no expectations about what the program would be! 

But the team at BBL has continually impressed me, between all of the new things they are working on and putting out, the improvements they make based on student feedback, and the availability to answer questions. It’s been amazing and so helpful. 

Ben’s gonna be so proud to hear how you rave about his program. One last question please, if you had one of your mom friends walk up to you and ask how to become a bookkeeper like you, what would you tell her?

Watch the intro videos for BBL, they give you a lot of information about what it takes to start your own bookkeeping business and what type of person will do well. 

And come spend a day with me and I’ll show you what I do! 

Thank you so much for your time Sarah and for offering to help my audience! You’ve been incredibly inspiring and I’m sure lots of moms can relate to your story.

About Sarah

Sarah Barstad is a work from home mom and bookkeeper at Set Apart Bookkeeping. Sarah combined her expertise in banking customer service with her entrepreneurial personality and started her successful bookkeeping business. As a bookkeeper, she now offers valuable support to small businesses through ongoing, fruitful relationships. 

When she’s not crunching numbers and organizing data, she’s loving on her two little daughters, scheming her next travel adventure, or tackling home improvement projects with her husband. 

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