Bookkeepers who possess certain skills go on to have successful careers. The good news is that if you aren’t already gifted with all of these skills, there are ways to master those that you are lacking. Here, we will cover the essential bookkeeping skills that lead to a successful career and some tips on how to develop and enhance those skills.

+17 Bookkeeping Skills for a Successful Career
1. Attention to detail
2. Critical thinking
3. Organized
4. Time management
5. Communication
6. Math skills
7. Data entry and computer skills
8. Competent and knowledgeable about bookkeeping basics
9. Multitasking
10. Confidentiality
11. Seeing the big picture
12. Collaborator
13. Patience
14. Reliable
15. Good reputation
16. Proactive
17. Positive attitude
18. Diligent and committed
+17 Bookkeeping Skills for a Successful Career

Skill #1. Attention to detail

Attention to detail is critical if you want to be a successful professional bookkeeper. This skill ensures the client that you can work with accuracy and fewer mistakes when handling a company’s financial records. This is a crucial skill since business owners are using this information to make critical business decisions.

How to get better at attention to detail

Take your time and focus on quality over quantity. You’ll make fewer mistakes if you don’t rush through your work. Avoid distractions so you can stay focused on what you’re working on.

Skill #2. Critical thinking

Bookkeepers usually have their critical thinking skills in overdrive. Critical thinking is necessary when identifying trends, interpreting data, picking up on business transaction irregularities, and picking up on patterns. It also comes in very handy when trying to determine the source of mistakes or figuring out how one account will affect another.

How to get better at critical thinking

The best way to master critical thinking is to break things down into smaller sections or steps. Smaller pieces of information or data are easier to work with, understand, and mentally deal with. Working with too much information at one time can make you feel overwhelmed. This will lead you closer to a solution rather than spending so much time feeling overwhelmed.

Skill #3. Organized

Good organizational skills are crucial when you are dealing with deadlines, working on multiple clients at one time, and trying to maintain updated financial records. Organizational skills are essential when having to follow up with audits, tax prep, and maintaining paper trails with receipts. Good organizational skills will help you work more efficiently and increase productivity and performance.

How to get better at organization

The key to staying organized is to declutter and clean your desk and work area, create a detailed and easily accessible filing system, prioritize each task, generate a to-do list, and then input the tasks into a schedule and your calendar.

Skill #4. Time management

As a bookkeeper, it’s important to be able to pace yourself so that all tasks can be successfully completed in order to meet any deadlines. Missing deadlines can sometimes be costly if late fees are involved. Time management is also essential when the company is depending on reports to make critical business decisions. Also, if you have promised a client something by a certain date, then it’s important that you deliver on time.

How to get better at time management

Make a list of every task that needs to be completed and prioritize each task according to the due date. Be sure to add them to your calendar. This will establish your pace. Monitor your progress often to make sure you are staying on schedule with your projects. If you are not on schedule, then you will know ahead of time that an adjustment of some type needs to be made either to your time frame or your process of carrying out the work.

Skill #5. Communication

Bookkeepers are constantly communicating with their clients by presenting information to their clients, requesting documents, and discussing deadlines. They must be able to communicate in-person and via electronic correspondence.

How to get better at communication

Listening is just as important as communicating. Be sure to take the time to listen to who you are communicating with to make them feel valued and that their concerns are being heard. Always think before you speak or send a message so that you’re not responding emotionally. Be brief and specific so that you don’t lose the attention of the listener. Most importantly, be warm and friendly so that you always seem approachable.

Skill #6. Math skills

Bookkeepers need to be comfortable working with numbers, communicating numeric data, and going over financial reports. Bookkeepers use simple calculations daily such as addition, subtraction, division, percentages, and multiplication since these basic math skills are a necessary bookkeeping skill for balancing the books, finding errors, making adjustments, and generating financial statements.

How to get better at math skills

To develop basic math skills, you just need to practice, practice, practice. Do a page or two out of a workbook every day, play numerical games, or take an online or in-person math class.

Skill #7. Data entry and computer skills

Bookkeepers are required to type information and numbers into accounting software or forms. It’s important that they can type accurately and quickly so they are efficient at what they do. This also means having adequate computer skills and being comfortable with accounting software and updates.

How to get better at data entry and computer skills

Take advantage of online typing tools which will provide opportunities for practice to increase your typing speed and accuracy. There are online videos that cover the basics of computer software data entry. Again, this is another case where practice and experience make perfect.

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Skill #8. Competent and knowledgeable about bookkeeping basics

Professional bookkeepers must be knowledgeable about single-entry & double-entry bookkeeping, invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, reconciling accounts, and generating financial statements.

How to master the bookkeeping basics

There are plenty of basic bookkeeping courses that are offered at educational institutions and online that will help you master the requirements of a bookkeeper. Check out our mammoth list of +45 bookkeeping resources for beginners!

Skill #9. Multitasking

Bookkeepers hardly ever just have one project they are working on. They typically are juggling several different clients and tasks on a daily basis. Multitasking is a bookkeeping skill that saves time, money, and increases productivity.

How to master multitasking

To enhance your multitasking skills, always make a to-do list to keep track of the multiple tasks that need to be completed, then prioritize your tasks, group similar tasks together, reduce as many distractions as possible, and regularly monitor your progress to make sure you’re staying on track and on schedule.

Skill #10. Confidentiality

It’s important that bookkeepers do not disclose personal information about their clients or previous clients to anyone except, as permitted by law. It’s especially important for bookkeepers to gain and maintain the trust of their clients since they are working with very sensitive and personal information.

How to master confidentiality

To maintain confidentiality, it’s important to maintain electronic and procedural safeguards that comply with federal regulations to guard your client’s personal information. You can even enter into a non-disclosure agreement with your clients to legally safeguard them.

Skill #11. Seeing the big picture

Bookkeepers should be able to get a good feel for how a decision, purchase, or payment made now will affect the finances of a business down the road or how a debit or credit will affect assets, equity, or liabilities. 

How to get better at seeing the big picture

You need to change your perspective. Ask yourself how doing something in the present will affect the business down the road. Instead of looking at all the details, consider all of the possibilities.

Skill #12. Collaborator

Working well with others is another bookkeeping skill that leads to success. Bookkeepers work closely with their clients in gathering information, processing the information, and then going over everything with the client.

How to get better at collaborating

Good collaborators are genuine, kind, transparent, and listen to understand. When you say you are going to do something, always be sure to follow through with the client so they know they can depend on you. Also, stay in touch with your clients even if it is just checking in. Be accessible and always keep the lines of communication open.

Skill #13. Patience

Patience is a biggie when it involves bookkeepers working with large amounts of data, trying to find the source of a miscalculation, or even when working with difficult clients. These things can make bookkeeping very frustrating at times.

How to get better at being patient

If the problem is with the work itself, take several breaks to clear your head. Walk away from your work, clear your head, and then you can come back and approach the problem from a different perspective. If the issue is with clients, take deep breaths, stay calm, and always think before you speak so that you aren’t reacting emotionally.

Skill #14. Reliable

In this day and time, it is so difficult to find reliable, professional, and dependable workers. Being reliable is a good way to build trust with your bookkeeping client and for them to know that you are going to take care of them and their needs.

How to get better at reliability

There’s only one way to master this skill. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it.

Skill #15. Good reputation

A strong reputation will almost always guarantee you a successful career. How you interact with your clients, your competency, and your confidence will help to establish a good stable reputation. Then clients will start sending referrals to you. Before you know it, you’re on your way to growing your business.

How to improve your reputation

Build a strong relationship with your client. Be friendly, competent, and empathetic. Make sure that you are reliable, trustworthy, and available. Also, be sure to always follow that moral and ethical compass.

Skill #16. Proactive

It’s a whole lot better and more cost-effective if a bookkeeper is spending more time doing the productive and expected monthly tasks for a client rather than putting out fires. Stay proactive so that you can either avoid potential bookkeeping red flags altogether. Or at least minimize the workload needed to fix the potential problem.

How to get better at proactiveness

If you want to be proactive, take the time to go over your client’s financial information. Look for any potential red flags or issues that a client could run into down the road. Staying on top of regulatory changes or future events that might impact your clients’ financial situation is a way of being proactive.

Skill #17. Positive attitude

A positive attitude will get you far. Clients would rather deal with someone who is positive and upbeat, especially since bookkeeping can be a rather tedious, boring, and the least exciting requirement for business owners. A positive attitude also makes you seem more genuine and approachable.

How to get better at positivity

Being pleasant and having a positive attitude prevents others from becoming defensive. Keep the tone light, simple, and upbeat so that the exchange and experience is a pleasant one for the client.

Skill #18. Diligent and committed

Diligence and commitment will win you a lot of respect from your bookkeeping clients. A lot of bookkeepers tend to steer away from clients if the situation is too complex or don’t always follow through with what is promised.

How to get better at diligence and commitment

Always put your best foot forward, learn what you don’t know, be consistent, and follow through. This will come across to clients as you having their best interests at heart and that you’re always working hard to maintain that work ethic and relationship.

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In conclusion

Some of these skills are directly related to bookkeeping, and some of these skills are personality traits. The goal should be to constantly evolve as a person and as a professional. While you may not be able to perfect all of these bookkeeping skills, you can at least develop and enhance them to some degree, which still puts you on a better path for a successful career in bookkeeping.

Caryl Ramsey has years of experience assisting in different aspects of bookkeeping, taxes, and customer service. She uses a variety of accounting software for setting up client information, reconciling accounts, coding expenses, running financial reports, and preparing tax returns. She is also experienced in setting up corporations with the State Corporation Commission and the IRS.


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