From XU Magazine, 
Issue 39

The results are in – The Bookkeepers Survey 2024

Time to rethink everything you think you know about bookkeepers.

The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) has released the results of its latest survey, which challenges many of the long-held assumptions about the profession.
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Myth 1

Bookkeeping and payroll services are undervalued

Contrary to popular belief, the ICB survey demonstrates that bookkeepers are earning above the norm. While the UK median average salary is £34k, 20% of those surveyed are earning over £40k. The news for those in practice is even better – with 40% earning over £40k. 60% expect their turnover to increase in the next 12 months.

Myth 2

Bookkeepers just do bookkeeping

While bookkeepers excel in record keeping and reconciliation, they have expanded their product offering outside of traditional bookkeeping services. Over 60% of bookkeepers surveyed are running payroll and 45% are managing Self Assessment Tax. Other popular services for bookkeepers include CIS, Corporation Tax Returns and advisory services.  

ICB CEO Ami Copeland comments:

“There really is no such thing as ‘just’ a bookkeeper. Their close relationship with clients allows them to offer valuable insights and support business growth. It’s no surprise that more and more small businesses look to bookkeepers for additional services. And they make such a difference! A great bookkeeper can be a real business accelerator – identifying cost savings and controlling cash flow with real-time data.”  

Myth 3

The hourly rate is king

Bookkeepers are shifting away from purely charging by the hour and combining different pricing methods to maintain their profit margin and stay competitive. As the variety of services offered grows, pricing and billing methods are becoming progressively flexible. Over 50% are now using monthly retainer payments and 40% are using fixed rate pricing.

Myth 4

AI will replace bookkeepers

Despite advances in technology, bookkeepers are optimistic about the future of their profession. They acknowledge the benefits of technology but emphasise the irreplaceable human element in providing value to businesses. 95% of bookkeepers surveyed are feeling confident about the future, and 60% are expecting their turnover to increase in the next 12 months.  

Ami Copeland:

“Bookkeepers are incredibly tech savvy and eager to use the efficiencies that software can bring – they’re not seeing it as a threat. Bookkeepers know that their value isn’t just in reconciliation and transactions, it’s their ability to understand and connect with clients on a human level that brings real value. In fact, bookkeepers are often the driving force behind tech adoption among small businesses. They are open minded about incorporating AI into their business processes to enhance their service delivery.”

Myth 5

You need to work more hours to be more successful

Bookkeeping is one of the most flexible careers available – with independent, flexible working powered in part by the revolution of cloud-based software. The ICB Survey finds that 54% of bookkeepers are working part time with a variety of hours – the most popular being 20 hours per week.  

Ami Copeland:

“It’s no surprise that bookkeeping attracts people who are keen to improve their work/life balance. We recognise that many of our members begin studying bookkeeping while on a career break to have children, or people who are looking for a complete career change. It’s fantastic to see that these people don’t need to compromise on their business growth or financial rewards to achieve a happier lifestyle.”

Myth 6

Bookkeeping practices are too small to have an impact

70% of bookkeepers surveyed have their own practice, versus 11% employed in a business and 9% in a bookkeeping or accountancy practice. They are small businesses – 78% have 1 – 2 employees and just 15% have more than five employees. However, what they achieve is remarkable. More than 65% of those practices have more than ten clients, and 35% have more than 30 clients each.

The most popular industries for bookkeeping businesses to work with are construction and trades, professional services such as accountants and solicitors, service industries and e-commerce. 36% are working with landlords and 35% are working with hospitality businesses.  

Ami Copeland:

“Bookkeepers are in the engine room, supporting the nation’s small businesses. It’s incredible to see the breadth of impact bookkeepers are having on the economy.”

Ami concludes:

“The ICB Survey emphasises the entrepreneurial flair, innovative approach, and substantial impact made by bookkeepers. By debunking stereotypes and shedding light on their vital contribution, the survey reveals the pivotal role bookkeepers play in supporting businesses' financial health and growth. From flexible working arrangements to diversified service offerings and forward-thinking attitudes toward technology, bookkeepers are a progressive force in today's business landscape. We hope these results elevate the status of bookkeepers and foster a deeper appreciation for their invaluable contribution to the economy.”  

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