Working as a Contract Bookkeeper


Many men and women offer bookkeeping services to businesses. They're self-employed, running their own bookkeeping business and work from business to business using MYOB & other software.

The work offers huge variety, lots of learning and with it, a high degree of personal satisfaction. For many it is the perfect job with plenty of flexibility. (If you're a bookkeeper but need a full time 35-40 hrs per week to pay the bills then this may not be for you).

Contract bookkeepers generally work a half day to 2 days per week at each business doing usual stuff – entering sales, purchases, receipts, payments, coding the bank feeds, doing a bank rec. and running GST. Some also process payroll and do pay day filing. They may also prepare reports, run budgets and cash forecasts and do other office tasks. 

Contract bookkeepers charge anything from $25 – $70 per hour depending on their skills and experience. They normally invoice their time with or without GST (depending if they are registered or not).

Here is some information we think you'll find helpful if you're considering working as a contract bookkeeper...

Do I need a Certificate, Diploma or Degree?

There is no formal qualification but there are general business and office management courses in most centres around NZ.  These certainly help give you the theory needed to run an office. In NZ we are all very casual about the bookkeeping function; and you can do most stuff (GST or PAYE returns) legally without interference from government agencies.

Are there any Associations I can join?

The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers NZ is the only association for the bookkeeping industry in New Zealand. This association aims to create a national body to recognize and separate quality qualified bookkeepers, and to build the New Zealand bookkeeping industry into a viable and credited profession. Check for information and membership.

Code of Conduct for Bookkeepers

1.     Honesty, integrity and carefulness

If you are asked to look after any money or property on your client’s behalf, do so with care and integrity, and account for every last cent. If you see something amiss it is your responsibility to let them know. If you are not sure how to operate the new database system, let them know you need training rather than create a mess.

2.     Keep confidences

Do not discuss the name or the business affairs of others to anyone. You are privy to information that the clients friends, family and employees never see. Keep your lips sealed and don’t divulge anything.

3.     Maintain independence

Always act in the best interests of your client and avoid situations where you could encounter a conflict of interest. For instance you have been offered a bookkeeping job at a firm which is in opposition to your partner's business.

4.     Watch for illegal activities

Stay clear of clients who are clearly pushing the boundaries when it comes to the IRD. They slide expenses into the books like you wouldn’t believe, receive and pay cash and are anything but ethical. Previous experience has told me to do what I do – walk away.

5.     Take professional indemnity insurance

Not mandatory but protects you against claims for professional negligence if you make a mistake or fail to exercise a sufficient level of skill. Let’s say you accidentally delete a file or make a huge error in the payroll. Whether you have insurance or not, back up before and after the visit.

Maintain your knowledge and skills

You need to ensure your work is of a professional standard. Take every course related to MYOB software. Become an expert user. They will expect you to know the software well. Also make sure you are competent at operating a computer (the Windows or Mac Operating System and MS Office). The most realistic way of staying up to speed is to commit to spending at least a couple of days every year on seminars and training events. Read up about changes in tax and payroll legislation. Get one-on-one training.

Other tips

Backups: Make sure you follow company procedure when it comes to backups. If there is none, then ensure that your MYOB data file is backed up once you have finished. For cloud files you should still back up occasionally if the option exists.

Best Practice: When you take on a new job your client may have old fashioned ways of running their accounts (and expect you to follow suit). Best gain their trust and respect before turning the office upside down. Do look for new and better ways to improve office efficiency.

Don’t try to be the company accountant and advise your client about company structures, tax or any other rulings unless you also happen to be a specialist in that field. Always refer your client to their accountant. We recommend you work closely with the chartered accountant & you communicate with them.

What do I need to know about accounting & MYOB to be a bookkeeper?

  • Standard office procedures including filing systems
  • Accounting terms and concepts
  • Debits, credits, double entry bookkeeping & the accounting equation
  • Setting up your MYOB company file (useful but not mandatory)
  • Processing daily transactions (accounts payable and receivable)
  • Accounting for GST (cash verse accrual basis)
  • Managing debtors and debt collection procedures
  • Managing creditors
  • Bank reconciliations
  • Financial reporting – Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss Statement (ability to read financial statements a bonus!)
  • You need to keep up to date with current software changes. Bank feeds, scan bills/receipts should be used where possible. You need to be efficient!

How do I become an MYOB Bookkeeper?

Like many bookkeepers, you want to provide the best service possible to your clients – especially if they use MYOB software. We want to help you achieve that goal. That’s why you can offer you a range of courses that best suit your knowledge and experience. Talk to us about which courses you need.

Some of the benefits of training with AccountAgility include:

  • On-line assessment of your skills you can present to your clients (cost $80 + GST)
  • One on one training to sharpen up your skills
  • 20+ years experience with MYOB software – we know how businesses can get the most from their software
  • Technical advice when you’re on site – we offer back up support to get you going as a bookkeeper

Lynley Averis

Lynley is an MYOB Certified Consultant & has been involved in training in New Zealand since 1985. She's written various accounting & MYOB workbooks including co-authoring “Bookkeeping for Dummies”. She has consulted on all versions of MYOB Accounting, Retail and Payroll over the past 18 years and has previously worked for MYOB. She currently consults to NZ businesses on all aspects of business systems - her mission for clients is for them to spend as little time as possible doing accounting!