Day 2 - Quitters Club Panel: How They Built Their Bookkeeping BizJun 05, 2023
Welcome to the Quitter's Club panel! Today, we'll be hearing from a panel of bookkeepers who have successfully and sustainably grown their businesses to the point where it is now their main source of income. The purpose of this panel is to hear their similarities—and, maybe more importantly, their differences.
The journey to quitting will be unique to everyone, and that should deeply excite you, because it means no matter what your situation is, there is a way for you to join the Quitter’s Club, too.
Today we'll be hearing from Sara Verheyen, who left a demanding CPA firm and traded billable hours for livable hours with a bookkeeping business that not only surpasses her former salary, but also allows her to take Wednesdays off to be with her kids, which is something that she never believed would be possible for her; Lisa Kinser, who is a former senior staff accountant who cold-turkey-quit her toxic job and then replaced her corporate salary after going all-in on her bookkeeping business; Cara Martinez, who realized after working from home during COVID and the birth of her second child that she needed more autonomy in her life; Taylor Bitsoli, who wanted more than being bored at her nine-to-five and built a bookkeeping business that allows for freedom and flexibility; and last but not least, Cassandra Centeno, who quit her nine-to-five insurance agent job to have more time with her kids after surpassing her old salary by building a word-of-mouth tax practice and supplementing in other ways.
Let’s get started.
Katie: What was your biggest fear as you embarked on the journey of starting a bookkeeping business?
Sara: My biggest fear was definitely fear of failure. Taking a leap like this without the guidance of those around me was new for me, and it was very scary. But you helped me, Katie, by saying, “Your success is inevitable, as long as you don't quit.” I just needed some encouragement and guidance along the way.
Lisa: I honestly didn't have any fears about the bookkeeping business in general. I always felt super confident that I could do it and be successful. Maybe that's unique, but I just felt like it was divine or written in the stars that I was supposed to be doing this work.
Cara: What was my biggest fear? Everything. I had so many fears, but the biggest one was probably my imposter syndrome. I really doubted my technical abilities, so that was definitely a big hurdle that I needed to get over before growing my business.
I also worked with clients in the entertainment industry prior to starting my business, and I just thought those big names were the only people that would ever need bookkeeping, and I kept thinking, “These big names aren't going to want me. They're going to want a big firm behind them.”
But I realized as I started growing my business that that's actually not true. There's a whole population of business owners that really need our services. So definitely the imposter syndrome around my abilities, but Become a Bookkeeper (BABs) helped me bust through all of that.
Taylor: I think my first fear was that I was going to overcomplicate things, because I have a degree in accounting and have worked in public and private companies for the last six years.
There were things like prepaids and fixed assets, and I was like, “How do I do that for a small business?” That’s one of the big pieces that Become a Bookkeeper helped me with, realizing that all those things that bigger companies have aren’t really necessary for small businesses.
My other fear was whether I would be able to replace my corporate salary, because I live in Massachusetts, which is really expensive.
Cassandra: Mine is similar to Sara’s. The fear of failure was really huge.
Katie: Where did your first client come from? This one's just for fun, but people often love and ask this question.
Sara: My first client was actually the band director from my high school ten years ago. About seven years ago he got out of music and got into residential real estate, and he asked if I had some capacity for bookkeeping, but I was working seventy to eighty-hour weeks at the time, so the answer was no.
Later on, I set my intentions to build a bookkeeping business, and you’d think I would’ve started with him, but I didn’t. I started out in February, and I didn’t reach out to him until a couple months later.
It wasn’t until joining Life By The Books, or LIBBY—which was BOB back then—and hearing you say to tell everyone I knew that I’d started my business that I remembered him reaching out to me.
Lisa: I made a random post in a Facebook group called “I Need a Bookkeeper.” All it said was, “Hello, I'm a bookkeeper accepting new clients. I'm located in Oklahoma, but I can help any small business in the US virtually,” and I added a link to my website. It got ten likes and five comments, and one of the comments just said, “Good.” But it converted and started the snowball.
Cara: Technically my first client was a trade of services, but she was a local photographer and mom. She did our holiday photos for my family, and she needed help with her bookkeeping, so I helped her in exchange. It was a really good experience for me, because it was my first time using Xero, and I got her set up in there.
My first paying client came from a friend who referred another friend who works in her same industry, and she's still one of my clients today.
Taylor: Mine was actually from Upwork. They also used Xero, which I was very excited about because I had just gone through Become a Bookkeeper and learned how to work in that program.
Cassandra: My first client was from Facebook as well. Even before Life By The Books, I was already starting to optimize my social media and my website to show my services.
Katie: What was the biggest lesson that you learned?
Sara: So many. The first one I learned was how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and putting yourself out there. But I also learned a lot about believing in myself and believing that my success is inevitable.
Lisa: My biggest lesson was listening to myself instead of prioritizing what other people thought about me. Um, so that's kind of a trap that I fell into when I was in corporate, if I got even slightly negative feedback, I would start feeling like, “Oh, people don't value me, so I must not be valuable.” I definitely had to unlearn that.
Cara: I’ve learned so many lessons. I'm still learning them. I'm sure we all are. I have to agree with what the others said; a big one was believing in myself. It's something that I am not used to doing. Listening to my gut is something I'm still working through, but I'm getting better at that. Taylor: I had to get over feeling frustrated that I couldn't just be okay with having a nine-to-five like everyone else. Entrepreneurship is tough, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t be okay with just doing the “easier” thing.
Cassandra: My biggest lesson was accepting that I'm always going to be learning, and it's okay to always be learning. It's okay not to know everything at one time.
Juggling Life and Business
Katie: What tips do you have for building the business while juggling life's other demands?
Sara: When I started my business, my youngest was seven months old, so it was not a great time to start a business.
I think part of it was being inspired by you, Katie, and your podcast. I was like, “She has three kids, and she can do it. I only have two.”
As far as tips to maximize your time, I think the things that are going to push you the hardest and get you the farthest are probably the things you're scared to do, unfortunately. So I suggest putting the things that scare you on your calendar.
For me, that meant blocking out Wednesdays to intentionally spend time with my family. It inspired me to work harder during the rest of the week in order to make that happen.
Lisa: I kind of went against the grain. I went through a big season of hustle when I first started my business. I've always been the type of person that had bursts of energy, and I have to ride that wave while I have it, because I know it's not going to last forever.
I had goals. I wanted to meet those goals, and I had the drive to do it, and I wasn't afraid of the season of hustle. But it wasn't glamorous. I was giving up things in that season; I was up really late working on my website, working on automations, etcetera. I could have done it much more simplified, but I wanted those things for me.
So I did the hustle thing, it wasn't glamorous, but recently I actually took a step back and decided to stop taking on new clients for a while so I could adjust things to be more intentional. I’m now able to slow down and start taking better care of myself, and redefining my goals and priorities has helped a lot. I’m realigning now, and it feels really good.
Cara: It's hard in the beginning, and I don't think there's a way of sugarcoating that.
I have two kids. When I was working nine to five, I had a lot of demands on me, and I would definitely not have been able to make this shift without support. My husband was pretty much the parent for a year while I built this; I sacrificed a lot of time with my kids.
My tips would be to give yourself grace, and to know what you're doing is not easy, but it's worth it.
Taylor: Similarly to Cara and Lisa, I spent a lot of time hustling and trying to build the business.
Katie says this a lot too, but my advice is to make sure you get your processes in place while you're not taking on clients. While you're still learning stuff, get your client acquisition software set up, get your website set up, get all of those backend pieces set up, because once the clients start rolling in, you're going to be so busy that you're not going to have time to do any of that stuff.
That honestly saved me, because if I had started that process after I started getting clients, I would've been screwed.
Cassandra: One thing that I struggled with was making myself available 24/7. So my tip is not to do that.
Being a small business owner, I feel like when people reach out to me, I have to get back to them immediately. But I’m teaching myself to remember that it's not an emergency. I don’t have to be available constantly.
What Would You Have Done Differently?
Katie: What would you have done differently?
Sara: I had a hard time coming up with an answer for this question, because I really do believe that every wrong step sets you in the direction of the right step. But if I had to choose something, I think I wouldn't have invested in so many different programs that first year. I would’ve listened to myself more and less to other people.
Lisa: I'm the same as Sarah. I think all of the things that I did that I would technically do differently wouldn't have gotten me here.
I will say that I wouldn’t have played around with different technology so much. I started with Kajabi, and then I switched to ShowIt, and then I moved back to Kajabi again. I think I would've just stuck with Kajabi and not played with ShowIt.
Cara: I would've definitely hired a subcontractor sooner. And I could've stuck my ground a lot more with my pricing. But I agree with the others; I think I needed to experience those mistakes first.
Taylor: I agree. I don't think if you told me these things a year ago that I would've been receptive to any of what I needed to change.
I feel like I would've hired more quickly as well. But I think if you told me that six months ago, I don't think I would've listened.
Cassandra: I probably would’ve invested in coaching a lot sooner than I did, because my quitter story's a little bit different than the rest of you guys, because I didn't quit an accounting firm. I quit insurance.
I used to be an insurance agent before this, so I don't have any prior accounting experience before this. If I had invested in coaching a lot sooner, I could have saved myself a lot of headache and had my processes a lot more streamlined.
How Did Become a Bookkeeper Make You Feel?
Katie: So for all of you, as Become a Bookkeeper and Life By The Books students, I have a threefold question for you: how did you feel before or as you were making the investment into Become a Bookkeeper and Life By The Books, how do you feel about the investment now in hindsight, and what would you tell someone who's considering joining one or both of these programs?
Sara: Before joining, I was feeling frustrated with my current work situation. I was working from home, but we didn't know when we would be required to go back in the office, and I didn’t want that. But I didn’t know how I could build my own business.
Then I found you, I binged your podcast, and I felt really excited because it told me I could do this.
In hindsight, I can't imagine a better program to understand how to build a bookkeeping business.
I would say to somebody considering joining that if you feel like you need more confidence, Become a Bookkeeper is the way to go. And then as far as Life By The Books, it’s not going to be rainbows and butterflies the whole time, but if you have that drive and that passion and you're willing to put in the work, do it.
Lisa: Before I joined, I had the money set aside, though it was still hard to spend. But I knew that Become a Bookkeeper was the course that would take me straight to my destination, and it was worth it to me. And about twenty minutes into the coursework in Become a Bookkeeper, I was like, “Okay, I'm doing Life By The Books.” It was a natural progression. I had no doubt whatsoever.
In hindsight, I still feel like they were by far the best investments that I made, because I'm also still continuing the coaching. I've never left. I joined and I've been here ever since.
Cara: I will tell anyone who will listen that I love Katie’s programs and that I'm obsessed with her. I want everyone to do these programs.
At the beginning of my journey, I was very hesitant. I had a million and one questions, Katie, but you sat there and answered every single one of them.
I’ve had other bookkeepers reach out to me and ask if they should do Katie's program, and I always tell them, “Just reach out to her. She wants you to want to be in this program, and she wants you to understand and know that it's a good choice for you.”
I did Become a Bookkeeper because I felt like I needed the technical support. It gave me a lot of the missing pieces that I did not have from working in corporate and brought the whole picture together, especially the tax section. Then after I was in Become a Bookkeeper, Life By The Books was a no-brainer.
I had taken another course previous to this, but I didn't feel as supported. I didn't feel confident enough to take on a client. After I took Become a Bookkeeper and then moved into Life By The Books, I knew I was ready. I have no regrets.
Taylor: I actually got referred to you, Katie, by one of your previous students. I had been thinking about starting a bookkeeping business, and I had looked up bookkeepers on Instagram, so I reached out to her and she told me to look into your programs.
I started listening to your podcast, and you were just so relatable. You were saying all the things that I had always been thinking.
I listened to the podcast, then I was like, “I need to buy the course.” So I invested in Become a Bookkeeper first, mainly because like I said, I didn't want to overcomplicate things for my clients. And I thought Life By The Books would be the next best step, because I needed the support that came with the community and the calls. It’s like having your own team of bookkeepers that you can ask questions to, which I feel is so important as an entrepreneur, because when you leave your corporate job, you don't really have a boss or other team members you can ask for help. With the Life By The Books group, I feel like I still have that.
As for Become a Bookkeeper, I think I made my investment back after my first setup, and then the same happened with Life By The Books right after that.
Cassandra: I felt really hesitant before Become a Bookkeeper because I tend to have shiny object syndrome sometimes. I buy things and then don't follow through with them, but I actually did with both of these programs.
When I first started Become a Bookkeeper, I opened it and saw the college textbook, and I knew from that moment that program was going to be top-tier.
I don't have any college background at all. I don't have a degree or anything like that. I've only graduated high school, and Become a Bookkeeper made me realize I don't need a degree to do bookkeeping. I don't want to offend people with degrees, but you don't need that.
With the way Katie teaches, it's so descriptive and detailed that you're going to understand literally everything that she's going through.
In hindsight, I just wish I would've invested sooner. I would've saved myself so many years of struggle.
I would tell anyone considering joining to just do it. Don’t be scared of the price tag. The return on investment is so much bigger, and it was also pretty quick.
See What’s Possible?
This panel was meant to show you what's possible for you and to hear from those who have done what you are aspiring to do. Over the next couple weeks, we'll really get into the nitty-gritty of what it looks like to hone your technical skills and show the resources available so that you can start to see how this all comes together.
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs).
To learn about the programs and get a peek behind the curtain, head to www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.
Learn how to take your bookkeeping skills and turn them into a business that allows you to replace (or surpass) your corporate salary, be present for your life, and profoundly impact your clients without selling your life in the process by joining Life by the Books (LIBBY).
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