Working for free is a last resort, but you’ll learn a LOT and increase your confidence

How much you charge for your services will depend on your confidence in your knowledge and experience, as well as your people and conversation skills. If you have been a small business bookkeeper or BAS Agent for five years, you will speak differently than someone who is just starting out.

So—how do you get that knowledge and experience? By offering some of your services for free.

How Much Do I Have To Give Away?

Working for free doesn’t mean that you have to slave away for days and weeks until the client deems you competent enough to pay a fee. It simply means offering something like,

  • a complimentary parcel of time (for example, two hours),
  • a tutoring session, or a
  • no-obligation review of the client’s accounts so that you can assess what needs to be done (which will hopefully generate some paid work).

When you start a bookkeeping business you are free to offer what ever you DEFINE to attract new bookkeeping clients and if offering your services for free for a short time will give YOU something YOU need then it is time and energy well spent.

You just need to define your reason.

People work for free for lots of reasons:

Work Experience

Working for free gives you the opportunity to define EXACTLY what type of work you do and for how long. This is a chance for you to do what you are good at and practice handling how to help clients with topics you DON’T have confidence or experience doing, by finding people in your referral network.

Most importantly it gets you doing what you do, and working with local or remote businesses.

Every project you work on—whether paid or unpaid—is an opportunity to refine your skills and to acquire the knowledge and insights that can only be gained through hands-on practice.

At the beginning of your bookkeeping career, your aim is to gain experience that you can add to your resumé and to your business services listing. This is the time to put everything you learned in training into practice, and to build your competencies so that you can market your services to businesses who are very happy to pay you.

Relationships and Reputations

An Internship will provide you with hands-on work experience as a bookkeeper. It bridges the gap between theory and practice so that you can apply your knowledge in the real world.

Small businesses that don’t have a need (or a budget) for a full-time bookkeeper on their staff will value the flexibility of an intern who can do the work for little or no cost, and on a part-time or casual basis. It also allows them to evaluate your work on a trial basis before committing to a regular paid arrangement. It’s a win-win for both businesses and bookkeepers!

The major issue that some employers have, particularly if they are a small company, is managing a new person who needs to not only learn new skills but also understsand the processes and procedures of their own organisation. It’s for this reason that they use an external provider to manage that program.

Some larger courses like the tertiary qualifications offered by Universities include internship opportunities but it is important to understand that there is always a cost to manage the Intern. 123 Group’s Career Academy had an opportunity to work with UNSW students to help them use their skills in Professional Practice.

Earnings Guarantee

Some businesses will offer an earnings guarantee in return for giving away free or discounted services to qualified prospective clients. 

Take Jim’s Mowing for example. The Jim’s Mowing gardening and mowing franchise system has been operating for 25 years and currently has 1500 Australian franchisees. To encourage new franchisees to invest in a new franchise they offer an earnings guarantee in the early stages of operating their business.

This earnings guarantee reduces the financial risk for new franchisees and enables them to market their services by building a word-of-mouth referral network. These guarantees are often a last resort and involves the franchisee performing tasks for the franchisor and getting paid for it.

Earnings-Guarantee-approved-students-starting-a-bookkeeping-business and for short courses in how to use Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks Online

One example we heard about was walking from door to door offering to mow property owners lawn for free. The reasoning is that no one really wants to take someone for granted and only property owners who would potentially use a mowing service would actually use the free service.

In this situation the franchisee is then paid for performing the work.

An earnings guarantee is usually capped and only offered for a limited time, so the onus is still on the franchisee or business owner to work hard and maximise their earning potential as much as possible during this period.

National Bookkeeping offers an Earnings Guarantee to Pre Qualified Bookkeeping Business licensees.


The concept of working for free may sound like a bad business proposition on the face of it, but applied strategically, it can result in more clients and more income for your bookkeeping business. 

Take some time to consider where you might get the best returns in exchange for doing free work and implement the necessary steps into your marketing plan. You won’t devalue your services by offering complimentary work, or be taken advantage of by businesses looking for a freebie if you set deliberate boundaries and define the expected outcomes for both you and your clients.

About Internships

Learn, in a practical and real-world sense, how new (or updated) skills that you’ve learned in your training course are applied in the real world to help small businesses grow and prosper.

After the Introduction Call—What a Bookkeeping Licensee Needs to Send to Local Accountants

start a bookkeeping business, become a freelance writer, become a licenced real estate agent

After making your initial phone call to a local accountant, BAS agent or tradesperson the next step is to follow up with an email about your bookkeeping services. Offering a value-add such as a training manual or a free service shows that you are confident in your abilities and able to demonstrate your competence.