Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Getting Started With Quickbooks

June 26, 2007

Today’s article is courtesy of a reader who is a QuickBooks Pro Advisor that wrote in to offer me some advice based on my post on getting help for QuickBooks.  They agreed to answer some questions but preferred to remain anonymous.   Welcome to the wonderful world of QuickBooks!

Why Use QuickBooks?

What benefits do business owners get out of using QuickBooks, why not just track everything in spreadsheets?

Some businesses can do just fine tracking their finances with spreadsheets. These would be very small businesses with little activity. The beauty of QuickBooks is that once you have the program set-up and learn how to use it properly, you can have a vast amount of information at your fingertips. For example, in only a few seconds, you can look at a Profit & Loss report for any given period. QuickBooks can track your Accounts Payable & Receivable, Credit Card accounts, Checking accounts, Fixed Assets, etc. It’s the complete package that can grow with your business.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if your business grows to the point where you attention is needed running the business (versus doing the bookkeeping), it is much easier to hire someone with QuickBooks experience than hiring someone with your spreadsheet experience.

There are other similar software packages out there, why did you choose QuickBooks? Other popular accounting software is MYOB and Peachtree.

Since my career was started by bookkeeping using QuickBooks, that’s the program I have stayed with. By far and large, most of the clients I have worked with have come to me already using QuickBooks.

QuickBooks 101

If you could give someone setting us QuickBooks for the first time some advice what would it be?

I have witnessed the files of many people that have set-up QuickBooks themselves. It can be done, but chances are it may not be done correctly unless you have some training with bookkeeping or accounting.  While QuickBooks is user friendly once you learn it, the set-up can be complicated.

The best example I can give is someone that I know how set-up his file himself.  After working numerous hours in the file to clean it up, it was discovered that he was missing many expenses because he was not reconciling his checkbook.  As a result, his prior year’s tax returns were off and he was due refunds.  He could have received those refunds in a timely manner and avoided my cost of cleaning up his file if he took a few hours in the beginning to have his file set up and received proper training on how to use QuickBooks. 

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What are some common mistakes you see people make in setting up and/or using QuickBooks?

1.) Not using credit card accounts to track credit card activity. Many people without QuickBooks training will write a check to their credit card company and detail the spending in the area below. If you do not pay the credit card in full every month, you are not capturing all of your expenses and you are losing expenses that can be deducted on your tax return!

2.) Not reconciling accounts. With most modern accounting software, it is really easy to reconcile and it is a matter of checking off items that have cleared your bank. Reconciling is a great way to make sure you have entered all of your checks and/or debit card payments (again, capturing all of those expenses that you can deduct on your tax return!). An accurate balance in your checking account is also invaluable for avoiding the dreaded overdraft fees at your bank. Again, once you learn how to do it, reconciling is fairly easy to do.

The Cost of QuickBooks

Even though I got a reasonable price on eBay, QuickBooks still isn’t cheap. How often do people need to pay to upgrade to newer versions of the software?

Intuit (the makers of QuickBooks and Quicken) has a sunset policy. They only offer support for three newest versions of QuickBooks. For example, right now they only offer support and updates for verions 2005-2007. They “sunsetted” the 2004 version at the end of May of this year. That means, you have to do an upgrade every three years. Expensive, yes. But if you break it down by yearly expense, you are spending about $60/year for your accounting software.

There is a way you can get QuickBooks for a discount. All Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisors have a discount (it varies per product, but the lowest discount is 10%) that they can pass on to others. You just need to order through them, or they can give you their information and you can order the product yourself.


Getting Help with QuickBooks

Where do you go to get your QuickBooks questions answered when you are stumped?

A great place to start is the Help section within QuickBooks which is found on the top navigation bar. You can type in a question and many times you get a good answer. If you do not get an answer, you can try asking over at the QuickBooks forums. If your question is highly personalized for your business, you may want to consult with a QuickBooks Pro Advisor. They should be able to help you and provide the specific training that you need.

What kind of service should someone expect to get when they hire a QuickBooks Pro Advisor? What is a reasonable price range for hiring an advisor?

When you hire a QuickBooks Pro Advisor, you should receive excellent service and you should have someone that can help you set-up/maintain QuickBooks for the reporting requirements of your business. The price range can vary greatly and really depends on the other qualifications that the QuickBooks Pro Advisor has. How long have they been consulting? Are they a Certified Bookkeeper? Are they a CPA? It also depends greatly on your location. A good thing to do is to call around and compare rates, but PLEASE do not let that drive your decision (I talk about that next).

There are many QuickBooks Pro Advisors for hire, what kind of things should someone look for as they evaluate candidates? How difficult is it to become an advisor?

For the QuickBooks Pro Advisor test, you go through some training modules and then take three tests. It is all online, and there are no moderators around to withhold the integrity of the testing. The testing does not cover all aspects of QuickBooks. That would be difficult to do because it would literally take weeks to cover everything. In a nutshell, it is a good way to verify basic QuickBooks skills and QuickBooks uses the testing to introduce how to use new features.

If you are looking for a QuickBooks Pro Advisor to hire, the main thing you should look for is experience. How long have they been using QuickBooks? How many clients have they worked with? How many businesses have they worked with that are similar to yours (e.g. construction, manufacturing, retail, etc.)? You should also ask for references from clients they have worked with in the past. You can also ask to speak with any accountants they work with. By far and large, any time you consult with a QuickBooks Pro Advisor, they should be asking you LOTS of questions to make sure they understand your business. If they don’t…beware.

You mentioned something about a certified Bookkeeper, what is the difference between a CPA and a Certified Bookkeeper?

The American Institute of Certified Bookkeepers has a certification program that one can take to become a Certified Bookkeeper. No formal education in accounting is needed to take the test, although you must meet experience requirements (currently 2 years of full-time bookkeeping). You receive books to study that encompass many things that bookkeepers should know (payroll rules, inventory, journal entries, etc.). Once ready, a series of tests are taken at a Prometric testing center. This test is moderated and the integrity is withheld. If passed, the individual is now a Certified Bookkeeper and they can put the initials “CB” after their name.

A CPA on the other hand, has gone through a college education as has taken exams to become a certified public accountant. CPAs are qualified to complete income taxes for you and they continually take courses to keep up with current tax laws.  For the most part, they can do so much more than a Certified Bookkeeper, but having a CPA as your daily bookkeeper is a bit like having someone with too much experience.


I’d like to thank the reader for sharing their insight into the world of small business accounting.   They provided a helpful list of resources you can check out for more information.

-Free Bookkeepers Hiring Test 
Bookkeeping Tips
-Find a Bookkeeper
-Find a QuickBooks Pro Advisor


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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