5 Steps to Start Using QuickBooks in Your Small Business

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 12:45 PM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech 2 comments

QuickBooksMany entrepreneurs and small business owners are natural born sales people whose excitement knows no bounds when it comes to closing deals, building strategies and devising marketing campaigns. But what about … accounting? It may feel like drudgery, but managing the business side of a business is absolutely crucial if that business is going to blossom.

Technology allows us to dispense with pencil and paper, dispose of double data entry, empty overstuffed file cabinets and do away with long nights chained to the office desk checking and double-checking rows and columns of figures. One of the more popular tools is QuickBooks from Intuit, an accounting software program. The program streamlines the accounting process.

Here, we’ll explore five ways to make the most out of QuickBooks.

1. Choose the Right QuickBooks Product

Venturing into QuickBooks requires reviewing your unique needs and studying the program’s offerings so you don’t pay for more than you need. You’ve probably noticed QuickBooks offers several options:

  • QuickBooks Online provides basic invoice creation, sales tracking, data backup and support. It comes with a 30-day free trial.
  • QuickBooks Premier contains industry-specific reports and tools tailored to a specific business type for more fine-grain control, in addition to forecasting and planning tools.
  • QuickBooks Pro targets businesses that are up and running that don’t need as much tailoring or features as those in Premier.
  • QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is the most advanced plan. This includes expanded user controls, enhanced customized reporting and customer snapshot features that lets you view customers’ purchase history and outstanding balances.

So, which plan do you need? Here are a few important factors to consider before you buy:

  • How much is feasible for your current budget?
  • Are you working on a PC or a Mac?
  • Will there be multiple users or one user?
  • Do you need to track multiple locations?
  • Do you need a better way to track employee time?
  • Will you be using the software for payroll purposes?
  • Are you interested in detailed analysis of sales and profits?

2. Customize QuickBooks

After narrowing down your QuickBooks selection, you’ll discover a wide range of customization options. The latest version of QuickBooks Premier, for example, has features designed for specific types of organizations, including general business, contractors, retail, manufacturing and wholesale, and even nonprofit.

You must also consider who will be using the software on a daily basis. Other employees may not need access to certain information or controls, so you can customize your settings to give other users more or less power. Keep in mind that you might need to train people to use the software.

Other custom options include interface layout, designs and colors, which not only affect the basic look and presentation, but also provide better organization and visual reminders. Setting up favorites, to-do notes and alerts can keep you on-task every day.

3. Integrate Your Accounting Software and Payment Processes

One of the major benefits of QuickBooks software is the ability to connect the program with other business processes, allowing for a one-source solution that can save you time, money and hair-pulling. Synchronizing your payment and accounting processes can eliminates double data entry and provides accurate, immediate reports.

With today’s customers using the Internet to shop, pay bills and place orders, online payment processing capabilities from companies like BluePay help expand sales and improve profits. With QuickBooks, you can integrate your accounting processes with major online shopping carts, so that you have the data you need to track online purchases, invoices and other customer details without having to manually enter the information.

4. Protect Your Business Assets

No business is 100 percent safe from fraud. However, taking the proper precautions and securing your assets as much as possible can cut your risk. Fraud occurs in many different ways, from electronic credit card theft to payroll theft. Unfortunately, small businesses are often susceptible to fraudulent activity, lacking the extra funds required for advanced security plans, or not having enough money to hire more qualified, trustworthy employees.

Security is crucial when using accounting programs that give access to business information to multiple users. As covered in Customization, it’s important to edit your privacy and admin settings to limit user control. Don’t give your employees more access than they need, no matter how nice they are.

Use QuickBooks’ ability to track employee hours and ensure your workers are making the most of their time. You can also use QuickBooks to track employee discounts, minimizing the risk of abused privileges.

Set up separate logins and passwords for each QuickBooks user, and make sure the admin password remains safe. While having all of your information in one place is useful, it also requires extra security precautions. Don’t let fraud be as easy as clicking a button.

5. Take Advantage of Educational Tools and Support

With all the different features, options, tools, reports, passwords –- it looks like QuickBooks complicates accounting rather than simplifies it. It feels overwhelming, but just take it one step at a time and it’ll pay off. Although you won’t learn everything at once, just one new discovery of a function can change the way you do business. Continue to grow from there, and take advantage of the tools and support systems that you can find on the Internet and Intuit’s website.

QuickBooks tutorials can walk you through the entire process so that you can go at it on your own. QuickBooks has training sessions that connect you with experts for consulting services and instructor-led classes. Certification programs are available if you’re already a QuickBooks pro and you want to deepen your knowledge while demonstrating your expertise to clients and employers. Online support or advanced support plans give you access to the resources you need if an issue ever arises, so that you can reduce downtime and keep your business up and running.

With the right QuickBooks product, customization and training, you can gain a tighter grip on all of your financial and accounting processes and greater control over your business, no matter your needs. With your finances in order, you can focus your efforts on the core of your business for growth and success.

About the Author: Jacqui MacKenzie is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing agency that works with BluePay, a company offering credit card processing products. To learn more about payment processing industry, follow BluePay on Twitter.

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Meryl Evans

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Guest Post: 10 Effective Invoicing Apps for Non-Fiction Writers

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Category: Business, Meryl's Notes Blog, Tech, Writing 5 comments

Time is moneyGuest post from Melissa Tamura.

If you’re a non-fiction writer, you most likely rely on a system to bill your clients and manage payments. While it sounds like a straightforward process, invoicing can end up taking loads of your time away from work. Writers need a quick and simple method to guarantee receiving payments on time without having to hire another employee.

Here are 10 web-based invoicing apps to solve this problem. These services allow you to choose from different account plans are free, affordable or pricier expensive for more robust features.

1. FreshBooks

Deemed by most as the leader of online invoicing, FreshBooks delivers traditional features of an invoicing application. It features time tracking and the ability to manage subcontractors that work on any of your projects. The application works seamlessly with similar accounting and project management systems, most notably project management app Basecamp and QuickBooks. If you’re ever lost on how to get something done with FreshBooks, you can call support or ask on the community message board. First and third party addons are available to extend the online application, including an iPhone app and a Mac OS X widget.

Price: Free to $39.95 monthly (30-day money back guarantee) [Details]

2. Ballpark

Ballpark aims to streamline communication and cut down on emails by centralizing conversations between your company and clients. Project teams can share, discuss and manage invoices together. It builds in client feedback and approval and tracks activities on the dashboard. Ballpark also features a notifier for OS X, an iPhone app, community forums.

Price: $6 to $99 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

3. Blinksale

Blinksale may be more ideal for writers with strong knowledge of web design and development. It lets you design your invoices using cascading style sheets (CSS) and it comes with an API for incorporating Blinksale into your workflow or other apps.  Blinksale offers all the basics and integration with Basecamp, so users can import and invoice clients without having to enter the data twice.

Price: $6 to $24 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

4. LessAccounting

LessAccounting monitors your banking data by connecting to the money management application Wesabe. You can also import data from QuickBooks into your account. If you have repeating invoices or drive places for business, you can set up automatic invoices and track miles. The service comes with role-based permissions and lets you invite your CPA. LessAccounting provides an iPhone app for invoicing.

Price: $12 to $300 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

5. Cashboard

Cashboard’s free financial time tracking service lets you invoice, send estimates, accept payments online and integrate Basecamp. It offers widgets for Windows and OS X and an iPhone application for managing your information without opening a browser. You can give clients access to Cashboard for tracking your progress, approving estimates and paying invoices online. Beware that pricing options look confusing with per employee and per active client options.

Price: Free to $140 monthly (15-day free trial) [Details]

6. Ronin

Ronin is a simple online invoicing app for individual freelancers to small businesses. Standard features include online invoicing, payment tracking, time tracking, client management and sending estimates. Ronin works with PayPal and Authorize.Net for online payments. The services can send invoices and estimates in multiple currencies for those working with international clients. Teams can take advantage of its role-based permissions feature so members are limited to what they can view.

Price: Free to $48 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

7. Simply Invoices

If you have minimal invoicing needs and little use for common features offered by other services, Simply Invoices may be your ideal option. The app is compatible with Basecamp, Less Time Spent, Tick and Harvest. Many invoicing apps have a lot of noise and features, but Simply Invoices keeps its interface, well, simple.

Price: Free to $25 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

8. Invoice Journal

Invoice Journal includes most commercial invoicing service features without the cost. This may be a good option for those just starting out as a writer. Since it’s a free service, you won’t find frills like desktop widgets or iPhone apps. But some people never use those features even if offered.

Price: Free

9. CannyBill

CannyBill is an online application targeted to professional services providers who can take advantage of the packages feature. This lets you customize your service and product offerings for your customers. Customers can select the products and services they want using online forms. CannyBill includes a “My Account” feature for your customers to check orders, make payments and change details. Like most apps, it integrates with Basecamp, QuickBooks and other third-party services.

Price: $8 to $48 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

10. Simplybill

Simplybill offers standard invoicing features found in most commercial invoicing services. It lets you create customizable invoices, or you can select from several pre-designed templates. Simplybill can create quotations and convert them into invoices, email alerts and send follow up messages .

Price: Free to $25 monthly (30-day free trial) [Details]

About the author: Melissa Tamura enjoys blogging and interacting with other writers online. She writes about online degrees for the Zen College Life blog. In her spare time she enjoys learning new things and Japanese cooking. See what colleges made her list of the top 10 communications colleges.

What do you use to manage invoices? What do you like / dislike about it?

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