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QuickBooks Online Tutorial: First 3 Steps

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

QuickBooks Online offers all of the tools and features necessary to manage your books and finances and prepare you for tax time for many small business owners—but setting up your account can be overwhelming if you haven’t used a platform before. Our QuickBooks Online tutorial will show you how easy and customizable it is to start your business on the right foot.

If you’ve been operating with simple spreadsheets and you’re ready to organize your accounting and finances, QuickBooks Online is an affordable and effective option. Its benefits include easy access to data across all platforms, automatic invoices, secure and backed-up data, the ability to post to multiple accounts receivable/payable, inventory tracking, and so much more.

Below, we’re sharing some helpful QuickBooks Online tips for those just diving in. Then, we’ll walk through the first three steps for setting up your QuickBooks Online Account:

  1. Choose a subscription plan

  2. Set up basic company information and preferences

  3. Create and send an invoice

QuickBooks Online Tips for Beginners

As you go through our QuickBooks Online tutorial, keep in mind these tips for setting your business up for success:

  • Actions taken in QuickBooks should reflect actions taken in real life, meaning:

  • Record everything from transactions to sales to bank deposits.

  • Make sure you match names, dates, payment methods, and totals against what is recorded on your bank or credit card statements.

  • Avoid using invoices and estimates until you’re familiar with the software. You’ll have the chance to practice before posting live invoices.

  • Separate business from personal! Your bank account should not include any personal transactions.

Step 1: Choose Your QuickBooks Online Subscription

Prior to beginning the QuickBooks Online tutorial, you’ll need to register for an account. You can start by signing up for the 30-day free trial to familiarize yourself with QuickBooks Online to make sure it’s right for your business. You simply need to enter your details and use a compatible browser (Chrome, Safari 6.1, Firefox, or Internet Explorer 10 or higher).

After your free trial, you can register for any of the QuickBooks packages:

  • Simple Start - $25/mo: Create invoices, send estimates, and run general reports

  • Essentials - $40/mo: Everything in Simple Start, plus ability to manage and pay bills, multi-user support, and time tracking

  • Plus - $70/mo: Everything in Essentials, plus inventory and project profitability tracking

  • Advanced - $150: Everything in Plus, plus the ability to batch invoices and expenses, customize access by role, automate workflows, a dedicated account team, and more

Before you buy, Reach Out to Us to find out how you can save up to 50% off your subscription price.

Step 2: Set Up Basic Company Information & Preferences

Our QuickBooks Online tutorial begins with the basics. Don’t skip the 30-second tour! This will tell you where all the essential features and tools are.

Next, click the gear icon and open your Account and Settings menu.

Step 2a: Enter your company information

Enter your company information. Make sure everything is accurate! This is what shows up on your company invoices and sales forms you send to your customers.

Head to Accounts and Settings > Company and fill out the following fields:

  • Company Name

  • Business Address (You can use a PO Box as the “Customer-facing address” but will need to enter your legal business address in QBO.)

  • Email Address

  • Website

  • Phone Number

You will also need to include your Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Social Security Number (SSN). Contact Check & Balance to find out what you need and how we can help fulfill this legal requirement.

In the Company type section, select the correct tax form for your business structure (e.g., Sole proprietor = Form 1040, Partnership or LLC = Form 1065, etc.). This is the form you plan to file at the end of the year.

Step 2b: Set your fiscal year start date

Go to Account and Settings > Accounting. Enter your business’s fiscal year start and end date. January is the first month of the fiscal year for most companies, the same as the start of the income tax year. You should know your company’s tax year schedule.

Here, you can also set a date 12 months from your start date to “close the books” for the fiscal year. Closing the books prevents anyone from changing your QuickBooks data as you prepare to file taxes. You can also choose to set this later.

Step 2c: Choose your accounting method

While under Accounting, you’ll also need to select either the cash or accrual method for reporting your business income.

  • Cash method: Record income as it’s received and expenses as they’re paid. This method does not account for any accounts receivable or accounts payable.

  • Accrual method: Record income (whether or not you receive the funds) and expenses when they’re billed. This includes accounts payable and accounts receivable transactions.

The cash method is simpler, but there are advantages to both options. Once you start using one method, it is best to stick to it—switching can be challenging and requires assistance from your accountant.

Chat with us to learn more about both methods and find out which is best for your business.

Step 2d: Set your accounting currency

While under Account and Settings, go to Advanced > Currency. Select your home currency, the one you plan to use to accept payments from customers (e.g., USD - United States Dollar).

You’ll also see a multicurrency option. This lets you track transactions in foreign currencies and is only meant for businesses with bank accounts, customers, or vendors that don’t use your home currency. If you do need to use the multicurrency feature, be sure to select your home currency first. Once you turn on multicurrency, you cannot turn it off or change your home currency.

Step 2e: Customize invoices with your logo and branding

Under Account and Settings, go to Company. Create professionally branded invoices, estimates, and sales receipts for customers by adding your logo. This will be applied to all of your forms. Note that full invoice customization is only available to QuickBooks Plus subscribers.

To ensure your logo appears clearly and fits on all forms, use a:

  • Square or circular logo that fits within a square (rectangular logos will stretch)

  • Logo with a white background so it blends in with the sales form

  • .gif, .bmp, .png, .jpg, .jpeg, or .jpe file type

  • File smaller than 1MB

  • RGB color file with a bit depth (or color depth) of 24-bits or less

You can further customize your invoices under Account Settings > Sales > Customer Look and Feel > New Style, then choose Invoice from the drop-down menu. Here you can edit:

  • Invoice template: QuickBooks offers several invoice templates with different layouts.

  • Color scheme: Choose your brand colors.

  • Font: Choose your brand font.

You can also adjust your preferences for Content, Emails, and Payments. Add a bank transfer (ACH) or credit card payment option to your invoice to make it easier for customers to pay. This will help you get paid faster!

Overall, don’t stress about these invoice customizations. You can always edit them later.

Step 2f: Set your default “Net Payment” invoice terms

Under Account and Settings, go to Sales > Sales form content. This is where you’ll make sure your customers know when they have to pay you by setting your default “net payment” invoice terms.

Select “due on receipt” if you want to get paid immediately, or select an appropriate time frame from the drop-down menu (e.g., 15 days or 30 days). You can also click “+Add New” in the drop-down, which allows you to create custom payment terms and apply discounts for early payments.

These net payment terms will become the default, but you can change the terms for individual invoices directly on the form.

Step 2g: Set up sales tax

Before setting up your sales tax, you’ll need to have chosen your accounting method from Step 2c. If that is all set, go to the Tax Tab. Most states require businesses that sell products to collect sales tax. Here, a setup module will guide you and ask about where you sell your products.

Important Note: QuickBooks Online’s Automated Sales Tax Center feature only calculates based on the accrual method, regardless of company accounting preferences. If you:

  • Set your accounting method to Cash before setting up your Sales Tax Center, your account will default to manual sales tax.

  • Set your accounting method to Cash after setting up the Sales Tax Center, QuickBooks will still automatically calculate your sales tax, but your Sales Tax Center will display based on the accrual method. You can use Sales Tax Liability reports to confirm that the correct sales tax payments are recorded in QuickBooks Online.

You will need to decide if you want QuickBooks to use the information you’ve provided to determine your state tax agency and calculate sales tax automatically. Once you’ve entered your tax period start date and filing frequency, this setting is permanent.

Step 3: Create & Send an Invoice

Before creating an official invoice, you can familiarize yourself with the process by using QuickBooks Test Drive, which emulates the Plus subscription. This tool allows you to use practice data rather than your actual data to learn how the whole platform works.

When you are ready to create live invoices, the process is quite simple. If you haven’t created a customer, product, or service yet, you can do so during the invoice creation process. Follow these steps:

  1. On the menu bar, click New > Invoice.

  2. Select a customer from your customer list or create a new customer.

  3. Enter a product or service and fill in the rest of the fields on the screen.

  4. Check one or both online payment options to allow customers to pay using a credit card or ACH bank transfer.

  5. Add a message for your customer on the invoice.

  6. Click “Save and Send” to save the invoice in QuickBooks online and email it to your customer.

Pro tips:

  • Attach a document to any invoice using the Attachments feature.

  • Set the invoice as recurring for customers you bill monthly and avoid manual entry each month.

Stay tuned for our next blog post with the rest of our QuickBooks Online tutorial, where we’ll share how to:

  1. Sync bank accounts

  2. Categorize bank transactions

  3. Sync credit card accounts

  4. Track expenses

  5. Pay bills

Before you know it, your QuickBooks account will be up and running, saving you time and preparing you for the next tax season!

Would you prefer a personalized guide on how to set up your QuickBooks Online? Contact Check & Balance today to find out how we can help your business!

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