On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

The hardest part about change is the first step.  I tend to build it up in my mind and think about all the challenges that come with it.  Then I stew and fret and try to figure out how I’m going to do it and then I am so tired from stressing I just need a nap and decide it’s easier to just put it off until later.  This is how I usually hear people tell me they feel about switching to QuickBooks.  However, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Don’t let it overwhelm you.  Let’s break it down into steps, work through them one at a time, and then do the basics and slowly grow from there.  QuickBooks isn’t all or nothing.  You can start with doing a little and then expand as you get comfortable.

On Your Marks

So let’s start with some basic steps.  First off buy the program.  You have a few choices to pick from which can be confusing, but I will explain a little about them.

QuickBooks Online: This is an internet hosted version of QuickBooks.  Everything is automatically backed up and stored in their cloud so you can’t lose your data and you don’t have to worry about backing up your file regularly.  Your cost is a monthly fee that continues until you no longer want to use the program.  The positive is if you have a good internet connection and other users scattered throughout various regions that would like or need access to the company file, this is an easy way to do it.  The layout is different from the desktop versions in how you work through it.  The negative is it does require a good internet connection and if you are not using the payroll feature you don’t need to upgrade your version of QuickBooks as often; therefore it may be cheaper to buy the desktop version and use it for five years and get more bang for your buck.  I feel like I have more freedom to customize reports with the desktop version versus the online version of QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Desktop:  There are various versions of QuickBooks desktop.  For most people the QuickBooks Pro will do everything you need.  The Premier version is used if you need real detailed, industry specific, items tracked or you want to have more than three users with the program.  The desktop versions of QuickBooks are a one-time fee to be able to download the program onto your computer or have a CD mailed to you.  There is no expiration date.  I usually recommend people upgrade about every 3-5 years, having an older program can cause issues with sharing the company file with professionals such as your accountant as well as missing out on updated features.  If you are using payroll through QuickBooks you have to upgrade every three years, the service is only supported for the three most recent years of the program.  The payroll feature is also an extra cost that is paid both annually and on a per employee basis through QuickBooks.  You will want to weigh that cost versus hiring a professional to see what is most cost effective for your operation.

Get Set

So you bought the program and have it installed on your computer.  That wasn’t so bad was it?  So now let’s gather a few documents that will help you enter your company information into the program.  I usually recommend users make this change in their bookkeeping structure during the first quarter of the year.  The reason is so you have fewer number of transactions to enter.

Now when you go to set up your company in QuickBooks you will need all your basic information like company name, address, email, etc; along with this the EIN (Employer Identification Number), BIN (Business Identification Number) if you are in Oregon or UBI (Unified Business Identifier) if you are in Washington and your last bank statement.  When you open QuickBooks for the first time you will select “set up a new company” in the window that pops up.  QuickBooks will then walk you through the set up and you will want to select “setup interview”.  This will help you get everything inputted correctly.  You will also be able to select your industry and it will have a basic chart of accounts you can choose to use.  Don’t worry, this is just to get you started and then you can edit and change it all you want after your done with this part.


Ok so now you are ready to start entering information into the company.  If you go to “List” in the upper menu bar and then select “Chart of Accounts” you can review the standard accounts it downloaded to be used as your income and expense accounts on the Profit and Loss reports we will talk more about later; then you can choose to edit the list and either add accounts you want or remove ones you don’t or even add sub accounts.  Then decide if you want to be able to class your transactions so that you can allocate income and expenses to various enterprises within your company, I will discuss using classes in your accounting in more detail in my next article, however if you do want to set up classing now then click on “Edit” in the upper menu bar and then “Preferences”.  On the left-hand side of the new window select “Accounting” and then click on the company preferences tab.  You will see “Class” in the left-hand side of the screen.  Select the option to use class tracking for transactions.  To set up the classes you want to use, you will save those settings and close the window.  Then click on “Lists” in the upper menu bar and find “Class List”.  Then you can add the classes you would like to be able to use.  Not using classes is just fine too and even if only for the time being; you can always add it later.

Now you will get out the bank statements or check register, which ever you want, and start entering every transaction for the year thus far into you check register that you can find on the home screen.  As you enter these you can save each vendor and customer.  Eventually you will add vendor addresses as you go if you want to be able to print checks in the future.  And now you are up and rolling!


Now you have officially gotten your company up and running in QuickBooks and you didn’t have one panic attack while doing it.  The key is don’t overwhelm yourself and remember that you don’t have to do it all at once.  You can add options and other record keeping items as you go.  You can change the chart of accounts at any time.  There are various materials online you can find to help you learn how to better use QuickBooks and all its features.  I also offer private and group classes upon request so feel free to contact me if you need help moving onto the next step.

Cassi Johnson

Pacific Intermountain Mortgage Company