Switching to QuickBooks Online

I'm finally making the move to QuickBooks Online!

At least I'm going to give it a real effort. One of my clients was interested in moving things online. We've been using QuickBooks desktop since Day 1, so switching to QBO made the most sense. I didn't realize it at the time, but this is really my only regular QB desktop client. I have some that I do year end work with, but in terms of daily bookkeeping...this is the last of its kind. (please read that last part in your best Sean Connery voice)

I know what you're saying. Yes, I'm really late to the party here. It's kinda like having someone come up to you and tell you how they just discovered Mumford & Sons. I was just sent a press release from Intuit that shows that QBO has just surpassed 1 million users. Being the 1,000,001th of anything doesn't get you cutting edge status so I'm aware that my indie cred is taking a real beating here today.

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Should bookkeepers be certified?

bookkeeper certificate

I know I have mentioned this at least 153 times…but I’m Canadian. And, as a Canadian, we bookkeepers don’t require any type of official certification in order to start working. Sadly, you probably don’t even need to know how to spell bookkeeper before you start charging people to do their books. Let’s not forget the fact that I was hired as a bookkeeping clerk before I was old enough to drive.

I suppose that’s true in a lot of professions. I don’t think most people ask for a list of academic achievements from their plumber while the broken pipe continues to fill their basement with water. They have a need, they find someone who seems to fit the bill, and the subsequent work (if done correctly) becomes their certification.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to become certified as a bookkeeper in this oft frozen tundra I call home; or to receive other types of designations that can help prove your worth. I haven’t done exhaustive research, but I know of a couple different sites where I can sign up, take some tests, and become a “certified professional bookkeeper”.

IPBC (Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada) - As of the date of this writing they've got a promotion on where you can become a member and pay for your certification test for $395.00. That covers your exam and the first year of membership. It appears that it's $295/year afterward to maintain your membership.

The certification process requires you to complete a 2-hour exam. You receive prep materials with your membership. In order to qualify for the membership and test you need a letter of recommendation from a client/employer showing you've been employed as a bookkeeper for at least 2 years. Once you've proved this, you take the exam at a local Academy of Learning (or similar). The test is online, and you need at least 75% to pass.

CIB (Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping) - The certification process is quite a bit different than with the IPBC. The yearly membership itself is based on how long you've been in the field. If you're new you'd be a Student Member ($156/yr). Associate Members ($192/yr) have been bookkeepers for at least 5 years but have not yet completed the certification courses. Finally Certified Bookkeepers ($240/yr) have at least 3 years of bookkeeping experience and have completed the required courses.

Unlike the IPBC's certification, this one requires the completion of 9 college-level classes. These can be taken online or at your local college...just depending on availability. Enrollment in the program is $50. Once you are enrolled you have 5 years to complete the classes. Registration for each class is $30 ($40 if you're not a member). If you sign up as an Associate Member (5+ years experience) you may be eligible for up to 4 course exemptions, so you might only need to take 5 courses if you've been working for a while. It seems like the registration fee is in addition to the actual cost of taking the course.

So, why bother?

This one's a bit tricky. In most professions getting a certificate or degree usually comes with more specific benefits. Become a journeyman electrician and you are safe in assuming your hourly rate just went up. On the other side, see how many hospitals hire you on as an ER doctor with "I've seen every episode of House" as your list of qualifications.

The immediate benefits of being a certified bookkeeper aren't as obvious.

Both sites have their list of benefits. They both offer discounts with businesses they have partnered with. They also indicate you should be able to increase your rate of pay because of your certification. That’s a very interesting idea, and on some levels I can definitely see it. I know if I was going to start paying up to $300/yr to be a member of one of these organizations, I’d want to be able to see a return on that investment.

I guess the part that I’m struggling with is how different both paths are…because they both get you to the same certification. I can spend $400, some time studying, and 2 hours taking a test to get my certification. Or...I can spend $200, then $50 to enrol, $30x9 for registration, then __x9 for whatever the college actually charges for each course, then spend however long it will take to complete 9 college courses, pass a test, and get the same certification. Am I missing something? Perhaps there's something my self-taught brain is too small to process that allows this to make sense. At the moment it feels the same as if doctor's were given the option to either spend the better part of a decade in school OR 6 months at night school to get the same PhD.

Conceptually I really like the idea. I have either taught myself or learned on the job about 99% of the skills I've obtained since I turned 19. I am a huge fan of learning sites like Lynda.com, and at least 75% of the written words I consume are instructional in nature. So, the idea of learning a bit more about my profession AND getting to add a proper certification to my resume is very enticing.

Other options

There are also smaller, more targeted types of certification. These are usually app specific, and sometimes have different levels of certification. Being a bookkeeper usually gives me access to an accountant/bookkeeper specific version of all of my bookkeeping software. Here are a couple of the ones I'm part of:

QuickBooks - If you're a bookkeeper and you use QuickBooks, you're most likely signed up with their ProAdvisor program. Being a ProAdvisor on its own requires nothing more than paying to join. It's either a monthly or yearly fee. It used to include a copy of the desktop software, which is why I signed up. Now, since QB is (at least based on their marketing) determined to get you away from their desktop software and onto QuickBooks Online, there are ProAdvisor memberships that are free but don't include any software.

In Canada, you can also become a Certified ProAdvisor. You take an exam and, if you pass, you become certified. The US ProAdvisor program has 6 different certifications. You can get certified in QB Online, Desktop, Enterprise Solutions, Point of Sale, and Advanced. These are all separate tests and give you different certificates. All of these tests are included in the cost of your membership.

FreshBooks - With FreshBooks, I am part of their FreshBooks Accountant Network. This actually means I get to show off my FreshBooks Certified Accountant badge. Unfortunately just because FreshBooks calls me an accountant doesn't let me charge accountant rates. If only, right? They recently added a really nice Accountant Center that lets me get reports for all my FreshBooks-using clients in one central hub.

How about you?

First off, I'd love to hear from other bookkeepers here. Are you certified? Do you plan to? Let me know why you've decided to join (or not join) a professional group like the ones I listed.

For the rest of you, tell me about your experiences. Does your industry offer similar certifications? If so, what made you decide to get (or not get) certified?

I look forward to hearing your opinions.

CSV2QBO

csv quickbooks

This week I'm sharing some of my favourite utilities. On Monday I shared my love of ChronoMate. Today we're going to talk about a little app called CSV2QBO.

This is definitely one of those apps that does one thing well. This is about as niche as you can get.

What is it?

CSV2QBO is a file conversion application from Propersoft. It runs on Mac and Windows, and it's sole purpose is to convert csv files to qbo files. I'll explain these formats in a minute. Going against my frugal nature...this isn't a free app. It's actually $47, but it has saved me so much time it's easily paid for itself a few times over.

Why?

If the title didn't immediately click for you, let's break this down a little.

One of the biggest frustrations is trying to import data into QuickBooks. Importing lists is fairly straightforward, but what if I want to bring in transactions? You can always setup your bank accounts to download transactions, but what if you need to import really old transactions? Or, in my case, maybe you've already got the data in another app like Xero or FreshBooks. If only there was a way to turn these transactions into something QB thought was a bank download...

QuickBooks brings in bank transactions with files that have a qbo extension. They're similar to a spreadsheet but specifically formatted for QB. If you can download transactions directly from your bank online then you can probably get them in this qbo format...which makes this utility pointless.

Importing from Another App.

Here's a real-life example I've had to deal with recently. I had customer data in Xero. We are currently making a switch from Xero back to QB and I needed to bring in the full fiscal year. The earlier months of the fiscal year are no longer available for download from the bank, but I have all the details I need in Xero. I generate an "Account Transactions" report in Xero and choose the first bank account on my list. I select the proper dates, and choose to export this as an Excel file.

Next I open the file in Excel, do a little formatting to clean it up, and save it as a .csv. A .csv, or comma-separated values file has all the data in a regular Excel file without all the extra formatting Office software likes to add.

This same thing would work in another app. In something like FreshBooks it would be a bit different. It would be 2 reports...Payments Collected and Expense Report. The expense report has a column for "Bank" so it would be easy enough to separate out each bank account in order to create the .qbo file in the next step.

Now it's time to open this file in CSV2QBO.

CSV2QBO screenshot

This screenshot is from the Windows version. I've been using this since before the move to Mac. It's one of the very few Windows apps I still run. As you can see, it's a very plain looking Windows app. You navigate to the csv file you want to convert and open it in CSV2QBO. Review the imported data to make sure the columns are mapped out properly and click Save. That's it. You now have a qbo file *just as though you had downloaded it from your bank.

  • Ok, not quite. When you download, let's say, January 2013's transactions from your bank, the qbo file will include details of the bank and account number. This will be important soon.

Now it's time to bring the data into QuickBooks.

QB import menu

As you see from the screenshot, you're going to want to manually import this qbo or "web connect file". Select the qbo file you just created, and *follow through the instructions. Once you're done you will have all of these transactions imported and ready for you to categorize.

*There are a few weird steps you need to take in order to get this done properly which probably aren't interesting unless you're actually trying to pull this off. Please email me if you plan to do this and I can walk you through the full process.

If you aren't a bookkeeper, or you don't deal with QB this app might not make any sense. If, however, you do work in QuickBooks and want to be able to import transactions...this little app is a huge time saver. It's not much to look at and it's a little pricey for a one-trick pony, but the time you'll save will pay for the app in no time.

If you have a better way to do this, please let us all know in the comments.

5 Things You Give Up When You Move Your Bookkeeping Online

I made a big jump back in 2010. I decided to try out a few online bookkeeping services...just for fun. I had never considered them a viable alternative to my QuickBooks, but thought it would be an interesting experiment.

Fast forward almost 4 years and I'm using Xero, Freshbooks, Kashoo, and Wave every day. I still use QuickBooks, but it doesn't represent the majority of my time anymore.

That's not to say this change didn't come with some trade offs. Working almost entirely online is very useful, but there are going to be some features and conveniences you will give up when making the switch.

Before you make the jump, here are a few things you'll need to be prepared to give up or change.

  1. Data entry speed
    This one isn't maybe. If you do a lot of data entry in a desktop app like QuickBooks, you are going to find it slower working online. The app you have installed on your computer doesn't care if your internet is slow. You can work at home or at a campground and you'll get the same performance. Unless you're running a seriously old computer, you are going to find working online slower than what you're used to. This is especially true for bookkeepers and accountants. If you're used to ripping through a stack of receipts like it was nothing, you are going to feel the difference. I've tried a ton of bookkeeping services, and no matter how good their interface is, they just can't replicate the speed of a local application. Some of the reasons are found in my second point.

  2. Keyboard shortcuts
    This will be more for the power users out there. QuickBooks has a few really useful keyboard shortcuts to help you speed through large stacks of paperwork. Once you learn them, you will really miss them when you move online. Some online services incorporate them. So far, Kashoo is the only one to incorporate my favourite...Ctrl+Enter. In QuickBooks, when you're ready to save a bill or invoice, you press Ctrl+Enter and it saves the invoices and starts a new one. I hate having to take my hands off the keyboard to click the Save and New button. If you enter one or two bills into your software every day, it's not a huge deal. If you have to get through hundreds of bills each day, it quickly takes a toll on your productivity...not to mention the RSI issues. So, if you're used to hitting Ctrl+W to write a cheque, or Ctrl+Del to delete a line...I'm sorry to say those days are now behind you.

  3. Powerful, customizable reports
    QuickBooks, at least the version I use, has spoiled me on reports. If you really fill in all the details into every bill or invoice, you can pull out some really great information for yourself or your clients. And, what you can't do directly from a one-click report can be achieved by combining the results of a couple in Excel and working some magic. The point is, QuickBooks lets you track a lot of details. One big example is Class Tracking. If you want to split up your company into departments, and track each one's profitability, you won't find that in many of the online options. Xero has a version of it, which is nice, and Netsuite (more suited to bigger businesses) also has the feature. It's out there, but just don't expect that it will be the norm. Most online options will give you a list of reports you can pull...some better than others. The big problem you'll come across is that most of them aren't as customizable as the one's you'd find in QuickBooks.

  4. Backup I've got all of my client's QuickBooks files set to backup automatically whenever I close the app. It keeps the last 10 (date stamped) versions of the backup somewhere safe, and that folder gets backed up automatically each day. Of course, the reason for that is that QuickBooks used to have a problem with data corruption...especially on large client files. I haven't had a big problem in years, but it's nice to have those backups just in case. Online, your backups are handled by the company hosting the service. I don't get a backup file saved locally from FreshBooks or Xero. And, to be honest, I've only had to deal with an issue once where I needed something restored. I do wish I could have those local backups though. If there was ever a problem, or if the service shut down, I would prefer having a file on my computer that I could restore from. Maybe there are some out there that provide that option...I just haven't come across it yet.

  5. Accountant workflow
    This isn't a loss, but more of a change. If you (and your accountant) are used to sending them a copy of your QuickBooks file at year end, this new system will be different. There's no "file" to send. In this case you can either download reports or give them access to your account. More modern accountants won't have a problem here. Some accountants are fine with this change...others aren't. Make sure to speak to them before making the change so you know how to handle year end.

"There's no free lunch"

Gaining the ability to collaborate in real time with your clients and their data is incredible for both sides. Bookkeepers don't get a frantic call on the weekend demanding that reports get sent over from the local QuickBooks file. Owners don't have to remain in the dark until the next meeting with their bookkeeper. And, with the ability of many services to download your bank transactions automatically, you gain a lot by going online.

I just want to make sure you're aware of the cost you pay for this convenience.

If you know of any other points that you found when making the change, let me know in the comments. I'd also love to hear from companies offering these services if you have been able to address all (or some) of these issues.