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Creating a Job Estimate with QuickBooks 2005

QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier have a feature that's very interesting for businesses that do jobs or projects for their customers: contractors, consultants, engineers, architects, and so on. QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Premier (unlike the regular Basic QuickBooks program) have the capability to do simple project or job costing. This capability means that your business can create project or job estimates, track costs by project or job, and bill invoices by project or job.

In QuickBooks Pro, job costing starts with an estimate. An estimate is just a list of the estimated costs you'll incur for some job you'll perform for some customer.

Assuming that you've already created a job and have told QuickBooks you use estimates, here are the steps that you follow to create an estimate:

1. Get the form.

Choose Customers --> Create Estimates. QuickBooks opens a Create Estimates form, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Create Invoices form that you've seen if you've worked with QuickBooks at all.

2. Start filling in the blanks.

Choose the appropriate Customer:Job from the drop-down list box at the top of the form. QuickBooks Pro automatically fills in as much information as it can — usually at least the Name/Address box — on the form.

If you configured QuickBooks Pro to track classes, the appropriate drop-down list box shows up in the top center of the form. Go ahead and use the box, if appropriate.

Feel free to change the default settings — the Date and Estimate #, for example.

3. Add the line items — details, details, details.

You fill in the details of a Create Estimates window in the same way you fill in the details of a Create Invoices window.

Each line item that you want to include on your job estimate needs to be described in the Items list. Note that because you often sell work to clients and customers using, in part, an estimate, you'll typically want to include full descriptions of the items. (Some contractors, for example, often use several lines of descriptive text to fully explain each item that shows on the estimate.)

4. Add any optional information.

If you want to, use any of the other boxes available in the Create Estimates window to collect and store additional information. For example, just as with the Create Invoices window, you can click the Customer Message drop-down list box and write a friendly message, or you can use one from the drop-down list.

You can also use the Memo field to write a note to yourself regarding the job if you like. Or maybe some notes for the screenplay that you've been thinking about pitching to the studios. Whatever suits your fancy.

If you want to include other items in the Create Estimates window, you can customize that window. Choose Customize from the Template drop-down list box in the upper-right corner of the Create Estimates window. QuickBooks gives you a list of your estimate forms. Choose the one you want to edit. (You may have only one estimate form on the list if you've never created a new one.) Click either the New or Edit button. If you click New, QuickBooks displays the Customize Estimate dialog box.

Before you print that estimate, remember that the Create Estimates window isn't the same information that appears on the written estimate. To see how the printed version looks, click the down arrow beside the Print button in the Create Estimates window and choose Preview from the drop-down list. The result is a full-page image, shrunk to fit on-screen.

If you haven't saved your estimate yet, go ahead and click either the Save & New or the Save & Close button.

To examine the estimate (or any on-screen QuickBooks form) more closely, either click the Zoom In button at the top of the Print Preview screen or move the mouse cursor over the image. When the cursor looks like a magnifying glass with a plus sign in it, click the left mouse button. Because you can see only part of the preview at a time this way, use the scroll bars at the bottom and right of the windows to move around to the different areas.

Note that the magnifying glass now has a minus sign in it, and the Zoom In button toggles to Zoom Out. If you complete more than one estimate, you can use the Prev Page and Next Page buttons on the Print Preview screen to look at other estimates. When you finish, click the Close button.

When you get back to the Create Estimates window, click the Print button; QuickBooks Pro displays the Print One Estimate dialog box. Click Print to print the estimate without any further ado.

If you haven't used QuickBooks to print estimates before, you may first need to set up your printer for this task. To do so, choose File --> Printer Setup and select Estimate from the Form Name drop-down list box. Then specify the printer settings that you want for printing estimates. (This process works the same way as it does for printing other forms, such as invoices.) Click OK when you're done. The Print One Estimate dialog box that QuickBooks displays after you click Print in the Create Estimates window also works the same way as the Print One Invoice dialog box does.

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