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How to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online: The better way

Mechanic uses QuickBooks Online on her tablet at work.

From articles to webinars, there’s plenty of content available online that covers the benefits of investing in a QuickBooks Online account. 

But once you set up QuickBooks Online for your company, you’ll want to begin managing estimates ASAP. Creating and keeping track of estimates are essential parts of increasing profits for your business. 

This blog covers everything you need to know on how to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online (QBO). Later in this blog, you’ll learn how to upgrade your estimates in QBO with the best QuickBooks Online CRM — Method:CRM.

What’s an estimate and its purpose?

An estimate is a document that shows prospective customers a list of your products and services and the amount they cost.

Estimating also provides you with an accurate tool to manage the financials of your business, including budgeting, forecasting, and bookkeeping. 

As estimates often get thrown into categories of bidding and proposals, it’s easy to get confused between them. But it’s important to note their differences. 

Estimates provided by a contractor are a benchmark for what they’ll charge you to complete a project. 

A bid is an offer that someone makes on a project or product. It outlines what the bidder will do and how much they expect in terms of payments.

A proposal, on the other hand, is more of a detailed outline that a bidder puts together to explain why they would be the best choice for the job.

While bids and proposals detail the total cost per project, estimates help set  expectations for both parties involved.

But it’s important to note that an estimate is not a sales order, because potential customers haven’t committed to buying anything yet. 

The importance of QuickBooks Online estimates

In QBO, estimates are a means for reporting costs to your customers, so they can understand exactly how they spend their money. It’s also a great way for you to balance transactions such as with inventory and other miscellaneous costs associated with running your business. 

This way, you get a more accurate account of your income and a clearer picture of your accounts payable and receivable.

QBO estimates are a huge part of running your growing company. It’s important to keep them organized and accurate, not only for your customers, but for your team too.

In QuickBooks, what kind of account is an estimate?

Estimates are not accounts themselves, but aim to boost accounts receivable. Estimates in QBO are a way to turn potential customer interest into realized sales.

Beyond this, syncing QuickBooks Online with Method:CRM lets your sales team create QuickBooks estimates anywhere and anytime.

Let’s dive into how to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online.

How to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online

Estimates in QBO are quick and easy to create. If you know how to set up products and services in QuickBooks Online, then you’re already an expert. 

So, what are the steps to create a new estimate in QuickBooks Online?

Here are the simple instructions: 

Sales > Customers > Estimate > Start Invoice in the Action column.

But that’s not the most comprehensive. Most QuickBooks tutorials can be difficult to follow. We’ve broken it down, so you can easily navigate QBO estimate-creations. 

Step 1: Find the estimate screen

Let’s start from your home screen. In the upper-left menu bar on your QuickBooks Online dashboard, find the + New button. Then, in the drop-down menu under Customers, click Estimate. 

QuickBooks Online dashboard with a drop-down menu after clicking the 'New' button

Image credit: Intuitive Accountant

Step 2: Enter customer details

On the estimates page, there are a few blank boxes to fill out. The first one is the customer details field. You can pick an existing customer from the drop-down list or create a new one by pressing the Add new button.

Blank customer details field on QuickBooks Online

Customer details include billing address, shipping address, email address, phone number, and more. You can also attach documents to the customer profile and make notes as needed.

You can add any additional customer information by clicking the + Details button.

Estimate details form with 'new customer' field highlighted

Step 3: Enter estimate details

After the profile is complete, go to the search bar under the Product/Service column and choose the products or services (items) that you plan to provide to your potential customer.

Estimate details form on QuickBooks Online highlighting product/service field.

If you want to create a new item, click the same search bar and press the Add new button. When you fill in the item details and descriptions, make sure to enter the quantity and price of the item as well.

Product/service field on QBO highlighting the field and showing an 'add new' dropdown menu

You can also choose to attach files and a customer message to each estimate. 

Plus, you can create custom estimates using QBO’s Custom form styles feature. You can find this in Lists. But where would you go to see the lists available in QuickBooks Online? It’s simple – you’ll see the Lists tab when you click the Settings gear in the top right corner.

QuickBooks Online estimates allow you to make ahead-of-time invoice notes and turn it into a sales transaction. 

This is just one of the many examples of features you can take advantage of to make your workflows more efficient. Keep reading to learn how Method:CRM helps! 

How to change estimate template in QuickBooks

To change estimate templates in QuickBooks:

  • Open your estimate.
  • In the Formatting tab, click Manage Templates. 
  • Preview the templates and select the version that you like.
  • Click OK to edit the existing template, or click Copy to create a new one.

Can you add pictures to QuickBooks estimates?

You can add pictures to QuickBooks estimates. When you open an estimate, select Attachments at the bottom left of the page. Then, browse and select the image you wish to add.

Step 4: Save and send your estimate

One of the most important steps is to save your QuickBooks Online estimate by pressing the save button in the bottom-right corner of your screen.

And if you’re wondering how to send an estimate in QuickBooks Online, you can click on the bottom-right green button labeled Save and send.

Once they’ve been created, QuickBooks Online estimates have four possible status types: 

  • Pending.
  • Accepted.
  • Closed.
  • Rejected.

These statuses display how far along your estimate is in the process, and if any further action is needed.

Save and send button highlighted on a QBO estimate details form

Once they’ve been created, there are 4 status types of estimates in QuickBooks Online: 

  • Pending.
  • Accepted.
  • Closed.
  • Rejected.

These statuses track how far along your estimate is in the process, and if any further action is needed.

How To Change An Estimate To An Invoice In QuickBooks

Changing an estimate into an invoice

Once your customer has accepted your estimate, it’s time to convert that estimate to an invoice in QuickBooks Desktop.

To do this, go to your dashboard and locate the Sales tab in the left menu bar. In the drop-down menu, click All Sales.

Sales tab in the menu bar showing all sales in QBO

On this page, click on the blue Estimate tab, and your list of estimates will appear. Select the one you want to turn into a sales transaction.

All sales dashboard on WBO showing a list of estimates.

Take a moment to double-check your estimate, and make any final changes such as sales and pricing discounts that you’ve discussed with your customer. If your estimate doesn’t account for taxes, then it’s important to learn how to add a sales tax.

From there, you can press the Create invoice button in the top right of the window to transform your estimate into an invoice. And that’s it! You can easily print your invoice from the invoice screen. 

Screenshot of the New + menu in QuickBooks

Image credit: QuickBooks

Aside from invoices, QuickBooks Online also makes converting an estimate to a purchase order for your vendors easier. All you need to do is enter any checks, expenses, and receipts for each item listed on your estimate. 

To convert estimate to purchase order, follow the same steps as above, except:

  • Instead of pressing the Create invoice button, select Copy to purchase order. 
  • Add the supplier.
  • Choose the appropriate customer.
  • Click Save and close.

This is crucial for those who need to know which feature streamlines the purchasing process once a customer approves an estimate in QBO. Now you can track your billable hours and make sure your data is accurate, so that bills are paid on time and income is accurately accounted for. 

If you’re looking for how to add an existing estimate to projects in QuickBooks Online, look no further. Simply open the estimate, change the Customer name to the Project name, and click Save and close.

With filters, charts, and percentage calculations at your fingertips, you can quickly provide detailed estimates that capture all aspects of a project. 

And don’t worry about how to close year-end books in QuickBooks Online, either. QBO automatically makes year-end adjustments based on the start month of your fiscal year.

Another popular question is “What are 2 ways to start a credit memo in QuickBooks Online?” Here are the answers:

  • The most popular way is through the Plus (+) icon in the top right corner. There you can select Credit Memo.
  • The other way is in the Sales menu. There, click All Sales, then New Transaction, and finally Credit Memo.

The secret to smoother QuickBooks Online estimates: Method

Now that you’ve learned how to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online, you can focus on enhancing your QBO estimates by syncing with Method:CRM.

Knowing the value that Method brings to businesses starts with understanding some of the limitations that QuickBooks Online estimates have. 

The limitations of QuickBooks Online estimates

Learning skills like how to create a mailing list in QuickBooks is useful but time-consuming. Method:CRM makes using QBO all that much easier.

Also, did you know that QuickBooks Online does not have an automated estimate approval process? It’s true.

As a result, mistakes happen — especially when your sales reps, admin staff, and accounting team are all trying to create estimates and manage invoices.

It’s not a good idea to only have your quotes made for clients on QuickBooks Online, either.

It can be challenging to grow your business with the limitations of QuickBooks Online estimates, and many QBO users work around this by asking customers to approve estimates through email. But this doesn’t always go as planned.

The biggest downsides to QuickBooks Online’s current estimate approval system are: 

  • Customers forget to reply to estimate emails.
  • Increased chance of losing the approval email in your inbox.
  • A lack of commitment from customers due to QBO’s informal approval system.
  • Reports of bugs (i.e. QuickBooks top icon bar keeps disappearing for some users).

This is where syncing QuickBooks Online with Method:CRM helps. You can overcome these limitations and close sales sooner by automating your estimate-to-invoice process. 

Easy estimate approval from customers

With Method:CRM, you get a fully customizable CRM that lets you:

  • Get approval from your customers at the click of a button. 
  • Receive an email as soon as a customer approves an estimate.
  • Capture signatures as part of your approval process.

Close deals faster

Converting estimates into sales is way easier when your sales reps are empowered to draft an estimate for a customer job without QuickBooks Online access. The best way to do this is not by granting everyone access rights to your QuickBooks file, but rather by implementing Method:CRM. 

The advantage of empowering your employees to create estimates in Method is that your quote-to-cash cycle gets quicker. What results is a healthier bank account as you get paid faster and more often, because your deals won’t slip through the cracks.

Otherwise, sales opportunities are put on pause as your reps wait for your accountants to create estimates in QuickBooks Online. 

You might wonder, “Can you run QuickBooks on a tablet, mobile, or other device?” The answer is yes, but operating your accounting software away from your Mac desktop, for example, paves way for easy-to-make mistakes.

With Method:CRM, create estimates and sales orders without touching QuickBooks Online, even when on the go! This is something you and your accountant will be thankful for when it comes to putting together year-end statements. 

Also, your sales reps won’t be able to meddle with your actual financial accounts. And they won’t be blowing up your email with questions like “Where is business overview in QuickBooks?” either.

What’s more, Method:CRM’s patented two-way sync with QuickBooks ensures these estimates are up to date on both ends. That means no more double data entry for you or your team! 

Keep your leads separate from your QuickBooks customers

So many people ask, “What is a good way to handle prospective clients in QuickBooks?” That’s because — truth is — there isn’t one without outside support.

Keep your QuickBooks Online filing system organized and avoid costly mistakes by using Method:CRM to keep your leads separate from your QuickBooks customers. This ensures that your potential and secured sales don’t get mixed up.

Syncing saves you and your team from a lot of headaches by giving you: 

  • Fewer discrepancies in your year-end accounting process.
  • A reduced risk of lead information going missing.
  • More efficient workflows, as you can convert a potential customer in Method:CRM to an actual customer in QuickBooks Online with ease.

Get paid sooner

If you’re looking to take your QuickBooks estimate workflow to the next level, Method:CRM is the way to go. Here’s why.

You can convert estimates into work orders, invoices, and sales orders in a matter of seconds. Better yet, this process only requires a click of your mouse, instead of tedious copying and pasting.

So while it’s important to know how to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online, Method:CRM is the perfect tool to boost your:

  • Profitability.
  • Productivity.
  • Customer satisfaction.

With Method:CRM, your sales reps create estimates without making mistakes in QuickBooks Online, and you generate invoices by pulling data directly from your approved estimate. 

QuickBooks Online and Method: A sync made in heaven

So you’ve learned how to create an estimate in QuickBooks Online and how technology such as Method:CRM enhances your operations. Let’s recap why these systems work best together:

  • Eliminate double data entry with ongoing updates between QuickBooks Online and Method:CRM.
  • Close sales sooner by allowing customers to accept estimates at the click of a button.
  • Reduce accounting mistakes by creating leads in Method:CRM and recording actual revenue in QuickBooks Online. 

Ready to upgrade your estimate approval process? Start your free trial with Method:CRM!

Image credit: Dragana Gordic via AdobeStock

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