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QuickBooks Contractor Tip-Capture Costs & Markup on Estimates

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There are many times that a contractor will want to create a budget, to capture the costs and markup, for a job that they are working on.  There are several methods to do so, but the one that I like best is to create a custom Estimate that will track estimated costs (the budget) a planned mark-up and a fixed sales price to the customer.  This method is available to contractors using QuickBooks Pro, Premier (any flavor), or Enterprise (any flavor).

To accomplish this we’ll start at the Lists menu -> Templates ->

Lists menu - Templates

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This will open a window displaying a list of all the available form templates within QuickBooks; scroll down until you find the Custom Estimate template – click on it to highlight it.

QuickBooks Template List

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Click the Templates button at the bottom and select Duplicate -> Estimate -> and click OK.  Your list now contains a template named Copy of: Custom Estimate.  Double-click on this template.  This opens the Basic Customization window.

basic estimate customization

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Click the Manage Templates button, this opens the Manage Templates window.  In the Template Name field, change the name FROM Copy of: Custom Estimate to something like Estimate with Budget and click the OK button.

managing your QuickBooks templates

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Back at the Basic Customization window, you can:

  • Insert/Use your company logo on the Estimate form by clicking into the box just in front of the words “Use logo”, this activates the Select Logo button and you can browse to the location of your logo file on your computer.
  • Select a Color Scheme –  click the drop down menu and choose from:  Black, Gray, Maroon, Green, Blue or Beige.
  • Change Font For – Title, Company Name, Company Address, Labels, Data, Subtotals Label, or Totals Label; you can change the Font Style, Color, and Size.
  • Company & Transaction Information – select by checking whether or not you with to display Company Name, Company Address, Fax Number, Phone Number, Email Address, or Web Site Address.  Click the Update Information button to make sure that the items you have selected are available in the Company Information window.
  • Additional Customization button – this is the button that we want to click on.

add a logo to your estimate

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Clicking the Additional Customization button displays a window with several tabs – Header, Columns, Footer, and Print.  These tabs allow you to design an Estimate that will meet the needs of your company.  Starting with the Header tab, you can choose whether you want to print the following items on the actual Estimate form or to simply display them on your Estimate form, you can also change the titles of all the options available.  Standard options include:  Title (form Title), Date, Estimate #, Name/Address (billing), Ship To, Project/Job, P.O. Number, Terms, Due Date, Rep, Account Number, FOB, Other, and any Custom Fields that you have created in the Customer and/or Job Record.

change your estimate header

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When you have made your selections, click on the Columns tab.  Here you want to make sure that the Item, Description, Quantity, Cost, Amount, Markup, and Total items are selected to display on your Screen; while the Description, Quantity, Amount and Total are selected to Print on the actual form.  You can also change the title of these fields if you wish – for example, you can change the Markup title to Profit & Overhead.

estimate columns print or display

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Click on the Footer tab.  Here, you can choose to Print a Message, Subtotal, Sales Tax, Total, and Signature on the final form. You will not be able to choose to display on your form the Subtotal, Signature, or Plain Text items.  When you are ready click the Layout Designer button.

add a signature line to the estimate footer

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The Layout Designer allows you to arrange the elements that you have selected to appear on your printed Estimate form.  In most instances clicking on an item will allow you to drag it to another location or resize it.

QuickBooks form Layout Designer

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When you have arranged everything to your satisfaction click the OK button twice, and close the Templates List window.

Using the New Estimate:

When you use the new Estimate form, you need to use it in a specific order – enter information in the Item, Quantity, Cost and the Markup/Profit & Overhead columns.  Overhead & Profit can be entered as a fixed dollar amount or a percentage – if you use a percentage you MUST enter the % sign.

creating an estimate

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When you enter the line items on your estimate in this way, QuickBooks automatically calculates the Total that you will be charging your customer using the following formula:  Quantity (15) times Cost (125.00) = Est. Amount (1875.00) plus Profit & Overhead (33.3% or 624.375) equals Total (2499.38).  You’ll also notice that QuickBooks will keep track of the totals of your Estimated Amount, your Profit & Overhead, and the Total that you will charge your customer.

calculating profit and overhead

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When you’ve entered all of the vendor bills for this job and have billed it off to your customer, you should run an Actual vs. Estimate Report to see how you did.  Compare the numbers from the report to the totals of your Estimate to see where you need to adjust your Profit & Overhead.  Keep in mind that any difference in cost will effect your total Profit & Overhead.

Let’s assume that you had a small job, you estimated costs at $2375.00 added a total Profit & Overhead of $749.38 for a total contract of $3124.38.

When all bills were entered your actual cost was $2500.00 or $125.00 more than you Estimated; this means that your Profit on the Job is really $624.38 ($749.38 Estimated Profit & Overhead MINUS $125.00).


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Having access to this information is vital to your bidding process.

One Response to QuickBooks Contractor Tip-Capture Costs & Markup on Estimates

About Your Host:

Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert

I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.

QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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