QBSE Review Part 3: What QuickBoooks Self Employed Isn’t

In Part 3 of the full QBSE Review article: QuickBooks Self Employed: An Honest Freelancer’s Review, we talk about some of the things that QBSE is not.

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What isn’t QuickBooks Self-Employed?

The flip side to this rather single-purpose software designed for the self-employed individual is that, as a freelancer, I would much prefer, as I’ve said, to have a mostly complete solution. This is where QBSE falls short for me — and why, even though it’s affordable, I find it difficult to fully recommend for a designer like myself.

Let’s look at some of what you can’t do with QBSE:

  • Limited Import option — only CSV
  • No Manual Accounting — all manual transactions considered Cash
  • Can’t Create categories or subcategories — only tax categories allowed
  • Can’t Customize Rules — can only automate personal and tax categorizing
  • No Customization of Invoices — very limited invoicing options
  • No Client or Time-Tracking features — not available even in reports

Importing transactions and Accounts setup

Let’s start with importing existing data. After linking to accounts online for whatever current transaction data exists (usually 120 days), the only option for manually importing data older than this is using a CSV file. If your existing budgeting software doesn’t export to CSV, and it isn’t available through your bank, you’ll have to enter everything manually.

The problem with that? All manually imported transactions are considered Cash transactions, and will be placed in a Cash account, no exception. No modifications to account transactions within an account are allowed other than changing the transaction title and notes.


Categories and transaction management

Whether you decide to bring in everything as a manual transaction, or benefit from the automatic syncing with your bank and other accounts, you’ll need to organize your income and expenses.

QuickBooks Self Employed uses a simple method for categorization — it’s either marked as personal, or one of the Schedule C income and expense categories. No exceptions or modifications available.

While this is convenient for tax preparation, it doesn’t allow for further customization of these categories — or therefore for use in reporting. Which means that not only can you not quickly get reporting on what you spent specifically on something like printer toner or out-of-state purchases, you can’t even generate reports based on a particular client or project.


Rules are only to assist with automatic categorization

Setting Rules might seem to be a way around this, but the only function of rules — similar to a rule in any email service — is to automatically rather than manually classify your transactions into those limited personal or Schedule C categories.  

I see this as one of the larger failures for freelancers — particularly ones like myself who may have multiple clients throughout a quarter or year. As sole proprietors who manage all aspects of the business, limiting our ability to discretely manage transactions limits our ability to use this as a single solution for business budgeting and accounting.

Limited Invoice Customization

Okay, I’m a designer so I may be biased, but the invoice capability of QBSE truly has me disappointed for more reasons than looks. QuickBooks Self Employed allows for zero customization, and the result is a very unprofessional product.

The ability to customize your invoice — even in small ways, is incredibly important and not available at all. In addition to the lack of logo placement or any templates whatsoever, there are some basic functional features missing. Those that do exist are limited.

You can’t modify the transaction fields, outside of toggles for hourly vs flat-rate costs, and have one description field with a 255 character limitation. You can’t organize past invoices into groups — even by client or project — and even temporary display options only allow for display filtering by timeline or paid status.

This means there’s no way for us to easily itemize project segments, account for prepayments, discounts or promo codes, or any other fields. The memo field for the invoice is similarly limited — but to 230 characters.  

There are only two recipient fields — name and email — and no options associated.  So I can’t add both a company name and person’s name, I can’t include an additional recipient for email, or forward it on afterwards. Options after sending are otherwise what you’d expect, being able to print, resend, duplicate, and mark a bill as paid.

No Client or Time Tracking

With the limitations discussed regarding categories and invoicing, I had hoped to find some other method for keeping track of income and expenses for particular Clients or Projects. However, no Client, Project or even basic Time Tracking options are available. Not much to discuss there because it isn’t available in any form.


Next week in Part 4:

Next week we’ll wrap up the QuickBooks Self Employed Review — look soon for a more in-depth look at recent changes in QuickBooks Accountant, and the connectivity available between it and QBSE.

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