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Track income, costs, and profitability by project

Learn how to use Projects to calculate your profits and costs by project. These "job costing" features are available in QuickBooks Online Plus.

It’s important to know how profitable each project is for your business.

You can use Projects to quickly calculate your project income and costs. QuickBooks separates your hourly labour from other project costs so everything is easy to understand. This gives you a clear picture of your profits from every project.

Step 1: Turn on Projects

If you haven’t already, turn on Projects. You can follow the link for an overview of Projects and come back here to continue your setup.

The Projects menu will now appear in the main navigation bar.

Step 2: Start a new project

Go to the Projects menu and create a project. Give it a name and select the customer you’re working for.

Step 3: Add project income and expenses

Now that you’ve created your first project, start adding income and expenses.

Adding transactions to projects won’t change how they’re categorized or affect your accounts. You’re simply tagging them so you can track specific project income and expenses.

  1. Open your project.
  2. Select the Add to project button to create a brand new transaction.
  3. Select Estimate, Invoice, Expense, Bill, Purchase Order, or Time.

You’ll automatically tag new items to projects when you select the Add to projects button.

The Time option lets you record a single day of work by one of your workers. If you want to add weekly timesheets, there are a few extra steps we will cover in Step 5.

Working from an estimate?

Add estimates to projects before converting them to invoices for your customer.

You can also use progress invoicing to create multiple invoices from a single estimate. That way, instead of asking for full payment at the beginning, you can invoice for partial payments throughout the project. This is a good option if you’re charging customers for a fixed fee.

Step 4: Add existing expenses

You can also tag expenses and timesheets (billable or non-billable) you’ve created outside of the Projects menu.

Add existing expenses:

  1. Go to the Expenses tab.
  2. Find and open the transaction.
  3. Select the project from the Customer/Project drop-down menu. Do this for each expense item you want to tag. This isn’t the same as the payee for the expense.
  4. Select Save and Close.

Add timesheets (billable or non-billable):

  1. Go to the Sales tab.
  2. Select the Type column to sort the list.
  3. Find and open the timesheet.
  4. Select the project from the Choose a customer or project drop-down menu. Do this for each employee’s time you want to tag.
  5. Select Save and Close.

Step 5: Add existing invoices

Be careful adding invoices in these cases:

You can easily create new invoices for a project, but take extra care adding existing invoices.

The best time to add existing invoices to projects is before they’re paid. If you add a paid invoice to a project, the invoice will disconnect from the attached payment. This will also change the invoice’s status to unpaid. You’ll need to follow the steps to reconnect the payment to avoid accidentally charging customers twice.

We don’t recommend adding invoices linked to more than one other transaction, billable expense, or timesheet. If you add a linked invoice to a project, only the invoice is added. You’ll need to add the linked transactions to the project and reconnect them to the invoice.

You can add existing estimates to projects as long as you haven’t converted them to invoices.

Step 6: Track your hourly time costs

Tracking your project labour costs is a two-part process. First, you need to calculate the hourly cost rate for each worker. Then you’ll be able to add project timesheets using your hourly cost rates.

Step 7: Keep everything running smoothly

Now you know how to track project costs and profits. Here’s how to make sure what you’re seeing is always accurate.

  • Use the income and cost columns in the Overview tab as guides. Make sure the correct column total increases when you add invoices, expenses, and weekly timesheets. If you’re using payroll, timesheets won’t increase your costs in the Overview column. You can see these costs on the Time Activity tab or your Time Cost by Employee or Supplier report.
  • The Time Activity tab breaks down your team’s work by date. It also provides the total cost of each employee and service you offer.
  • The Transaction tab lists all transactions tagged to a project. You can complete tasks directly from this screen, such as converting an estimate to an invoice.
  • Review your Time Cost by Employee or Supplier reports every month. Make sure you’ve correctly tagged all project-related work hours. If you’re missing hours or counting too many, your profit totals will be inaccurate.