Custom fields in QuickBooks Online Advanced

Custom fields in QuickBooks Online Advanced

At first glance, it’s easy to miss all the new features hiding inside QuickBooks® Online Advanced, but once you dive in and start taking advantage of the new tools, you will never look back again. Now, one year after launch, we have a couple of clients that we purposely upgraded to the new offering … and they are loving it.

The new custom fields option has quickly become the favorite feature among our clients using QuickBooks Online Advanced, but like any tool, it’s important to understand how and when to use it. This four-step guide will take you through a deep dive of this powerful feature as we define the different field types by providing use cases.

Four steps to using custom fields in QuickBooks Online Advanced

Step 1: Select What to Track

When adding a new custom field to track additional data, you must first choose between customer and transactional information.

Customer information: By selecting the customer custom field, any custom field you create will immediately become available on your customer dashboard as new columns for sorting data. The value set into these fields will automatically be included on any documents where they are used. This functionality is perfect for any company that wants to assign a specific sales rep or account manager at the client level.

Use on sales forms: The customer information fields can be used on all sales forms, including sales receipts, estimates, invoices, credit memos, and refund receipts.

Show to customer: Currently, only three fields can be displayed to the customer; any more than three will only be visible through QuickBooks Online and on specific reports that have been customized to display the information.

Transaction information: The transaction-based field allows users to add specialized fields to purchase orders, as well as estimates and invoices.

Unlike the customer-based fields that auto populated every time based on the customer selected, the transaction information field must be set at the transaction level.

Project based companies, such as interior designers, will find this feature helpful when they convert an estimate into a purchase order for a special order, or an invoice for the billable expense. By adding a custom text field, the company can list a “contact person” and have the information appear on all the linked documents.

Show to vendors: Like the customer fields, the transaction-based custom fields can be displayed on sales forms and can be made visible to the customer. In addition, the transaction fields can also be used on purchase orders that can also be made visible to the vendor. It’s important to note that only three fields can be made visible on a purchase order, and the information does not transfer when converted to a bill.

While QuickBooks Online Advanced does allow users to add up to 10 custom fields, only three of those fields can be visible on a sales form or a purchase order. The additional seven fields can still be used for reporting, but they will be for internal purposes only.

Step 2: Understanding the four custom field options

Before we can dive deeper into some of the specific use cases we have established for our clients, let’s review each of the different field types and suggest a use case for each one. While using the customer info type of custom field, you will have the option to include the fields on all sales forms.

#1 – Custom number field: When the number-based custom field is selected, QuickBooks Online will only allow numbers “0-9” and a “.” to be entered. In addition, only one “.” is permitted within the field which can hold up to 15 digits.

When the number field is used in custom reporting, reports can be filtered by selecting values that are:

  • Equal to
  • Greater Than
  • Equal to or greater than
  • Equal to or less than
  • Less than

While working with a mortgage company that needed to track the value of each home being funded for monthly reporting to the state, the number field made it possible for us to control the format of the data that was being entered. In this specific use case, we used a custom drop-down field to select the loan type, as well as the number field to post the appraisal value of the home. These two fields helped our client save about six hours every month by eliminating the need to track all the transactions in Microsoft Excel at the same time.

Additional use cases:

  • The number field can be used to track matter numbers for law firms.
  • Insurance companies can use it to track the claim number.
  • If your rate changes per customer type, you can use the field to document the rate.

#2 – Custom date field: The new date field allows the user to select a date from a pop-up calendar anywhere the field is listed. In the example provided above, we added a custom date field to our customer information to track our service contract renewal date. When we pull reports that use this feature, you will see the ability to filter by the date as well.

 Additional use cases:

  • Lease renewal date for property management companies.
  • Tracking prepaid membership dates
  • Special dates that relate to your client, such as birthdate or business anniversary date.
  • Documenting the initial date of service.

Future opportunity: I expect it is just a matter of time before these fields become available through the software development kit (SDK). When they do become available, we might be able to use these date fields to trigger the sending of a new service contract. I am excited to see what abilities we might see soon.

At the time this guide was developed, the new custom field types (date, number, drop-down), as well as the additional fields (fields 4-10) were not accessible through the SDK. This means the information entered in these new fields is not accessible through bridge applications such as Zapier and

#3 – Custom drop-down list: The drop-down field is by far the most powerful field type among the four options. When selected, the user will be presented with a defined list of options from which to select. By implementing the drop-down field, we were able to reduce the amount of time spent by the outside sales associates calculating their total sales and the commissions earned. Check out the Sales by Rep report at the end of the document.

There are some limitations while using drop-down fields. When created your unique lists, there is a limit of 25 list items to a list. However, if you reach your maximum number, you can deactivate old list items and replace them with new items.

Additional use cases:

  • Mortgage company: Track the loan type along with the loan amount (number field) for quarterly reporting to the state.
  • Tracking referral channels to determine where most of your new business is coming from.
  • Generate a Collection Report by sales rep.

#4 – Text field: Since the introduction of the custom fields into QuickBooks Online, the text field has been the standard field available for everyone to use. This field type allows the user to type anything; unfortunately, that freedom also causes reporting errors caused by accidental typos.

Without the ability to bulk update custom fields on transactions, QuickBooks requires the user to make changes one transaction at a time. Any errors in data that require the custom field data to be cleaned up before generating reports will find this task very time consuming. 

Additional use cases:

  • Using the text field to track referred by for customer referrals.
  • Service companies can use the field to reference cross street.
  • Companies that wish to see the customer contact number on an estimate or invoice can use the text field to add the information on the document.

Step 3: Displaying custom fields in your workflow

Previously, we discussed the difference between customer-based fields and transaction-based fields. An additional benefit of the customer-based fields is the ability to display values directly within the customer screen, as well as the ability to filter by the values in custom reporting.

In the example above, we added the contract date to make it easier for us to quickly see when service contracts were scheduled to expire. This allows us to quickly see which clients we need to send renewal contracts out to and when.

You can also sort the customer list by the custom fields before exporting the data to Excel or pdf. This would make it easier to generate contact lists by sales rep.

Parkway quick tip: When setting the Customer Type, the only way to extend that to the projects under that customer is to do it as a batch action from the customer list.

Select the Customer and the projects that you wish to change and click on Batch Actions. Select the customer type from the drop-down and select apply.

Using custom fields in transactions: When you enter information into custom fields on an estimate, that information will transfer automatically to invoices and to purchase orders. This would allow a user to add a reference or claim number that would be automatically populated to all linked transactions. In addition, by tracking sales rep on estimates and invoices, a sales manager can calculate the closing ratio of their sales team.

Step 4: Optimize your reporting

Reports that use custom fields:

Custom Fields are not accessible throughout all QuickBooks Online Reports, see the section below for a list of which reports allow you to add an additional row as well as filter by custom field. Fathom reporting does not allow you to reference this information while creating custom reporting.

Sample reports

Sales by Customer Rep Custom Report:

Collections Report: