by J. Bayliss
Most people don’t aim to rid their office of every single scrap of paper, but going paperless or at least reducing the amount of paper you need and use is a highly beneficial process, whether you’re a fully-fledged business in an office space, or a sole trader working from a dusty corner at home.
If you want to boast that your business is green, ethical, or eco-friendly, this is an excellent place to begin. Nowadays all of your digital needs are catered for, digital security has come on in leaps and bounds, and it’s extremely rare to stumble across a client or supplier that isn’t prepared to do almost everything digitally. It also says good things about your business that you’re sufficiently up to date with technology, and conscientious too.
Firstly, let talk about why you wouldn’t want to go paperless. Unless you’re just starting up, it’s going to require a spring-clean of mammoth proportions. Spending the afternoon on your hands and knees surrounded by invoices from 1997 isn’t everybody’s idea of a good time, but if you have cupboards groaning under the weight of yellowed papers – you needed to do this anyway. Do your bit and recycle, carefully scanning in all the documents you think you might end up needing again, and of course reserving a file for the really important hard copies. Most importantly, as you scan, begin to map out, structure and store all of your incoming data in an organized way that works for you.
For this, you’re probably going to need to invest in some new software and hardware. But after this initial expense you will find life easier, cheaper, and much more spacious! You’ll start seeing the difference straight away as you start to save on things like paper, printer ink, envelopes, and stamps. Well over half of mobile owners are smartphone owners. These devices, or tablets, can drastically further your potential for communication, make you much more reachable, and can perform all manner of tasks from scanning barcodes, to filing expenses automatically from a receipt. It’s a diary, a notebook, a Filofax, and an online hub that any paperless business person would be poorer without.
Check out lifehacker’s lowdown on the best scanners for paperless purposing. Keeping things filed on your computer is always an option (and I cannot stress enough how much you should be backing it up in this case) but uploading things to a cloud storage service like Evernote or Dropbox is another worthwhile idea, especially if you’re on the move a lot.
Going green certainly has pulling power, but we must remind ourselves that there are still humans who don’t have an internet connection, an email address, or the capability to interact online. People who send and receive letters by post. Depending on how paperless you want to go, and what sort of demographic your business caters for, you may want to keep paper invoicing as a choice for your customers, with digital as your default, and hard copies only as a secondary option.
So your office is looking decidedly minimalistic, and your new sexy scanner stands in the place of the old in-trays. Stop the clutter from building up again by switching to paperless with as many of your suppliers as you can – paperless banking and billing, for example. Make sure you unsubscribe from all the junk mail, both online and by letterbox. Do your invoicing using templates on your computer, E-sign your documents, and e-mail or even fax them. Use accounting software like Crunch to handle finances digitally. Move your calendars and diaries online with either Outlook or Gmail, which are sharable and adaptable. I would recommend Gmail for the most organized inbox, calendar, and even modest document creation and storage features.
Using cloud storage and software will save you a lot of hassle and space on your computer, which is extremely useful for those working from a PC. However you store your information, as a responsible business person you should invest in anti-virus software and a firewall, but storing data in the cloud is widely regarded as the most secure method as of yet. Here your information is safe from theft and hard drive damage.
Going paperless requires some grappling with if you’re a tech novice, and some shopping around for the best software to suit your business, but you will emerge ultimately more agile, efficient, and ethical!
J. Bayliss is a freelance writer from Brighton, UK. They have worked as an editor of local newspaper ‘The Badger,’ as a marketing executive, and with several large NGO’s and Unions in the UK. JB is currently working in-house at Crunch Accounting. They enjoy writing creatively about politics, business, and travel, and enjoys cycling, photography, and vegan cooking in their spare time.