Stop me if you’ve been here before – your trash can is filled with junk mail, you don’t have a stamp (or an envelope) to send that invoice to your client, and your printer isn’t working because you’re out of ink.
Now, I’m ALL for saving the environment, and that’s surely a part of this message, but the real reason I’m sharing the following ideas for you is simple – going paperless puts everything you likely need to run your business at your fingertips.
For starters, you can opt out of all that junk mail in your “real” mailbox and your email inbox. That solves a lot of drama right there. How and where you need to go to do that depends on what you’re “cleaning up,” but if you’re finally tired of it, know there are ways.
Next, go through all your bills this month and, again, a bit of judicious searching will likely enable you to either go paperless, with email or text billing messages or set up an autopay for recurring payments. Usually, when these draw from your account, you’ll simply receive a message that they have been withdrawn, so there’s a record of the transaction (plus the transaction is recorded in your banking or credit account for monthly or annual bookkeeping).
A lot of folks simply stop right there and figure that’s as “paperless” as they can go, but there are actually a few more steps open to you…
From the point of view of financial statements, anything older than a year is often difficult to track down from your bank, credit card company, or financial institution. I’m here to recommend you create a digital storage area for all these types of documents. Now, it could be a physical storage drive that stands alone and can be stored securely in your home or office, or it could be one of dozens of these types of cloud-based digitally accessed storage companies. In either case, it never hurts to have a little redundancy, so explore you options for access, portability, and security. Remember, if you have a physical external drive, it is subject to theft and damage, but incredibly hard to “hack.” Obviously, the opposite is true for a cloud-based solution.
A smart tool to consider for business like signed contracts and invoices is a digital signature. Companies like DocuSign have a great track record in court when it comes to people getting “amnesia” regarding what they did and didn’t sign, so there shouldn’t be any fear of that tripping you up, and it will save a lot of space on printed contracts sitting in files years from now.
With that in mind, consider digitizing old paperwork. There are a lot of ways to take an image and save it, from scanners in your office to a simple app on your phone. No matter, the result is the same – a digital copy or file that can and will replace a box filled with unnecessary records.
No matter how you end up doing this, the question I always hear from clients is “What can I keep?”
As a rule, right now, there is always something to keep a paper record of, but that rule is changing nearly every day. Obviously, title documents, deeds, and ownership records, or documents with seals or notary images need to be kept as paper. The good news is this – most of us don’t have THAT many things that cannot be stored digitally now, so box after box of paper documents can be disposed of safely and replaced with the digital images. (Now, remember, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to check with your attorney before throwing anything away, but – and I see this every year in Tax Season – many of the things we “keep” don’t need to be anymore.)
Go green this year!