Going paperless for the self-employed

Everybody seems to be at it; companies large and small, educational institutions, hospitals, legal firms. It’s the forward-thinking approach to running an office. That’s right – the world and his wife seem to want to go paperless.

But if you work for yourself or perhaps at home, single-handedly embarking on going paperless may seem like such a Herculean task that you may simply not know where to begin. Naturally, it’s not the sort of overhaul that will happen overnight and nor should it be, or else you may end up getting rid of important documents.

Nevertheless, doing so really could be one of the best decisions you ever make, as you may not have the luxury of heaps of filing cabinet space. If you’re running out of room, then, how should you approach going paperless?

Sorting and sifting

Don’t kid yourself, it is not likely to be a fun process and may take a long time, but first and foremost you will need to sit down with all of your papers in order to work out what needs to be kept.

Remember, signed documents can’t simply be scanned as you may need an original signature; the same applies to legal documents with original stamps and seals. However, certain papers you might be able to scan and then recycle the paper copy. Other documents, like instructions to the dictaphone you don’t even own anymore, you can get rid of straightaway.

It is worth reiterating here that you shouldn’t simply chuck out what you don’t need – recycle it.

Scanning

Once you have ascertained what needs to kept and scanned, it’s time to get going. If you don’t have a fancy photocopying machine to do it for you, you could buy a portable scanner to do the job – although the best way to go about it will very much depend on how much paper you need to get through.

If it’s all getting a bit much, you could outsource the task to save you the hassle.

Rethink the way you operate

Once you have your irreplaceable documents neatly filed and your store of digitised files, you need a plan of attack for the future to ensure that you keep your paperwork to a minimum. This may mean completely rethinking the way you work, for example, by using cloud computing and off-site storage.

Not only will this allow you to consolidate your files in one third-party space, but you will reap all of the other cloud computing benefits, such as being able to access your work from anywhere that has an internet connection.

You are also likely to have a hefty wodge of digital files that now contain all of your paperwork, which you will need to securely back up. Again, a cloud solutions provider should be able to serve your needs.

Furthermore, try to curb the amount of paperwork coming through your letterbox. For example, if you currently receive paper statements, speak to your bank about receiving online copies moving forward.

For big companies with numerous employees, it may be necessary to roll out more extensive solutions Рsuch as those provided by companies like Canopy. However, if you are your own boss, bite the bullet, buy a lot of coffee and set aside a couple of afternoons to make the move to paperless working. It really will be worth it in the long run.