Even if you're a savvy, eco-friendly business, chances are you are still buried in paperwork. A paperless small business is a wonderful thought, yet in practice, the receipts, billing and tax forms don't seem to quit. We know that file cabinet and printer of yours are certainly not extinct yet, but it is easier than you think to eliminate at least some of that huge pile of paper in the day-to-day operations of your small business.
So, power up the paper shredder and invest in the most reliable digital backup system you can find, because we've rounded up a few tips and tools to help you keep the paperwork to a minimum.
1. Empty the mailbox.
Do you get a surplus of junk mail that just goes straight to the junk bin? Make it disappear completely by registering on the National Do Not Mail List or cancel catalogs and mailersdirectly. The five minutes spent contacting that direct mail company that sends you daily pamphlets will save you time and sanity in the long-run. Plus, with the pulp and paper sector ranking the third largest energy-user in U.S. manufacturing, you'll be saving the world a little bit too.
Additionally, try changing the way you handle the mail, perhaps by dedicating particular times each week to deal with it. Sort it into orders, bills, correspondence, junk (to the recycling immediately), etc. when it arrives—then tackle each pile starting with the most urgent. There are very few cases these days where snail mail is so urgent it cannot wait a day or two to be addressed.
2. Get a grip on accounting, expense reporting and payroll.
For small businesses, something like Wave might be a good option to get a handle on accounting, receipts and payroll in one place without any paper. Most of the features are free, and they also have human accountants at the ready in case you have a question.
If you have employees that need to track business expenses, Expensify boasts "expense reports that don't suck!" They mean it. Their software and app allows you to easily keep track of everything from mileage to meals, including attaching receipt photos so your wallet can breathe again.
For your employees, paperless payroll with direct deposit is very easy to set up with something like Zen Payroll, which gives your employees access to their pay stubs whenever they need them and provides you with important office space where that huge file cabinet used to be.
3. Bypass paper in the first place.
Need to send client contracts or invoices? Adobe EchoSign might be a great option for going digital with your legalese. You can draw from your own library of forms and sign paperwork with the flick of a computer mouse. Genius Scan is also great on the go for scanning and creating sharp black and white copies and PDFs that you can email, fax or throw into the cloud for later. This is a great option if you're handed paperwork that you need but don't care to hold onto in a physical sense.
4. Start shredding responsibly.
If you're implementing new paperless systems moving forward, you're probably wondering what to do with all the paperwork you already have. Enter, the shredder. If you haven't yet, develop a secure filing system that works for your business and then methodically go through your files to scan what you need, back up the digital files and shred away. When you're finished, re-organize the hard copies that you actually need into a smaller space. We promise this is a very freeing experience.
5. Make the ask.
When it comes to the sale, you've got "the ask" down, so implement that into other parts of your business. Do you need to print out that sales report or can you just check it out on the screen? Do your customers need a tangible receipt? Just ask them! If you're using Square or PayPal Here, make it your shop's default policy to email receipts rather than printing them out. Simply asking is something needs to be printed could mean saving a tree or two.
What steps (big or small) have you taken to go paperless? Let us know in the comments!