8 Tips for Going Paperless In Your Small Business
Ray Coleman is a small business owner who writes about money management, green living, and sustainability.
One of the great benefits of the modern age is the ability of small businesses to conduct a majority of their operations in the digital realm. Eliminating the need for bulky file cabinets, storage facilities, photocopiers, printers, and scanners can reduce overhead dramatically. Replacing costly courier services with emails, and swapping out newsletters and solicitations for social media and web-based marketing programs means serious cost savings, as well.
Essentially, all of this comes down to replacing paper with pixels. By taking your business green, you're not only helping the environment, you're freeing up a ton of working capital for your venture – and often creating a better and preferred experience for your customers, partners, suppliers, and employees. For some very effective strategies to help take your small business paperless, read on.
1. Use Google Apps For Business
The suite of apps offered by Google can help small businesses cut down on the amount of paper documents they need. Use Google Mail and Chat to communicate online with your staff and clients. Collaborate electronically on projects via Google Docs - its word processing and spreadsheet functions can be contributed to and saved by multiple members of a group. For non-Google Docs files, share them through Google Drive. Insist that your staff work solely off their devices and you can cut back significantly on the wasteful use of paper.
2. Switch to Electronic Payroll and Accounting
Reduce the number of paper invoices and checks your business sends out by taking your payroll and accounting needs online with the FreshBooks website. It's a cloud-based accounting solution designed specifically for small business owners that allows you to create invoices and track expenses and hours worked all with an intuitive software interface and solid customer support. Freshbooks offers mobile apps as well, so you can handle all of your accounting responsibilities on your tablet or smartphone if you happen to be on the go.
3. Cut Down on Faxed Documents
If clients or other businesses you work with still fax documents, sign up for a service that converts incoming faxes to email messages. Two companies to consider are MetroFax and MyFax. If you have to fax a document to another party, convert it into PDF form and send it through one of these services so that your recipient receives it in fax form on the other end.
4. Choose the Right Cloud Platform
When you go paperless you're going to need a cloud-based platform to store your documents, and when deciding on the right one always keep security in mind. There have been several notable security breaches involving cloud-based storage platforms, including an incident with one of the market leaders, Dropbox. Two additional and advantageous document storage websites with high security ratings are JustCloud and SugarSync.
5. Move Your Marketing Strategy Online
Marketing via email is a lot less expensive than a direct mail campaign, a lot less time-consuming, and more cost effective. In an article in the Harvard Business Review it was found that the response rate for direct mail marketing and email marketing was about equal, which means it can be of great advantage to your small business to adopt a digital marketing strategy. Send out email newsletters and offers, and stay on top of all your social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram using a tool like HootSuite, which streamlines all feeds and keeps you in sync with your social communities. According to an IDC research report sponsored by Facebook, 18 to 44-year-olds who own an iPhone or Android check Facebook an average of 14 times per day. That pales in comparison to the one time per day most of us check the post box.
6. Mobilize Your Paperless Strategy
When searching for ways to maximize your paperless activity, put your smartphone to use. To keep track of your expenses, use the Shoeboxed or Exepnsify apps to snap pictures of receipts and track business-related spending. You can also use the DocuSign app for signing and sending important documents for signature, instead of going through the process of printing, signing, scanning, faxing and emailing. Its high, enterprise-level security protocols make it the most attractive candidate in the eSignature industry.
7. Get Electronic Receipts For Office Supply Purchases
The next time you head out to Office Depot or Office Max to pick up miscellaneous supplies or larger purchases, ask to have your receipt emailed to you - it's one less piece of paper to keep track of. Establish folders in your email account to store these receipts as they arrive, so when the time comes to sort through your expenses you can have an easy job of it.
8. Reduce Junk Mail
The website DirectMail allows you to sign up for its National Do Not Mail List. Fill out the form, including your small business's address, and you can significantly reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. This cuts down on waste and frees up more time for you to take care of what's really important.
Going paperless may make you feel a bit more vulnerable, knowing there are no hard-copy backups of what you've stored in the cloud. If that's the case, get an external hard drive and transfer all of your documents onto it. Also consider signing up for a second cloud-based service, simply for backup purposes. This way you've got multiple means of protection should you suffer a computer crash or one of your cloud servers go down.
Fortunately, vulnerability is becoming a thing of the past for many individuals and small business with the strength and rapid evolution of cloud based businesses.
What tips do you know of for a small business wanting to go paperless?