Going Paperless

Ever wondered how much time and money it’s costing you to copy, scan, fax, print, and file away your paper records? The amount of space required to store them all safely and securely? Space that could perhaps be put to better use? Ever thought of going paperless instead?

HMRC’s Making Tax Digital for VAT and Income Tax is steering businesses firmly towards digital record keeping. Many businesses were forced to make a sudden switch to hybrid and home working models in response to COVID-19, and workers are likely to continue using digital documents and printing fewer paper copies. Going paperless would appear to be a no-brainer therefore.

Going paperless isn’t easy

Creating a paperless office means having to learn new ways of doing things. There may be resistance from employees who prefer to read hard copies and insist on using a pen and notepad in meetings, for example. You’ll probably need to invest in new tech and you’ll certainly need robust cyber security protocols.

A truly paperless environment is unlikely ever to be achieved. However, there are real benefits to reducing the amount paper your business consumes.

Man using a loptop. Going paperless  can mean greater efficiency and improved finances.

The benefits of going paperless

Many people have argued that going paperless is better for the planet. I’m not at all convinced that electrical devices made from metal, plastic and silicone are a greener alternative to recyclable paper. But reducing paper consumption could save you time, money and worry.

Paper documents have to be physically stored onsite or elsewhere. In the event of a fire or flood, for example, your paper records would be irretrievably lost. Digital copies saved in the cloud and on portable devices will remain protected if your workplace gets hit by a natural disaster.

If you make the switch to digital records and cloud storage you’ll spend less money on paper and printing supplies.

You can get rid of your obsolete fax machines and photocopiers.

The time it takes to process important documents will be significantly reduced.

You’ll have more office space.

You’ll be able to access essential business data remotely using your phone or laptop.

How to go paperless

Begin by noting all the different ways you use and store paper. Then compare the digital alternatives.

In addition to Microsoft 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud there are a number of free apps you can try out. My personal favourites include:

Google Drive and Dropbox. Both apps allow you to save and store documents, spreadsheets, videos and photos in commonly used formats. You can access your files remotely and share them with others. If you require more storage space you can opt for a paid subscription.

Google Forms. A form builder app that automatically saves your form results to a Google Sheets spreadsheet so you can analyse them.

Dochub. An app that allows you to edit, annotate, sign and send pdf documents online.

Canva. A graphic design platform for creating social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content.

And finally…

If going paperless appears to be a daunting task, just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to eliminate every bit of paper in one fell swoop. Make the changes one step at a time.

My recommendations for getting started would be:

  1. Photograph your expense receipts using your mobile phone and upload them to the cloud as soon as you get them.
  2. Think of your cloud storage facility as a virtual filing cabinet. Create folders and organise them so you can store your digital copies securely and retrieve them easily.
  3. Create Word templates and use them for standard emails that you can personalise and send without having to type them out repeatedly.
  4. Create Excel templates and use them to email invoices and statements to your customers.

Helping you go paperless is just one of the many ways a bookkeeping professional can make your business life easier. Each small step that reduces your dependency on paper is likely to result in increased efficiency and cost savings.

Need a little help?

My accounting emails are for business owners who want a better understanding of their financial position. They’ll help you manage your cash flow and stay in the black.

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