Easy and straightforward tips on how you can incorporate paperless processes in your small business
The evolution of technology over the years has brought about an abundance of changes to things around us. Nearly everything that we use on a daily basis has undergone changes and improvements in order to become more efficient and reliable. Yet, there is something that we use on a daily basis that has stayed pretty much unchanged for several decades, and that’s paper. Paper is everywhere around us and in recent times, it has become very important that we conserve the use of paper as much as possible and take every measure to avoid its wastage.
In this article, we’ll share some easy and straightforward tips on how you can incorporate paperless processes in your small business to go paperless and how even tiny changes you make in your side-hustle have a long lasting impact on our quest to save planet earth.
Advantages of a Paperless Office:
- Cost Savings — Switching to a paperless operation saves you the direct costs of all the paper rims you’d need, and also indirectly saves the cost of associated expenses like printers, toner cartridges, filing cabinets, etc. A paperless workflow has lots of benefits.
- Better Workflows — By going paperless, you lay the groundwork for introducing lots of improvements and enhancements to existing business workflows. For example, a paperless workflow speeds up approval processes that can be achieved electronically instead of waiting for a physical copy.
- Security — A paperless office ensures that data is only shared with someone who needs to see it. Digital documents can be secured in many ways such as tiered access, password protection, role-based access, etc.
- Social Distancing — When you switch to a paperless office, you avoid the need to physically interact with your teammates or colleagues, thereby decreasing the chances of getting infected with a virus.
- Environmental Impact — A paperless office has a direct impact on the environment. Reduced usage of paper in the office leads to more number of trees out there.
Now that we’ve read about these advantages of a paperless office, it’s fairly obvious that this is the need of the hour. Your small business can easily become a contributor for a better tomorrow, by reducing the usage of paper and improving business processes.
Here are 5 tips to switch to a fully paperless operation & save costs:
1. Take Your Meetings Online
The pandemic has essentially forced the entire world to be holed up at home over the last few months, so there’s a good chance that you’ve already switched to conducting your team meetings and weekly catch-ups online in video form. But just in case you haven’t, there’s no better time to do that than now.
By taking your meetings online, you also avoid the wastage of paper required for meeting notes, reports and memos. It is just far too easy to quickly share your screen with everyone in the meeting or drag-and-drop a file to share it instantaneously. Your presentations and reports can be viewed by anyone on their own screens instead of trying to read something off of a conference room TV mounted 50-feet away.
by @pikisuperstar on Freepik
There are plenty of free online meeting apps that have gone mainstream lately, although the ones that have largely swept the market are Zoom and Google Meet. Of course, you don’t need to use all the advanced features offered by these services. If you’re a small team, you can just conduct your meetings and discussions on a group video call using apps like Google Duo, Skype or WhatsApp. These apps are a great way to converse with a colleague face to face, instead of using email for every small thing.
2. Store Your Documents in the Cloud
All the files and documents that are required for your business operations need to be accessible to everyone who needs them. These can be reference materials, reports, important client files, source images, etc. Your teammates need to access these files and documents as they work from home. Instead of storing these files locally, you should store them in the cloud. By storing your documents in the cloud, you can easily share them with anyone you want without the hassles of printing, mailing, or faxing them. This also ensures that there’s a backup of all your documents in the files.
by @stories on Freepik
There are many online cloud storage services that securely store your data for you. Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, etc. have generous free storage tiers to help you get started, and also have low-cost pricing in case you need to upgrade.
3. Scan and Digitize Your Archive
One of the most important steps in switching to a paperless model for your small business or side-hustle is to scan and create digital copies of your old documents and reports. Our smartphones today are equipped with amazing cameras capable of taking high-resolution photos. With the help of apps like Scanner Pro, you can create digital scans of any physical paper documents or photos simply by taking a photo. Scanner Pro 7 turns your iPhone or iPad into a portable scanner that creates high-quality digital scans of your documents in an instant. These scans can be saved as high-resolution PDF documents or JPG files, either on your device or uploaded directly to your cloud storage destination of choice.
PDF files have several advantages of their own and thus, you can scan and create digital archives of all the old & important documents that you need to store in the archive. By digitizing your archive as PDF files, you make it easily entirely accessible, searchable, and shareable. Instead of rummaging through old filing cabinets, all your old documents are instantly available to anyone in your business. The files can also be quickly shared with anyone when needed.
4. Use Free PDF Templates to your Advantage
Your business requires the creation of different kinds of documents for its daily operations, such as invoices, meeting agendas, memos, reports, etc. In a traditional office, you’d typically find the photocopier machine constantly churning out copies of these documents for everyone’s use. These days, you can make ready-made templates available for anyone to use repeatedly with a click of a button.
There are numerous free PDF templates available on the web to download and customize according to your requirement. These PDF templates have several advantages over using printed paper — you are not only saving the environment & paper costs, but you are also speeding up the entire process. Thanks to the universal nature of PDF files, you don’t have to worry about any compatibility issues or formatting troubles.
For example, you can quickly download any of these free invoice templates, edit them with your own details & values and mail it off in a matter of minutes. At the recipient’s end, they can instantly download the PDF invoice copy and forward it to the finance department for processing. By switching to a paperless process, you’re also getting paid much faster compared to the traditional system of mailing a physical invoice to the client. You can even add a digital signature to your PDFs to add an additional layer of authenticity to the document.
The best companion to help you work with PDF files is PDF Expert. Available on Mac and iOS, it is a powerful and feature-rich PDF editor app that has everything you need to embrace a paperless workflow for your small business.
5. Lead the Change
The impact of your own small business switching to a paperless operation can be increased exponentially when you lead the change and convince other businesses to do the same. You can start small by interacting with your partners, vendors and clients about the benefits of going paperless and convincing them to switch one or more business processes. You can mandate some of them to strictly follow a paperless workflow when dealing with you.
For example, you can ask your vendors to send you their invoices and payment receipts only in the digital form to begin with. You can replace the use of printed legal documents for contracts or business partnership agreements that you get into with the help of digital agreements and e-signatures through services like DocuSign or SignEasy.
These little things may give them the last push that they were waiting for before switching to a paperless model.
Switching your business to a paperless operation may seem overwhelming at first, but when you weigh the underlying advantages and benefits in the long run, it’ll be an easy decision to make. Thankfully, there are numerous tools and services available today that will aid you in your effort.