This article should appeal to most any small business person, but I think it is particularly well suited towards the direct sales industry. As a Direct Sales Husband, this is something you might be asked to set up or help in setting up. Hopefully I can help.
Any time you run a business, you definitely want to keep good records, and some things you should keep for several years. I’ve been working essentially paperless for several years and I’ll never look back. I still have some paper items, some things need you should just always keep at least one hard copy, and some things I haven’t yet had the chance to scan in from my pre-paperless life.
I HIGHLY recommend you consider going paperless.
Top Tools for Going Paperless
Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner ($200-450) – there are essentially 3 models (1500, 1300, 1100). The 1500 & 1300 scan both sides of the page at once (this is highly desirable). The 1100 is tiny and will fit in your laptop bag nicely. All of these scanners have excellent scan quality and speed. They also do multiple sheets at a time. Be aware that the S1500M is a Mac-specific version. These are considered to be the best in the industry. I personally have 2 (a 1500M and 1300 for Holley’s desk) and absolutely love them.
Doxie Go Rechargeable Mobile Paper Scanner ($200)– This is a cool little ultra-portable device that you can use to scan even if you don’t have your computer with you. It’s not necessary to have one of these if you have one of the other scanners mentioned above, but these also have an excellent reputation for use and do have the added function of not needing a computer to function. There are also wired versions that work similarly to the ones above and come in at a cheaper price point.
There are, of course somewhat similar scanners (generally called duplex scanners) from Canon and Epson and probably other vendors. They will probably work fine once set up, but in my research, I found that there were ubiquitous driver issues. I’ve also found that almost every piece of software that is intended to function for the paperless office ship with the ScanSnap in mind.
Evernote (free-$45/year for Premium)
Evernote is the absolute best application for going paperless for most people. I’ve used several different apps, and have even liked one (Paperless for Mac), but it all ends up coming back to Evernote. It’s available on all the major platforms (Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Blackberry, etc.). It’s fast. Customizable to your workflow. It automatically turns your scanned files into searchable PDF’s so you can find anything you put into it later on. Oh, and it’s gorgeous.
With Evernote you create notebooks and place your files in the notebooks. You can create notebooks for business, personal & home uses. Make one for important documents. Make one for pretty much anything.
The Premium Evernote includes more upload capacity and more sharing options (for your assistant(s)). But you can make notebooks which are off-line for things like receipts. Everything else you can retrieve anywhere you happen to be. At the ballpark and need a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove he’s 14 even though he’s 6’2? Pull it up in Evernote!
DropBox (free- $9.99/month for Pro)
DropBox is a great utility that utilizes the “Cloud” to give you accessible, sharable storage space on the internet. When you install it, it will create a folder on your desktop called “DropBox.” Everything in that folder (including other folders) is uploaded to the Cloud as fast as your internet connection will allow. You can share folders and subfolders with other users (your personal assistant, your graphic designer, your husband/wife) and it shows up in their DropBox, too. Holley and I have been using this for years and find it indispensable. It’s great for collaborative workflows and combines well with Evernote.
TurboScan App ($1.99)
This is a great little app that essentially turns your iPhone into a multipage scanner so you can get documents into your paperless workflow quickly and easily, no matter what your circumstance. I use this to take pictures of sketches and my Moleskine notebook pages that I want to add to Evernote. Works like a charm.
Optional: External Hard Drive ($60 and up)
Keep a backup of your important data. If you have a computer, you may already have something that works for this. These scanned documents can be fairly large, depending on your settings, whether you are scanning higher resolution or lower (for most documents, I recommend 150dpi) and whether you are scanning in color or not. You don’t absolutely need this to start, but eventually you’ll want some beefy storage. And even consider a spare so you can ensure you don’t lose anything older than the frequency with which you change drives.
As you can see, you can go paperless in your office for less than $200. And you can do it well at that price point. $500 gets you a fully professional scanner and the top paperless software. And probably an external hard drive, for storing all that extra data.
ScanSnap + Evernote vs NeatDesk & Neatworks – this is a great, balanced video review of these two products. I found the exact same things to be true in my experience and went with ScanSnap + Evernote for the same reasons.
DocumentSnap Blog – this is a good resource for seeing what other people are doing with their paperless setups. You’ll find answers to questions and good inspiration in here.
Unclutterer – while not specific to the paperless theme, there is a ton of info and inspiration in here about going paperless (because, let’s face it paper=clutter).
Everyone: What are your thoughts about going paperless? Any particular fears, doubts or questions about it?
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