Do’s And Dont’s of Going Paperless in Direct Sales

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Check out my previous posts on going paperless (Part 1 and Part 2)

Once you have a framework for your workflow, you’ll need to start scanning stuff. Some items you’ll want to scan and then throw away the original. Other items you’ll want to keep the original, but it still useful to have the scanned copy as well. Other things you should just avoid scanning if you can. Here’s a short breakdown of the major items for each category. When reading these lists, think in terms of general ideas. Your business and personal life may include other items that aren’t listed here, but clearly fall into one category or another. You’ll see the similarities.

EverNote Icon

Business Items to Scan:

(Keep these items at least 3 years. Purge after 7 years)

  • Orders from your shows (purge these after the show is finalized if there is any payment information on them)
  • Monthly Expense Sheets
  • Individual Business Receipts
  • Monthly Data Graphs
  • Tax Papers
  • Business Documentation (corporate meeting minutes, articles of incorporation, etc.)
  • One copy of your business catalog
  • Digital copies of your business flyers, specials, end-of-life list, customization guides, etc.
  • Utility bills
  • Any receipt or bill that you think you’ll be able to deduct from your taxes.

Personal Items to Scan:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Driver’s License
  • Insurance cards (auto, home, medical, dental)
  • Insurance Policies
  • Magazine articles you’d like to read later.

Yes, you should use your scanner to save personal items like marriage certificates and birth certificates. Keep copies of those items in an “Important Documents” folder in Evernote. Note that you should take care to protect your computer, hard drives, and any portable device which you give access to these documents. Identity thieves would love this stuff. 

After you’ve been doing it a while, you may find it beneficial to scan in recipes, instruction manuals (often you can find these online in PDF format and just save them in Evernote), old pictures, magazine articles you want to read later, magazine inspirational items (places you’d like to visit, houses or rooms you like in Southern Living, etc.), pictures of personal artwork, idea books, etc.

Items you should always keep in paper (at least the original):

Consider getting a fire-proof safe for these items (at least ones you don’t always keep on your person). You can usually get copies from official sources, but it can be expensive. Plus, if you have a special place for them, you’ll always know exactly where to look when you need them. Having the digital copies will suffice for most needs you’ll have. 

  • Birth & Marriage Certificates
  • Business Licenses
  • Driver’s License
  • Tax Returns
  • Mortgage and/or Title papers
  • Other Loan documents
  • Lease paperwork
  • Divorce Papers and Parenting Plans
  • Documentation of bank or credit card account closures (especially if there was legal involvement)
  • Essentially any legal documents (if you were involved in a legal case) 

Do Not Keep Copies of These Things:

  • Credit card information from anyone.
  • Actual checks from customers
  • Basically anything that could get you in trouble (generally this is going to be some other person’s personal or financial information. Even if you need it for a short period of time, purge this after month-end)

Don’t Waste Your Time Scanning:

  • Non-deductible receipts or bills.
  • Junk mail
  • Business items older than 7 years old
  • Books/Magazines – there are people that scan in whole books and magazines for later use. This involves destroying the original to get it through the scanner. While there may be specific instances this may be necessary, you’re probably better off buying a digital version in the first place (and there is merit to going paperless in that way too).

Questions:

What is your greatest fear about going paperless?
Do you have a success story you can share?
 

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