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How small businesses can save money by going paperless

Nov 28, 2018 | 4 minutes read | Entrepreneurship

Businesses both big and small need documents for a variety of reasons. From contracts for new clients to office lease agreements to utility bills, entrepreneurs are regularly inundated with innumerable types of documents necessary for running their business.

When all these documents are printed, they take up a ton of space—and can cost business owners a bundle. One study from MultiBriefs showed that U.S. organizations spent $80 per employee on paper annually, and 50-70% of office space was used for filing and storing printed documents.

One way to combat these costs is to go paperless in your business. While that may sound like a daunting task when you first consider it, a variety of new technologies have made this transition simpler and more seamless for businesses.

Want to learn more about why and how to go paperless? Let’s examine the benefits and a few ways you can go paper-free.

The benefits of going paperless

Eliminating printed materials from your business provides multiple advantages. In short, a paper-free business is greener, cleaner, and far more efficient in a number of ways.

Going digital saves businesses money

One study estimated that companies spend about $8 billion per year managing paper. It also costs an organization an average of $20 to file a document, another $120 to find a misplaced document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document. That’s an astronomical amount of cash for businesses to spend on paper alone.

Transitioning all your printed documents—including your accounting—to cloud-based, digital docs can help you slash or even eliminate many of these costs. Research from Capgemini Consulting found that digital companies tend to be 50% more profitable, generate 13% more revenue, and are valued 19% higher than their industry peers.

So, while adopting paper-free technology and methods will inevitably create upfront costs, the long-term return on your investment proves that digitization pays.

Paper-free businesses are more efficient

Managing and searching through paper filing systems can be a major time suck. We’ve all misplaced important papers in the past, and know this kind of frustration firsthand.

However, digital archives can make your team (and your business) more productive. Rather than worrying about lost or misfiled documents, you can quickly search your cloud-based digital archives from anywhere with an internet connection with just a couple of clicks.

Sending and receiving digital documents is also far more efficient than with their paper counterparts. Digital docs can make typical processes move faster, whether you’re sending electronic invoices or getting a digital signature on a contract from a client.

Editing digital documents is as simple as editing in a word processor, while PDFs can be edited on your computer, learn more about how to edit a PDF. You can even do more with a specialized PDF Editor like the one from Jotform. Specialized software allows things like signing online documents and turning data into polished PDF documents without using any paper.

Paperless businesses are more eco-friendly

Printing thousands of pages for your business isn’t great for the environment. The average worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually and around 375 million ink and toner cartridges are thrown away each year—and most of this waste ends up in landfills or incinerators.

But transitioning to a paper-free business helps curb this waste, saving trees, water, and keeping cartridges out of landfills.

If going green isn’t enough of an incentive in itself, the U.S. Department of Energy also provides a variety of tax credits and rebates for investing in eco-friendly business practices.

Three simple ways to go paperless

Going paper-free is easier than you might think, and it’s even easier when you take it step by step. Start by transitioning these three common document types to digital versions and take it from there.

Digital contracts and briefs

When you’re getting clients or contractors to sign on the dotted line for an upcoming project, nix the paper contracts and briefs. Instead, draft up digital versions and send them via email for signatures. Not only will you get these signed docs back faster, but it’s easier to keep an accessible copy on file for your records.

To send off and manage signatures for digital contracts and briefs, use a handy tool like Adobe Acrobat or DocuSign.

Email receipts

When one of your clients or customers pays for a product or service, you generally offer them a receipt. But paper receipts are cumbersome to keep track of for both businesses and customers. Instead, offer to email receipts to your customers.

It’s likely that most of your customers would prefer a digital version of their receipt. After all, 85% of people expect to do business digitally because they find paper-based transactions inconvenient, slow, and unreliable.

To take advantage of email receipts, use a tool like Punchey or automatically send a receipt with Wave when a client pays their invoice.

Electronic bills and invoices

One of the most common documents that business owners use daily is a bill or invoice. And more businesses are taking the leap into digital invoices. A Billentis report forecasted that businesses would send 30 billion electronic invoices in 2016 alone.

Use a tool like Wave to bill your own clients and set up online billing for your own business’ bills (like your office lease, utilities, and even credit card statements). Not only do online bills cut your costs, but they also help you declutter your mailbox and get paid faster.

Moving forward with a paperless business

A paperless business may sound like a green initiative that would cost you far too much money to be worth it. But going paper-free has an ROI beyond going green—you can also save some cash and be more productive in the process.

As we’ve outlined here, digitizing your documents one category at a time can help you make incremental changes while still enjoying the benefits.

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