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Creating a paperless office certainly has its environmental benefits, but going paperless can also help a small home office save money and achieve better productivity. Although the process can seem intimidating, there are a wealth of services and products that help home office workers free themselves from paper. Here are five tips to get you started.
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1. Online Banking
The time for signing and mailing paper checks has long since passed. All banks now offer convenient online banking which you can use to completely manage your finances. Sign up for free online bill payment at your bank. You can then fill out electronic checks online, and send it to anyone with an address. You can also set up automatic recurring payments for repeating bills. Not only do you eliminate the hassle of writing a check by hand, but also the cost and time of filling out envelopes and buying postage stamps.
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2. Eliminate Mail
Most of us choose to work at home because it provides us with freedom and flexibility in our schedule. Earth Class Mail takes this a step further by handling all of our physical mail, enabling users to have their office anywhere in the world without being tied to a physical location. The service provides customers with an address, which can be used as a business mailing address. Customers then view scanned images of their mail online, and decide whether they want Earth Class Mail to email a PDF copy, forward the actual mail, or discard or recycle it. With this service, you never have to open up another envelope, or deal with unnecessary papers, marketing flyers, or advertisements again!
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3. Convert Documents to PDFs
The biggest problem for most home offices is the paper we already have accumulated in piles on our desk and shelves, and in that bulging dusty filing cabinet in the corner. By using optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert existing documents and records to PDF format, you can create an easily searchable and accessible filing system on your computer that replaces your cumbersome cabinet.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap is an excellent tool for PDF conversion. Quick and easy to use, it is able to scan 18 pages a minute and both sides of a document at one time. It also automatically detects the paper's type and size.
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4. Get Rid of the Fax Machine
The fax machine takes up unnecessary space and is an unneeded expense in most home offices. Most businesses are able to handle file transfer via e-mail attachments. But if you feel that your business absolutely needs to have the ability to send and receive faxes, sign up for a service like eFax, or any one of the numerous online fax services currently available. They send faxes from files on your computer, and also provide you with a unique number that you can use as a business fax number. When a fax comes in on your number, the service automatically e-mails the fax to you as a PDF document.
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5. Invoice and Collect Payments Online
Using online services to send invoices and keep track of your clients’ payments and follow ups is much easier than using a paper system where records can quickly get lost or misfiled. A wide range of options are available, including PayPal’s invoicing feature and sites like Freshbooks, Cashboard, and Billing Manager by Intuit. Fees for using these sites vary, but are well worth it considering their convenience, and the time and money you save by not mailing paper invoices and depositing physical checks at the bank.