5 Examples of Filing Systems for Your Home or Office Business
When it comes to filing systems, not every system works the same way. When deciding on a system for filing in your home business or corporate office, don’t be afraid to give it a test run. Finding the best filing system for your business early on will save a lot of time and headaches in the future.
To help get you started, here are 5 examples to filing systems you could use in your business to reduce errors and wasted time, and to keep important information quickly accessible.
3-Ring Binder Filing System
If you’re a small home-based business, this filing method (which uses large, 3-ring binders to organize your files) could be a great one to start with. A bonus – it won’t cost much to improve your office's organization!
Use section dividers to break up the different areas you need to keep track of. (Example: business plan, pending orders, completed orders, receipts.) Put some sheet protectors in to keep your papers nice for long periods of time.
With this method, you’ll want to have a new binder for every quarter, or year, depending on the size of binder you have and the amount of paperwork you must keep track of. When the quarter (or year) is over, transfer the business plan over to your new binder. Label the binder you were using for the current period it was used for and store it away for future reference. If you don’t want to have a binder for every quarter or year, you may want to utilize the traditional filing system.
As with any paper office filing system where you may not have a back-up of your records, investing in fire-proof cabinets or a fire-proof safe to store your business records may be a wise choice in the event that the unexpected happens.
Traditional Filing System
Have those manila folders handy! This is your traditional filing cabinet method. Ideally, you’ll want to categorize your hanging folders the best way you see fit for your business. This could be by year, alphabetical order, or another way you prefer. You’ll then sub-categorize with the manila folders.
Bizfluent has a nice overview of alphabetical, numbered, and alpha-numeric filing systems that's worth checking out.
This method will keep things tidy and will allow you to find the paperwork needed at any given time with little effort. With this method, you’ll want to make sure to set aside time to file the papers though. It’s probably a good idea to do this on a regular basis so the papers don’t stack up and overwhelm your office or work-space.
And if you're looking to update the look of your file cabinets to enhance your office decor, here's a review of my favorite file cabinet - the colors and modern designs are excellent.
The Shoebox Method
If you know you’ll never keep up on a traditional filing or 3-ring binder method, the shoebox method could be for you. This method is probably only sustainable for the home-based business just starting out, but it can be a very effective way to get started with home office organization.
You don’t have to necessarily use a shoebox. Any type of box will work. Label each box accordingly (receipts, legal papers, etc) and then just toss the documents into the correct boxes. While not as organized as other methods, you’ll be sure to have all the paperwork you need when tax time rolls around. You'll also keep your office desk clear of clutter and ready for world domination..
Go Digital With an Electronic Filing System
The electronic filing system is a great way to keep information close by without taking your filing cabinet with you. There are some documents you will want to keep physical copies of, but for some of your paperwork, you could shred the physical copy and have the paper recycled.
Depending on your type of business, there are some great CRM programs out there. Keep in mind, with anything digital, you’ll want to back the files up on an external hard drive, NAS, or in a cloud database. Make sure to keep the external hard drive or NAS unit somewhere safe that’s away from the office. This will prevent you from losing everything if a natural disaster were to occur that damages your whole office.
This is my favorite document scanner for small and mid-size offices. It's portable, wireless, and can be operated on a rechargeable battery which is a great convenience. The included software converts every PDF into a searchable document that you can tag and file appropriately in your external hard drive or NAS (Network-Attached Storage) unit.
Try A Combination Filing System for Your Office
An office filing system doesn't need to be one or the other. Sometimes, the best filing systems use a combination of all, or some, of the methods listed above.
You may not want to have hanging folders for each customer, but do want the hanging folders for your tax papers, business license, etc. Creating an office filing system tailored to your business and the unique organization needs you have to manage information and make it accessible within your office, you're setting yourself up for success.
My advice is to try one method and see how it works for you. As your business grows, be flexible with the method you’re using. The shoebox method could work perfectly when you’re a solopreneur, but when you start hiring employees or take on more or larger clients, you’ll want to upgrade your organization.
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