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ADDED: 20th August 2012
Tradesman Insurance: The Perils of Paperwork: Tips for Tradesmen to get a Handle on Admin
Paperwork. Arrgh. Most of us hate it and it's even worse when you know you're a little on the disorganised side and find yourself drowning under a pile of it. So, what can you do to sort it out once and for all so that the days of wasting your precious time (and money) tracking down the important document you left in a 'safe place' become a thing of the past? Well, we've put together some tips to help you get a handle on your admin so that you can get on with your 'proper' job.
Try and keep paperwork to a minimum by transferring as much as you can online. We've listed some ideas below.
- Arrange for paperless billing and payments for your utility bills, tax & national insurance, and credit and debit cards.
- Wherever possible send invoices, estimates, quotes and other correspondence by email.
- Set up an online and/or mobile phone diary and reminder system.
- Set up a filing system on your computer. Create and name separate folders within your email account and my documents section.
- Back up all of your documents and emails. (You could do this by using a memory stick, CDs and/or other external hard drives.)
In your 'office'
Whether it's your van, spare bedroom or the lounge, you probably have a space where you do your admin. Wherever that place is, by now it's likely that you've noticed that it's virtually impossible to completely escape from paperwork so consider doing the following things to keep it under control.
- Sort out post as soon as it comes in. Separate it into piles which require an immediate or non-immediate response. Deal with the immediate items and set a date for looking at the other things which have come in. Once you've dealt with it, file it.
- Once you've started work on a document, finish it. Do what you need to do with it then file it.
- Set up a filing system. Buy a filing cabinet (if you can squeeze one into your 'office') and get some folders and labels - use them. Separate items such as correspondence, client-related documents, invoices, estimates and quotes, staff, tax, bills, etc.
- Shred confidential or sensitive documents that you no longer need and bin the other junk that's been piling up.
- Consider whether there's anything you can do to streamline your systems, e.g. getting insurance under a single policy rather than dealing with lots of different providers.
- Take 10 minutes to tidy up your admin area at the end of each day.
Review your system at least twice a year to make sure that it's working for you. Give yourself a pat on the back if it's ticking along nicely. Make any tweaks you think are needed if you feel it's not quite up to scratch yet.
Staying on top of paperwork will save you time, money and hassle. By taking steps now you can free up your working day so that you can get on with the trade you love rather than the admin chores that get you down.