When you’re a digital nomad, running a paperless business is not really an option. You don’t have a fixed postal address where you can receive snail mail anymore, you cannot store paper, and bringing along a printer or a document scanner is kind of a bummer.
Even before I started my freelance career I was annoyed at all that paper I was receiving in the mail box and had to store. So I really started that process a long time ago. Here are the actions you can take to become paperless too:
- Whenever possible make sure you use automatic billing or use your online banking system to schedule payments or receive electronic invoices. Most of my recurring bills are automatically charged on my Paypal account. For the others (like my credit card bills or my phone bills which sometimes have large amounts that I want to pay when it suits me) I receive electronic invoices directly in my online banking system. If your online banking system cannot do that then you should consider changing your bank. It removes the need to receive paper invoices and you get an electronic trace that you can save and easily print if needed.
- Use a cloud accounting system such as FreshBooks and send electronic invoices to your clients. And if you have stubborn clients who really insist you should send them paper invoices then use FreshBooks’ SnailMail (and charge them for the hassle).
- Use a service such as SwissPostBox and change your official postal address to a virtual post box. For a few bucks you get a new mailing address (SwissPostBox can offer addresses in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy and Austria) which allows you to remotely manage your mail. They scan incoming envelopes, send you an email and then you can either ditch the crap or open it and scan the content (you then have an electronic version that you can save). In special cases you can forward it to your actual postal address anywhere in the world (just make sure you will still be there when it arrives) or to a virtual assistant. If you need an address in the US check out Earth Class Mail.
- Hire a virtual assistant or an accountant to process and send things like administrative papers (VAT, income tax declaration, etc). Administrations rarely have online forms so it’s a good idea to have someone to help you with that in your official country of residence. I have a friend in Switzerland whom I forward my administrative papers and I e-mail her the filled-in PDF version. She just has to copy what’s in the PDF form in the physical form and put it in the mailbox.
- Scan everything else, like restaurant bills, using you camera-phone and save the picture into FreshBooks, DropBox or Evernote. And trash them as you go.
- Save the really important stuff (the one you need to keep for awhile) into DropBox or Evernote. Or any other cloud service. That way you can retrieve them from anywhere and ask your virtual assistant to print and send them for you when needed.
Do you have other tricks or other services that you use to keep your business paperless? Share them in the comments :)
Image Credits: cactusbeetroot