There is a mountain of paperwork you need to keep track of as a business owner, from contracts and invoices to insurance policies and financial statements. Keeping these documents organised will give you more clarity and a greater sense of control over the admin side of your business. 

This guide will show you how to organise paperwork in your small business by using the following methods:

  • Get the materials you need to stay organised
  • Separate your documents
  • Organise your documents
  • Use colours and labels
  • Focus on one area at a time
  • Go paperless
  • Use accounting software like Countingup

Get the materials you need to stay organised

When considering how to organise paperwork in your small business, you need to think about what materials you’ll need to keep everything neat and tidy. You need ways to separate and store your paperwork and avoid scattering your documents across your office

The first step to organising your paperwork is to get organisational supplies like stationery, file holders, a filing cabinet, label maker, markers, and so on. What items you’ll need depends on your business type, current system, goals, daily activities and so on. This step is to make sure you have everything you need to keep your business paperwork organised. 

Separate your documents

The next step is to go through your paperwork and sort all documents into categories. For example, you might choose to categorise your documents as financial reports, client documents, legal, receipts and invoices, and so on. You can also separate these categories into subcategories to make everything even easier to find. 

If you choose to categorise your documents by client, you might create a folder for each new client and keep all documents relating to that client in the same folder. This system makes sense if you run a service-based business and have ongoing contracts with your clients. 

If you sell products and typically have new customers buying from you, it might make sense to organise your paperwork by date or by document type. For example, you might keep sales records, receipts, inventory lists, etc., from the same day or week in the same folder. 

Whatever system you choose, it’s good to create a miscellaneous category for documents that don’t fit into other categories. It’s also wise to create a stack for documents you plan to digitalise, which we’ll explain more about later. 

Organise your documents

Once you’ve created your categories and subcategories, proceed to organise documents in chronological order, like by date or alphabetically. For example, if you organise your documents by client, place date-stamped documents in order from oldest to newest with the newest in front. If documents don’t have a date on them, organise them by how often you use them.

You’ll also want to keep your client folders organised in alphabetical order. If you categorise your documents by product, keep those folders in alphabetical order as well. Whichever method you choose, make sure the documents are easy to find and that the system makes sense to you.

Use colours and labels

Another way to help you keep folders apart is by assigning each category its own colour. Use labels, markers, pens, and post-it notes in the same colour to keep your folders looking organised. Adding colour will also make your office look brighter and more fun. 

Labelling your categories will also help you identify which is which so you can find what you seek instantly. You can either hand-write labels using a pen or marker in the relevant colour or print out a sheet of typed labels. 

Focus on one area at a time

If you haven’t had an organisational system until now, you’ll likely have business documents tucked away in several places. When thinking about how to organise your paperwork, you might feel overwhelmed and not know where to start. 

The best way to avoid this is to start with one area and work your way through your entire office. For example, you could start by organising your filing cabinet and make sure you have folders for your paperwork. Next, you might attack the growing pile on your desk to categorise the documents and throw away ones you don’t need. After that, you might go through your email inbox.

Whatever order you choose, focusing on one area at a time will stop you from getting stuck and confused while organising your paperwork. 

Go paperless

Converting physical documents into digital files on your computer or smartphone will make them more easily accessible and sendable while reducing clutter in your office space. You can use tools like Adobe Acrobat DC or PaperScan to convert paper documents into PDF files. 

Once you’ve scanned your documents into your computer, you can use systems like Google Workspace to keep your files organised. Remember to label them with the appropriate name to help you find the file you need. 

A great way to organise your financial paperwork is to use accounting software. A system like Countingup helps small business owners stay organised and save time on bookkeeping. Learn more below.

Use accounting software like Countingup to stay organised

Once you’ve found an organisational system for your paperwork, you need to stick to it to keep everything in order. Managing financial records and other business documents can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. 

That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to take the pain out of financial admin. Countingup’s accounting software has several well-designed features that allow you to record and manage financial transactions easily.

  • Create and send invoices to customers on the go. Once the customer pays, the system matches the payment to the correct invoice, keeping your records updated and organised. 
  • Scan and store receipts with Countingup’s handy receipt capturing tool. Simply take a picture of the receipt with your smartphone and watch the software add it to your records in seconds.  
  • Keep your expenses organised with the app’s automatic expense categorising feature. The system will add each transaction to one of the HMRC-approved categories so you don’t need to figure out which goes where. 

All this and more awaits you when you sign up for a Countingup business current account.

Find out more here.