Filing the paperwork

As a freelancer, you’re not only the main worker bee but also the business’s administration department. That means keeping things in order so that bills get paid and documents are filed for easy retrieval. It’s one of my least liked tasks. I guess if I was a little more disciplined I wouldn’t let it mount up but it’s such a boring task and I can always find something more interesting or rewarding to do.

The filing system I used when I started freelancing was too cumbersome. I had a couple of folders for bills, three for different bank statements, one for tax and so on. As various bits of paper arrived, I’d sort them and put them into their folders. It sounds good in theory but as soon as stuff mounts up a little the effort it takes to get stuff sorted is too great. So I put off, it accumulated more, the task got even bigger and… well, you get the picture.
I changed this approach and haven’t looked back. I have a single folder for this year. It’s divided into sections for each of the various categories of paperwork. This approach has two significant advantages for me.
1 – It’s easier as everything is filed in one place. When a new piece of paper comes in I have one place to put it.
2 – Under Australian tax law, I’m obliged to retain certain records for five years. Now, at the end of their retention period I just need to dispose of one folder. Under my old system, I’d have to got through several folders to get rid of the papers.
There was a time when I used a filing cabinet but that was way too messy. I prefer binders and I think this new approach, of having a binder per year, makes staying organised easier.
What’s your approach? How do you store documents? Have you gone totally digital? If so, what tools do you use? Let me know in the comments.

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