How I streamlined my business processes / by Neil Alexander

Some time back I felt I had to overhaul the way I was managing my business. Paperwork was getting on top of me, I wasn’t invoicing properly and bills seemed to be coming at me left, right and centre. So I began to invest time working out the best way to take back control of my desk and my thoughts. The first step was to create a two notebooks in Evernote; one for invoices and one for expenses. All the email notifications that I received alerting me that a payment had been taken for something or other, I started sending into the respective Evernote notebook and add a tag for that month.


The next step, which was partly brought on by moving house and being unwilling to transport boxes and boxes of old paperwork, was to splash out on a Fujitsu ScanSnap duplex document scanner. I spent weeks scanning and shredding years’ and years’ worth of documents that I’d love to have just tossed but needing to keep 7 years’ worth of for the taxman. The ScanSnap was a dream come true. Even substantial documents could be scanned, saved and indexed within a matter of seconds. In fact it probably takes longer to dispose of documents in my ageing shredder than it does to electronically save them these days but I no longer have drawers and drawers of redundant documents, certificates, statements and letters lying around. And providing I tag and add to the appropriate notebooks upon import, I can access any of this paperwork almost instantly. Compared with trying to locate the correct box file and then having to leaf through hundreds and hundreds of pages to find the right one, only to find that whatever I was looking for was completely mis-filed, it’s a no brainer.
In fact, it’s been such a success that we are now a completely paperless household too. All warranties, receipts, school reports, pension statements etc etc are all scanned and saved into a shared notebook that the rest of the family can access.

Once I had a handle on the raw paperwork, I needed to get on top of my accounts. For many years, to keep costs down and simplify matters, I used an Excel spreadsheet for my accounts, much to my accountant’s annoyance. Though it worked for me on a day to day basis, I did end up incurring higher accountancy fees because of the amount effort he had to expend deciphering my handiwork. That was until I came across FreeAgent.  This is a piece of online accounting software designed specifically for UK based freelancers and small business owners. I can easily track my expenses and time, send invoices, check my recent bank transactions, generate reports for my accountant and send HMRC the necessary RTI for PAYE when I pay myself amongst all the other usual accounting features, and all from one website. There’s even an iOS app which is brilliant for recording ad-hoc expenses.

Using these three simple tools has completely revolutionised my workflow and business practices. The simple fact that paperwork and accounts are no longer a chore makes coping with the day to day running of my business so much more agreeable.

FreeAgent for a sole trader runs at £19+VAT / month and for limited companies, it comes out at £29/month. Use this link for a 10% discount - http://fre.ag/44pstrah
Evernote is a multi-platform application that can be downloaded from evernote.com for free. Premium subscriptions are £35 annually.
The Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 can be purchased for around £350 - Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 A4, Duplex Wi-Fi Scanner

And there you have it. Do you think there is anything I could better? What tools do you use? Feel free to comment below and share.