Have piles of paperwork built up in your office since you set up business as a tradesman? It’s understandable, especially if you are haven’t got a lot of experience in administration (or an interest in it, for that matter!). It doesn’t help that many trade industries remain reliant on outdated infrastructure.
In other words, when it comes to admin, it can feel as though many trades are stuck in the last century. However, you can easily modernise your own admin and spare yourself all that excess paperwork in the process – it’s simply a matter of “easy once you know how”, as the following tips explain…
Figure out which of your current papers should be discarded
Often, it can seem that the heavy burden of paperwork is not so much the paperwork itself, but how it’s organised. Beneath piles of papers, there might be some that stopped being useful a long time ago. However, now’s the time to grudgingly, but tactfully sort through them.
Look at each one in turn before placing it in either a “keep” or “discard” pile. Whether magazines, cards, notes, newsletters or other papers make their way to the latter pile, you will know what to put in the paper shredder, as The Balance Small Business explains.
Use software to manage contact information
You’ve probably already added a whole host of entries to your contacts diary in your time as a tradesperson. The contact details of customers, as well as people met through networking, can all be placed in a software-based contact management system rather than left scrawled on diary pages or etched in your memory.
One good example of an in-depth customer relationship management (CRM) system is Salesforce. However, if using this would seem like overkill for your own contact management needs, you could find that configuring your existing Contacts app for your firm’s use would work just as well for what you need it for.
Set yourself up with a good project management app
As more and more customers approach you, and your work schedule starts filling up, you could find yourself struggling to keep track of it all – especially if you are at the head of a larger business, rather than simply a sole trader. You might not want to rely just on sticky notes here!
Instead, look for a good project management app that could help you to track tasks and share files, not to mention keep in touch with teammates. Examples of such apps you could worthily contemplate using include Basecamp and Asana.
Habitually use the Tradify app
Worthy though the Basecamp and Asana apps are, you might prefer a software solution that is more specific to trades. Cue Tradify, which can ease your job as a tradesperson by letting you track individual jobs, speedily schedule appointments for employees and keep track of all workers and materials.
As each job can be monitored from the initial quote right through to invoicing, and Tradify enables you to automate a range of processes, you can free up time otherwise spent on productivity-draining administrative tasks, the Tweak Your Biz site points out.
Add ‘callback’ dates to your calendar
For a tradesman, it’s convenient that customers tend to seek work from contractors with which they are familiar. As long as you do a good job the first time around and hand the customer your contact details, you should be able to tap into repeat business.
Some lines of work, like carpet cleaning, could see you meet back up with the same customer as often as every other month. If this is the case, after finishing a job, ask the customer when they will next need you. Add this date to your calendar so that you remember to call back as the day nears.
Use accounting tools like QuickBooks
Accounting and bookkeeping are other responsibilities that can see you running up large amounts of paperwork. However, you can streamline procedures including invoicing, taking payments and managing cash flow when you utilise such tools as QuickBooks, Xero and Wave.
Using accounting software doesn’t have to eat heavily into your firm’s budget, either. You can even net a 50% discount on QuickBooks by joining Rated People, the tradesmen vetting site. Frankly, gaining membership of such sites can be good for promoting for your firm anyway, so don’t delay.
Apply for insurance online
As you carry out your work, you might not run into a cast-iron need to take out extra insurance – though keep in mind that, to employ staff, you would be required by law to hold employer’s liability cover. Even if you work alone, you might see sense in taking out insurance.
Covers including products liability, financial loss and public liability insurance can, in one policy, form a reassuring safety net for your corporate finances.
However, if the prospect of yet more paperwork fills you with dread, take comfort that, when you source a quote and insurance from Tradesman Saver, your quote, purchase and documents will all be available online for access right around the clock.
Transition to a paperless office
You could be pleasantly surprised by just how many routine office responsibilities can be carried out digitally these days. To start transferring various processes in your office, you could scan in and digitise receipts, use such online invoicing services as FreshBooks and write virtual signatures with DocuSign.
Then there’s “the Cloud”, which can ensure that, even if a fire or flood engulfs your office and everything left in it while you’re out, a wealth of valuable data can remain safe.
When you obtain public liability insurance from Tradesman Saver, you can add the optional covers of tools and equipment cover and business contents cover to your overall policy. As a result, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, you can cost-effectively replace various items, including PCs and desks.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that, in order to continue making best use of your digital systems, you must keep them organised. For example, as you collect business cards at various events, quickly digitise the vital information on those cards to spare yourself clumps of paper gathering up.