Implementing ways to manage electronic records better reduces the need to print all of your documents. Not only does this mean less need for storage for your paper records, it can also significantly cut your printing costs.
How to Handle Electronic Records
The first step to any effective records management plan is determining what you intend to keep and what you do not need to keep for any length of time. Of course, you need to be guided by the requirements of your government as it relates to record retention in the case of tax documents and other official data. For example, you may be required by law to keep your accounting records for seven years or 10 years.
The next step is to develop a file plan. As a records manager, I normally recommend using a functional scheme as this is easier to work with, but you have other options depending on your comfort level. Ideally, you should let whatever system you use for electronic files mirror your paper records. This way, you will be able to quickly work between both sets of records when needed.
Electronic Record Management Tips
Some additional tips to improve your electronic records management are:
- Create folders for different records and use sub-folders within main folders if necessary. For example, I have a folder for each client and within each I have sub-folders filed by year. So, for tax purposes, all I have to do is look in the 2012 folder for each client to find the income earned. I also have a folder for business expenses with dates as well. Having everything in one place makes perfect sense.
- Use names and labels that are meaningful, remember that others may need to access your records. For example, if the information is for a particular client then use that client’s name, e.g. Decoded Science or decodedscience. This way you can easily find all the electronic records for this one client easily. As much as possible, add the date to the file name: For example, application-Decoded Parent – March 31, 2013.
- Whatever naming conventions you use, be consistent. Try to keep the names under 27 characters long and make them logical.
- Put in place a disposition and retention policy. There are files and documents that you will not need at some point. If you have multiple versions of a document, generally, you can discard the earlier versions. Developing this approach will enable you to determine how long certain documents are to be kept in current files or backed up and saved elsewhere.
- Where freelancers are concerned, using an Excel spreadsheet to track income and expenditure is a simple solution for tax purposes. However, you will need to file receipts and other work related documents for future reference.
- Write down all steps you use in your records management approach so that you or anyone you employ will know exactly what to do.