It’s important to keep your records in order, especially when you run a business. Having organized records can help you in your everyday tasks and also ensure that you have quick access to important files if you ever come under audit.
You’ll want to keep the original, printed versions of your records for a while. You should keep bank statements for one month, credit card statements for 60 days, warranties for the duration of the coverage, paycheck stubs for a year, and tax documents for seven years.
Organize Your Documents
This advice applies both to print and digital documents, though we’ll specify differences. We recommend scanning all your documents, in fact, so you have print and digital copies.
Whether you keep your documents in a filing cabinet at home or in your office, or you put them in storage, use hanging file folders. Label each folder by date and with the name of the document.
This naming convention works for both print and electronic documents. Rather than writing the date in the standard MM/DD/YYYY or DD/MM/YYYY format, use YYYYMMDD. In a computer file system, this ensures that the files will be sorted properly by date, starting with the year, then the month, then the day.
For your print files, we recommend labeling each folder with the name first, then the date, and organizing them by type, name, and date.
You should have your taxes in one section by year. Employee contracts will have their own section by employee name. Paid bills should be in their own section, by date and business paid, and so on.
We suggest sorting digital files into appropriately named folders, such as “Employee Data,” and “Taxes,” by name and date within the folders.
Use Cloud Storage
For digital files, it’s OK to store copies on your computer, but at the very least make sure they’re mirrored to a cloud drive. In fact, you can just store them in the cloud to ensure you won’t lose them. Hard drives can give out and data can be difficult to impossible to retrieve, but when you store data in the cloud, it’s backed up over multiple servers, ensuring you won’t lose it. Also, you’ll be able to access those files from anywhere via any device.
Find a Great Storage Property
If you run a small business and don’t yet have a lot of paperwork, you may want to store your files at home in a filing cabinet. However, as your business grows and you end up with more paperwork, consider renting a storage space.
Another advantage of renting a self storage space is that you can keep other business items there, including overstock inventory, displays, and more. Perhaps you have a store and use the same holiday displays every year, or you sell at conventions and have a table, displays, and more that you need only when a convention rolls around.
A storage space is a great place to keep these. Look for a property that caters to businesses. Often, these properties can even accept deliveries for you and put them in your space.
In much of the U.S. and Canada, summers can get hot and humid, and winters cold and dry. Neither of these conditions is good for paperwork or other belongings. Humidity can encourage mold growth and dampen papers, art, and so on. Heat can warp delicate parts. Dry, cold weather can warp metal or cause wood and paper to crack.
Climate-controlled spaces rent for about 30% more than standard ones, but the temperature within the space is kept between about 50 and 80 degrees, and sometimes in a tighter range, and the humidity sits between 30% and 50%. These are ideal conditions for most of your stuff, including paperwork.
Sort Through Your Paperwork
Whether you keep your paperwork at home or in storage, file new documents regularly, and sort through your files once a month or so. Shred documents you no longer need and keep those that you do.
As for the digital versions, you can keep those indefinitely. Text files and PDFs don’t take up much space, so there’s no need to delete them regularly.
When you’re ready to find a storage space, check our listings. You’re sure to find a great property near you.