Ideas And Tools For A Paperless Office

Is it possible to freelance, run a business, be productive, and not use paper at all? Or at least reduce your paper consumption to a minimum? I think it’s possible, but it won’t happen just like that, you have to be organized and actually want to have a paperless office (some people don’t).

The Paperless Office Concept

The paperless office is now considered to be a philosophy to work with minimal paper and convert all forms of documentation to a digital form. The ideal is driven by a number of motivators including productivity gains, costs savings, space saving, the need to share information etc. – Wikipedia

There are many things you can do to reduce your paper consumption, and there are hundreds of tools that can help you achieve that.

Printer and Scanner

Of course a printer is useful, but do you really need one? Mine has been sitting on my desk for almost a year, and I never use it. I’m real fine with not having to buy paper, ink cartridges and all that stuff. My scanner, on the other hand, I wouldn’t get rid of it.

Snail Mail

Even if you have the best intentions and really want to reduce your paper consumption, you’ll still receive a lot of paper in the mail. Invoices, promo stuff, notifications. Ask companies (cell phone, cable tv, ISP) to send you an invoice by e-mail or through their website (client area).

Office Organization and Design

If you use less paper (or no paper at all) chances are you won’t need that filling cabinet. You may have to rethink and analyze your needs. You might very well end up with a really minimalist office design/concept, meaning: desk, chair, computer and some accessories. Of course having a laptop or PDA really is a must for the freelancer “on the go“.

Online Office and Collaboration Tools

Presentation Tools

Slide Sharing and Screen-casts

Invoicing Tools

Check out this list of 14 web-based invoicing tools.

Mind-Mapping and Note-Taking

What Tools Do You Use?

I’m curious, what are the tools you use? Have you ever wondered how much paper you use in a day, a month, a year? (probably more than you really need) Do you have any tips and tricks on what could be done to reduce your paper consumption?

I personally really like Zoho, Google Tools, Invoice Machine. What about you?

Oh, and make sure you back-up your data, or risk losing it all.

Thanks to Rebecca Camarena from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for suggesting we write this post. We’ll definitely write more about having a paperless business/office in the future.

This article was also included in the Working at Home Blog Carnival-Fiftieth Edition


  1. says

    One tool I’ve been using for time tracking and reporting is Harvest ( In the same style as the Basecamp apps, it’s clear, focused, simple to use, and free of frills. It doesn’t produce invoices…I produce those straight out of QuickBooks and email them. But if you setup your projects right, all you have to do is run your Harvest report to show your hours for the month, key them into QB, and you’re done.

  2. says


    Great article! I posted something similar in my featured sections about building your own virtual office. It’s similar to your post.

    I hope other readers like it.

    I currently use a Palm Tungsten T3 and a portable keyboard, but unfortunately, my Palm is getting older and the battery is slowly dying. I will be looking for smaller alternatives to a laptop soon.

    Jonathan D

  3. says

    Hi Tom, great tips, will definitely check out Harvest. I used QuickBooks quite a lot in the past. For invoices I now use Invoice Machine and Freshbooks is really nice too.

    Jonathan, thanks a lot for sharing your article, great one. I’ll surely have to buy a new Palm soon too, although I really like my laptop (powerbook G4 titanium) it’s slowly dying. hehe

    Hey Steven, thanks, if you use any other apps that could fit on the list, let us know :)

  4. says

    Here is another really good collaborative web-based mind mapping tool that might be worth looking at

    It works well for areas such as project management, note taking, brainstorming sessions, meeting planing, minute taking, agenda development and so on.

  5. says

    Great post Jon. I too am a big believer in using technology and great tools to simplfiy business functions, increase efficiency and be as paper-less as possible.

    Five of the tools that I consistently use are, ACT, Cardscan, Dymo label printer and Address Grabber. They greatly simplify daily operations, work together and are worth their weight in gold!

    All of these can be found on the “sales tools” section of my blog and Address grabber can be found at
    (yes, that is a shameless plug!)

    I have also replaced paper file folders with electronic file sub-directories on my PC and keep everything associated with each account in a separate e-folder. Works superbly! Make certain to keep backups of everything! Paper-less is possible!

  6. says

    kalivd, awesome, thanks for sharing it, will definitely have a look into it.

    Omar, comapping looks very nice, I signed up. :)

    Hey Daniel, yep paperless is possible, with the right tools and if you actually want to go paperless, it is possible. Thanks for sharing your resources, appreciate it :)

  7. says

    I think that it makes sense to think about going paperless in the context of certain practices, but that a user must first think about the practice first, and how to optimize it.

    For example, (using the 11 fundamentals of 2Time), going paperless is useful for “Storing” but not so useful for “Capturing.” When one understands ho the fundamentals work, it is much easier to implement a tool like a PDA, or a scanner, and to use all the different tips that people have.

    Armed with a knowledge of the fundamentals, and some insight into their own idiosyncrasies, a user can design their own solution with some skill.

  8. says

    I feel the paperless system can occur. I also feel that if you have the right software, this is very inportant. You should also make sure your software conforms to your business and your business should not have to conform to the software. Mare sure document management software allows for this.

  9. kalivd says

    yeah i agree with you john that software which we use should definately support your business, there are various online office suite which improve your productivity, well i personally use eDeskOnline
    and jon has provided with a superb list of applications which should definately help you..

  10. says

    Great article Jon.
    I’d like to add MightyFile ; our turnkey paperless solution for small business to your list.
    We went paperless (or as paperless as we could in 2001) . We could not find an off the shelf offering that handled scanning, OCR indexing and retrieval with remote access (we have an offshore office) all in one reasonably priced bundle. So we developed it. If you have a moment to look at it I’d sure welcome your comments.

  11. says

    I tried to go paperless a few years ago and it was a disaster. I wish I could get back all those paper files I shredded, because they all got lost when my hard drive crashed. BACK UP YOUR FILES PEOPLE!!!

  12. says

    Some great suggestions here. As a paperless payroll service provider we are constantly searching for new ways to streamline our own paperless processes as well as looking for additional solutions that we might recommend to our customers. Thank you.

  13. Anderson C. Nwobi says

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I am writing a conference paper on paperless offices. Having been working for over ten years now with loads of unmanageable paper documents in a computerized environment, I kept wondering the benefits of computers in our offices if we are still burdened with too many unmanageable documents in term of filling, finding, retrieval etc.

    I am wondering also if your organization can recommend to me ways, facts, papers, resources that will make my conference paper a huge success to the extend that my dream of easing the workload in my organization will come true as well as boost the sales and and services of organizations like yours.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Yours sincerely,

    Anderson C. Nwobi
    +2348036018752, +2348053435967
    M.I.S. Dept, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba Nigeria.

  14. says

    We absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. Would you offer guest writers to write content for yourself? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome weblog!

  15. Vincent says

    I would like to recommend OroTimesheet for time tracking and invoicing.
    It is really easy to use and very affordable.
    It helps me keep track of the time I spend on each project. I can easily create an invoice from my timesheets. I used many time tracking software over the years and this one is my favorite.

    It is free to try so make sure to visit the company’s website at

  16. says

    Ideas And Tools For A Paperless Office | FreelanceFolder I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are wonderful! Thanks! your article about Ideas And Tools For A Paperless Office | FreelanceFolderBest Regards Justin

  17. says

    The other thing I would recommend is looking into the improvement of your processes, particularly your marketing processes. Marketing produces a ton of waste when people don’t know what they are doing and if you can improve upon those processes, you can quickly cut down on that waste. (i.e. money, resources and time)

  18. Joshua Gallows says

    Great Post, although I would like you to mention Invoicera as well in the online invoicing application list. I wonder how such a comprehensive invoicing software was left out while writing this piece…

    I reckon, Invoicera was not much noticed that time. But, now that it is… I would love to see it listed. I’ve been using it for a little over an year for my small freelance career..

  19. Joshua Gallows says

    Great Post, I must say… however you left out some important additions to the online invoicing arena… Hope you do add those soon..


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