Organizing Paperwork

Organizing paperwork in a new business is easy when you have an idea of what kind of papers you will collect. When I started my business I did not set up a system for papers essentially because I was training myself and I didn't have a good sense of what kind of files I would have.

Sure, the excitement of starting a business propelled me to put things in order, but there was a big blank in my mind as to what that would encompass in my new-found business.

By outlining all the potential files you will have in your home jewelry making business, you will have the advantage of forecasting what kind of files seem logical for your business. Although this seems easy, the unknown can sometimes slow you down until you are bogged down with papers that scream: "find a system for me!"

My system for organizing paperwork is logical and simple. Rather than using the straight alphabetical filing system I prefer to file in order of most commonly used files.

For example, my most commonly used files are receipts and show files. Every time I want to file a receipt or look for a show contract I do not want to reach into the depth of the bottom drawer back in my filing cabinet for the R and S files.

I like to organize papers that are used regularly in the front of the top drawer. This serves both for convenience and for those who like visual filing. Having a designated section in your filing cabinet for most used papers makes them easy to access on a daily basis.

After organizing papers that are most often needed, you can set up an alphabetical system for the remaining files. For example insurance papers and tax returns could be filed alphabetically as they are not needed on a daily basis and require a logical system for retrieving them.

Let's start organizing paperwork by listing what files you may potentially have. You can go through the list and decide which ones apply to your business and which ones you think you will need down the road. By setting up a file location for them now you can file them just as soon as you have those papers in your hand!


The following files are listed in order of most regularly used in my business:

  • Show Applications
  • Show Application Schedule
  • Show Contracts, show information, directions etc
  • Master lists - show packing list, travel packing list, price list, supplies etc
  • Resume, biography
  • Photographs and pre-made application packages
  • Login information for online accounts
  • Expenses - current year business receipts
  • Car Receipts - current year gas, maintenance, lease etc
  • Current Tax Forms - annual tax forms, local/federal sales tax forms
  • Sales - invoices, sales sheets etc
  • Order Sheets
  • Accounts Payable
  • Accounts Receivable
  • Inventory Sheets - items in stock, items to make
  • How-to Information - website downloads, project sheets, notes
  • Jewelry Recipes - a log of detailed notes and drawings for your designs
  • Inspiration - photos, drawings, design ideas, magazine articles and ads etc
  • Account Statements - current year bank accounts, merchant accounts statements
  • Credit Card Statements - current year
  • Utilities Statements - current year telephone, internet, heating, electrical
  • Account Information - current year bank accounts, merchant accounts
  • Contacts - names, numbers, websites, business cards etc
  • Supplier Information - products, price lists, price comparison sheets etc
  • Business Plan - business plan notes, samples, finished plan
  • Business Registrations - permits and licences
  • Tax Files - tax returns, forms, receipts, sales tax forms, inventory sheets, profit and loss statements for each year
  • Insurance Information - business insurance, home insurance, car insurance, travel/credit card travel insurance
  • Cross-Border Shows Forms - NAFTA forms, inventory sheets, manifest, contacts, brokerage, export tax numbers etc

You can take, leave or add to this list as you see fit. While organizing paperwork is not always at the top of the to do list, having a system in place will save you a mountain of work and heartache in the future.

When you are rushing to prepare for a show or packing to go out of town, having a designated folder for that show file can be a life saver.


Handy Tips For Organizing Paperwork

  • Keep 12 Large envelopes in your receipts file labelled for each month of the year
  • Photocopy or scan thermal paper receipts or fading receipts for your files. In the event of an audit faded receipts will be useless as a tax write off.
  • Bring a labelled envelope to each show for your show expenses and sales sheets. Enter the details in your computer after each show before filing all the papers into your filing cabinet.
  • Store your past years tax files in plastic file containers. The tax files from previous years will take up much space in your filing cabinet with its accompanied volume of receipts and statements.
  • As much as possible handle incoming papers only once. File them after reviewing them or keep them in your current file until you are ready to file them.
  • Review your current file once a week and file them into your filing cabinet once you are finished with them

Learning how to be organized does not come easily to all of us, but the self beat up that comes from loosing yet another important document or forgetting a show payment date will leave you wishing you were organized. Just breathe and be thankful for the reminders that can make your life easier.

The key to staying organized is to be diligent with your system especially when you find yourself uttering those words "I'll just put this here for now." The "for now" always results in more "for later." Good practice now, makes for a better time later when you need documents in a hurry.

As for organizing paperwork that is in the works, I recommend a simple multi-shelf organizer, magazine type file boxes or a wall mounted file organizer for current papers.

Ikea is a great place to find office supplies for organizing paperwork. Just remember to file those papers in your filing cabinet when you are done!


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