Going digital is like adding an extra day to my week.
However, it's not possible to wave a magic wand and instantly go from "buried in paper" to "paperless." Let me tell you how I've done it.
I ran into a former client in the grocery store a few months ago and impulsively asked this stay-at-home mom if she'd like a part-time job helping to digitize my paper files. She accepted my offer and, since then, she has worked in my office for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Now, six months later, real estate files no longer overflow my desk and file cabinets.
Here is my recipe for going digital:
- Create digital folders in Dropbox for Sales, Listings, and Rentals.
- Create sub-folders for each case within the appropriate digital folder, including separate sub-folders within Listings for listing and sale documents.
- Go through the client folders in my email account and save attachments to the appropriate Dropbox folder (and ultimately a CD). I save documents by date (2012.07.20), street name, brief description.
- Go through corresponding paper folders on top of my desk, in file drawers and in boxes under my desk to identify duplicates of the saved attachments... and discard them.
- Scan and save in Dropbox all remaining documents from the paper folders, and discard paper documents.
- Back up Dropbox folders to CD, and give current clients a copy of the CD at closing.
- Create digital folders in Dropbox for Forms, Business Expenses, Monthly Market Statistics, Mailing Lists, and General Inf ormation;
- Scan and save blank forms, receipts, etc. in appropriate digital folder and discard paper documents.
It's not easy to let go of that paper... after all, someone might need one of those receipts or documents in the future. The truth is that it wasn't easy to find anything in the mounds of paper that previously filled my office. Now I can use my iPad, mobile phone, or any computer to access my digital files - anywhere, any time!
Having a part-time assistant take responsibility for this project was the key to success. The expense to me has been minimal, but the payoff is huge. The truth is that any time you delegate some of your workload, you can add their time to your week.
If you want to go digital, but you're having a hard time getting started, think about people you know who might help. It really will empower you to cram eight days into a seven-day week!
P.S. Check your state requirements to determine if "originals" of real estate contracts and other paperwork must be saved. If so, consider submitting those originals to your office. Let the broker store the paper!