How to set up a basic filing system

Running a small business can keep you busy; you are the Technician, the Manager, the Receptionist, the Bookkeeper, the Cleaner and Marketing Manager.  The last thing you want is to spend hours and hours sitting at your desk (or Kitchen Table) working through paperwork.  Most small business owners hate paperwork, it’s the last thing they ever get around to, when it should be the first thing they get around to so they don’t run the risk of being fined by the ATO…

Over the years I have seen quite a few filing systems, some of them are quite complex.  But what most Small Business owners don’t realise is that the more complex their filing system is the less likely it is that they will actually keep their filing and paperwork under control.
I want to try and make it as simple as possible for you.  So below is a quick overview of how to set up a simple effective paper flow and filing system for your small business, please note that this does not include any bookkeeping information.
What you need
 You will need to purchase the following items:
  • 3 Document trays
  • 3 Lever Arch folders
  • 2 A-Z tab dividers
  • 1 10 tab divider
  • 4 Document Wallets
If you don’t already have, then you will also need to get
  • Black texta
  • 2 hole punch
  • Stapler
How to set up the above items
Document Trays – Grab your Black Marker and write on the side:
  • Unpaid Bills
  • Paid Bills
  • Correspondence
Lever Arch Folders
  • On the Spines write:
    • Paid Bills
    • Correspondence
    • Bank Statements / ATO
  • In the Paid Bills Folder – put an A-Z tab divider
  • In the Correspondence Folder – put an A-Z tab divider
  • In the Bank Statements / ATO folder – put our 10 tab divider – use a divider for each bank account you have (write on each tab), a divider for any ATO Correspondence and a divider for any loans you get during the financial year.
Document Wallets – Use your black marker and write on the Document Wallets the following:

  • Bills Ready for Payment
  • Invoices Waiting for Statements
  • Correspondence to file
  • Work in Progress
What do you use these items for?
Document Trays – these are used for holding all the paperwork in until you have completed the process.
  • Unpaid Bills – this is for all the bills that are yet to be paid
  • Paid Bills – this is for all the bills that have been paid and all the receipts you may receive when making purchases of fuel etc.
  • This is for everything that IS NOT a bill that you need to work on at a later date.
Lever Arch Folders – these are used to file all the paperwork in once you have finished dealing with it. You should get new folders year financial year, so everything for that financial year is contained in its own folder.
  • Paid Bills Folder – this is where you file all the bills/receipts once they are paid
  • In the Correspondence Folder – this is for all correspondence that you don’t want to get rid of but may not need at the moment.
  • Bank Statements / ATO folder – this folder hold all the important stuff in it and will be given to your Accountant when you are getting your tax return done.
Document Wallets – these are to be split between your Unpaid Bills Document Tray & Your Correspondence Tray
  • Bills Ready for Payment – goes into the Unpaid Bills Tray, this document wallet is where you put all the bills that need paying in the next few weeks.
  • Invoices Waiting for Statements – this goes into your Unpaid Bills tray and is where you put all the invoices you receive off suppliers until you receive their statements at the end of the month.
  • Correspondence to file – this goes in your correspondence tray and is for all correspondence that you have finished with that needs to be filing when you are next doing your filing.
  • Work in Progress – this goes in your correspondence tray, it is for all those pieces of correspondence that you receive that requires you to do some follow up – fill the form in – ring someone etc etc.
And there you have it, your filing system all set up and ready to go….


Question: What I want to know from you is what have you found that makes your filing system more efficient?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *