If you aren’t using Evernote for business, it might just be time. Evernote has been around since 2007 and boasts over 200 million users. It is a cloud-based, digital notebook that can be used to securely store every kind of record a business would have. It integrates well with other highly used apps like Twitter (to, as an example, save your favorite tweets) and synchronizes across desktops, laptops, tablets, as well as smartphones. And if that’s not enough, it offers massive value with reminders, an incredibly powerful search function, sharing capability, tagging and categorization flexibility, web page clipping and so much more.
What this post will do is unpack my favorite Evernote functions/uses and explain how you might use them as an online business owner.
Evernote’s organizational capabilities are super robust. You can:
- store every record (aka an Evernote note) you would have as a business. This includes text-based records, images, audio, scanned documents, PDFs etc.
- group those records by placing them in different folders (aka Evernote notebooks) with other related records
- move notes from one notebook to another
- assign tags to each and every note so that it is easily retrieved later
- share individual notes or entire notebooks with other people
- password protect your entire Evernote account (I use the 2-step verification process) and even encrypt selected text within a note
- look for and find anything – based on specific word searches (Pro Tip: Evernote is clever enough to search for words found on scanned documents. It can even locate words on a scanned record of a handwritten note. Mind you, if you can’t read your own handwriting, Evernote probably couldn’t either.)
Try It! Create a Digital Filing System That Makes Sense for You
Consider your current records management practices. List all the records that you create or reference in your business. Are there certain records that you need to be able to locate frequently and easily? How are they best categorized? Do you find yourself sharing certain records often?
From there, figure out what your ideal digital folder structure might look like. As an example, most business owners would probably have some variation of the following:
- Biz admin and systems
- Research and links
- Brainstorms and inspiration
- Sales and marketing
- Contracts and agreements
- Vendors, subcontractors, and staff
- Time sheets and financials
I’d start by creating eight notebooks for each of the above. Here’s how:
- Launch your Evernote application
- Select “Notebooks” from the Shortcuts list on the panel to the left of your screen
- Select the “+ New Notebook” button
- Name your notebook
- Set the notebook as “Private” so that it is only visible to you (This setting can be changed later)
- Click “Create”
Assuming your Evernote environment is brand new and will only be used for your business, this is all that’s needed at this stage.
However, if your Evernote environment is also home to other records (e.g. family recipes, audio recordings of your 8-year-old reading her favorite books, collections of your 12 year old’s anime drawings, all your assignments on that digital marketing certificate you’re working through, research for a 1 month family holiday that’s coming up – you get the idea!), then I suggest creating separate stacks.
Following on from Steps 1 – 6, I’d create a “Personal” notebook and a “Business” notebook, then simply drag and drop each of the eight sub-notebooks to its related one. When you do this, you will find that you would have created two stacks.
Keep Information Worth Remembering in One Place
By this point, we’ve established that Evernote is your digital shoebox of indexed information. It can be a repository for all the information you pick up from web pages, on Kindle (Pro Tip: You can send excerpts from your digital book collection to your Evernote account), in an email, and so on. You can store and reference: audio & video files, PDFs, screenshots, Word documents, and images. More importantly, it is a searchable repository once you have tagged it all with the right keywords.
Try It! Create a Bank of Commonly Used Tags & Put Them to Use
In the same way that you have a set of commonly-used tags on your business blog, you’d have the same within Evernote. Think about the tags that you are likely to need going forward and get them set up:
- Click on “Tags” on the shortcuts panel
- Click on the “New Tag” button
- Type in the new tag and hit “Enter”
- Repeat steps 1-3 as many times as you need to create your tags
Now that you have your tags set up, just be sure to tag your notes as you add them to Evernote. All you have to do is, having selected the note in question, click the tag field at the top of your screen and start typing. If the tag already exists on your account, Evernote will pull it out for you based on the letters you key in. If the tag has not been created, just type it out and hit “Enter.” Evernote would have just created a new one for you.
Try It! Received a newsletter which sparked ideas? Forward it to yourself on Evernote.
Occasionally, I find an email sequence or a newsletter in my inbox that sparks an idea for a blog, is articulated in a way that resonates with me or teaches me something new. In these instances, I send it straight to Evernote for safekeeping and assign it a specific tag so I can find it when I need it. Here’s how:
- Have Evernote open
- On the top left-hand corner, click on your profile name, and then select “Account Info” (see screen capture provided below)
- On the next screen, select “More Account Settings.” Your default browser will launch.
- Staying on “Account Summary”, scroll down to “Email Notes to”. Send your records to the email address listed here, and it will be sent to your default “inbox” in Evernote
Web Clipper Extension – Forget Bookmarks Forever!
If you’ve ever come across an article online and thought to yourself, “I absolutely must keep this!” then you’ll know that a bookmark alone never quite does the job. Evernote allows you to stash away anything you see online with the added benefit of being able to decide if you want the entire article or a screenshot, being able to name the record, indicate the notebook it should go to, and tag it.
Try It! Install the Web Clipper and Start Clipping
To install the ‘Evernote web clipper’ on your default browser (Note: the following steps uses Chrome):
- Launch your web browser
- Click on “Chrome” on your main menu, then “Preferences”
- Select “Extensions”
- Scroll down until you see the “Get more extensions” link. Click. You will be taken to the Chrome Web Store.
- Search for ‘Evernote web clipper’ and hit “+ Add to Chrome”. Follow this process through.
- The “Quick Start” Evernote page offers a super short video on how it works (or if you prefer, here is a tiny guide found on the Evernote site: Evernote Web Clipper)
Track & Share Information to Add Client Value
As a business owner, you might have struggled to find the most effective way to store and share client-related information. Evernote is a great tool for this. Add notes to capture the information the client needs from you, customize a proposal, or share resources. Add notes from previous conversations, track action items and progress, and make notes on long- and short-term client goals. If we were to go back to the list of standard “folders” online business owners might have, sharing individual client notebooks with the client in question could be a great way to create a shared workspace.
Try It! Create a Shared Notebook for One of Your Clients
To share a particular notebook with a client (or team members):
- Hover your mouse over the notebook you want to share. Click on the share icon. A new sub-menu will open
- “This notebook is available to” = Shared
- Invite your client by keying in his/her email address
- Set the appropriate access rights
- Your notebook should have a red “multiple user” icon on it
Organize Your Financial Stuff
It’s always a headache at tax time to gather all the documents you need. Evernote is the absolute perfect tool to keep copies of your expenditures and receipts well-organized. If you’re a ‘do-it-yourself’ sort of person, you’ll be glad that you kept all your files so organized in Evernote throughout the year. Or, if you work with an accountant, simply share the relevant Evernote notebook(s) and notes to make the process faster (and less painful) for both of you.
Try It! Get Your Receipts into Evernote
If you already have digital copies of your receipts, organize them in Evernote. You could start with a folder for each tax year, or go one step further and organize by quarter or month, tagged by whatever categories of expenses your accountant requires. And all those physical receipts? Take a snapshot of them and throw that on there too. Add notes so that you can easily track and search for any details associated with your receipts.
Evernote offers a ton of extra functionalities that make it useful for all kinds of tasks but it requires a fair level of maintenance and oversight. Much like a physical desk space, Evernote can quickly become a jumbled mess unless you keep things organized and use structured notebooks, links, and tags every.single.time. Do this and you’ll be well on your way to creating a digital file cabinet that enhances productivity, structures your business processes, and saves you tons of time. Have a look at this blog (Harmon Enterprises Blog’s An Expert Answers: “How Do I Organize Evernote?“) if you need a more in-depth look at organizing in Evernote for maximum productivity.
I fully appreciate that Evernote will work for some and not others. Even those of us who do use Evernote will inevitably use it in a way that works for us. I wouldn’t, for example, use it for project management or task tracking (even though it has an inbuilt reminder mechanism). For me, Trello does this best.
My hope is that this post simply offers some new insight and nudges you into trying it out.