A Green Office: How I Ran My Business Without a Printer for a Year

A sheet of labels got stuck in my HP All-in-One LaserJet printer and I tried pulling it out. I got it, but I destroyed the sensor that lets the printer know I have a cartridge. After finding out it was almost as cheap to buy a new printer as to fix the old one, I threw up my hands.

I considered buying another printer but I realized how rarely I printed anything. It dawned on me to try doing without one. Here’s how I managed without a printer for a year.

  • Documents I need to sign. My clients either send training agreements as a Word document or a PDF. Word Documents: When the agreement is in Word, I pop in my signature from AutoText, save a softcopy, and email it back. I had already scanned in my written signature and saved it as a graphic. In Word, I saved it in AutoText (display the graphic on a page, select it, click Insert, AutoText, New, give the entry a name. Every time I need to sign a document, I click where I want the signature to go, type in the name of the AutoText entry, and press F3.) PDFs: When the agreement is in a PDF, I have a Custom Stamp with this same signature graphic and insert it as needed.

UPDATE: Here’s a video I recorded on how to do this. It’s part of my new series for Suite Minute TV: tips that will save minutes or hours every day for people who don’t have a second to spare.

  • QuickBooks invoices for clients. I used to print my client invoices (created in QuickBooks) and fax them along with all the receipts. Without a printer, I create a PDF of the invoice, scan all the receipts and attach them to the PDF and email everything. (Since I lost my scanner when I lost my all-in-one LaserJet, I either asked every establishment for an extra receipt, or I scanned all receipts with either my business card scanner (Executive CardScan) or my NeatReceipts(TM) scanner.I use the CardScan when I have one or two small receipts. I use the NeatReceipts units when I have several by taping as many receipts as possible onto one sheet of paper and then scanning.)
  • Shipping labels for packages and envelopes.For shipping, I either handwrite whatever I need, but most times I print everything with my Dymo LabelWriter(TM) Twin Turbo that doesn’t require ink cartridges.
  • Documents I absolutely had to print. On very, very rare occasions when I needed a printed document, I saved it on a Flash drive as a PDF and either printed it at a friend’s office up the street (on my way out), or I’d wait until I got to my hotel and printed it at their business center. This was never an inconvenience. My friend didn’t mind because every time I stopped by there he had a list of computer questions to ask me.
  • Outlook Calendar details to use on travel. I put all the details of my trip in the text area of a calendar appointment. All of this information gets synched to my PDA, but I like having it on paper in case the PDA locks up and it’s inconvenient to boot up my laptop. When I had a printer, I printed all this. Without the printer, I had to handwrite notes with the main information I’d need (flight and hotel info, host phone, etc.).
  • Documents I had to mail but wanted to keep a copy. When I needed to keep a copy of a document I needed to mail (e.g., a rebate form), I simply scanned it (with the Neat Receipts scanner).

After a year, I discovered I was doing just fine without a printer. Then I purchased a new desktop computer that came with one. It’s an HP Color Deskjet and does everything but fax. It’s nice knowing the printer is here if I need it, but you can go broke buying ink. It’s been two weeks and I’ve used it once (to copy a receipt for a rebate) because, as usual, I have no intention of printing anything unless I absolutely have to.

So rethink how you use your printer and let me know if you have any success with not using it.


Peggy Duncan, Time Management Expert