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In the past three years that I’ve been self-employed, I’ve learned that being a freelancer can be chaotic; both for your time, schedule and your home office. After watching my productivity suffer working out of my home office, I’ve been on a mission to get organized.
My first step was buying a new desk, chair, and shelves for a more streamline office space. Now I’m working on getting rid of the clutter, filing away my stacks of papers, and creating a better system for my mail, bills, and receipts.
This is where the Neat Company products comes into play. I’ve been using them for the past 3 months, and have since become a Neatologist brand ambassador because I love their systems so much.
(You probably already know that I’m an organization geek and constantly test out new products and services to streamline my work, and run my office more efficiently.)
Here is my honest review of their products and how they’ve helped me regain control of my home office.
Neat Scanner systems
The Neat Company offers 3 different scanners depending on your needs, your equipment, the size of your business, and how tech-savvy you are.
Their digital scanners are designed to help you dig yourself out from under the pile of papers, statements, and tax documents, so you can focus more on the important things that you enjoy (and never forget to pay a bill again).
However, they can be a bit pricey and require a small investment to purchase their system up-front. If you don’t need something quite as robust as a Neat Scanner, consider programs like Evernote, FreshBooks, or iqBoxy. None of which have scanning capabilities for larger documents but you can take a picture with your mobile phone and save the receipts to an app database.
Here are the 3 options available for NeatDesk systems:
1. NeatReceipts (portable scanner)
This digital scanner is the least expensive of the three options, and much more portable. It comes with free desktop software, 1 free month of Neat’s premium cloud service (more on that below), scans images 1 side at a time, and can create expense reports, export data to Excel, QuickBooks and TurboTax.
This device is best for freelancers or solopreneurs who have a very low volume of transactions or documents that need to be scanned, or who need a small portable device to save space. Costs $179.95.
2. NeatDesk (desktop scanner)
This digital scanner is their mid-range option that’s budget-friendly but capable of handling a higher volume of documentation.
Like the NeatReceipts, the NeatDesk comes with free desktop software, 1 free month of Neat’s premium cloud service, and can create expense reports, export data to Excel, QuickBooks, and TurboTax. As an upgrade, it scans 2-sided documents or images at a time, versus just one-side with the NeatReceipts.
This device is best for travelers and business owners on the go, who have a medium volume of transactions or documents that need to be scanned. Costs $399.95.
3. NeatConnect (cloud scanner)
This scanner is their newest and best option for tech-savvy business owners who don’t want the hassle of desktop software.
Like the NeatDesk, it’s capable of handling a higher volume of documentation, comes with free desktop software, 1 free month of Neat’s premium cloud service, and can create expense reports, export data to Excel, QuickBooks, and TurboTax. It also scans 2-sided documents or images at a time, versus just one-side with the NeatReceipts scanner.
You can scan documents directly from the built-in touchscreen, once you’ve set up the wifi connection. There’s no need to download any software, or limit yourself to using one computer to access your library of saved docs. This is their most popular model, and after testing it myself, it does not disappoint. Costs $499.95.
What I like most about the NeatConnect (unlike the NeatDesk or NeatReceipts) is that you don’t need a computer to download any software or save scans. Most of my freelance work is done on my Google Chromebook, so I don’t have capability to download software to it.
The computer is built-in to the NeatConnect system, so you can scan directly from it, and see all of your scans on any computer, mobile device, tablet or laptop. It also comes with a completely free 3-month long trial subscription of NeatCloud.
For these reasons, I chose the NeatConnect scanner to use in my home office, as well as feature it in this review.
How to set up the NeatDesk Scanner
When you receive your Neat Scanner in the mail, it comes in a nice box with a heavy-duty handle. In the event you want to create a mobile office, or end up moving to a new location, you can reuse this box to safely move the Neat system.
What’s included with your Neat Scanner digital organization system:
- The Neat Scanner System you chose to purchase (in this case a NeatConnect)
- Cord adapter for powering on your system
- USB cord for optional connecting
- Getting started user manual, guides and installation CD
Open the box and remove all the plastic coverings and tape. Make sure nothing is broken and that everything is in good working order. Now plug in the adapter to an outlet and push the power button on. Your device should power up, beginning with an on-screen tutorial.
Next, it will prompt you to connect the device to your wifi connection (again, this is only for the NeatConnect scanner, if you have a different model you can connect via the USB cable).
There are 3 different scanner slots; one for documents, a smaller one for receipts, and the smallest one is for cards. Each slot holds up to 15 documents, receipts, or business cards. You also have the option to remove the input tray completely, in order to scan and hold 50 sheets of paper at once.
For larger or smaller documents or papers, you can create a custom scanning size by sliding markers to fit. The back paper tray pulls out to allow for smooth scanning and keeps documents from getting bent or crooked.
Insert the paper or documents face up, and choose the scan settings; like if you want black/white or colored scans, 1 or 2 sided scanning, and then a single or multi-page file.
Next, you’ll choose the destination for the file, outbox, cloud or email. The scan itself takes less than 5 seconds (seriously I counted). Once you’ve finished scanning they will appear in your Neat Inbox, within your NeatCloud account, and can be accessed via any of your devices or computers.
Each Neat scanner comes with a free trial of NeatCloud access!
You can also install the free Neat Mobile app for iPhone or Android. This allows you to scan any receipts, business cards, files, and documents directly into your Neat account while on the go.
NeatCloud subscription plans
As I mentioned, in order to access all of your saved scans from any device, or sync them to your home computer’s software, you have to pay for a monthly subscription plan. This allows you to use NeatCloud on a desktop, mobile device, or online.
Depending on your subscription plan, you can add multiple users to your account, giving them full access to any reports, saved documents, and receipts. This is especially beneficial if you have multiple employees, a bookkeeper, or a VA who needs access to your company’s books.
They offer 3 types of plans:
- Personal (1 user) – Get all the features listed here and is probably the best choice for a home office or solopreneur business. Costs $5.99 a month or $59.88 a year (a savings of $12).
- Premium (2 users) – Get access to the same features, but have unlimited captures, 30 NeatVerify credits and NeatCare (an extended support protection plan). This is a great choice for a small business owner who needs to share their information with a bookkeeper, CPA, assistant, etc. Costs $14.99 a month or $119.88 a year (a savings of $60).
- Business (5 users) – Get access to the same features, but have unlimited captures, 60 NeatVerify credits and NeatCare. This is a great choice for a growing business or company who needs to share their information with multiple departments, or employees. Costs $24.99 a month or $239.88 a year (a savings of $60).
All of the NeatCloud subscriptions come with the capability of exporting transactions to QuickBooks, Excel and TurboTax, which makes this a VERY appealing software solution to have during tax season.
NeatCloud online features
To finish setting up my account (with my name, address, password, etc) I logged into my NeatCloud account online.
Once you’ve signed in online, the first thing you’ll see is My Cabinet which is basically a list of all your folders that contain all the documents you need to save. You can add edit, organize and create subfolders to properly house all your saved scans.
In just a few seconds you can find a specific tax file, cash receipt, report, or even a recipe you’ve scanned, by doing a quick search. This is especially helpful if you have lots of stored documents to sift through.
Search and sort through your folders with the Filters function, which makes it easy to find various documents.
Create expense reports and summaries of all your saved documents, from contents with individual or group folders. All of which can be shared with an accountant or bookkeeper.
Send receipts on the go
From your NeatCloud email address you can import receipts and save them for expense reports. Simply take a picture with your smartphone and forward the email to your personal Neat address (for example mine is my firstname.lastname@example.org). After a few minutes the receipts and images will appear in your Neat Inbox (only PDF, HTML, JPG, JPEG, BMP, PNG, TIF and TIFF formats are accepted).
Connect to QuickBooks Online
If you use QuickBooks Online you can access it by signing into Neat with your Intuit login details. Send expense reports as bills or checks to your QB online account for seamless accounting. Use your Neat email address to send receipts for credit card transactions, cash exchanges and other records. You can even send invoices to your QB account as bills to be paid.
What would make Neat Scanners better?
For the most part I have no complaints about my NeatConnect, other than the price tag and monthly cloud subscription. Although, for my needs and my sanity of having an organized office, the price is worth it. This is something you can test out yourself (since they offer a free trial) and see if it’s worth it for your small biz.
The process to scan and save documents is SUPER easy. The only thing is that you have to categorize and file each scanned doc or receipt once it’s in your NeatCloud account. Otherwise it’s impossible to figure out which documents are available.
Having something like a thumbnail image would be nice, or a way to write a quick title before scanning. Of course this problem is remedied if you set up a weekly organization session, or have a VA who can categorize the docs for you.
Another thing to realize about the NeatConnect is that it’s all completely done via wifi, so if there’s no internet connection you can’t sync and save docs to your account. However, you can download it to your desktop and use it offline.