Do you have a cluster of files that you can't seem to sort through to find that one file you know you remember seeing?
Do you have troubles sorting through your email and finding which ones are for current projects?
Lucky for you, I've got a handy guide below to show you how to improve your file organization so you can spend less time on finding files and more time working.
As a previous prepress technician straight out of college, I had the opportunity to learn from a local business how they kept all of their files sorted. This has now influenced the way that I run my business, but I've customized it to my own process.
In DropBox, I have folders that are numbered. The top is my business folder, 2 is Personal, and 3 is Travel.
The primary folder that I work out of is: 1_Just Curious LLC
Within that, there are
- 1_In Progress
- 2_Getting Clients
- 5_New Website
- 8_Finished Project
- 9_Social Media
Files are never thrown into this area, or into the sub folders either. Taking the extra time to give a home to these files creates more time to work on actual projects or the task at hand.
Here is where I house all of the projects that I'm currently working on. I title my client's projects with their corresponding invoice number. I find it really easy to look through QuickBooks and line it up with the project number so I'm not sorting through my finished projects folder trying to find a particular job. Looking back on my files before I started this system makes my head spin because it's a cluster fuck. It takes too much time to sort through the ones that do not have a invoice number.
Example of how I set up my project folders:
Invoice 0100_Business Name
> 5_Final Files
In addition to using the invoice number from QuickBooks as the folder number, I also create a folder in Gmail with that number. All emails from the client that are about the project are tagged in that folder, so if there's ever an issue down the road, everything is easy to find. Organizing my internal files and inbox this way has created a system that allows me to access everything easily, and I'm never wondering "when did they email me? Was it a month ago? 6 months?" Through this method, I am able to align all platforms of my business with one number.
In addition to keeping everything tidy, I don't keep files that didn't get used (unless I want to use that version for my portfolio.) All of your old files? The "V3" ? "V5_Final_1010_rev2"?
Get rid of 'em.
They're taking up space on your computer and if you're not using that file, why even bother keeping it? It's hard to sort through and find the final file with all of those variations in a folder, therefore I keep the ONE file necessary for the project that is the final iteration.
This folder is used for worksheets that I've found, activities that I do regularly to reach out and establish relationships with people that I admire and would want to work with. This also houses ideas that I have for long term goals to work with BIG (sometimes I think unrealistic) clients.
Here is where I keep all of my statements or anything else that I need to keep track of. Housing all of my statements and letters here allows me to access it easily when tax season approaches us.
This has all of my business branding. I've created this folder to house the native files of everything, along with PNG's & JPG of my logo in various colors, social media headers that I use, headshots, contracts, quote templates, etc. The purpose of this folder is for me to be able to search for what I need easily and use it immediately instead of wondering if I have that available. There's nothing worse than having 30 tasks to do one day and then having to take the extra time to make something that should have already been there.
This is sort of self explanatory, but when I created my new website I laid out all of the content to correspond with what I wanted on my website. I created folders for each page, and within that houses folders of content and graphics that I wanted to add.
Resources has all of the brushes, textures, stock photography, mockups, social media logos, templates, etc, that I've bought over the years from various sources. I organize this folder with those labels so that I can sort through which items I need instead of scrolling endlessly for that one file.
Illustrations that I work on personally are kept here. It's easy for me to keep track of them (currently) instead of any other folder.
This is where I transfer all of the projects after they're completed. It makes it easy to have this and the In Progress folder because I drag and drop, and then everything is numbered correctly with the latest project.
This is where I keep all of my templates that I've created for myself, and any posts that are scheduled. Social media is a huge part of being an entrepreneur so having a folder that is dedicated to templates and tips helps me be consistent across all platforms.
I love organizing my files this way because it helps me correspond all parts of my business. This process is for internal files and has made my life so much easier. No more time is spent sorting through files or having a desktop of files that I can never sort through because they're numbered in a way I can't remember.
No, please never, ever, EVER let your desktop get like this.
Creating systems for your business, even systems like this, creates more space for you to create and do what you love. The more time you spend looking at cluttered desktops or variations of one file creates more stress. A system like this is essential to growing any business.
I hope this helps give you ideas on how to streamline your internal process. :)
How do you organize your files?
Do you have any additional questions for me?