In many ways, organizing e-files will be similar to organizing paper files. There are also some very important differences in organizing your e-files that don’t apply to paper files.
As with paper, first establish broad categories
, and then determine specific details.
To facilitate retrieval of information in the future, create a consistent naming scheme.
Start by taking a good look at your current file system. Determine if there exists a consistent method to store information. Are things easy to find, are there unnecessary duplicates, or are items stored in more than one place? How much time is spent searching for things? If more than a couple of minutes it’s time to re-organize.
Below is a sample system to get started. Businesses may need more or fewer than what is provided here. A well-functioning file system needs to be customized to individual business needs.
Start with main categories such as Articles & Information, Clients- Archive, Clients-Current, Clients-Future, Financials, Insurance, Legal, Marketing, Vendors, and Presentations.
Then continue by adding specific subfolders under each main category.
Under Articles & Information, potential subfolders can include Business Practices, Legal, Marketing, Personnel, Security & Safety, Software, Storage Options, Systems, and Tech. This is where to store articles and information about these topics.
Create one subfolder for each client with whom you no longer work, and place it under Clients-Archive.
Create one subfolder for each current client, and place it under Clients-Current.
Create one subfolder for each potential, future client, and place it in the Clients-Future file.
Financials subfolders include Earnings, Expenses, and other financials that apply to your work.
Insurance subfolders include a subfolder for each type of business insurance currently in force.
Legal subfolders include executed Client Agreements & other contracts, information on the DBA or EIN, and any dispute items you might have. I also use a subfolder titled LLC, NDA, and W-9.
Marketing subfolders can include design work for logos & headshots, interviews that you’ve given for marketing purposes, Social Media items & Resumes & Reference Letters written on your behalf.
Vendor subfolders include one for each vendor with whom you do business.
Finally, for subfolders in the Presentations folder, I suggest one for each presentation you’ve given, containing all of the materials for that presentation.
When possible, the naming convention should be consistent among all e-files. An example is [Topic] [Subtopic] [Date (in the format YYYY MM DD)]. Because of the availability of search tools, e-naming conventions should be as clear and consistent as possible. That way, if a file goes ‘missing’ it is easier to find in a shorter amount of time.
Because they tend to disappear, and because they are not right in front of our eyes, it may not seem as important to organize e-files. But a good e-file system is critical to reducing lost time spent looking for items, even if the item is searchable.
Need help organizing your e-files? Contact Lisa today to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.