For a small business to be successful, it must be highly organized in every facet of operations. That includes having an organized filing system so that any files and folders you need can be accessed quickly. To help you on your way, here are five file organization tips every small business should follow.
There are three primary ways of structuring your file system. You can group files by project, by client, or by date. You can also use a combination of all three methods. For instance, if you group files by project types in one folder, you can further group those files into specific clients. Or you could create a main folder for invoices that contains other folders that are named as dates, such as “2019,” “2020,” and “2021.” When it comes to folders under the client heading, you can include folders within the main folder that are named things like “correspondence,” and “customer data.” You also need to ensure every file you have is contained in a folder, rather than having some orphan files left over. Choose the folder method that best suits your small business workflow, and make sure you stick to that method.
Things can get complicated if you use a variety of file formats. For example, if you have some files saved as Word documents and others saved as PDFs, it can make it difficult for colleagues to open and edit the specific files. While PDF is the ideal format for files with the formatting you want to maintain, Word files can be edited more easily. But you could save some file types as PDFs and others in formats like Word, so that your invoices are in PDF, for instance, and your client files are in Word. The key thing is to remain consistent. Thankfully, whatever file format you choose, it is easy to convert any files you have that are not currently in your desired format. You can convert and edit PDF with word easily by using a free online conversion tool.
When it comes to naming your files, use simple and plain language. If you name a file something like “RJT,” you may not remember what the abbreviation stands for when you come to access the file later on. If you have colleagues using your files as well, they need to know precisely what each file contains. Opening a bunch of files with names you do not recognize can take up a lot of time and energy, so ensure you name each file appropriately, such as using a client name or project name. It is also helpful to include dates in the file names as well. The specific naming is up to you, but your goal should be to name files so you know exactly what each one contains just by looking at the name.
Do not be hasty when naming files, thinking you can group them together and name them correctly, later on, otherwise you will end up wasting a lot of time and getting stressed when it comes to locating the files you need. You should name a file correctly as soon as you create it. Get into the habit of saving your files under the right name and in the right folder from the get-go.
Finally, you should always back up your files. Losing important data can cause a mountain of headaches for small business owners, so it is vital you set up and follow a regular routine for backing up your files, either with a hard drive or in the cloud.
John Pearson is a serial entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping small businesses launch and grow. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.