New #WorkSmarter Series – Organizing Your Business Files
- Many people are out of the office at this time. This allows for frequent opportunities to get work done. I always made a point to be in the office for at least 1-2 days when most people were out so I could clean my files and complete end-of-the-year work. If you’ve never done this, try it. It’s amazing what you can accomplish.
- Going into the New Year with an organized workspace primes you for success. If you spend the first days of January getting organized, you can quickly feel like you’re already behind. Not fun. Get organized in December and you’ll walk into the office on January 2nd ready for action.
This week, we’re going to look at file types—what you need and how to group them. Then, over the month of December we’ll look specifically at how to organize your file cabinets and your computer.
File Organizing for Business
If your filing system is working well, you should be able to find any document – electronic or paper – in under two minutes. The key to success is keeping your system simple and intuitive.Can you find any document in under 2 minutes? Tips for Organizing Your Business Files… Click To Tweet
Tip #1 – Separate Your Files. Business and personal files must be separate. If you have a lot of files, this may mean having different file cabinets. If you have a few files, you may only need separate drawers. For those of you who work from home, co-mingling business and personal files has tax ramifications. Talk to your accountant about how much separation needs to occur for your situation.
Tip # 2 – Group Files by Category – Files for business usually fall into four categories: Banking/Finance, Client, Project, and General. Group these together on your computer and in your filing cabinet for easy retrieval. Tips for each are listed below.
- Banking/Finance Files – This category is for business owners. If you’re keeping things simple, here are the main file types needed:
- Bank Statements – Have a separate folder for each account (checking, savings, credit card, loan)
- Receipts – Within this file, you’ll want three folders: 1) Receipts to be Entered, 2) Expenses, and 3) Deposits. Unless your accountant tells you otherwise, that’s all you need. Once a receipt is entered into your accounting system, it is filed in the Expenses or Deposits folder. Then, when you need documents for your taxes, everything is ready to go.
- Donations – If you make a donation from your business, be sure to get a receipt. Most of us think about this when making a cash donation. However, in-kind donations such as equipment or gift certificates of your services for charity auctions also count as tax deductions. Request a receipt from the charity when you donate and be able to show how you determined the value of these items.
- Completed Taxes –File these together by year. If you need to reference them, they’ll be easy to find.
- Client Files – Group your client files alphabetically by the person’s name or the company. If you have a lot of clients you may want to have a section for Active Clients and another for Past Clients.
- Project Files – Project files can be ordered by the project name or the date the work was completed. (Examples: Editor Database or Spring 2015 Easter Campaign). Whatever naming system you use, be consistent. And again, if you have a lot of projects, you may want separate sections for Current Projects and Completed Projects.
- Combination Client/Project Files – If you do multiple projects for your clients, create a folder for each client. Within that file have a Primary File for meeting notes, idea collection, contacts, etc. Then, create separate folders for each project your client requests.
- General Files – This category can be tricky because it includes everything else. However, if you’ve covered all you can in your Finance, Client, and Project files, the overflow will be small. Typically, the files in this category include items such as
- Competition Research
- Equipment Manuals/Documentation
- Marketing Ideas
- New Product Ideas
- Website Materials
Tip #3 Know the Needs Unique to Your Profession – I frequently work with writers, speakers, and small business owners. Each of these professionals use the file groups listed above. However, they also need files unique to what they do. Here are examples of General Files for specific professions:
- Speakers – General Files could include bios, head shots, speaking topics, one-sheets, one-sheet samples, handouts, class outlines, and social media ideas.
- Writers – General Files could include books in process, story ideas, articles*, bios, head shots, speaking topics, one-sheets (for your books), and social media ideas.
* For an in-depth look at how to track article submissions view the post Tracking Your Writing Submissions on AlmostAnAuthor.com.
Making It Work – Think about how your files are organized. Can you find anything in under two minutes? If not, consider the tips discussed today and begin grouping your files by the categories listed. Next week we’ll look at specific ways to apply these tips to organizing your paper documents.