Table of Contents Hide
- Switch to Digital File Management with Clustdoc
- Be Smart When It Comes to Folder Structures
- Think About Folder/File Naming Conventions
- Remove Unnecessary Client Files Periodically
- Simple & Consistent Crushes Elaborate & Shiny
Here’s a shocker…
Across all industries, professionals and employees waste time every day searching for and managing client files and documentation.
How much time, you ask?
A boatload. A ton. Oodles and oodles of time.
According to a McKinsey report, people lose 19% of their workweek looking for that one piece of information they need to do their job right. That’s the equivalent of showing up to work five days a week and then simply twiddling your thumbs for eight hours every Friday.
And you do that, too.
When was the last time you had your client files organized so well that you were able to locate a specific document in less than five minutes? It’s been a while, right?
All of us, looking for that one client doc in Dropbox.
Every minute you spend searching for client files is a minute you’re not doing actual, meaningful work.
That’s why, in today’s post, I’ll talk about how to organize client/project files efficiently. These five tips will help you reclaim your time, so that you’re actually working instead of rummaging for files around your hard disks, Google Drive, or file cabinets.
Let’s dig in.
Switch to Digital File Management with Clustdoc
Talking about file cabinets…
Do you still use those?
Did you know that a typical filing cabinet takes up three square meters of space and costs $1,500 per year to maintain? And that’s on top of paper and ink use…
That’s a lot of moolah…
That’s why the future of document organization is digital.
We talk about it a lot in our post on paperless offices (link below).
The main point is the following: taking your file management online saves you time and money, helps you get organized, and impresses your clients.
Recommended reading: 5 Steps You Need to Follow to Go Paper-Free in 2021
And yes, Google Drive and Dropbox are all great options… but you know what’s better?
A dedicated client file management software. That’s how you not only organize your client files but also optimize business processes.
And Clustdoc can help there.
Clustdoc packs a ton of features that make it easy to collect, locate and retrieve client documents:
- You can request, collect, review and share documents with clients
Forget about email… you can use Clustdoc to share all your documents, request additional documents, and ask for electronic signatures. Say goodbye to multiple versions of a single document and save time.
- Forget about file reconciliation and renaming
When you use Clustdoc to collect and manage client documents, the files that are submitted by your stakeholders are automatically renamed and neatly organized in your account.
- Documents live in a super safe, organized cloud
Group and organize files per client, ensuring that all the documentation that you collect during a client’s lifetime is always 100% safe and available on your Cloud storage.
- Import/export documents whenever needed
Clustdoc easily integrates with a ton of other software, making it to import them from your sales software, and retrieve them on your favorite tools. It’s the easiest way to have everything in one place.
Organizing client and project files doesn’t have to be a torturous, manual task. With the right software such as Clustdoc, you can automate a lot of it while achieving great accuracy — and actually knowing where everything is at all times.
Be Smart When It Comes to Folder Structures
When managing clients and project files every day, you’ll need to follow a basic folder structure that will help you not to get lost in a virtual maze.
Here’s how your potential folder structure could look like if diagrammed:
People who get a kick out of diagramming save a ton of time because all their client files are super organised. Who knew, right?
And here’s how you could break this down further:
- Top-level folder domain
You can organize this by year, client, project, or any other way you want. The idea is to keep it consistent across the board so that you know where to go when you’re looking for a specific type of document.
- Subfolder domain
Again, several folder types that you can use here — month, campaign type, or something else.
- Individual files
Here’s where you put individual documents — written docs, spreadsheets, images, workflows, and similar.
If you really want to get all nitty-gritty about organizing your client files, there are several tried and tested structures that you can use.
- Data-based client file organization — basically, you have one folder for the year, and then have months as your subfolders. This structure makes it easy to find period-specific files, but it’s not so good when you have a lot of similar files for different clients in the same period. For example, ten sales reports for ten different clients in January.
Client-based file organization — a great file structure for when you’re dealing with multiple clients (and also the most intuitive one).
It can get messy if you have a lot of similar files, but this is where you pay attention to subfolders and naming conventions (more on that in the next point).
- Status-based file organization — if you and your team work predominantly on active cases, it pays off to implement a status-based system. That means that you work with many different folders that can be named “Active”, “Deadline”, “Postponed”, “Archive”, and similar. These folders can then contain subfolders for each client or for specific periods. The biggest benefit here is that you know where all the files that you currently need are located. The drawback is that, if you need to dig something up a year from now, I can be almost impossible to find.
- File-type-base document organization — a simple organizational structure where you group documents based on their type (marketing, sales, support, onboarding, and similar). Great for organizing a small business with no ongoing clients (a hell to work with in large organizations or when you have a lot of clients).
After a bit of experimenting, you’ll settle into one filing system that works best for you. Make sure you’re consistent about it so everyone in your organization has a chance to get used to it.
Think About Folder/File Naming Conventions
File-naming convention is a framework that you design to name files in a way that is accurate, consistent, and descriptive.
Why is working with a framework important?
It’s important because you don’t want every person in your organization to work with their own system. When that happens, as soon as one person is gone, no one else can make any sense of their organizational system.
Here are a few options that you can use:
➤Year & month (e.g. “January 2021”) ➤ Client name (e.g. “Clustdoc”) ➤ Type of project (e.g. “marketing”, “design”, “sales”) ➤ Part of project (e.g. “logo design”, “copy wireframes”, “FB ad copy”) ➤ File type (e.g. “outline”, “draft”, “final version”)
My best tip here is to make sure that your individual file names contain the name of the client and the date. That way, you can easily pull them up in search if you’re not 100% sure where to find them.
Remove Unnecessary Client Files Periodically
Do your best to run a clean operation.
Whether you’re a one-man-band or a team, make sure that you’re not drowning in unnecessary client files that keep on mounting as the time goes by.
The best way to do this is to perform a periodic sweep. Let’s say, once a month — where you delete all the files you no longer need, duplicate versions of the same file, or files associated with past clients.
I see two main reasons for this:
- You’ll save cloud space — your client management solution will usually give you limited storage space. If you’re a large business with a lot of clients (a marketing agency, for example), you’ll need to clean things out regularly or pay extra for more storage.
- You’ll navigate your files more easily — if you clean out the file junk while you still know what’s what, you’ll be left with only the important files. So if you’re looking for a specific file that was generated two years ago, you won’t end up with ten different versions.
(If you don’t want to delete files permanently, at least move them to a different location. You can buy a hard drive where you’ll dump all your outdated files to keep as a backup).
Simple & Consistent Crushes Elaborate & Shiny
I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice…
Your organizational system serves one purpose, and one purpose alone: to make it easier for you to find the files that you need at the drop of a hat.
So while it might be tempting to go really bananas when it comes to organizing your client files, refrain from doing that. You can spend days going down that rabbit hole, tweaking stuff left and right, until you’re the only one in your organization who knows who to use the damn thing.
Instead of being flashy and elaborate, make sure your file management system ticks two boxes:
- It’s simple and easy to use — it has a natural flow; all the folders and files are named descriptively, and it’s pruned and kept up-to-date regularly.
- It’s consistent across the board — you’re not mixing and matching different organizational styles
And that’s it.
Follow these five tips and you’ll start to efficiently organize your client files — no more time-wasting, no more frustration, and no more looking unprofessional in front of clients.
For that extra boost, make sure to give Clustdoc a spin.