To be honest, I was a little hesitant when Will, ContextSmith’s founder and one of my all-time favorite clients, asked me to write this article. Being a freelance writer who works with multiple companies at the same time – sometimes in multiple continents – things can get messy to say the least. It gets worse especially when I send all the documents via email attachments, where there are numerous back-and-forth and revisions nested in email threads. Searching my inbox rarely works, because subject names don’t match the attachments I’m looking for.
Since my occupation requires me to be hyper-organized, I started all types of processes to stay organized, saving folders to unique filenames in my computer. But then I discovered something that helps me stay super organized in my business without even noticing it, thanks to ContextSmith’s nifty Chrome extension. Today I will share tips and tricks on how I stay organized, and what else you could do more to increase productivity.
How I Organize 6+ Years of Client Documents from 5 Continents
If you’ve ever ran a company, you know that clients are the heart of any business, but there’s so much more work beyond what you do directly for them. There’s the marketing, finances, revenue goals, research, business development to turn your long term goals into reality… and the list goes on.
I currently have over 20 business-related folders, each opening a world of sub-folders, dreams, research, strategies, and other exciting work.
But today, I want to concentrate on how I organize my email attachments, and the time I could be saving if I have used Will’s Gmail extension.
1) Create a Folder for Each Client
Under the general “Client Work” folder, I have a long list of folders, one per client. Sometimes I also divide up the client work by the type of work.
2) Differentiate Multiple Projects for Repeat Clients by Creating Sub-Folders
If you’ve been reading our blog here at ContextSmith, you know how important it is to retain your clients if you want to reach higher revenue levels. But how do you stay organized when that happens?
Personally, I create a sub-folder for each project.
For example, if you buy a blogging package from me, I’ll create a sub-folder under your name that’s dedicated just for this package. Then, I’ll create a sub-sub-folder for each article.
Say my customers loved my work and they want case studies too? I’ll create a folder under their name that’s all about case studies – since that’s a different project – and sub-sub-folders for each of the case studies. In each case study folder, I’ll save all the research and interview documents related to that specific case study – including pre-interviews I conduct with your team before the actual interviews with the end client – so I can easily access them when developing and editing the final piece.
3) Stay Organized to Make Sure You Get Paid
Something else I do under each main client folder is create a sub-folder for contracts and invoices. This way, it’s easy for me to reference any administrative/financial needs that might come up during work with a client.
This is especially important for repeat clients, who could be getting multiple contracts and invoices from you… and/or for clients who don’t pay.
While I’ve been fortunate enough to have mostly a-mazing clients (like Will and his team here at ContextSmith), there have been occasions when I’ve had to remind a client to pay or remind a client of the contract terms, and when that happens, it’s bad enough as it is to experience it, that you don’t need the added pressure of not knowing where you saved the relevant documents.
Or, You Know, You Can Just Automate this Process with One Click
I created this system over 6 years ago, when I started my business, and developed it as I went, so it works for me in my own offline database.
But then you have those times, when you’re trying to find a document you sent to a specific person at a specific time, or one they sent you, and it gets complicated. You start searching for the person’s name in your inbox and scrolling through who-knows-how-many email exchanges you guys have had. If you’ve ever had to do it, you know it can easily get overwhelmingly time consuming. You tell yourself it’ll only take a moment, and find yourself still searching 10 minutes later, frustrated that you just accidentally closed the right tab you finally found.
That’s why I was really excited when Will said ContextSmith was upgrading its Chrome extension to make all this automatic. If you use Gmail, all you have to do when you have this extension is to hover over a person’s email address, and you’ll instantly see all the documents you’ve sent this person and all the documents this person has sent you, including the date when each document was sent and who else was CCed in the email, so you can easily and really quickly find what you’re looking for.
I highly recommend you give it a shot. It’ll leave you with just enough time to get your work done and start checking off items off that ever-growing to-do list.