Most freelance writers – regardless of the type of freelancing they do – work almost exclusively online. While you might send manuscript queries by postal mail or print out important documents for your records, the majority of your work is kept on your computer, which can present some organizational distress.
When I first started my freelance writing career, I saved most of my work to the same folder on my computer – My Documents. That is usually the default folder for Microsoft Office documents as well as some of the other applications you use on a regular basis. But if everything you write (or read!) gets automatically saved to My Documents, you’re going to end up wasting a lot of time searching for the things you need.
Organize Your Computer Files: Create a List of Folders
I keep most of my main folders on my desktop so that I can find them quickly, but you can avoid cluttering your desktop (if that bothers you) by storing them in your My Documents section. Label each file clearly (don’t worry if they are broad) so that you know exactly what they contain. Some examples might include:
–Website (if you have one)
You can create as many folders as you like, but remember that you can always create sub-folders to include extra documents under a broader file name.
Organize Your Computer Files:Use Sub-Folders
Under each of your main folder names, you might need to include sub-folders. For example, if you have a main folder labeled Clients, then you might want to have separate sub-folders for each individual clients. This is entirely up to you, but remember: The more detailed, the better. I list all of my clients’ sub-folders with their last name first, followed by their first name to make it easier.
Organize Your Computer Files: Your WIP Folder
You might also want to have a separate folder labeled WIP for Works in Progress. When you are working on a project, you can keep it in your WIP folder until it is completed. This allows you to have all of your works-in-progress in one place so you aren’t searching all over your computer for the things you need. In the WIP folder, keep every file pertinent to your current project(s).
Organize Your Computer Files: Use Consistent File Names
Although you don’t have to use a specific file-naming system, it should be consistent with all the others on your computer. For example, if you are working on a manuscript, you might want to label all of the files Name – D1 for the name of the manuscript and the draft number. This keeps you from creating unnecessary files and from getting confused while you work.
Organize Your Computer Files: Print & Delete
Since freelance writers aren’t protected by a “parent company” and don’t usually keep attorneys on retainer, it is important for you to protect yourself. This means saving every scrap of paper that crosses your desk or computer for at least a year, including e-mails. However, saving all of those documents can easily clutter up your computer, making files difficult to find and even slowing down your system.
To guard against this, take time at the end of each month to go through all of your files and to delete all extraneous documents. But before you delete, print those documents and file them in your filing cabinet. Should you ever need those documents again, you can find them, but they aren’t inhibiting your computer file organization.
Most people concentrate on the organization of hard-copy files – you know, those hanging folders in your filing cabinet – but your computer file organization is just as important.