When you’re running a small business and multiple people are involved, one of the immediate things you can do to establish yourself as a pro is to have an organized filing system for client projects on your server. After all, when it comes to keeping things tidy, the digital is just as important as the physical.
Establishing a file system to follow right out of the gate will keep you on track as you grow your business and help you avoid dreaded last minute scrambles when a client calls, requesting assets from an ancient project.
Before founding Branch, I spent six years working at close to a dozen studios and agencies and on the first day of each job, if their server was a complete mess, I knew it was a red flag. That’s a bold statement but if a company can’t keep their most basic processes and filing systems together, chances are that they have bigger issues.
At Branch, we started using this folder system right out of the gate and hope you’ll find it helpful for staying organized at your own creative business.
On the top level of our server, there’s a folder called !!_USE_THIS_STRUCTURE. Our project manager, Cathy copies this folder every single time we book a new project and then changes it to the job name. We always start with the job number, then the client’s name and a brief project description. Here’s an example:
We use this system for our projects:
1. Client Questionnaire
Before we begin the design process, we have new clients fill out a questionnaire. This reminds us of what the client is hoping to achieve with their business and how our design solutions can best help them. We like to refer back to it as a reminder as we move along with their project.
Whenever a client sends us feedback, we save it down into a text document and file it in this folder. That way, whoever picks up the project is aware of what the client specifically asked for.
In this folder, we keep fonts that are specific for the project as well as sub-folders of our assets (research, stock images, etc.) and the client’s assets (usually production templates and images they’ve sent us).
This is where we save rounds of work. Each round gets a subfolder inside of here (example: R1, R2 and R3) so we can quickly backtrack and make design updates if they’re referencing multiple rounds on our calls (for example, they loved the branding option of direction 1 in R1 and would like to combine it with direction 1 in R2).
All presentations are saved into this folder. There’s always a working InDesign file for each round as well as a web-ready PDF to send off since almost all of our clients are remote.
6. Sent Files
Once a client has signed off on final concepts, we save all of the final assets we’ve sent them into this folder so if they ever need any changes, we aren’t digging through old rounds of work.
And, that’s it! Hopefully this basic structure has given you an idea of how you can keep your client files tidy. Feel free to add folders and modify naming conventions to come up with a solution that works for you. The overall goal is to use the same exact system every time. And, better yet, explain how your system works for new employees on their first day of work so that they’re not digging through a maze of sub-folders or starting a completely different system of their own! —Shauna