Implementing, Maintaining and Tweaking an Organized Archival System

on February 18, 2010 in Productivity & Organization
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All business owners can suffer through disorganized files and lacking archives, but freelance writers seem to create more papers / files / electronic documents than some would imagine possible.  It's the general nature of the work. Writers tend to keep and research a lot of things. A solid archival system of frequently backed up files is essential for any freelance writing business owner for the peace of mind and stress relief alone of knowing everything is safe, secure and where it needs to be.

No two freelance writers present the same files. Each unique specialty and client base as well leads to different situations and files. To begin to establish an archival system, you'll need to look at the files you currently have – and how you have them—paper or digital.

Paper-based, Digital or Both?

You have to create the right archives for your business. Paper-based and digital backups are equally capable of creating and maintaining useful archives of your file system. Paper-based backups can take up a lot of physical space and cost a bit in toner, ink and paper but a digital backup could also cost a lot in services or external hard drives. Digital also faces the possibility of software or hardware failure. Choose the option that most complements your workflow, or some combination of paper-based and digital, and take necessary safety precautions while ensuring your most effective system. Pay attention to what you need to file and archive and the option / combination should be clear as to which will be most effective.

Choosing Storage Solutions

The actual storage solutions of your archive will vary, but here are some options:

If paper-based:

  • file folders
  • file jackets
  • binders

and

  • filing cabinets
  • expanding files
  • filing boxes

If digital:

  • word processor documents
  • .pdf files

and

  • external hard drives
  • DVDs or CDs
  • flash / USB drives
  • online backup services such as Carbonite and Mozy

When you've decided your ideal paper-based and / or digital backup allocation, you need to plan for the implementation, maintenance and tweaking of your archival system. I'll discuss the process here, but you'll find three free printable checklists at the end of this blog post.

Creating an Archive Implementation Plan

Determine how you'll implement your archival system by seeing where your files currently reside, setting a goal for where they need to be and determining the steps in between. This could mean researching products and services such as archival quality binders or backup services such as Carbonite. It also means determining any administrative time you need to schedule for the actual implementation of your archival system—or time during which you brief your assistant to take care of your archives.

How to Maintain Your Archives

With an implementation strategy nailed down, you'll need to figure out how you'll maintain your archives. A weekly maintenance schedule will prove most effective so that you aren't touching your archives so often they become your active project reference, but frequently enough that they stay up-to-date. With some electronic services, this will be mostly automated, but even so you'll need to sort and organize files. Keep more folders, binders or jackets and whatever storage solutions you choose available to create new files as necessary during your weekly maintenance.

Tweaking Your Archives for Maximum Efficiency

Regularly tweaking your archives is necessary to keep your system effective and to give you benchmarks for evaluation and updates. Whether overhauling the entire archival system or just adding a few new tricks and tactics, a monthly tweak of your archives is necessary to keep the archive effective and useful.

With a few simple steps, you can implement and maintain an organized, backed up archive. The final question becomes: how do you organize these files?

How to Actually Organize Your Archival System

I can say with great certainty I've tried just about every method of organizing a freelance writer's files, and nothing works better than sticking to one single alphabetical (A to Z) folder system with a few specialized folders (like one Drafts section for special reference). A general A to Z reference makes filing and retrieving files quick and simple. Just great a folder within the A to Z system with the main topic under its alphabetical category and file.

Checklist Freebies

To make each of these processes simpler, I've created some free .pdf checklists for Jenn's All Freelance Writing users to use for free.

  • Implementation Plan
  • Maintenance Plan
  • Tweaking Your Archives

What do your archives and backups look like? What horrendous things have resulted when you didn't backup? Before I had a good backup system I lost all of my business files not once, not twice, not even thrice but … whatever the word is for four times.

Thanks for sharing!
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