The cornerstone of any successful business is organization, so it’s important to have a handle on all your documents. Keeping track of client records can be bothersome or difficult, but ultimately it’ll help you become more efficient and effective. Here are 10 tips for making sure you keep your client records organized.
1. Hardcopy Or Electronic Files?
Decide whether you want to keep hardcopy files, electronic files, or both. Your decision should take into account how much room you have available. While electronic files take up virtually zero space, they need to be backed up often in case of computer failure or data corruption. Though hardcopy files take up much more room, they can be more reliable.
2. Use Password Protection And A Dedicated Computer, If Possible
If you’ll be keeping your filing system on a computer, use the password protection that your operating system offers, especially if the files contain any kind of personal information. If possible, keep a separate computer or laptop for business purposes. Small, inexpensive laptops without a lot of bells and whistles are great for dedicating to small business filing and other records.
3. Use Good Quality Secure Storage For Hardcopy
Will you need a secure area for files containing confidential information? Personal and sensitive information may need a locked cabinet or safe to protect it from prying eyes. Investing in excellent quality locking storage could be good for your business in the long run. If you intend to keep hardcopy files, buy a filing cabinet. While cardboard boxes or stacks of folders on your desk are an easy solution, they aren’t feasible for the long term. A small, locking, two or three drawer filing cabinet is inexpensive and appropriate for any business just starting out.
4. Use A Master Index
A master index is a convenient way to locate files, especially when you have a large number of clients. Entries in your master index (which can be a computer file or a simple card file or rolodex) should contain non-confidential information to identify the client, such as name, address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.
5. Try Using A Code System
Labeling file folders and entries in your master index with corresponding identification codes can also be useful. For example, you could use the client’s name and the date of your first job with them in an alpha-numeric combination. For example, if John Smith hired you for the first time on March 22, 2010, your code for his file might be JSM-32210. Your own personally-created codes will have a quick interpretation to you when you need to go right to a file.
6. Utilizing Notes Can Be Helpful
Make notes on your files. Making personal notes about clients will help you to remember individuals and their needs more quickly, rather than skimming through many pages of an entire file for the small piece of information you’re looking for.
7. Try An Online Tool
Online tools can be handy for filing, and with many programs now available, information is backed up for you automatically. If you choose an online tool, be sure and vet it first. Ask around about security, confidentiality, and reliability. If you have doubts or find too many bad reviews, steer clear and look for a highly-rated filing tool. It is also worth remembering that online files are not as secure as those in your personal computer or filing cabinet.
8. Take Time To Organize
Take time to work on your files. Unless you have everything on a computer or online, your filing system is not going to automatically organize itself. Don’t let paperwork build up on your desk. While ‘organized chaos’ is amusing in theory, walking in on a desk covered in stacks of paper does not inspire confidence in a customer. Don’t put off filing until you’re drowning in paperwork. Just a few minutes at the end of each day or a half hour once a week is sufficient to get files squared away.
9. Destroy Old Documents
Be sure to shred old and defunct files; never toss them into the trash whole. Stealing unshredded paperwork that contains personal information is one of the top methods for identity theft. Invest in a shredder. Small, personal shredders that destroy discs and heavier materials as well as paper are convenient, inexpensive, and constantly useful. Some office supply stores offer a shredding service to dispose of your sensitive documents.
10. Get Someone To Help
If you feel that you can’t handle your filing, it might be worth your sanity to hire someone to do it for you. Businesses that are just getting up and running don’t have a lot of petty cash, but you don’t need someone on the payroll full-time. Ask a friend or family member who has experience with filing to give you some help for a little extra money.