10 Tips On Organizing Your Client Records

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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.

5 thoughts on “10 Tips On Organizing Your Client Records”

  1. Whether you file electronically, use a filing cabinet or even a shoe box make sure you set sometime each week to file everything away.

    I was at a clients office last week who is complaining that their work is getting on top of them and low-and-behold he had 7,000 emails in his Inbox, 4,000 unread going all the way back to 2003!

    No wonder he’s struggling to cope.
    I’m glad I’m not his book keeper!

  2. Thats great article, I recommend guys to do this when their business is in growing level, if you are not doing it now then you will difficult to this with lot of files. Keep a period for files and delete it.Its better to give a copy to your client if possible. Thanks for wonderful tips.

  3. Excellent tips, just wanted to comment on #1, Electronic filing is the way to go, best way to stay green and save space.. Also allows you to have access to records with a click of a button vs. having to dig through papers in file cabinets.

  4. Awesome list. I have sort of a system. I’ve been freelancing for a year now, so its still in the works but its like Organized Chaos….lol.

    Its funny…I’m a complete neat freak on my computer….but anywhere else…not so much.

    My system is fairly simple right now…. All my emails are forward to my gmail account. I have 3 main folders.. Current Clients, Old Clients, and Estimates. I move the emails around according to the status of the account.

    For large clients that seem to generate a LOT of emails I create them there own folders.

    I also have a folder for receipts..so I keep all emails of payments received and invoices sent (I invoice via PayPal)

    on My computer I have a ‘Work’ folder inside each client gets there own folder. At the end of the year I take all clients folder and put them in a folder of the current year… (i.e all work done in 2010, is put in a 2010 folder)

    I use Last Past for all my passwords and form data. I also use Dropbox for sharing of files between clients. I also have found Google Docs to be very useful instead of downloading all word docs and such to my computer.

    Thats my organization system for now…it still needs fine tuning (the emails for sure) but it works for me.

  5. “Use Password Protection And A Dedicated Computer”

    If someone gets their hands on the computer, it would be no problem whatsoever to get the files. I won’t mention how here, but I could do it in 15 minutes or less.

    Encrypt the files.


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