If you think back to your first days as a service provider, you can probably remember the beauty of being able to pull up a client file at the drop of a hat. Organization was easier when you had less to organize! But as your business grows (no matter what phase you’re currently in), you’ll definitely need to develop some file naming conventions.
Sticking to a system when you name your files can save you valuable time and reduce stress during your work day. If you haven’t already adopted a specific system of file naming conventions, here’s what you need to know.
What Are File Naming Conventions?
File naming conventions are basically a set of rules to follow when naming your files. It may seem like overkill in the beginning of your business venture as a service provider, but is absolutely necessary in the long run!
Your file naming conventions might be unique to your niche. At the same time, they should be obvious enough that anyone can interpret them.
Why Are File Naming Conventions Important?
Like all important things in life, you have to take care of your business files. While file naming conventions aren’t the most exciting thing to focus on in your business, they are worth the time and effort to get right.
Here’s a look at the perks of a good filing system.
They Keep Your Business Organized
Organization can mean the difference between your success or failure as a service provider. You likely have (or aspire to have) multiple clients depending on you. It’s necessary to know where all of your important files exist so that you can work quickly and efficiently!
Bear in mind that working behind a computer is deceptive. It may seem like you’re in control since all of your business property is contained by the screen. But in all actuality, you’re growing a small library of files inside that require your attention.
You Can Keep Track of Multiple Versions of the Same File
Whether you’re an ops director, a graphic designer, or a digital marketer, you may find yourself sending multiple drafts of the same file to your clients. Having file naming conventions in place guarantees that your versions don’t get confused and can be easily recalled in the future.
Pro Tip: when you accomplish the final draft of something that you’re working on, be sure to include ‘final’ somewhere in your file name!
It’s Much Easier to Search For Specific Files
Using file naming conventions is like creating a map for yourself. It ensures that you know exactly where to go for the things you need.
When you’re searching for a specific file, you don’t want every name arrangement under the sun to be an option. (Did I name it smith_images, pics_for_jim, or img.09008?) A clear, concise formula for naming will save you a whole lot of headache.
5 Tips for Implementing File Naming Conventions in Your Business
If you’re bought into the idea of file naming conventions (and trust us…you should be!) then these five tips are for you. Consider each of these points as you approach the framework for your filing system.
Keep File Names Short But Descriptive
Yes, include key details in your file naming conventions. But don’t overdo it! You don’t want your file names to be as long as their content.
Things to consider putting into your file names include:
- Client name
- File type
- Version number
- Date completed
In the end, you want to be able to tell what’s inside of each of your client files at a glance. Making file titles too lengthy can make them hard to decipher… plus it’s harsh on the eyes.
Use Year-Month-Day Formatting for Dates
Year-month-day is a classic format for file naming conventions. You’ll want to pick one system and stick to it, and we recommend keeping years four digits and months and days two. For example, you’d write Valentine’s Day in 2005 out as 2005-02-14, or get more general with just the month and year as 2005-02.
Using this type of filing system is especially helpful for organizing metrics reports! Each time you track your business metrics (or your client’s metrics), you can toss the new file into an organized folder broken down by dates.
Date organization makes it easy to double back and check on trends, and to create reports or presentations for growth.
Avoid Using Special Characters
As a service provider, save the flashy punctuation and other special characters for a brilliant marketing campaign or social media post. They don’t belong in your file naming conventions!
Opening your file names up to special characters makes things complicated and more difficult to search. Stick to letters and numbers. You can always use dashes (-) or underscores (_) if you really need to break up a title, but not much else.
Use a Certain Case in Your File Naming Conventions
You’re familiar with uppercase and lowercase letters. But did you know that case can affect your file naming conventions?
Stick to a set of rules for cases in your file names. Some ideas for case rules include:
- Use all lowercase letters with no exception: jane_smith_intake_form
- Capitalize client names: Jane_Smith_intake_form
- Capitalize the first letter of each word with no spaces: JaneSmithIntakeForm
Whatever conventions you come up with, be sure to communicate them to your team so that all of your files are uniform!
Document Your File Naming Conventions for Future Use
File naming conventions are easy enough to follow, as long as you have them written down somewhere. The last thing that you want is to forget (or have someone on your team forget) the rules you created.
Record your file naming conventions digitally (via email to your team), save them in their own file or as a functional computer background. You can even print them on strips of paper and tape them onto your desk for future reference! Just be sure that they exist somewhere other than your brain (because you know how unreliable that can be).
File naming conventions are one of those simple strategies that can make your role as a service provider so much less stressful. A naming system is easy to implement and incredibly rewarding. Once you have a file-naming system at play, you never have to worry about misplacing a file ever again.
Once you start systemizing your business and creating clear processes, make sure you begin evaluating your metrics for every area of your business! Not sure where to start? Snag our Most Important KPIs resource to get started.
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