Advanced Freelance Writer Organizational System

How do you keep papers organized when you’re working on 10 or 15 freelance jobs at the same time, or more, all at various stages?

I do it with file folders. That title above is tongue-in-cheek, of course. My system is pretty basic, but it truly helps me keep my head well above water.

Whether it’s a client I’ve just met with once, and the file merely holds some handwritten notes and a fee quote, or it’s someone I’ve worked for years and a specific folder holds their October newsletter notes and copy, or a specific press release, it’s all about the file folders.

I have a big box of 100 of them sitting on the bookshelf near my desk. I make myself take the time to write the name of a project on the front and on the tab, even when I’m busy and overwhelmed with papers — especially then — and then stash all papers relating to a certain web copy job/ad/newsletter issue/blog series/business profile in its appropriate file. Otherwise I am always hunting for things instead of working.

Making myself slow down and store papers in their folder keeps my sanity. 

I have a standing, upright file box on my desk, where I keep active folders. When I finish a project it gets filed away.

Sometimes it feels wasteful to go through as many file folders as I do. I label them in pencil, so I can reuse them later, but first most get filed under the company’s name and year in my file cabinet for awhile. Every so often, I go through and purge folders I’ll probably never need to find again. Old jobs I might need to look at again get purged from my active file cabinet and moved into a reserve file (box) for awhile, and then eventually that too is moved on.

Some people do the same thing but they keep their “folders” on the computer. They have paperless offices. Are they truly paper-free? I imagine their desks must look tidy and lovely, but I can’t imagine it.

Going without paper is not a goal of mine. I need to hold things in my hands when I’m working on them — move them around, mark on them, consider them while standing them on end and neatening them into a tidy pile.

We writers, we like paper and I can’t imagine working without it. I’ll just continue on, making my little stacks of tidy file folders, watching the papers escape and comingle and try to hide under other papers, and then putting them back in place — which keeps my head in order, too.

It sounds like such a simple thing, but having a simple file folder system makes all the difference to my productivity.

How do YOU do it?

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