If you’re anyway like me, you sit at a desk where several piles of documents balance precariously between the stapler and the telephone. OK, so maybe the piles are more or less arranged into personal (phone bills, kids’ school reports and bank statements) and professional (glossaries, invoices and outstanding bills), but eventually, you get some downtime and settle down to do the filing.
What about your hard drive? If it were piled on your desk, would you be able to find that document you translated for a client two months ago? Would you be able to find the phone when it rang?? After five years as a freelancer, I have realised that file organisation is one of the keys to efficient and speedy work.
Although most of us have managed to cut out the paper copies involved with a translation job, files can still pile up on your hard drive: original version, first draft, second version with additions by the client, unclean version, final delivered version, reference document, corresponding invoice, translation memory, etc. Getting all this organised after the fact can take up a lot of time, and slow down the work process.
Setting up, and sticking to, a system is the key. While there is software out there that can do the job for you (Translation Office 3000 is one of the good ones), a simple system of creating and naming folders is free and can be entirely personalised to your own way of working.
One of the first things to do is start an Excel spreadsheet, where you enter each job as it comes in, allocating a job number that can eventually be used as an invoice number. Including the arrival date, delivery date, number of words, tariff and payment date can enable you to produce statistics that may be something of an eye-opener. There is no limit to the columns of information you can include. For example, it is possible to make a graph of your activity showing the times of the year you are busiest and the times when it’s better to be off on an island topping up your tan!
If every file you receive gets dumped into your “My Documents” folder with its original filename, I bet you look at the list several months later and wonder what the hell *that* file is? Only by opening it do you realise that it is taking up unnecessary space on your drive.
I use a system where I have one folder per client, with a three-letter code for the client’s name. Each job gets assigned to a new folder within the client folder, given a number and four sub-folders, for the original version, unclean or interim versions, reference material and the final delivered version. The folder structure may look something like this:
This makes it much easier to save files to a “logical” place, where the actual filename is relatively unimportant. And it means you can keep the original filename allocated by the client. Even if some folders remain empty, they do not take up space, and you can be certain to find files months or even years later.
Another useful feature is the Properties window for a document. Get into the habit of entering a few keywords and even your job number and client name in the properties of the document (File --> Properties). This information will be displayed in Windows Explorer just by placing the cursor over the filename – no need to open up the document to know what it contains. The properties window also gives you the total time spent editing a file (in the statistics tab) - interesting from a translator's point if you are charging per hour...
Later, when you really get down to the spring cleaning, it will be easier to delete unwanted files, zip up whole folders to save space and for backup onto CD (you do backups, don’t you?) and merge TM’s, glossaries, etc.
I am sure there are as many systems out there as good translators. I only wish I had had the benefit of ProZ when I was starting out – it would have saved me a load of time!