Home Computer Business – The Dirty Dozen – Mistakes To Avoid (#6 & #7)

This article is one of a series, collectively titled “The Dirty Dozen: Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Business.” Making these mistakes can be very costly in both time and money, but all of these possible mistakes can be easily avoided by some advance knowledge and planning ahead. Although I think the information in this series of articles can be very valuable to home business operators, it is very important for you to know that I am writing this series of articles solely from a “lessons learned” perspective. I am not a legal, tax, or accounting professional. You should consult an appropriate professional for detailed advice that is specifically relevant for you and your business.

In this article, I am going to discuss the potential problem areas of being disorganized and not backing up important information.

If you are an “everything in its place” kind of person, you are already ahead for meeting your business goals. On the other hand, if you are one of those people who is often saying, “I know it’s around here somewhere,” you just have to get your business life organized. (Leave the old magazines piled up and let your garage keep looking like the mother of all yard sale collections if you want to, but organize your business life!)

Even if you are “organizationally challenged,” this doesn’t have to be too difficult. Here are some ideas.

First of all, buy at least one box of file folders. Plain manila is fine. Some people (me, for example!) like the colored ones, because the colors themselves can be part of your organization plan. For example, all the resource materials that you are studying could go in blue folders, your financial records could go in green folders, etc. Just think about the types of information you will be using, and make a list of the titles of folders that you will need to keep information where you can find it. If you don’t already have a file cabinet, don’t feel like you must rush out and buy one. A plastic file crate or file boxes from your office supply store will be fine to start with.

Big Hint: Having a huge stack of “to be filed” materials and a file drawer full of beautifully labeled, empty file folders doesn’t count as being organized!

Expect to revise your filing system as you go along, learning more about what kind of information you will need in your business.

If you are (or become) comfortable with maintaining files on your computer, that can cut down on your organizational demands a lot. Just like you can set up file folders for your papers, you can set up file folders on your computer also. You can even put folders inside of other folders. If you are working with a PC type of computer, with your cursor over your desktop, just right click. A short menu will appear, with one of the choices being “New.” Click on “New,” and then click on “Folder.” It even has a little icon that looks just like a manila folder. A new, empty folder will appear on your desktop. Highlight the words “New Folder” underneath the folder, and type in the name you want that folder to have.

Do this every time you have material that needs to be electronically filed. Each of your folders can contain both individual files and other folders. After a while, you will probably start to feel like there are a lot of folders cluttering up your computer desktop, so let’s clean that up.

Look at your folders and think about what categories they fit into. Maybe you have folders labeled:

Meeting Notes: Joe

Email Passwords

Product 1 Description

Online Ordering Passwords

Planning Meeting Jan

Product 2 Description

Product 1 Ads

Bank Passwords

Meetings with Bob

Planning Meetings Feb & March

Product 2 Ads, etc.

You can probably already see where I’m going with this. Make new folders labeled:

Passwords

Meetings (or maybe two: Meetings with Individuals, and Planning Meetings)

Product Descriptions

Product Ads

Then click on your “Email Passwords” folder and drag it into the “Passwords” folder, and keep going until all of your individual folders are in category folders. (Remember that your folders can each contains individual files, also). For example, I have a folder that is called “Dirty Dozen Drafts,” which contains more than 10 files, each of them a different revision of this book as I worked it through multiple drafts.

You can take it one step further, by making a “master” file (“My Computer Business”) and putting all your business folders into that one folder. Now you have cleaned up your desktop, your information is all in one place, and you can easily locate whatever you need. Which brings us to another gigantic possible problem!

Whether you maintain paper or electronic records (or both), it is crucially important that you always have back-ups for essential information. There are many ways to do this. You can photocopy paper information, or scan it into your computer and save it electronically. Make back-up copies of your electronic files. Just about everyone I know has had at least one horrible experience with a computer locking up and being unable to get to important information.

Ideally, your back-up information will be stored in a physically separate location from your primary records. You have only to look at the news scenes of disasters caused by fire, weather, etc. to know why this is important.

One more time, please remember that what I am giving you here is only my personal understanding of these topics. I advise you to get professional assistance.

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