Running a translation business is like a sport. It must be built on key practices that, repeated over and over, make up a solid foundation from which you can safely take big leaps forward. Such practices are a combination of translation-specific and business-oriented. Also, many are simple and easily taken for granted, as is the one I discuss below.
I’ve decided to address the importance of a solid filing system because it has, in recent months, become invaluable to me. I've learned first-hand how it can help me better serve my clients and work more efficiently. As such, I want to share some advice and my experience to ensure other translators understand that it is a key practice that must not be taken for granted.
1) Let’s talk about what sorts of things need to be in an organized filing system.
Well, everything does, but, to be more specific, any files and software that you use regularly for your business. Start with the items on your desktop. On mine, I lined up all of my translation-related software side-by-side, then put my most frequently used files (where I store current projects) just underneath.
CAT tool files – placed where your CAT tool knows to find them.
Source and target drafts – includes current and finished jobs.
Bookkeeping tools – this refers to invoices, templates, related software, receipts for tax purposes, etc.
Client guidelines – each client has different expectations, you don’t want to mix these up!
2) Think about where you file things so that you can get to them easily.
A major consideration for many translators who work on two different computers is: what do you store in the hard drive vs the cloud/external drive? I choose what goes where based on level of confidentiality and basic files that I use consistently.
Also, where, as in, where do they fit within your folder system? Do invoices belong in a sub-folder of Translation Memories? Probably not. So, create a main folder titled Invoices, then sub-folders within it for each business year, then sub-folders within those for clients, and so on. Be logical. The idea here is to have a system that is quick and easy to navigate. For example, you don’t want to waste time looking at your screen thinking, now where did I put that client glossary from 6 months ago? Instead, you want a system that allows you to open your system folder, click on Glossaries, Client Name X, and then the necessary file.
3) Be careful and logical about how you name files and folders.
Just like before, you want a system that is quick and easy to navigate. You must include enough information in the file name so that you know what it is AND don’t mix it up with similar files. I learned this lesson when I accidentally sent a European client my OCR file of the source document. While I was sleeping that night, they were trying desperately to reach me and get the correct file. One lesson I learned from that experience was to create a more clear naming system. Now, I download a dead PDF source, I OCR it and save it as a Word document that I can use in my CAT tool. The name I use is always OCR_Source_ClientFileName. Once I’ve finished translating in my CAT tool, I click “save file as translated,” and name the resulting file Draft_Target_ClientFileName. This has saved me from making that mistake again!
If you maintain a consistent, logical filing system as you work, your client will thank you, and so will your translation business. As a side note, don’t hesitate to change your system when the need arises. These sorts of things always need improvements over time.
What are some of your favorite practices that you find are essential to your business? Please let me know in the comments below.
Need more? Click on the icons below: