Job Tracking Process and Archiving
by Jason Vaughn
Each day you'll have clients come in with all types of jobs from business cards, to Web sites, to brochures. You must have a way to organize these files in order for you and your employees to track, locate and manage your clients' information. You can easily manage this information by developing a process from when the client first opens a job with your company to when the job is finished and ready to archive.
You should first have the client sign a contract and get the details on the job by having a consultation with them. At this point, you'll need to establish a "Job Number" for easy tracking of the project. A "Job Number" is the best way to identify time and date as well as a quick way to locate the exact file instead of using words. To use a "Job Number" effectively, you should combine the job number with a project description.
Job number example:
01-003-08 Business Cards
This number represents the year, project number and month. This type of "Job Number" will enable you to know which job is the most current job. For example, you have a client that has ordered business cards in the past, but has come to you with changes to the cards such as a phone number. The first job may have been "Job Number: 01-001-03 B-cards". To keep your files organized, you'll need to open a new job and create a new "Job Number". For example, the new job would be "Job Number: 01-010-12 B-cards. By looking at the number, you can determine which is the most recent file that changes have been made to.
Job Record Log
Next you should have a hard copy of each job you are working on. I keep a "Job Record Log" of every job that comes in. This enables me to see what I have at a glance and see what job is coming up or what job is running behind. You can access your accounting program for this, but I find it easier to use my logbook for a quicker read.
For your logbook, make a 3 ring binder and print out several sheets for all 12 months. If you feel you may have several jobs come in for the month, you may need a second sheet. View the graphic below to see how the logbook is set up. You normally would hand write this information into your logs and not type it.
All jobs should be logged into your accounting program after a "Job Number" has been created. Use the "Job Number" to reference accounting files for each project. Once the job has been logged into your accounting program, then the job is ready to be started.
Once you have completed entering your job into the accounting program, then you will need to organize the job by priority. This process requires 4 wall racks that have several slots for placing "Job Jackets". The first rack would be labeled "Jobs", which would be the current jobs needing work to be done to them. Organize these by priority, put the most critical deadlines toward the top of the rack and the lesser important deadlines toward the bottom.
The next rack would be called "Pending" or "Pen". This rack is used for those jobs that are waiting for client approval or waiting on missing information to be given about the job. Once a revision or information is given for the job, it will be moved from "Pending" back to the "Job" rack. Make sure you organize the job by its priority. This process will continue between "Job" and "Pending" until the job is completed. You might have several revisions or alterations, so be careful not to get these areas mixed up.
After a job has been approved, it is ready to go to the vendor. You'll need another rack called "Vendor", this rack will store all jobs that are currently at the vendor to be printed or produced. Use this rack as a reminder of what projects are still at the vendor's office. If your client doesn't need a vendor's service, then close out the job (see "Closing Job").
The final wall rack would be shipping. Use this rack for projects that are shipping out or need to be shipped soon. You can also use this rack as a "Job Pick-up", this will remind you that all work is completed and that the client still needs to come pick up their order.
When a job is ready to be closed, you'll need to write on the "Job Jacket" a closed-out date. This will remind you when the job was finished and that it is ready for archiving. After a job is closed, you must remember to log the job close date in your accounting program. At this point, you can get invoices ready and archive the job.
Archiving Job Jackets
Once a Job is completed, you'll need to file the "Job Jacket" into a file cabinet labeled "Archive". Make sure and keep everything in alphabetical order and not by job number. You may even want to organize each area of your archive by client name.
Repeat this same process for every job you have. It sounds like a lot of work to do, but I guarantee if you don't set up a proper "Job Tracking" process, you'll never meet your deadlines and you'll lose files.
Below is a suggested way to set up and archive your clients' files on your computer or server. There are many ways to organize your files, but I have found this to be the easiest way.
Files on your computer or server
Create a "Clients" folder on your hard drive. In this folder, you'll store all current projects you are working on or need to work on over the course of time. Each "Client Folder" should be labeled by the client's name or company. Inside these folders, you should have multiple "Project Folders" labeled by a "Job Number" and "Project Title". Inside each "Project Folder" should reside all artwork pertaining to the project, such as photos, Illustrator files, Quark files and other graphics linked to your project.
Archiving digital files
When finished with a project, you can store them in the same area or move them to a back-up drive or even burn the project to CD. My suggestion is to back up your projects daily to a server and have a tape drive do a nightly backup on these files. Once the files are on the server, you can clear them off of your desktop to allow more hard drive space. When you need them again, you can grab them off of the server.
For those who don't have a server, I recommend keeping your files on your computer and creating a "Burn to CD" folder inside your clients folder. When a project is completed, and is ready for archiving, drag the files to be archived into the "Burn to CD" folder. Once you have about 650 mb to 725 mb of files, then burn the files to a CD. Keep your CDs organized by date so you can easily find files in the future.
For the most part, its best to have a tape back-up connected to either your server or computer to do a nightly back-up. For those that only have a CD burner or external hard drive, you can store and back-up your files using either.
Article posted with permission from:
Art Space Design