When I start working with a new client, they often have no idea how to structure a virtual office. This results in documents being randomly put in a folder and then harder to find when it’s needed.
After I take an assessment of where they have folders and documents, I begin to set up their virtual office. Next we have a training session so they know where to store the documents they create. It’s really an eye opening experience for them.
At first the entrepreneur may be a little concerned about me moving their files and folders around. But after a training session and a few times of being able to find the correct document, they realize how thankful they are for the new system. Like anything, it will take some time to get used to this new system. Once they do, they can’t imagine going back to the way things were.
Does it take some time to set it up? You bet! Set aside some time to tackle the project all at once. You’ll be thankful you invested in your business in this way.
Why You Need A Virtual Office
When entrepreneurs first start their business, they focus on client work and doing all the things. As a result, they create and dump. Documents are usually everywhere with no real structure.
This can be problematic when you need to find something quickly. You end up hunting and spending your precious time doing something other than the task that is waiting for you.
Now, imagine needing a document and knowing right where to look. You grab it from your virtual office and complete the task you are working on. Total game changer, right?
Steps To Structure A Virtual Office
The first thing you will want to do is decide where you want to store your virtual office. I like using Google Drive because it’s easy to share with clients and team members. Other use Dropbox and like it also. I’ve also heard of some entrepreneurs storing their documents in Google Drive and their images in Dropbox. Personally, I feel that having everything in one place makes it easier for everyone.
If you already have a bunch of unorganized documents, first take those documents and put them in a new folder called, To Be Filed. This will keep everything in one place until you have a new home for them.
The first thing you’ll create is a folder titled with the name of your business.
The next thing to do is begin creating folders within the one named for your business. These will house all of the important documents you will create to help you become more efficient in your business.
You’ll want to have guidelines for how you name each of these folders so everything follows the same pattern and they are easy to find. For these initial folders, I suggest you use this pattern:
(INITIALS FOR NAME OF BUSINESS) NAME OF FOLDER
Example: AAOBM All SOPS
The folders, and the explanation for the content, you will want to create at this level are:
- ALL GUIDELINES – documents explaining how to name things or how to conduct a meeting,
- ALL OTHER FOLDERS – classes you take, personality test results, etc.
- ALL SOPS – Standard Operating Procedures which explain how to complete processes and tasks in your business
- ALL TEMPLATES – emails, quarterly review worksheets, etc.
- ALL MASTER FILES – branding info, financials, legal docs, etc.
- ALL CLIENT FOLDERS – folders with each client’s name that houses any documents you have for each client
Get More Specific
As you create more levels of folders or files, you’ll want to get more specific. For example, in the ALL SOPS folder, you may want to break it down even more by including some folders like these:
- Financials (SOPs) – AAOBM
- Marketing (SOPs) – AAOBM
- Team (SOPs) – AAOBM
- Website (SOPs) – AAOBM
Within those folders, get even more specific. For example, within the team folder, you have will SOPs related to different team related tasks. If you have several tasks for an area, such as hiring a new team member, create another folder. You will eventually get to the point that you can’t break it down into a folder. That’s where you will then house an SOP. These SOPs may include:
- SOP – Hiring A New Team Member – AAOBM
- SOP – Team Time Tracking – AAOBM
- SOP – Team Onboarding – AAOBM
The important thing to remember is to continue to use the same pattern to name each folder or document.
Finally, go back through the folders and documents you put in the To Be Filed folder. Begin to move them to their new folders.
Keeping Your Virtual Office Clean
Once you have your virtual office set up, you want to keep it clean. If you don’t have time to file something or a team member doesn’t know where to file something, put the document in the To Be Filed folder. Then in your recurring task list, be sure to set a monthly due date to go through and put everything where it belongs. You will appreciate the time you save by no longer having the stress of finding the document you are looking for.
Once you take the time to structure your virtual office, you’ll be so thankful you did. Documents will be easier to find. As a result, you will be able to focus on delivering high value to your clients and increasing your income.
P.S. For more information about staying organized in your business, check out this blog post on Standard Operating Procedures which are documents that you will put in your virtual office.