How to Organise Your Virtual Files as a Producer

Last Monday, I wrote some advice about how to organise files. This week, I want to follow on from that with some 21st century updating of it – how do you organise online/ on a computer files?

The odds are, if you work in 2016, you will have a lot of paperwork, but you’ll have even more virtual filing to do. You can try to have all of your filing off-paper, which would be more environmentally friendly and save you a lot of space, if you can manage it, but it isn’t always possible.

I think, with virtual filing, there are two things to focus on, beyond the practical elements of organisation, which are similar to what I discussed last week, except that, instead of printing the documents and putting them in the same kind of file as you would have, had you put them in a physical file (except that you can sort your virtual files by date, alphabetical order… simultaneously). These are backing up and security.

One thing which I have been working on at Fuel in terms of virtual filing is marketing statistics. This is something where virtual filing is more than saving documents in the same files you would have made, had you printed them out and put them in physical files, because you are taking the files, in this case box office reports, and putting them in a single, more comprehensive file; a spreadsheet of statistics, which can be sorted by date, as they were originally at Fuel, or by venue or artist or show, as I am currently adding.

In terms of storing virtual documents in virtual files, as I said last week for physical files, there are lots of options, and as long as you’ve chosen one, which works well for you, and you stick to it, you’re in a good place. You can file in a google drive/other online drive, or on a computer hard-drive, or on an external hard-drive, or on a shared drive… Which of these works best for you will entirely depend on your circumstances, and your familiarity with each of these. If you work alone, you may not need something easy to share. If you are a student producer, rather than a company, you may have fewer meetings/opportunities to see those you’re working with in person, and find the ease of sharing google documents of more value than the extra options provided by full Excel. As I said, you will know what circumstances work best for you.

That said, I would recommend choosing two of these, for the thing which virtual filing is better than physical filing: backing up. Having a backup of files (e.g. on an external hard-drive if you save your work to your computer, or in the cloud), perhaps obviously, will make it much more difficult for you to loose access to past information you may need again – both copies would need to be lost. As seems to be a recurring feature in my advice about organisation, it is personal, so backing up one way will work better for some than others. Some people recommend saving every document twice once they’re complete, in case one file is corrupted or accidentally deleted. This is a bit much for me, I prefer saving to my computer with an external hard-drive backup (I am contemplating changing to a cloud backup), but what works best for you is entirely dependent on your circumstances, your familiarity with certain platforms and/or the people you work with’s familiarity with various options (e.g. if you work with someone who doesn’t understand google docs, you might want to stick to emailed word documents. Or teach them how to use google docs. Whichever is easier.).

Another thing which may impact how you choose to file is your need for security. What I mean by this is, if you really really need to keep your work secure (e.g. you were working on The Cursed Child before it was announced/came out…) you will need much more secure systems (possibly even have to stick to paper. I don’t know about The Cursed Child, but the Harry Potter manuscripts were passed from editor to editor in paper form, in plastic bags, in an attempt to prevent hacking and spoilers…) than if you are working on projects which do not require such high levels of security. Whoever you are, whoever you are working with, and whatever you are working on, security is something you should bare in mind at least a little when working with virtual (or physical) files – if you have someone’s personal information (e.g. their name and address on a contract), you should take reasonable precautions for not disclosing that information beyond where it needs to go.

That’s everything for this week, thank you as always for reading. Feel free to like this post if you enjoyed it, leave your thoughts and questions in the comments, and follow the blog if you haven’t already, and would like to hear more. An update on last week at Fuel is coming on Friday, followed by advice on using social media effectively next Monday!

Emily xxx


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