File, paper, and project management for a freelancer without a desk.
May 18, 2014 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I have recently switched from an office job to working freelance. I belong to a coworking space but I don't have my own desk. Any advice for organizing paperwork without an everyday desk space?

I thought I would go completely paperless (Evernote, Things for Mac, Dropbox, etc.) but I am finding that I miss having papers in front of me. I find that it's nice to have printed documents for pending issues, reference materials, etc on my desk while they are in progress.

I am thinking about making an old fashioned file folder for every project, with pending issues paperclipped to the outside. To do items can be on post-it notes on the outside of the folder. Phone numbers, dates, etc. can be on the inside of the folder. This makes everything easy to access and keeps incomplete items visible so I know they need action.

I am unsure about how to actually organize this however. Part of the pleasure of freelancing for me is not having to sit at a desk all day. I work at home, in coffeeshops, and at various desks at the coworking space.

I could get a portable file box to carry with me, although it's big and bulky, and there's still the issue of notes not being visible. I would have to take each folder out of the box to see what is pending.

Note: Reference materials, receipts, business cards, and all other paperwork is scanned into Evernote. I am asking only about managing files and notes for active projects. I imagine that once a project is complete, I would scan any handwritten documents (or the entire folder?) into Evernote.

How do other freelancers handle these issues? I can't be the first one with this challenge - would love to hear how others have solved it.
posted by kdern to Work & Money (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
A few thoughts:
1) I wouldn't plan on carrying that file box around every day. It might be good to have at home, but you're not going to want to carry it around.

2) If you're the type to want to get to keep lists and the like in paper form, I would get a bound notebook and a pouch for the in-use file folders. I use the linked ones, but there are lots of alteratives.

3) If you have one, or are interested in getting one, a full sized tablet, like the ipad, can be a good portable "second screen" for reference materials and to-do lists that aren't on your primary monitor. No cut-and-paste, obviously, but could be a subsitute for paper reference materials.
posted by mercredi at 10:12 AM on May 18, 2014

A good old-fashioned hardsided briefcase: this is, after all, the kind of thing they were designed for. Get one that'll also hold your laptop or tablet and you're golden. You can also get a filebox or small file cabinet for home: I doubt you'll want or need to have your entire collection of files with you every single day; just carry around the ones you'll be working on that day and leave the rest at home.
posted by easily confused at 10:17 AM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about a rolling briefcase? You can carry your laptop and a lot of paperwork in it.
posted by xingcat at 10:30 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems like an expanding file would be the perfect middle ground between that portable file box and a bunch of loose folders. Then a separate small notebook with pressing/daily to-dos (though I use Asana for the latter).
posted by supercres at 10:31 AM on May 18, 2014

Expanding file
posted by supercres at 10:32 AM on May 18, 2014

Some of the co working spaces in my area will let you rent a small storage bin or something like that. Does yours and would that work for you?

Could you rent an external monitor?

But really, cut down on the stuff you need to tote everywhere. Depending on your commute, how about one of those rolling offices / briefcases?
posted by reddot at 12:07 PM on May 18, 2014

For keeping paperwork separate for several jobs, I like something like these plastic job jackets. They're expensive, but they hold a lot, and they're clear, so you see what's in them.

They're somewhat bulky, but if you're just bringing the one or two with that you need, it might work?
posted by hydra77 at 3:33 PM on May 18, 2014

I've sometimes used an Itoya Profolio for this kind of thing. It's like a binder (only nowhere near as bulky or heavy) with page protectors built in. You can slide a fair number of papers into each section, and it's all clear - so flip through the Profolio, and you can see everything you've got.

Another possibility is an IRIS project case. Or the Pendaflex Desk-Free Hanging Organizer.
posted by jeri at 11:08 PM on May 25, 2014

« Older Modifying AddThis on a WordPress blog   |   Help me make Rillettes Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.