How to Avoid Computer Disaster, Part 2: Keep Your Work Safe When It Gets to Your Client

Give this scenario some thought. You send a potential client a file. They read it. They like it. But there’s no contact information on the file – and they cannot find the envelope it came in.

All your hard work goes down the drain. They really want to contact you and tell you they have a contract for you. But they can’t!

Bad luck? No. It really is a lack of professionalism. You should NEVER send a file to a client that does not have your full contact information on every page … unless the client specifically tells you not to.

If you’re using a computer, the only sensible way to do it is to include that information in a "header" – a part of the file that automatically appears on the top of every page.

If you simply type your information on the top of every page and then change something (almost anything) in the body of your letter, your contact information will move to places where it doesn’t belong.

Using Headers

Different word-processing programs have different ways of making headers. But we’ll use Microsoft Word 2003/2004 as our example. If you use a different program, look in your "Help" files to see exactly how to do it.

In MS Word: Click on "View" on the menu bar at the very top of the screen. Move your cursor down to "Header and Footer" and click there. A small window opens up at the top of your page, a box outlined with a dashed line.

A small tool bar also opens up. Don’t do anything with that tool bar yet. Instead, click at the far left of the box that opened. This is where you’ll type in your contact information.

Include: your name, the name of the file (the promotion or product), your address, phone number, email address, and date of submission. Then insert an automatic page number.

You can automatically number pages with most word processors. In MS Word, you do it by using the # button in the header toolbar.

Experiment with the way you present your header information by using the Tab key.

Special Consideration for Electronic Files

If you send files by email, you MUST still put your contact information in a header. However, there is one more step to take to ensure your file doesn’t "get lost": Name your file correctly.

Your file name should make it clear what the document is about and who sent it. Let’s say, for example, that you’re sending copy for a newsletter titled "Thrive":

DON’T name your file: "newsletter.doc." This means nothing if it ends up on your client’s hard drive.

INSTEAD, name your file: "Thrive01 (Jones).doc."

Number each file according to the version you’re sending to the client, starting with 01 or 1.

Keep track of your internal rewrites or revisions with letters: "Thrive01a (Jones).doc," "Thrive01b (Jones).doc," and so on.

Save each version of your promotion until your client accepts final copy. That way, if the client wants to go back to a section that has since been revised, you’ll still have it.

Get in the habit of doing these two things now: including your contact information in headers and naming your files properly. This will not only save you from the disaster of lost files, it will also mark you as a professional in the eyes of your clients.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: February 14, 2005

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