Keep it together! “Asset management” for creators
How to organize and store all of your files, images, bits of copy, and links (so you can find them when you need them).
Written on October 3, 2019 by Christina Blust
Recently I re-worked my own musician website. We’re used to working with other musicians to make album art, websites, and print pieces, but switching places for this project was eye-opening! I realized yet again how challenging it can feel to find and generate all of the assets needed for this sort of task.
“Assets” are all of the bits and pieces that go into a website or print design project. We’re talking the photos, the content blurbs, the YouTube links, and the press clips. It’s the things that are uniquely yours.
They can be hard to keep track of, but knowing where these things are is absolutely necessary! These are the puzzle pieces that make your website and promo pieces work for you. They’re your tools, just like your gear and your computer and your supplies are.
Here are some tips to keep all of your assets safe and ready for whatever needs arise.
Files: Safe in the cloud
Your absolute first step is to get some cloud storage. Dropbox, Google Drive, and similar services are cloud storage options for files. (The free plan on Dropbox gives you 2GB of storage, for instance, which is a good start for most creators. If you realize you need more later, paid plans are available.)
I can’t tell you how many people have come to us with stories like “The original was lost when my hard drive failed, so I only have this 300px-wide file,” or “I can’t find my headshots, what should I do?” Putting your files in the cloud means that they are safe no matter what happens to your computer or external drive.
Once you have your Dropbox or other cloud storage account, make some folders to organize your assets.
“Images” fall in three primary types:
- Great photos of you: headshots and in-action photos
- Images related to your work: the high-resolution version of your album cover art or a beautiful photo of your book on display
- Identity images: logo files, branding assets, etc.
If you’ve paid a professional photographer or graphic artist for image files, you should take the exact, best-quality files they provide and put them in your Dropbox immediately. Then label their folder as ORIGINAL and keep them safe — you don’t want to accidentally overwrite or move them.
If you find great photos of yourself on social networks or out in the world, ask permission of the photographer. Send a quick message like, “Jon, this is such a great photo of me playing at the Folk Festival! Would you mind if I used it on my website if I credited you?” If they say no, that’s too bad, but you need to respect their answer. If they say yes, awesome! Download the file and save it to your Dropbox right away. At minimum, label it with the full name of the photographer — “JonAnderson-FolkFestival2019.jpg” — so you know how to credit them later.
(If they say yes-if-you-pay-for-it, look at their rates and weigh if it’s worth it. If it really is a great shot of you, consider supporting the photographer and paying for their work.)
Sound & video files
It’s important that you keep your own copy of any audio/visual files you generate. Trying to get your own videos from YouTube or your own files from CDBaby later is a pain! Collect assets like:
- The raw .mp4 video file of the music video your friend made you
- The best-quality .wav or .flac file of your single from the mastering studio
- The best .mp3 of the podcast you recorded
- If you are recording your own music or creating your own videos, see if the program you use allows you to “package” up the raw project files into a nice bundle.
Then put them all in your Dropbox or Drive for safe-keeping.
Random print and technical files
Along the way in your creative life, you might have generated or been given other random files, too.
- A print-ready PDF of your business card
- A collection of .EPS and .AI files of your logo
- A completed .EPUB or .MOBI or your finished book
Stick it in your Dropbox! Even if you aren’t sure what it is, you’ll be ready when a designer, engineer or service asks for it later.
Words: Get a Google Drive
In the course of being a creative person, you’ll soon find you have a bunch of words to collect. Promo blurbs for albums, official artist statements, press clippings, testimonials… It is so important to keep track of these in an organized way.
A Google Drive helps you keep random bits of copy together via Google Docs and Google Sheets. (You could also use Word and Excel files on your own computer, but make sure you save these files to Dropbox somewhere too in case your computer crashes.)
Bits of reusable copy
Recently I released a holiday single with my husband. A number of copy needs arose instantly. I needed a short summary blurb; a longer, more complete blurb; a credits listing; and a 500-character description for Spotify playlist consideration. So I made a new Google doc to keep all of the copy as I wrote it, safe in the cloud and accessible from any device. I named it clearly (“Rest, Restless Children single copy”) and put it in a folder called “Releases.”
Now when a new need arises or someone asks for a blurb about the single, I can just ask “How long?” and then go snag the appropriate-length bit.
You should save every piece of copy you generate this way. Every time someone asks for a bio blurb, a product description, or an artist statement, save it! You will thank yourself later when you have a head start the next time someone asks.
Credits for everything
You might think you’ll remember later who played the glockenspiel on the third track of your first album, or who gave you the idea for that one essay in your book, or who took the picture you used on your event poster… but do “future you” a favor and write it all down.
Whatever makes sense to you—a “Credits” spreadsheet, a document per project, or a long searchable list—keep track of who did what. Think of how sad you’d be if your contribution to a project was forgotten, and then resolve to treat the people who’ve contributed to your work with respect and acknowledgment.
Press about you
If you’re lucky enough to get some press coverage, spring into action! There are a few things you’ll want to do right away.
- Make a new Google doc (in a folder called “Press” would make sense) and name it after the title and source of the article so you’ll know what it is later.
- At the top, put all the important info: the name, author, source, and date of the article, plus a link to it in its original home.
- Then copy the full text of the article, including title and byline, and paste it into this document for safe-keeping.
- Then go to the Wayback Machine on Archive.org and use their “Save a Page now” function to save the article. This ensures that a snapshot of the article as it is today will always be accessible, even if the original source goes away.
- Finally, copy the newly generated Wayback Machine link and paste it at the top of your document too.
Now, you’re ready any time you need a good quote in the future.
We are big fans of social proof and always encourage our clients to collect testimonials from happy customers and fans. After you’ve followed our suggestions there and collected some great quotes, be sure to organize them: Paste their name, contact info, credentials, and the full text of their testimonial into a document or spreadsheet. If you want to be really on the ball, ask them for a headshot (and permission to use it on your site), and file that away, too.
Links: Make a spreadsheet
Think of all the places you and your work are online. Collect and save all of these links in a spreadsheet:
- All of your social media profiles
- All of the places your projects live: YouTube and Vimeo links, Bandcamp buy links, Amazon links, Spotify URIs, Apple Books and Apple Music links…
Now when your web designer asks for all of your social media links, you’re ready, easy-peasy.
You’ll thank yourself later!
And so will the people (like us here at Blustery Day Design 🙂) who might make your website, design your album art, or make you a book cover. Blurbs, high-quality images, and organized assets make every process easier. Everybody wins.