Vital Signs: Taking Care of Business with Your iPad (or Tablet)

Taking Care of Business with Your iPad (or Tablet)

Do you feel pressed for time and always on the move? You're not alone—it's a common occurrence when you're a small business owner (especially a photographer). That's why we at PPA like to share new perspectives in how others handle different business situations, including how to make use of the more mobile tools.

Take, for instance, the Apple iPad® or other types of tablet computers. Such devices can help you become even more efficient in carrying out your daily business practices, whether you download apps or synch to software you already use. 

Use It for Business
"The iPad is perfect for showing prospective clients examples of your work," notes Mark Levesque, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, of Studio Mark Emile. "The portability, screen size and excellent image rendering make you happy to show images that you can easily zoom into and reveal incredible detail. It's much more effective than carrying around a portfolio of prints or showing images on a smartphone."

Now, you probably already know that such a tablet can be great for displaying your images to clients, but are you aware that it can be an effective tool for managing your business (and more)?  Its versatility in your photography business could be extremely high...especially when you consider the multitudes of applications available. 

For example, Ashley Bell of Dynamic Photography uses his iPad for a variety of tasks. Mobile portfolio? Check. Making schedule changes on the go? Check. Contacts and contracts? Check, check.

"I sync my calendar to iCloud, so I only have to carry my iPad and phone with me," Bell explains. "I also have contract apps that allow my clients to sign a model release and general contracts. And then, of course, I use it for email and various other needs, such as checking my website updates and traffic through the Squarespace app."

Similarly, many studio management software options are making the leap from your studio computer to your handheld device a much quicker process. For example, ShootQ, a cloud-based software designed specifically to automate photography businesses, has a free downloadable app to help track your workflow on the go. ShootQ allows you to track and manage leads, carry out correspondence, make transactions and issue electronic documents like contracts and model releases. In comparison, StudioPlus, another software solution designed for pro photographers, allows you to sync their software to your Google account—making it easily viewable anywhere there is an Internet connection.

Another PPA member, Chris Ruhaak of Heartland Photos & Design, takes advantage of the iPad's mobility to make on-site credit card transactions using the Square app. "The Square app is slick as long as you have a good Wi-Fi connection," he notes. Not only are the charges listed out in full, but he has all the records of the transactions afterward. Plus, the app's GPS capability lets you see the exact location where the payment was taken.

Ruhaak finds that taking payments via iPad is great because the transactions are much more visible than on a smartphone. "It also adds a professional look to any shoot because it allows you to showcase your work [and your business] in a very user-friendly way."

Use It to Learn
Tablets like the iPad are also handy when it comes to learning, thanks to apps that make those devices able to store ideas and inspirations. Bell uses his iPad with KelbyTraining.com in combination with Apple TV, so he can watch photography experts at work. Juli Eck, CPP, of Watercliff Photography Studio even uses the Evernote app on her iPad as a creative tool for compiling notes about photography.

"It really takes finding and saving information to the next level," says Eck. "I can search a variety of ways, from a keyword or tag to even handwritten text inside images.  Also, if my iPad were to get destroyed in a fire, all of my data would still be accessible on Evernote." This app can also work with nearly every computer, phone and mobile device out there—making it easy to sync from your iPad to any other device.

Even More Uses (and Some Cautions)
Apps can be an excellent way to find new alternatives for your business practices. Just make sure you do your research and explore sites like iTunes for cloud-based solutions.  They can prove invaluable to you in the case of loss or breakage of your device. 

However, while cloud software and apps make accessing contracts and other files on the go a breeze, it is highly recommended that you properly back up or otherwise store your legal documents. A company may be able to guarantee they'll preserve your data, but it is still your responsibility to ensure you have access to all of your contracts and forms should the need arise. So, if you have questions about what backup service an app provides, ask them!

Despite that bit of caution, there are a lot of ways your tablets can make it easier to take your business on the road with you. And as the apps and synchs to help do this keep growing—Apple's App Store recently reached 25 billion downloads!—there'll be even more uses for such mobile tools in the future. Like tomorrow. 

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