There are so many new tech tools out there that I have been researching some to improve the workflow of the studio. As well as of course saving money and improving the clients experience. One of the first steps I have taken is to go digital with all my paperwork.
Currently, well before 2 weeks ago, I had paper contract for all my sessions as well as other miscellaneous forms. These would go into client folders that I have in different stacks depending on what stage of the process they are in. As you can imagine this takes quite a few trees to maintain and on top of that I have boxes of old paperwork. When its time to get rid of it I go through the shredding process which eats up a lot of time. Another issue is I at times forget the clients folder when I head to the studio, so I dont have important information that I might need.
Enter the iPad
Time I started using the iPad for more than puzzles and angry birds! I haven’t found the ONE app that will do everything I want (I’m considering having one written though) but have narrowed it down to 2.
Lets take all my agreements and forms. Now I could create actual pdf fillable forms and use one app, but with those forms you can not format your text fields (at least as far as I can tell). Plus you either have to by the full Acrobat product or use one of those free online services which Im not fond of. I found an app called Form Tools that does that will create a form from any pdf, only downside is you have to fill out the form in the app. They key feature I like in this app over a true pdf form is you can use the iOS field formats. For instance a date field will bring up the iPad’s date wheel, same for times. You can also choose which keyboard to bring up to fill out the field like numeric, email or normal. You can also tie fields together, like todays date, so that the client only has to fill out one field and the rest auto populate.
Once you have your form created you choose the form to fill out and click ‘new entry’, rename it to your clients name then have them fill it out. When they are done they click the pen tool and sign with their finger or a stylus! I would then next click email and email a copy to them and myself. The app does need a better filling system (no folders) but does save a copy on the iPad for you. I would like to see folders and Dropbox syncing like the next app I will tell you about, but it does the job for now.
My next bit of paper that I have pilling up are session orders. During an ordering session at the end I print out a copy of their order from them to review and sign, I then print out another copy for the client. I would then use the order as a checklist when processing the order. Wasteful!!
Now Instead of sending the order to the print I print it as a pdf to Dropbox. From their I open it up in my next app PDF Expert! This app is awesome, if only let me create forms like Form Tool I would be in heaven. This app directly syncs with dropbox so I created 3 folders:
- New Orders – where they are sent to from the ordering software
- Processing – Orders I need to work on
- Completed – when Im done they go here for awhile in case I need to reference them
So I then open the order in the app and click the pen tool and hand it to the client to review and sign. LIke the other app I then click to have it emailed to the client. No more paper! But what about my check list? Well in the same app I can use a pen tool or a highlighter or even a big X stamp to mark off the items as I complete them 🙂
Currently I have a regular merchant account with a terminal at the studio. You know the one that spits out paper for the client to sign and then a receipt. Well I was doing some comparisons between Square, Paypal’s new Paypal Here, and my Merchant Account and have discovered with all the extra fees on my merchant account the other two are very close if not better in the long run. With Square and Paypal clients would sign on the iPad or iPhone and have the receipts again emailed or texted to them so that would eliminate the paper. The big advantage is not having all those credit slips, scares me having to store them! Also make record keeping easier.
I ended up going with Paypal Here for a few reasons.
- I already use paypal for online orders and have been with them for years with no real issues. Dont really want ANOTHER payment system to keep track of.
- Ive read lots of bad reviews on Square. Especially on them withholding funds for 30days without notice. If that happened to me it would kill me.
- I like Paypal’s reader better. Squares is a cute little square and I have read that people have had problems swiping cards, having it swivel while doing so. Paypal’s is a little bigger so gives you more base to slide the the card, and has a little tab the folds down to prevent swiveling.
- The rate is better, if only by a little but a little adds up.
- You can deposit checks, for FREE. No fees just snap a picture of both sides.
- Money is in your account within minutes, available for your use! This is the big one for me, I swipe a card and I get an email within minutes that I have new money in my account. Yes if I then transfer it to my bank account it takes a couple days but I can use the money right away for paypal payments (which many of my vendors take) or use my hand Paypal Debit card (can pull out $400 cash a day if you need to).
So now I use my iPad or iPhone to take payments in the studio (or anywhere) and do a bank transfer twice a month. I keep my merchant account as a back up since I don’t pay monthly fees on it, only when used. Id rather do that then pay the keyed in rates.
My next steps are finding a cloud accounting system. I currently use quickbooks but would like an easier system and one I can access anywhere. Im currently playing with a few and will do another post on them. Also playing with a few cloud studio management systems as well and again thats a topic for another post.
What about you, what ways are you improving your business workflow or going paperless?