Tired of lugging around folders of paper contracts while out of the office? Wouldn't you like a better way to edit your contracts, get signatures and digitally organize your contracts?
More and more businesses are improving their processes and using smart devices such as the iPad to replace old paper systems. Often the key to closing the deal and landing the job is the ability to quickly finalize all the details. By following the steps outlined below, you could have a digital contract system set up within a couple of hours at a very reasonable cost.
Step 1 - Setup your Laptop or Desktop Computer
The iPad does not stand alone in your contract management system. You still need an office computer where you will perform your heavy editing and save your file backups.
First, you need to get your contract documents installed on your office Windows or Mac computer. There are many contract resources available. Wherever you get your contracts from you need your documents in a format that can be easily imported into your iPad (such as plain text Word documents).
You might ask, "Why don't you just use an iPad contract app?" We believe in using the best tools for the job, and the iPad now has some fantastic word processing and signing applications that can be used with your existing documents. So let's get going to do just that.
Step 2 - Edit your contracts and get them ready for your iPad
Now that you have your contracts on your computer, it's time to edit them and get them polished up for your iPad. While the iPad has word processing capabilities, it is still a very basic word processing platform. So for your initial contract setup, it's more effective to do your heavy editing on your PC or Mac computer. This also ensures all your original work is backed up.
After you have finished your major edits, save your Word .DOC file and also save a PDF version. It is easier to fill out and sign your contracts in PDF format, but if you need to make text edits to your contracts away from the office, you will want to have your Word .DOC copies on your iPad as well.
If your contracts use financial data such as summing up line items for multiple products and services, figuring taxes, etc., you should also create a spreadsheet that you can sync to your iPad to crunch the figures you will input into the contract. If your contract needs only a signature, your use of the iPad will be simplified.
Step 3 - Install third-party iPad apps
We will be using three apps that work well together. Depending on the complexity of your contracts, you will need at least an app for signing documents, and possibly a word processing app and a spreadsheet app as well.
iAnnotate - This app is a must-have for digitally signing your contracts.
Pages - This app will handle the bulk of your in-the-field word processing needs.
Numbers - This app will handle the bulk of your calculating needs for estimates and invoices.
You will also want a stylus. Many different rubber-tipped iPad styluses are available; any of these will make signing the iPad easier. A stylus is not a must have item, but using a stylus is more precise than using your fingers, and won't mess up your display with smudges.
Step 4 - Move your contracts onto your iPad
One easy way is to just email the files to the email address you have configured on your iPad. Then all you have to do is open the attached file and you will have access to the contract in your iPad word processor or contract signing app.
One of the easiest ways we've found to move documents is to use iTunes to sync files. The iTunes sync option is supported by the iPad apps we will use to edit and sign our contracts, so that's the method we'll show you here.
Plug in your iPad and open iTunes. Click your iPad device and then click the Apps window. All three of our suggested apps (iAnnotate, Pages, and Numbers) support iTunes file sharing, so you will see whichever apps you have installed in the File Sharing list here.
Now click the iAnnotate app. You will see some PDF files and folders in the list. This is where you add your own .PDF and .DOC files from your computer. Click the Add button, browse to where you saved your edited documents and add them to this list.
If you also installed the Pages and/or Numbers apps, repeat this process to add your .DOC and .XLS files to those apps. When you have added all your edited documents, you can sync your iPad. All your custom documents will now be on your iPad and accessible by your iPad apps.
Step 5 - Fill out and sign your documents on your iPad
The volume of custom editing and financial calculations you do for each customer contract will drive which apps you use and in which order.
The most detailed scenario would be someone like a event planner who has to enter a lot of client details, such as dates, reference numbers, addresses, names, descriptions and line items with financial calculations for lots of products, service and taxes. If this is your scenario, you may be using all three of the Pages, Numbers and iAnnotate apps.
A simple situation would be a photographer who needs minimal name/address information and signatures on model and property releases. In this case, you may be using only iAnnotate.
Let's consider our more complex case: the complicated contracts with lots of data to input. To make life easier, you could have your employees complete the contracts for your day's jobs with all the estimates and calculations already done, then sync all those files your iPad before you leave the office. Then all you'd need to do is get the client's signature and save the signed PDF to sync back at the office later.
However, at times you may wind up having to to edit estimates and do calculations in the field with the Pages and Numbers apps. You would open Pages, find your .DOC version of your contract and perform the detailed word processing needed for that customer (it is possible to complete a detailed contract in iAnnotate, but it's a more involved process).
Not only can you use a stylus (or your finger) to add a signature, you can also type actual text on top of your contract (this is helpful for adding titles, phone numbers, dates and addresses). You can add comments, highlight important sections and even add "rubber stamps" for a wide variety of common scenarios.
After you have filled in details and the parties have signed the contract, that's it! Save the signed contract on your iPad.
Step 6 - Move your signed contracts securely back to your PC or Mac
When you return to your office, you can sync your iPad and then copy all your newly signed and annotated contracts to your PC or Mac. You can see how the iPad can be a very effective contract editing, signing and management tool for professionals in the field. By using a few affordable iPad apps you can set up an efficient and low-cost mobile contract management solution for your business.