Tired of lugging around folders of paper contracts while out of the office? Wouldn’t you like a better way to edit your documents, 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 working 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 primary editing and save your contract archives.
First, you want to get your contract documents installed on your office PC or Mac computer. There are many contract suppliers available. Wherever you get your contracts from you need them in a format that can be readily imported into your iPad (such as plain text Word files).
You might wonder, “Why don’t you just use an iPad contract app?” We believe in using the best tools available, and the iPad now has some high quality word processing and signing applications that can be used with your existing contracts. So let’s get set up to do just that.
Step 2 – Edit your documents and get them ready for your iPad
Now that you have your contracts on your PC or Mac, 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 limited word processing system. So for your initial contract setup, it’s optimal to do your bulk editing on your PC or Mac computer. This also ensures all your original work is archived.
After you have finished your major edits, save your Word .DOC file and also save an Acrobat PDF version. It is easier to complete and sign your contracts as PDF files, but if you need to make text changes to your contracts in the field, you will want to have your Word .DOC versions on your iPad as well.
If your contracts use financial calculations such as summing up line items for multiple products and services, calculating taxes, etc., you should also build a spreadsheet that you can sync to your iPad to calculate the numbers you will input into the contract. If your contract requires only a signature, your use of the iPad will be much simpler.
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 perhaps a word processor 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 quotes and invoices.
You will also want a stylus. Many different rubber-tipped iPad styluses are available; any of these will make signing the touchscreen easier. A stylus is not needed, but using a stylus is more precise than using your fingers, and won’t grease up your display with fingerprints.
Step 4 – Move your files onto your iPad
One easy way is to just email the contracts to the email address you have configured on your iPad. Then all you have to do is open the attachment and you will have access to the contract in your iPad word processor or contract signing application.
One of the best ways we’ve found to move files is to use iTunes to sync files. The iTunes sync option is supported by the iPad apps we will use to manage and sign our documents, so that’s the method we’ll talk about 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) work with 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 documents and folders in the list. This is where you add your own .PDF and .DOC files from your hard drive. 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 available to your iPad apps.
Step 5 – Complete and sign your contracts on your iPad
The amount of custom word processing and number crunching you do for each prospect’s contract will determine which apps you use and in which order.
The most complex scenario would be someone like a service provider who has to enter a lot of customer details, such as dates, reference numbers, addresses, names, descriptions and line items with financial calculations for multiple products, service and taxes. If this is your situation, you may be using all three of the Pages, Numbers and iAnnotate apps.
A simple situation would be a photographer who needs basic 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 scenario: the detailed contracts with lots of data to input. To make life simpler, you could have your office staff create the contracts for your day’s work with all the bids 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, on occasion you may wind up needing to edit estimates and crunch numbers in the field with the Pages and Numbers apps. You would open Pages, find your .DOC version of your contract and perform the required 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 sign on the dotted line, you can also enter actual text on top of your contract (this is useful for adding titles, phone numbers, dates and addresses). You can add notes, 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 document, that’s it! Save the signed contract on your iPad.
Step 6 – Move your signed documents securely back to your PC or Mac
When you return to the office, you can sync your iPad and then copy all your completed and annotated contracts to your PC or Mac. As you can see, the iPad can be a workable contract editing, signing and management tool for professionals in the field. By combining a few affordable iPad apps you can set up an efficient and cost-effective mobile contract management system for your business.
Ian Lauder has been helping businesses and individuals write their proposals and contracts for over a decade. => For more tips and best practices when writing your business proposals and legal contracts visit http://www.proposalkit.com