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Smartphones and Tablets

Contractor's new best friends
By Brenden Sedo


Apps, smartphones and tablets have become incredibly useful for today's contractor. They're no longer only for Angry Birds or Build a Farm games. A recent report by Eric Mower & Associates explained that smartphone use by contractors on the job site jumped 35 percent from last year, and the use of tablets rose 54 percent.

Why should your business consider taking advantage of your smartphone and tablet on the job site?

The great thing about mobile devices is the access to real-time information. If you need details on a product, or pricing, it's as simple as opening your browser and making a Google search. If your client sends an inquiry through email you can respond to them immediately. With information at your fingertips you're always on the ball.

A smartphone is almost like a new age Swiss army knife. You can combine numerous tools into one, something we can all appreciate. For example, your smartphone can become your address book, a leveling tool, a GPS, email client, your invoice book, a flashlight and more. Now if only it could do some shoveling, too.

Digital signatures, invoices, expense recording, estimates and contracts can all be completed from a mobile device. And the biggest benefit is the reduction in paper. Paper is the last thing you want to worry about after a long day on the job. With a mobile device you can capture information and complete your paperwork instantly, and the best part is everything is saved for you online. Because it's online it can never be ripped, lost or burned.

Three Apps that Every Contractor Should Have

1 App: Contractor estimating and invoicing tool by Joist (iPhone/iPad/Web): Create on-site estimates, send invoices, manage projects and record payments on the spot. It's great because you can eliminate paperwork, calculate estimates quickly, win more jobs and complete work directly in the field rather than on evenings and weekends. And it's free. Visit http://itunes.apple.com/app/id592163563.

2 App: Dropbox (iPhone/iPad/Android/Web): Create, edit and store documents in the cloud and access the files from any device. You have access to your files from anywhere, and if you happen to break your device, all of your information will not be lost. You get 18 GB and it's free. Visit www.dropbox.com.

3 App: Mila's Tools Free - Unit Conversion Calculator (iPhone/iPad): It contains almost any unit converter you can think of. It provides quick conversions for fast, accurate readings. This is another free App. Visit http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/milas-tools-free-unit-conversion/id403110615?mt=8.

PHOTO COURTESY OF STOCK.XCHNG/ KOLOBSEK.

Use your mobile device as a tool to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Things you can do include showing the potential client photos of past work, providing an estimate on the spot and sharing customer testimonials.

Today's smartphone's pack quite the punch in terms of photo taking capabilities, too. They have amazing quality, and you can share these photos with the touch of a button. If a client has a question about their project you can snap a picture and send it over via email within seconds. Want to show off your work to a potential client? Share your best work on the larger tablet screen.

While smartphones and tablets are reasonably sturdy, don't misuse them because damaging one can be costly. Protect your device with a heavy-duty case, and be careful around liquids. Spilled coffee can mean death to your smartphone or tablet. In terms of protecting your data, save everything in the cloud by using popular services such as iCloud and Dropbox.

Reference: Eric Mower & Associates - http://www.mower.com/news/inthenews/article.php?id=1146.

Brendon Sedo is a founder of Joist, a free contractor estimating and invoicing tool for iPhone, iPad, Android and the Web. Contact him at brendon@joistapp.com.