10 Apps and Tech That Will Make Your Shop Run Better

Shirts Polybagged with Sticker - Marshall Atkinson

If you get a few folks in the decorated apparel industry together (usually over some sort of adult beverage, but not mandatory) it won’t be long before they start talking about some of the tricks they use in their shops.  Discovering this stuff is like finding an antique diamond ring in the old junky cigar box you just bought at a garage sale.  Below are some that I’ve discovered recently.  A few are great; some I’m still playing around with, and a couple I haven’t decided on yet.  Got something to share?  Leave it in the comment section!!  We can help each other…

These are in no particular order:

Dropbox  Graphic files can get really huge.  I quit e-mailing more than one or two files a few years ago, and instead just create a folder on Dropbox and have the person download whatever I want to send them.  It’s free and ridiculously easy.  Not to mention you get an e-mail from Dropbox when they retrieve the file, so if there’s any time sensitivity you can keep track of what’s going on.

Google Docs  Ah, the almighty Google.  There is a huge love/hate relationship around the world with Google.  I’m in the love camp.  I like their simplicity and innovation.  We use Google docs to share a spreadsheet for receiving as believe it or not, our customers send over their inventory before we receive a Purchase Order.  That never happens in your shop, does it?  Our receiving team counts the number of pieces against the packing slip and logs the item by date received on a Google Doc spreadsheet.  The form is constantly updated, and our internal customer service reps review this list daily and help receiving clear the items.  This saves a lot of back and forth.  While you don’t have to use it for receiving, the point is that you can easily share the same file between a bunch of people and continually update it so it’s relevant.

Trello   I love making lists.  I started using Trello to keep track of ideas for future blog articles or pieces for industry magazines.  (This article was on that list!)  I’m using it by creating different color coded boards as headers, and filling these with different ideas.  Each of these ideas can be fleshed out, and you can include a lot of information, links, photos and even add deadlines.  You can even collaborate with others on the same board.  I’m still playing around with it, but it is nice having a place to quickly jot down an idea to use later.

Videolicious  A news crew came by the shop to film us printing t-shirts and after a conversation with the cameraman, he showed me this app.  I’ve played around with it, but haven’t quite got the hang of it yet…but it is still really too fantastic not to share.  You can essentially film, narrate, edit and musically score your own video from this app on your smart phone.  That’s right, from your phone!!  A one-minute video is free, but if you want to get your creative mojo working there are a couple of pricing plans available for more features and video lengths.  You have never felt this much power in your phone.  Go ahead, make your day and get you inner Scorcese or Speilberg hopping.

Spotify   I love music, and having your own personal soundtrack is pretty nice.  What I like about Spotify is that I can create different playlists and have them available everywhere.  I have it loaded on my phone, laptop, Kindle, office desktop, iPad, and home desktop.  For me, nothing gets your mood changed like your favorite song playing in the background.  Spotify starts off free, but I use the pay version…which is still pretty cheap when you consider the massive amount of music I have saved to different lists.  Not all artists are available (the Beatles for example), but there is so many here they aren’t really missed.  Like Hernán Cortés who burned his ships so his expedition crew couldn’t retreat, I’ve sold all my CD’s as I just quit listening to them as they were too clunky to use.

Buffer  If you read any articles about social media scheduling there are two apps that are commonly cited as the best.  Buffer or HootSuite,  I’ve tried them both, and I like Buffer better as for me, it’s cleaner and easier to use.  Both offer the way to schedule and plan out your social media posts over different channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  Using Buffer makes my social media efforts ridiculously easy as I can plan out and share interesting things to people in my social media network.  I’m constantly asked how do I find the time to push out my content, and people are really amazed when I tell them that I handle everything in about two ten minute scheduling sessions a week using this app (Sunday’s & Wednesday’s).  I like to follow the 80/20 rule, which is to have about 80% of your content be interesting articles, videos or comments aimed toward your audience that you think will be helpful or intriguing to them.  The other 20% is generated by you.  Buffer helps me schedule everything, and if a post uses a hyperlink it can track how many people have clicked on the post to read it.  For some posts, it’s a big goose egg.  For others, hundreds of people might view it.  That’s when you start narrowing down similar articles, frequency or time of day for posting.  Both are free, and well worth playing around with and determining what could be a good fit for your usage.  If you are building your social media marketing for your shop, either one of these platforms is a really great place to start when pushing out content.

Camera+   – This is the photo app I currently have installed on my phone.  It’s very easy to use, and I like the fact that it has a large assortment of filters, editing features, and controls.  It’s not free ($1.99), but at that price it may as well be.  I take a lot of shots for the shop.  Whether it’s a close up of a decoration to send to a client, or an action shot to publish on our Pinterest board  this app makes it simple to look like I know what I’m doing.

Pinterest …and speaking of Pinterest…  I’ve written about Pinterest before and probably will again.  For apparel decorators this is such a versatile and powerful tool, and I can’t believe more people don’t use it.  The two biggest uses for me are educating customers about what we do in the shop by using photographs with a shop-centric board, and having a board for design inspiration ideas.  For the shop board, I just take quick pics as I’m walking around the shop.  About once a week or so I load up the ones that look the best to the Pinterest board.  I’m always e-mailing new or existing customers the link to the board, and we’ll usually have a conversation about something on there.  This really helps them understand the process without traveling to the shop.  We don’t get much walk-in traffic, and this is a great way to do a shop tour.  For the design idea board, I pin stuff that looks interesting to me.  I’m looking for style, color, texture, and creativity.  Start following great designers or those that contribute to Pinterest often and the flow of coolness coming your way will be astounding.  This is how fresh and creative ideas happen, as I’m constantly exposed to interesting and creative work.

Wilcom Truesizer  This is a great piece of tech that our shop uses in customer service to quickly set up and get approval for embroidery jobs for production.  We can easily create multiple color ways, view designs, set up approval forms, and get everything ready for production.  What’s nice about this software is that our reps can quickly show a client a variation and shoot them a proof, without going through our digitizing department.  “Oh, you want to see that text in black?  Here you go!”  It makes our shop run faster, and handle challenges quickly

SGIA   Yes, not exactly a phone app so why is this relevant?  Because the Specialty Graphics Imaging Association exists solely to make your shop better.  You have to be a member to take advantage of their resources and expertise.  They hold webinars constantly on subjects, with experts handing you industry best practices on a silver platter.  The publish one of the most brilliantly written, and fact based trade magazines in the world.  Not to mention, they have a fantastic trade show every year, where the who’s who of the industry gather to network, create, share information, and learn.  Your industry suppliers debut new products there every year.  Those that go, know about them.  Those that stay home?  Well, you get the picture.  See you at the show!  Click here to register.

Well that’s ten things that are in use daily to make work easier.  Your turn.  Share an app or tech that you’re using to solve a problem, get creative, or add to the special sauce in your world.  Shoot me an e-mail if you need help with anything.  matkinson4804@gmail.com


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