The great portfolio debate reminds me of Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road in the “Lions, and Tigers and Bears… oh my!” scene.  Let’s watch it real quick… 🙂

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While many people think I’m probably an early adopter of technology, I’m really not.  I’m never in line for the latest iPhone the day it comes out and I don’t upgrade software right away.  I take more of a “wait and see” attitude and I really have to justify the expenditures to myself before I jump in.  I mean, you could really go broke if you got every new gadget that hit the market!

So when iPads started to be seen at trade shows like SURTEX and the Licensing Expo – I felt a little like Dorothy in the woods… Should I jump on board and go digital with my portfolio? Would it be worth the expense or was it just another expense to add to exhibiting? Would the battery last? How would I organize everything…. my list of fears and fiscal concerns was pretty lengthy!

There is a balance between “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” and “always look for new ways to become more efficient and seem more professional”.  Where did the iPad fall?

I was very comfortable with my printed portfolio system.  Each year I would pick my newest and best art, organize them by theme, fill my carry on and head off to my booth at SURTEX.  I had learned to watch how people paused when flipping through the pages and ask questions and make notes.  We could be getting something ready from another binder while they were flipping through the current one.  Would it work as well?

For all of these reasons and more I waited until 2012 to jump on the iPad wagon.  After being teased by several clients who were shocked that I hadn’t embraced the technology yet to being envious of people I’d seen walking the halls of the Atlanta Gift Show with only an iPad in tow… I grabbed my wallet and headed to the Apple Store.

The first show I took my iPad too was the January gift show in Atlanta.  Because I didn’t have to bring a big brief case to wheel around printed binders, I was able to fly with carry-on only.  It was only 45 minutes between the wheels touching down and my butt hitting the bed in my hotel.  Hop off the plane, jump on Marta, check in, done.  That was the first of many benefits to my new iPad lifestyle.

The next internal struggle regarded SURTEX – do I go all in and iPad only or play it safe and bring both paper and technology?

After many discussions with my sister and reading others blog posts and LinkedIn discussions on the topic, I decided to be brave again.  Click my ruby red slippers and assume the best would happen.  iPad only!  Christine let me load my portfolio on her iPad as well so we would have 2 copies (not sure she realized how much work that would be but she really is the best sister in the world!)

So the next question – did I survive the switch and was it worth it…

Yes and a resounding YES!  By using an iPad, I didn’t have to pick and choose what art to bring, I could bring it all.  I had interest in and signed licensing deals for art that I never would have brought with me in my paper portfolios.  Yes, I had those same designs in my online portfolio, but to have them in person while talking with a client or prospect in my booth got their attention in a different way.  Having a larger variety – including older art – proved to be a great move.  I have more than paid back what I invested in my iPad and I won’t be second guessing it next year.

The next debate will be whether I invest in a second iPad for my business so my poor sister doesn’t have to load everything on hers again… but I have time to decide. 🙂

Bottom line: investing in an iPad worked for me.  iPads are becoming more and more expected by manufacturers (only one has told me they really miss paper portfolios – most love them!).  Sort of like the internet – I think this whole digital portfolio thing is here to stay and will only become more and more expected as a part of doing business.

Here’s to your creative success and technological bravery!

– Tara Reed