Are you using electronic documents with e-signatures yet? If not, it’s probably time to start. Electronic signatures have been a game-changer for many businesses, and they can be one for you, too.
Electronic signatures expedite the process of signing documents for parties who can’t meet in person. Signing documents electronically also creates another layer of security since there’s no chance of sensitive information getting lost in the mail.
There are two types of e-signatures: electronic signatures and digital signatures. Electronic signatures are just your average signature in electronic form. According to Adobe, digital signatures use a certificate authority to verify the signer’s identity and bind the signature and certificate together using encryption.
Whether you need to bind a digital signature using an encrypted certificate, or you’re okay with electronic signatures, here are 12 ways to make it easy to sign digital documents.
1. Use the Sign feature from Box.
Like all great tech companies, Box has an e-signature application that makes signing digital documents easy. This particular application is native to Box, so you can use it if you have an account.
Box Sign creates a seamless signing experience for your documents that are fully managed in the cloud. Upload your documents, send the link to your client, and they can sign right inside of your account.
Nobody has to download the document to sign it, which makes Box Sign the ultimate e-signature solution. When a document requires a signature, a note will be displayed in the margin to show that a signature has been requested. Once the document has been signed, you’ll see another message in the margin to inform you.
Box makes it easy to organize and manage critical documents in the cloud, but you can also use Box Sign on your website. With APIs, you can embed Box Sign in your site and use the features inside your proprietary applications.
2. Use your client’s preferred signature application when possible.
Sometimes clients have strong preferences that impede a project when those preferences can’t be honored. If you have a client who can’t or won’t use your usual e-signature application, ask them what they’d prefer.
Preparing a document to be signed in another application will take time, but if that’s the only way to get the signature, it can actually speed up the process.
You shouldn’t cater to picky clients, though. If someone is capable of downloading a free application and figuring it out, don’t give yourself more work to compensate for their laziness.
3. Send all documents to be signed at once.
The fastest way to get all the signatures you need is to send all your documents at once. Then, have people sign everything while they’re in the flow. If you trickle the documents one by one, the other party might get tired of signing and procrastinate.
4. Condense documents to reduce the number of signatures needed.
Some documents can’t be condensed, but if you have a series of them that can be bundled together to receive one signature, that will make things easier.
5. Use Adobe Reader or Jotform Sign.
Most people already have Adobe Reader on their computer. In addition, Adobe Reader comes with a free e-signature application.
If you cannot use faster solutions like Box Sign, settle for Adobe Reader to collect electronic signatures. You won’t get the convenience of signing documents in the cloud, but for some clients, that’s okay.
You can also use Jotform Sign to create, share and e-sign legally binding documents. This tool offers more than 600 readymade templates for every use case and helps you speed up your document process. Jotform Sign has a free plan available as well as paid plans with higher limitations.
6. Create a quick video tutorial you can give to clients.
When people struggle to sign electronic documents, sometimes they need a good visual lesson about how it’s done. For example, if you often request electronic signatures through a specific application, create a quick video tutorial that instructs people how and where to sign your documents.
If you don’t have time to make your video, you can probably find an existing tutorial on YouTube.
7. Don’t use applications that aren’t user-friendly.
Above all, user-friendly e-signature applications are a must. If people have trouble signing their documents electronically, they may give up. Don’t risk losing contracts over a simple technical challenge.
8. Make sure your e-signature application is mobile-friendly.
According to statistics, 6.4 billion people use smartphones worldwide. In addition, many people conduct business solely from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. So chances are, people will be signing your documents from a mobile device.
If you expect someone to sign your documents electronically, make sure your document and signature process is mobile-friendly.
9. Send paper documents through the mail as a backup.
Not everyone you work with will get on board with electronic signatures. Sometimes people can’t sign electronically, or the process confuses them. So be prepared to send a paper copy of your documents through the mail to anyone who asks.
10. Mark all fields for signatures and initials.
Whether you’re using paper documents or electronic documents, clearly mark all fields designated for signatures and initials. Your entire process will slow down if someone doesn’t sign in the right place or misses spots for initials.
If you’re sending someone a large document with numerous pages, you might want to number your signature fields. Adding numbers to each field will help some people complete all the required signatures.
For instance, say someone just signed signature #3 and turned the page. If the next page shows signature #5, they’ll know they’ve missed one.
Logically, it should be obvious if someone skips a page because the copy would read out of context. However, many people don’t read documents before signing. This applies to both paper documents and electronic documents since people sometimes scroll through documents quickly.
12. Use PDF files exclusively.
Don’t request signatures on Microsoft Word documents or any other word-processing file. You can create your contracts in MS Word, but you’ll need to save the file as a PDF before sending it off for a signature.
There’s a reason professional organizations use PDF files for contracts. They are designed to accept signatures. Once you create your PDF version, you can add signature elements anywhere you want. Word documents don’t work that way.
Bonus Tip: Always include a deadline for returning documents.
Time-sensitive documents need to be signed and returned on time, so include a deadline. You may also want to set a deadline for documents that aren’t time-sensitive, though.
Without a deadline, people tend to put things off and forget. Therefore, setting deadlines for everything is a high-level business strategy.
Many companies fail because they don’t operate with deadlines for anything. Or they set deadlines but constantly flex them out.
Don’t give people that much leeway. Set a deadline and explain the consequences for late delivery. For example, returning documents late might set back the project start time by a week.
If you’re running a tight ship, you might choose to cancel contracts with people who don’t return documents within a reasonable amount of time—for example, returning a document a month after the deadline is a bad sign for doing future business with someone.
However, it’s understandable if someone needs extra time to go over the document with their lawyer to make sure they know what they’re signing — as long as they communicate with you about it.
Electronic signatures are legally binding.
Now that you know all the tricks for making it easy to sign your PDF documents electronically, you wonder whether electronic signatures are legally binding. The answer is yes.
Electronic signatures have been legally binding on the federal level since 2000, when the ESIGN law was passed. However, some documents can’t be signed electronically; they include wills, testamentary trusts, family law documents, court documents, insurance policy cancellations, product recalls, and several others.
E-signatures make life easier.
No matter what kind of contract you need to be signed, using electronic signatures will make life easier. Whether you’re a corporation or a solopreneur, your business will flow better when you switch from physical signatures to electronic signatures.
Image Credit: energepicdotcom; Pexels; Thank you!