How An Electronic Signature Service Can Save You Time And Money

signatureHow do you collect signatures when you manage your contracts with clients? Do you fax, e-mail, or even send via snail mail? If you are still scanning, faxing or mailing documents in order to obtain signatures, you may be able to save a lot of time by using electronic signatures.

A common worry for those who are not utilizing electronic signatures is that it may not be as good as having a hard copy. The good news is that an electronic signature has been as legally binding as a physical signature since the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-SIGN) Act was signed in the U.S. in 2000. And similar laws have been passed in every state, as well as in the European Union.

The Benefits

Aside from saving time by eliminating signing, scanning, faxing and mailing, there are many benefits of moving to an electronic signature system. Here are a few:

  • Reduce Waiting Time – If you typically wait until you have a signed agreement to commence work, you can be waiting days or even weeks to get started. It’s faster and easier for your clients to make a couple of clicks in order to sign the agreement and give you the go ahead to get started.
  • Save Money – Save on costs of paper, ink, and postage. Plus, it’s better for the environment!
  • Provide Copies for All Parties – Once the agreement is signed, all parties receive a digital copy, which makes it easier for them to refer to it later and file it on their computer.
  • Create an Archive – Many electronic signature services include archiving functionality so you have all of your active documents easily accessible in one place.
  • Increase Security – Electronic signatures mean digital encryption, and it’s much harder to fake your identity when signing electronically.

Electronic Signature Services

There are many services that provide electronic signature services for a monthly fee or per-document fee. Some of the top features offered include:

  • Customized branding
  • Online reporting
  • PDF encryption
  • Auto-filing/archiving
  • Reminder options
  • Support of various document types

Here are some services you may want to explore:

One Warning…

Because electronic signatures are so quick and easy to execute, it may be tempting for the signing party not to read the agreement in it’s entirety. Part of your responsibility as the service provider (and one way to avoid any future contract disagreements) is to make sure your client not only signs your agreement, but also understands the terms. Give them time to review and ask any questions they may have before signing off. It’s quicker and easier but that doesn’t mean the content is any less important and shouldn’t be subjected to a contract review process.

How do you get your contracts signed? What are the benefits of the way you do it?

Image credit: Carl Dwyer

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  • http://www.sankesolutions.co.uk hotnuts21

    Can anyone point me to any legal info for this in the UK? We are thinking of using this at work but need full legal clarity first, we have around 2000 new contracts to get signed. Also be good to know how user friendly they are from the end user/signer point of view as we have a lot of older and ‘traditional’ contacts who we will be resending contacts too.

  • TomG

    Some legal info about the UK and in general can be found on the DocuSign site at http://www.docusign.com/resources/whitepapers.php and by contacting DocuSign at support@docusign.com and talking to the legal team. DocuSign has lots of customers in the US, UK, and EU using DocuSign for lots of different transactions.

  • http://xslt2processor.sourceforge.net boen_robot

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but in order for a client to sign a document, they need to have a valid unique digital signature (similar to an SSL certificate) issued by certain known issuers, different for each region…
    [rant]
    Well… where I live (Bulgaria, which mind you, is since recently part of the EU), it would cost you more to maintain a valid digital signature than all of the papers you could possibly sign within a year (or to be more precise… several).

    Such a signature costs 24 BGN (~12€) for personal use, and 60 BGN (~30€), whereas a roll of ~100 plain A4 papers costs 1 BGN (~0.5€). Unless you need to print+sign+scan more than 200 papers per year, you don’t have a deal. In a country with a total of 7 milion people, from which only about 3 million are potential customers (right age), and even fewer would be actual customers (being the decision maker, wanting to do something with the web, living too far from you to go to your office or for you to go to theirs, etc.), it’s truly hard to find people that need to sign more than 200 papers per year. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to find clients that have such signatures for their companies or bosses on the very least.

    In my town (which btw, is the second biggest one in Bulgaria, so you’d expect to have some rich people around), I only know 3 or 4 companies that need to do this kind of procedure that many times. The rest work on solid contracts (thus, they do this procedure 1 or 2 times per year tops; I know of at least 10 such big companies), or (the larger amount of people, myself included) rarely work with contracts, and are thus willing to go the extra mile (which is, quite literally, a mile or two) to the client’s office.
    [/rant]
    I really wish the situation was different though… I really wish there were more people and companies with digital signatures around… other than the “cost saving” factor, everything else you mention is still valid, even in my twisted home land.

  • http://xslt2processor.sourceforge.net boen_robot

    [edit]
    …and 60 BGN for commercial use…
    [/edit]

    I forgot to mention that in these 200 papers up to 24 BGN, I include the price of the ink and/or toner you’d use. For ~25 BGN, one can get a toner for a laser printer that can be used for somewhere between 300 and 1200 copies, depending on the model of the printer and the amount of black on each paper.

    P.S. Sitepoint, why can’t we (registered users) edit our comments?!? At least until a new one has arrived in the queue? Pleeease?

  • RWS

    At least of the vendors listed includes a Certificate Authority (CA) with the product, hence, the digital IDs are provided as part of the product. Otherwise I would agree that going to one of the 3rd party CAs might be a more expensive proposition.

  • http://www.sharilynhorne.com diablaroja

    I used EchoSign for client agreements for a while and I loved the speed of it, but I found that many (if not most) of my clients were not reading the entire document. As far as I could tell there was no way to initial particular sections. It ended up being not worth the trouble.

  • Scott P

    I work at an electronic signature solutions provider (eOriginal Inc.), and I have to say Alyssa made a lot of great points. I would only like to elaborate on the eco-friendly nature of electronic signatures. eSignatures significantly reduce the use of paper and the release of greenhouse gas emissions from the vehicles used to transport documents when shipped. It doesn’t hurt either that by eliminating the need to ship documents your business also saves money.

  • Ramel Levin

    hotnuts21, there is an electronic signature legal wiki which you might find useful.

    I work for a digital signature solution provider called ARX. We have on our site a white paper on the legal aspect of digital signatures around the world which you might find useful.

  • mikam

    I have worked on both the development side and employed electronic signature solutions in my business. A key aspect to ensure that the document is legal in the US is to verify the intent of the signer. That means that you have some responsibility to insure that your clients read and understand what they are signing. This is also true if you fax them a contract, ship it by FedEx or personally hand it to them!

    The specific technology in the US is not mandated. The European Directive tries to standardize on an electronic signature based on XMLDSig (or now XADeS) thus requiring trusted third party providers and implying personal certificates. Many of the electronic signature software suppliers “sign” the document using their own or the customers certificate. This is primarily for message authentication – the user authentication is carried out by other means because most customers don’t have personal certificates. Depending on the nature of the contract this can be as simple as receiving an email at a verified email address such as is done with Echosign’s basic service.

    I have a non-commercial blog at http://esignaturepost.com/ where we can discuss things around esignatures. In fact – I’m always open for experts to author posts however I would like them to have technical merit and be of general interest rather than blatant pushing of product.

  • xyzmo

    Going electronic in these tough times is a matter of ROI

    The downturn in the economy has businesses of all sizes thinking how they could enhance their efficiency and cut costs, without damaging their business results in today’s business environment. We, at xyzmo SIGNificant believe that in these tough times business could extremely streamline their processes by embedding a simple solution, such as the electronic signature, to optimize the way they work, thus enable a TRUE paperless workflow and have a chance to turn a crisis into an opportunity.

    Most of the companies today, automate their business processes and document workflow procedures, leaving the approval stage the only component that requires the need of paper. Digital and electronic signatures replace the concept of traditional paper-based signing with an electronic one. Signing the original electronic document saves companies on labor, faxing and mailing costs. Additionally digital signatures safeguard electronic documents and files by allowing the authentication of the signatory and verification of the original document. By embedding these solutions in their business, companies will no longer need to print documents and brake the electronic document cycle solely for the purpose of capturing a handwritten signature, therefore establishing a fully digitized process.
    When considering the operational overhead of paper-based processes, the cost of each document becomes fairly high. From the experience we acquired in xyzmo SIGNificant, we learnt that the simple step of embedding en electronic signature solution enables business to achieve two important goals, which are making and saving more money, resulting in a better bottom line with a quick and proven ROI.

    http://www.xyzmo.com/

  • commandnotapple

    Thought I would share a free service from LoopApps and DocuSign DocuSign Express

    I haven’t used it yet, but I plan on sending out something within the next few days. Will post back with the outcome and my feelings on the service.

    /A