- Electronic signature apps allow you to sign documents digitally, as opposed to physically signing a printed document.
- E-signature apps are legal to use, as long as you abide by several federal requirements.
- Ease of use and increased security have made e-signature apps a valuable tool for businesses.
- This article is for small business owners who need an electronic signature app.
For important documents, signatures are often required to make them legally binding. However, the process of sending someone a printed document to sign, waiting for it to be signed and sent back is tedious and time-consuming. To streamline the signature process, e-signatures are growing in popularity.
Instead of signing a document by hand, today's e-signature software allows users to sign their name digitally and, once signed, the electronic version is recorded and the sender can then finalize the document and save it for their records. For business owners looking to use this type of technology, it is important to understand what e-signature apps can do and which ones you should consider using.
What is an electronic signature app?
Electronic signature apps help streamline the process of adding digital signatures to important documents. They work by recording and storing a digital signature and allowing it to be used repeatedly with a click of your mouse.
There are various ways that you can store a digital signature in an e-signature app. One way is to scan or take a photo of your handwritten signature and upload it into the software. You can then change the size of your signature as needed for each document you digitally sign. Another option some e-signature apps support is the ability to sign your name using your finger on a touchscreen device. Some apps don't even require your actual signature. You can type in your name and your "signature" will be created for you.
Key takeaway: An electronic signature app allows you to "sign" documents. Many apps store your signature so you can apply it to digital documents when needed.
Are electronic signatures legally binding?
Under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) ESign Act, electronic signatures are legally binding as printed signatures in the U.S. as long as certain requirements are met, including:
- The signee has demonstrated an intent to sign (e.g., the agreement has an opt-out clause so a signee can decline to sign).
- All respective parties have consented to do business electronically.
- The document offers clear signature attribution.
- All signatures have an association with the record.
- A record is retained to accurately reflect the signed agreement.
Benefits of electronic signature apps
There are several benefits for businesses that come with using electronic signature apps.
Electronic signature apps offer convenience. Getting paper documents together for you and your clients to sign can be a hassle. These apps streamline the signature process and ensure you can get documents signed and returned from anywhere in the world where there is an internet connection. However, using a secure Wi-Fi network is recommended. Some apps are available on Android and Apple phones and tablets and have an accompanying website that can be accessed from a desktop computer.
This convenience has been especially important during the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, more companies have relied on these services to get their documents signed.
With paper documents, you run risk losing them or having them fall into the wrong hands, even if you lock them in a filing cabinet. Electronic signature apps help ensure your documents are only seen by the relevant parties. Plus, these apps encrypt documents, eliminating the risk of fraud.
Shad Elia, founder and CEO of the real estate investment firm WeBuyHousesHere, shared that he finds e-signature apps to be quite cost-effective. Rather than print paper documents and mail them (and having to pay for return postage), you can pay sometimes as few as $10 a month to prepare, sign, send, and record contracts and other important documents.
"You save money on paper, printing, packaging and shipping," Elia said. "Yes, buying an e-signature software subscription requires some capital costs. They are, however, negligible compared to the disadvantages of the old-fashioned paper process."
4. Ease of use
Instead of having to print documents, mail them, wait for them to be signed and returned, electronic signature apps allow you to upload a document, email them and have them returned via email. A process that may have previously taken five to seven days can be completed in minutes.
5. Time savings
Users can get access to documents right away, and can easily find and search specific points that they may want to give extra attention to.
Key takeaway: There several benefits to using e-signature apps, including the cost, ease of use, security options and convenience.
What should you look for in an electronic signature app?
You will find variation among electronic signature apps with pricing and the features included. Your business needs also influence which signature app is best for your company. Among some points to consider are:
You want an app that grows with your business. A one-size-fits-all model may not be best for your business. Look for apps that have different pricing packages so you save money and only pay for the features you need.
2. Multiple platform signing capabilities.
You won't always know what type of device your clients (or propsective employees, or whomever you typically have sign documents) will have; it's important to choose an app that's available on PCs, Macs, and Apple and Android mobile devices. Electronic signature apps that work on all platforms ensure your documents can be digitally signed by everyone, regardless of which device they use.
Security should be a feature near or at the top of your list when selecting an electronic signature app. SSL encryption is a must, as it protects data when documents are being transmitted between devices. The ability to set password protections for each document is also a security feature to look for.
Best electronic signature apps
We surveyed more than two dozen business leaders on which apps are their favorite and why. The electronic signature apps that consistently ranked the highest by those surveyed include:
DocuSign offers users the functionality to sign documents anytime from nearly anywhere on a variety of devices. Creating and sending your first e-document (depending on how long it is) can take as little as 30 minutes.
"As a frequent user of DocuSign, I find it reassuring that if I delete a document to edit it or something, the recipients no longer have access to it. I highly recommend it if you are a freelancer or are employing a lot of freelancers, as it is quick, intuitive and secure without being costly," said Jennifer Schultz, a writer, outdoor guide and instructor with Outforia.
There are four service plans that range in price from $10 to $40 per user per month. Prices vary depending on how many documents you typically send each month, as well as the added features. Users have found the 30-day free trial to be a helpful starting point.
2. Adobe Sign
Adobe Sign is typically available through Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. Free trials are available, and prices range from $19.99 per month for a single user with an annual commitment to $21.99 per month per license on the multiuser plan when an annual commitment is made.
"As a branding and marketing agency, we're already heavily invested in the Adobe Suite for design and editing, so our go-to for contract e-signatures is Adobe Acrobat [Adobe Sign]. We simply open our PDF, add the required signature sections and send it directly to the client for signing," said Jay York, CEO and founder of Grove Brands.
York added that Adobe Sign stores contracts in a verifiable format, which helps ensure that agreements are legitimate.
Dima Suponau, co-founder of Number for Live Person, said that HelloSign is pretty affordable, easy to use, and that most of her business partners and clients quickly learned how to sign documents and send them back.
"It saved my business a few times when I needed a quick signature from someone because the deadline for sending a document somewhere was just about to end," Suponau said.
Like other electronic signature apps, HelloSign offers multiple pricing plans. There is a free plan and then three paid plans. The Essentials and Standard plan cost $15 and $20 per month, respectively. A custom quote is required for the Premium plan.