There was a time when contracts were signed in formal ceremonies with witnesses and documents in triplicate. It used to be mandatory to schedule a contract review, drive to a designated location at a designated time, and watch each other read the contract so one could sign on a dotted line or two. This was the case because the authentication and verification of the individual could not be done in any other way!
Technology has finally caught up to the dream of the paperless office, and document signings can be conducted online from anywhere, at any time. Electronic signing of documents is secure, fast, and safe. In addition to all of this, with the right software, it is free! Let’s investigate what features are ideal in a free contract signing software.
If you were to go to your browser and search for free eSign software, you would get several pages of different results. Some of them would be “free trial” versions, not actually free. With some of these, you get the full suite of features to try and enjoy; then you are notified that to use it after that first contract, it is going to be $64.99 a month.
Some of them are truly free, with no strings attached, and no features attached either. If all you need to do is electronically sign an existing PDF and have no desire for your software to do anything else at all, this may be the option for you.
For most businesses that are just dipping their toes into the world of electronic documents, you need a few specific features and the ability to upgrade effortlessly. You might not need some features starting out, but you will likely need them in the future.
The main reason most people look for online eSigning software is the ability to make contract signing easy and contactless. But another reason that they are not aware of is for document storage. Any business that is regularly submitting and approving contracts is going to produce a mountain of paper. Many companies keep a copy of each revision after approval to show the paper trail of corrections and that each step was authorized. This can equal a hundred pages or more on each account, and that adds up quickly.
Any good eSignature software will offer cloud storage. A great one like Revv offers it even in the free version. With cloud storage, you can effortlessly save all of your contract files after they are signed. Whenever you or your client want to review the contract, whether at work, on the golf course, or at a meeting in another state, it will be available.
Because eSigned documents are legally binding in the same way a wet signature would be, you don’t have to store a physical copy. This lets you access your files as needed while saving thousands in rent, office supplies, and administrative labor. You can always download your files and save them to another cloud server, but for security and convenience, it is much better if your eSign software has its own cloud storage.
Varied document types
This might seem self-explanatory, but having software to sign contracts isn’t helpful if the contracts you need aren’t compatible. When you look for free contract signing software, make sure it has the ability to work with more than just Adobe PDFs (the industry standard). Revv works with Docs as well as PDF. This is great if you have existing contracts that you want to effortlessly import.
As your business grows, you are likely to move beyond the forms and documents you already have. When this happens, it is very helpful if your contract building software has a decent form editor. Many full-featured eSign programs have poor reviews for their document editors. If you can’t make your contracts your own or make changes for individual customers’ needs, then your software isn’t much help. You could still edit documents and import them, but jumping from software to software increases your likelihood of errors, as well as the inefficiency and irritation factor.
The better free software will have at least some of the document creation functionality of paid versions. Revv, for example, offers over 400 unique templates for contracts and forms in its free version. This lets you create a document from scratch within the app in minutes.
Multi device functionality
One of the greatest benefits of using online signature software is the convenience for your customers. In the past, in order to have your contract signed, you only had a few options.
- The most traditional route was to call your customer and schedule an appointment for them to come to your office. Once they were there, you could give them the contract, then spend the time it takes them to read the contract making yourself available and engaged, but not overbearing or weird. It was an uncomfortable process that few people really enjoyed, and it took up a large portion of your day that could have been utilized in more productive activities.
- Alternately, you could mail the documents needing signatures to your customer. This could take up to a week. Then you are dependent on your customer to open the packet, sign everything (correctly) and get it back in the mail.
- A faster option is to email the contract and supporting documents to the customer. They are then obligated to print it out, sign it, find an appropriate envelope, and mail it back.
All of these old-fashioned options could lead to your customers being poached by a competitor while you wait.
Compare that to multi-device functionality on Revv. You can generate a document and send it to your client, who can open it on whatever device is convenient to them, whether that is a computer, tablet, or phone. With a few clicks, their document is signed and back in your possession, potentially within minutes of you sending it.
Full security functionality
Depending on your industry, there are multiple security standards you may have to meet. For the majority of industries, a simple electronic signature provides all the security you need. It uses individualized access that no one else can use, and it is secure enough that it is considered the equivalent of a traditional wet signature in US courts. Unless your industry specifically demands it, you should stick with simple electronic security to avoid the complications associated with the higher security formats.
If you are in banking or government work, you might be required to utilize a digital signature than a simple electronic signature. A digital signature format uses unique personal digital keys to ensure that no one accesses your document who isn’t authorized. Where electronic signature security settings are not standardized, so different brands might be more or less secure, a digital signature is based on an industry-standard and is regulated by the government to guarantee it is secure. Because of the authentication process for your digital keys, as well as the specific software that both parties will have to use, a digital signature is impractical for most business contract use.
If you work in an industry that uses digital signatures, regularly or occasionally, or if your business ever works with those industries, you need to make sure your contract signing software is able to handle digital signatures. These same guidelines would also apply for the even more specialized fields that utilize qualified electronic signature (QES). To use this highly secure version of digital signature, you will need software that is compatible with QES and will need specialized hardware devices for authentication.
An important feature, and one that sets Revv apart, is the ability to have multiple users on one account. Multi-user accounts mean that your team can share templates and documents. You want consistency in how the documents are presented, so having a single database can make all the difference. Revv is one of the only software eSignature solutions to offer multiple users in its free version. Revv also allows up to 50 users on a single account for its upgraded services, so as your company grows you may not require to buy additional licenses for them to use Revv. You upgrade when you cross a certain threshold, not before.
Choosing the right contract signing software is important. A well-chosen software packet can do so much more than just sign contracts. It can generate documents, store files on the cloud, and import other files, provide a better eSign workflow, all from one simple-to-use location. The right eSignature software can help you realize the dream of a paperless office. This will help you save office supplies, time, and even office space, making your entire operation more efficient.