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With the passing of the E-Sign Act in 2000, e-signatures were given essentially the same legal stature as pen and ink signatures. Ever since, more and more companies have been offering e-signature services. Now, in 2016, e-signatures are extremely common—and freelancers in particular should be happy about this for a number of reasons.
One reason is freelancer e-security. In an article for Entrepreneur, writer Mikal Belicove argues that, “Electronically signed and sealed documents are more secure than their paper counterparts because they tend to contain more information about who signed them, and they can be protected from unauthorized tampering.”
Paper-based signatures don’t have time stamps on them, or metadata, or all the little things that help tracking activity on a computer or network possible.
Besides security considerations, e-signatures can save a freelancer precious time. SignNow, an award winning e-signature company, allows you to try a sample and see how simple the process can be. Take a look at how quickly one can set up a document group, send items to be signed, and how fast it is to complete and return a document that is waiting for a freelancer’s e-signature.
Why Freelancers Need E-Signatures
Freelance e-security is a big deal. As a freelancer in 2016, you are likely to conduct the vast majority of your business via the internet, which means you have a constant flow of contracts coming in and out of your inbox, and you are being paid in a wide variety of ways—one company direct deposits money into your account, the other sends a check, and the third does everything via PayPal.
Nothing is ever perfectly secure, and the e-security of conducting a freelance business is no different. When all documents were paper, it was easy to forge signatures, tamper, lose (or, in worse cases, purposely destroy) contracts or other important documents.
With e-signatures, though, the record is easier to find—perhaps it was sent to multiple people. It’s also saved on your desktop, or in your cloud, or on your flash drive, or all three. Your contract can’t be so easily destroyed by a fire or flood or theft or simple human error (oh, man, did I throw out the wrong box of stuff from storage?).
Many people express concerns about the use of e-signatures, but, with the proper protections in place, including the use of several levels of authentication using biometrics, passwords, and more, many cyber security experts argue that e-signatures are actually more secure than regular old paper and pen.
There are also security certifications that e-signature companies can earn through various professional organizations. For example, SignNow recently met all of the criteria needed to complete the Service Organization Control Type II audit, which addresses security principles developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
An e-signature is only one aspect of freelance e-security, but it is still a crucial one, and anything you can do to minimize your chances of being exposed to things like identity theft are worth pursuing.
E-security for freelancers is why using e-signatures should be considered necessary, but there are also plenty of other reasons for using e-signatures, from saving time to professionalism to keeping yourself organized.
The Benefits of Having an E-Signature
Freelancers lead busy lives. Or, at the very least, that’s the goal—to pick up as many clients as you want or need to fit into your schedule. Printing a document, signing it with pen and ink, scanning it and emailing or faxing it back to a prospective client or new company you’re contracted to work for can take time. It might not seem like a lot, but those five or ten minutes a few times a day or week add up.
If you’re like me, and you’re always on the go—working in coffee shops or wherever else you can find a WiFi connection, you often do not have access to a printer, scanner, or fax machine unless you trek over to the public library or office supply store. That takes even more time, and perhaps even more important than the time it takes is the fact that it breaks your concentration. If you’re working on a project, it’s crucial to stay on task—study after study shows that interruptions have a significant impact on productivity.
So, if every time you receive a document that needs to be printed, signed, and returned, you wish that it didn’t take up so much time, how do you think your client feels when you send them the same? Saving your client effort, by sending contracts that include the ability for e-signatures to be used, is respectful of their time and, since e-signatures have become so common, few people balk at using them. In the rare case you do run into someone who absolutely insists on using paper for everything—just use paper for that client (assuming the job is worth it). Otherwise, keep everything streamlined, increase the e-security of your freelance business, and use an e-signature as much as possible.
It’s also better for organization—you will have the same template for most contracts, and you can keep them stored digitally all in one place. If you really want a paper backup, just print them and file them away, but it’s easy to include as much information as you need in the digital copy—you can sort them quickly into files organized by month or quarter, which is especially useful when filing your taxes.
No matter whether you’re using paper or electronic documents for your freelance business, though, security has to be of the utmost importance. If you choose to focus on paper for records retention and security, though—you are responsible for all of that yourself. By using a service like SignNow, many of your freelance e-security needs are taken care of, allowing you to focus even more of your time and efforts on your business.
Give e-signatures a try next time you’re sending an important document! You might be surprised by how much of a relief it is to finish your paperwork so quickly and efficiently.
Note: No part of this blog post should be considered legal advice. If you have legal questions regarding e-signatures or freelance e-security, please consult with an attorney.