How many documents do you sign on a weekly basis? If you’re a busy freelancer or business owner, then you’re at least signing one per week (if not more).
How you go about signing and storing these documents is crucial to the organization of your business. This is why you’ll find more and more businesses (large and small) adopting electronic documents and e-signatures.
Not only does this streamline their processes, but it makes managing documents a whole lot easier.
But there are some instances where you may have to use a wet signature over an electronic signature. Knowing when to do this is key to ensuring your documents remain within legal guidelines (and best business practices).
So let’s take a closer look at what a wet signature is and when you should use one.
What is a Wet Signature?
A wet signature is a signature you create using wet ink – aka a pen. This is the traditional way of signing documents and has been for many centuries.
Most people use cursive or stylized formats for their signature. While others may use a symbol or name seals.
The term “wet” revolves around the ink being wet and requiring time to dry. Now, you may think that printing out a document with an electronic signature would be considered a wet signature because it too has ink that requires drying.
However, this doesn’t qualify because it wasn’t handwritten.
What is An Electronic Signature?
Electronic signatures are considered the opposite of a wet signature. These are produced electronically using a computer or mobile device.
The definition of an electronic signature is the confirmation of a message, document, or transaction that’s sent and received electronically by both parties.
Here are several examples of an electronic signature:
- Your name typed at the bottom of an email
- Your name typed at the bottom of a digital document
- A handwritten signature at the bottom of a faxed document
- Personal identification numbers
- Agree and Disagree buttons for terms and agreements on digital contracts
- A signature captured using a touchscreen device, like tablets and smartphones
Is this Different than a Digital Signature?
Most people use digital signatures and electronic signatures interchangeably, but the two are different. For one, a digital signature is a cryptographic signature used on digital documents.
Digital signatures come with enhanced security as it validates the signature. You’ll find this used on college applications, tax documents, and permit applications.
When to Use Wet Signatures
There are various situations where you may need to hand write your signature on documents. For instance, you may have a party in the group who feels more comfortable with everyone signing an agreement with a wet signature.
There are also certain documents that are required by law to contain a wet signature. For example, there are certain banks that require a wet signature for loan documents.
Typically, when money’s involved, there’s a chance a wet signature is needed.
However, you’ll find many countries today that established laws that state electronic signatures hold the same weight as wet signatures. So you’re able to sign contracts, agreements, and finance documents electronically as long as all parties agree.
In the year 2000, ESIGN (Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act) went into effect, which made e-signatures legally binding.
Again, it all comes down to the company issuing the documents and what they require – wet or electronic signatures.
It’s also important to note that there’s no law that requires a wet signature for documents you fax or email to sellers or companies that accept electronic signatures.
The Effect of Signatures on Business Processes
There are many documents you must create and process throughout your business career. You have to approve contracts and invoices and manage employee paperwork.
Wet signatures are manually done, which can slow down business processes. Imagine being able to have all necessary paperwork completed the same day to allow a project to commence immediately.
With wet signatures, you’d have to wait days to receive the signed documents via mail. Electronic signatures streamline the paperwork process and this goes for HR documents, agreements, contracts, tax documents, and any other documents you manage on a daily basis.
Digital documents and signatures improve business organization and allow managers to do their jobs more efficiently. Then with the right tools, you can automate digital document signing.
For instance, you can upload documents for recipients to sign and once everyone does, the document’s labeled as complete. You’re notified when all signatures are recorded and when signatures are still needed.
This will allow you to stay on top of your paperwork and ensure everything’s signed on time. You can easily send reminders to recipients in case they forgot to review and sign the document.
The Pros of E-Signature Platforms
Besides being a convenient way to manage signatures, there are several other benefits to using digital documents. For instance, the tracking is a whole lot easier.
Not only do you see which documents are complete or waiting for signatures, but you can also see IP addresses and Geo tracking. This helps to ensure the right person signs the document.
Then storing all of your digital documents is easy. They’re all stored in the cloud, which means you can access it from anywhere on any internet-connected device.
Certain platforms like eversign allow you to choose a deadline for when a contract needs to be signed, which speeds up the process of getting signatures.
Of course, you can also save a lot of money in the office, since you won’t have to dish out money on paper, ink, printers, copiers, and fax machines. Not to mention, you’ll lessen your carbon footprint.
In the US, offices are wasting an average of 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Then across the world, each person uses an average of two pieces of paper every hour.
And the office workers in America uses a piece of paper every 12 minutes.
In Japan, USA, and Europe, the average person uses about 250 to 300 kilos of paper annually. In the UK, it costs businesses a whopping £15 billion.
So as you can see, paper waste is a major issue all around the globe. By using digital documents and e-signatures, you can forego the use of printed paperwork and the waste it causes.
How Digital Signatures Can Improve Your Business
When you’re operating a business, you’re always looking for methods to save money and improve processes. With digital signatures, you can do both.
With digital documents, you’re able to easily upload paperwork for partners, co-workers, or clients to sign. It’s as simple as taking a snapshot of a document and uploading it to your digital signature platform.
Or if you’re away on a business trip and have a document emailed to you to sign, you can use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to complete the signature. This can hasten the closing of deals so business can resume.
Paperwork is one of the burdens business owners have. But it doesn’t have to be this way for your company.
Both large and small businesses can benefit from the use of digital documents. It helps to save space, which is great news for both types of businesses.
Maybe one day you’d like to downsize and transfer over to a remote style of work. By going digital, you can eliminate the need for large office spaces for storing a room filled with files.
There are many ways you can save money by using digital documents and signatures. By now, you should see how pricey it can be maintaining office supplies.
You’ll even find that your customers may like the convenience of doing business with you by offering them the option to sign paperwork digitally. There’s nothing more annoying than having to sign and initial page after page during the start of a new agreement.
The customer experience is everything and can be the difference between retaining customers and losing them to competitors. And it all begins with their interactions with your brand.
So do whatever you can to make all processes easy and fast for your clientele.
Ready to Make the Switch to Digital?
Countless other businesses already are. Digital is the future – it’s the way your customers expect to be able to do business with companies.
This includes being able to shop online, interact with your brand online, and electronically sign documents to initiate projects and complete product orders.
Streamlining your business processes is key to making your brand stand out and appeal to customers.
Maybe switching over from wet signatures to digital signatures will help make matters better for everyone. But there’s only one way to find out!
Let us know in the comments how you plan to implement the switch from print to digital.