Now you know what all biz gurus say – don’t start work without a signed contract.
They all say it and we all know they’re probably right, but getting a signed contract is kind of a pain. A pain involving printers and scanners and that most elusive of tech innovations – the ballpoint pen.
If you’re like most of us, you don’t want to inflict such pain on your poor clients, especially at this sensitive point in your budding relationship. The tender moment of “I do.”
Your instincts aren’t wrong on this. Many a deal has delayed, stalled and fallen through in the midst of an extended “we’re going to sign” kerfuffle.
Besides we all heard from someone somewhere, that if the client agrees to your offer via email, that has the same legal standing as a signed contract.
Why You Need the Dotted Line
Signatures are important but not for the reason most people assume. Most of us understand the legal implications of a signature in court, which is decisive.
But for most small businesses, it’s a nightmare to go to court with a client over a breached contract. There’s almost no point preparing for that contingency because it’s almost never worth it.
So what’s the real point of the signature?
It’s simple: To scare off the bad guys.
Normal client are shy of signing because it’s a pain. Shonky clients are shy of signing because in their twisted brains, they know they’re not committed to fulfilling their end of the bargain. As soon as they see your professional-looking proposal, complete with signature line, they tend to lose interest.
And yes, you WANT those guys to lose interest.
So the goal is to completely remove the pain of a signed contract, without removing the moral safeguard of it.
The obvious solution is digital signatures. That means that Mr. Dream Client can sign their name from their screen or keyboard, press a button and then the contract is legally signed.
There are a lot of options for digital signatures and I have tried out many of them. Some of them were easier (and cheaper) to work with than others.
Here are the two options for digital signatures apps that I have personally test run and currently use in my business:
HelloSign is a very simple solution that works great and is completely free for up to 3 documents per month.
It’s perfect if you use Google Docs to create and edit your proposal, like I do for simple projects. It works with Microsoft Word Docs too.
After setting up your HelloSign account, use the HelloSign Google Docs Add-on to simply drag and drop the fields for name, date and digital signature box to their designated places at the bottom of the document.
HelloSign then sends the document to your client as a PDF. The client can sign it on any device. It literally takes them 10 seconds.
I use HelloSign for smaller simpler proposals and it’s great.
Better Proposals is one of the many proposal management tools out there. It’s my current favorite, having tried at least five others.
Better Proposals offers digital signatures, along side many other features that help you create proposals that are exceptionally well presented. If you are sending proposals for projects priced at over $2,000, I happen to think that you owe your clients a well-designed, easy-to-use proposal experience of the kind you give with Better Proposals.
Such a proposal shows your professionalism, which is key to a client who’s about to invest a significant sum in your services.
Though I’m on a monthly plan with Better Proposals that allows me to send lots of proposals, I still sometimes use HelloSign for simpler jobs or for old faithful clients where suddenly popping up with a fancy-shmancy proposal seems like trying just a little too hard. If you know what I mean.
So these are my current preferred solutions for digital solutions. Please share with us other solutions that you’ve found helpful.
If you’ve never requested a digital signature before, try it on your next proposal. I have a feeling that you and your clients are going to love it.
PS. I just created and used animated GIF images for the first time in this blog post. Do you like them?