(Pocket-lint) - If the paperwork was snuffed out of your desk job requirements, wouldn’t appear at the office daily be less of a nightmare? For most people, the answer is yes. There are only a few things as annoying as having to sign through several reams of paper each day. Luckily for us, today’s worksphere is tending towards a paperless office.

Using free online signature apps like CocoSign, it’s now possible to sign several bundles of documents online. Electronic signature apps make appending signatures a breeze-through. 

They are also time-efficient since they help you save time that would have been otherwise used for printing and scanning signed documents. 

In this article, we will be taking a broader look at what an online signature is, the benefits of using one, how to sign documents using these online signatures and whether or not online signatures are legally binding and secure.

Part 1: What Is an online signature?  

An online signature, e-signatures or electronic signatures broadly refer to the digital process of indicating consent to the terms penned down in a document or record. It is any symbol, sound or statement attached to a document by an individual with an intent to sign the document. 

They can be used in place of wet-ink signatures in almost every process. Using online signature solutions like CocoSign, you can sign documents online from any part of the world. You can also send the same copy to another party to append their signature as well.

Part 2: How to sign documents online with an online signature

With most online signature solutions, signing online is not only convenient but simple and intuitive. In quick, easy steps you should be done. Taking CocoSign’s signing platform, for example, you can sign hundreds of documents in three steps.

Let’s quickly walk through the stress-free process of adding signatures in your documents using CocoSign.

Choose File

Go to CocoSign’s Sign Documents Online page. Here, you have the option of uploading documents from Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box or picking it from your local device. You can upload documents from your local device through any of the following methods:

  • Click on the ‘Upload Document’ tab to access your file manager from where you can pick the document to be signed OR
  • Locate the document to be signed via another window on your device, then drag and drop it in the ‘Upload Document’ highlighted box.
CocoSign

At this point, you are afforded the luxury of choosing whether you are the only signatory to the document or there will be other signers as well. Below the upload area is a checkbox that reads: ‘I’m the only signer’. If you are the only signer, check this box, otherwise leave it blank,

Adding Signatories

If you left the box unticked, signalling that there are multiple signatories to the document, you will be directed to another window where you will be asked to put down the email address and names of the other signatories. You can also choose what these signers need to do by selecting ‘Needs to sign’ or ‘Receives a copy.’ Another option is placing the signatories into different groups using the ‘Add Group’ icon.

This step is unnecessary if you are a sole signer.

Signing 

Before signing a document, you will need to include a signature field within which the signature is meant to be attached. You can also add text, initials, date/time and email instead of a drawn signature to the document. You will find these signature field tools (initials, text, date time and email) on the right-hand side of the window. Drag and drop your preferred signature tool into the page you want to sign.

Then, proceed to sign the document. Here are some of the options you have:

  • Filling in a text, initial and email address as a signature
    Scanning an image of your hand-drawn signature and uploading the scanned image to the signature window on the document.
  • Drawing the signature within the signature field using a mouse, trackpad or touch pen.
  • Click ‘Next’ to save changes once you are done signing.

Download signed documents

The final step is downloading or sharing the documents with interested parties. For documents with multiple signers, the document is sent to the email addresses provided earlier with an introductory message. However, this message is optional.

For sole signers, you are allowed to download and save the signed document to your local device or share to your email address. Signed documents are temporarily stored on the platform’s server should you need to retrieve it at a later time. Before it gets deleted, you can download the document as many times as possible.

Part 3: Use cases of an electronic signature

E-signatures are used in the real estate, finance and sales marketing industries to sign lots of documents since like wet ink signatures, they are considered legal and binding. They also come in handy in student applications, among others. E-signatures have become particularly relevant during the coronavirus pandemic.

During this period, many commercial agreements between business partners have been signed online. Not only does this save time but makes it easy to cooperate with government and health directives like social distancing.

Real estate stakeholders are not left out either. Rather than waste time following paper trails and whatnot, real estate agents can now invest time in building relationships with their clients. E-signing also helps to close deals faster. If a signatory to a property transfer document isn’t physically available on the day a transfer property deal, they still have the privilege of showing their approval by signing online.

Using free document signing platforms like CocoSign, mortgage lenders and settlement agents can store their documents electronically, sign these documents and encrypt the signatures so they cannot be tampered with. Digital signatures are the ideal e-signature type for real estate transactions that need legal assurances or might need presenting evidence in the future.

E-signatures may also be used for filing tax returns, signing transaction records and legal documents.

Part 4: Benefits of signing online

There are a host of reasons why one should sign online. They are not only time-efficient but pretty convenient. The following are plausible reasons why many financial institutions, legal brands and sales officers sign documents online these days.

  • Tamper-proof

Once a document has a digital signature, it can no longer be tampered with. Making modifications to the document invalidates the signature.

  • Eliminates paperwork

On many big e-signature apps, there is a batch feature that helps you sign hundreds of documents all at once.

  • On-the-go business

One does not have to be physically present at an office or location to show their consent for an agreement. Using online signer apps, one can sign documents on-the-go.

  • Legally binding

Since they are legally binding, yet, more convenient than wet ink signatures, there’s no point sticking to handwritten signatures.

  • Simple and intuitive

Online document signing platforms are very simple to use, even for first-time users. For systems like CocoSign’s famed signing platform, all you have to do is upload the document, declare signers, and send links to the signers. Once they click the link, they can sign the document.

  • Storage 

Users can store their documents online and access them from anywhere in the world. All they need is to have access to an internet-connected device.

Some e-signature apps limit signing to specific document formats like pdf or word. With CocoSign, you can sign tens to hundreds of documents in virtually any format including excel, xls, img and txt. Only with big brands like CocoSign are you assured of maximum security and reliability of the signature.

The fact that the platform is easy to use makes it a steal for any business that chooses to adopt it. E-signatures have helped solve the following problems in business operations:

  • High administration costs

Rather than splurge cash printing, scanning and emailing signed documents via courier services, admin staff can now sign documents online free.

  • Difficulty in working from home

Signing documents online have made remote work a reality.

  • Task monotony

Monotony deadens creativity. With e-signatures, employers and employees do not have to sign documents with handwritten signatures daily. They can focus more time on improving their creativity.

Unlike e-signatures, traditional signing needs the parties involved to be physically present. They still maintain the edge over electronic signatures as far as will, codicils, trusts, negotiable instruments and powers of attorney documents are concerned.

Part 5: Is an online signature legally binding and secure?

Yes, online signatures are legally binding and secure. The requirements for its legitimacy may however differ from one country to another. In the United States, it is specified under the ESign Act that an e-signature is considered legal as long as the parties involved have agreed to use an e-signature. This rule also applies to European countries.

In general, the legality of an online signature may depend on three factors namely:

Who signed?

Before an electronically document becomes legally binding, the identity of the document must be verified. Verification may be done using email, SMS or ID. This verification is done to ascertain that the signatories are who they say they are.

What document was signed?

The contents of the document must also be written in clear language. The parties to the document must also show intent to sign electronically.

Whether or not the document has been modified after signing

If the integrity of an electronically signed document has been tampered with, that signature is no longer deemed legally binding. When using an encrypted e-signature, the signature becomes invalid as soon as the signed document is modified even by the inclusion of a simple comma.

Another hallmark to be met is whether or not the document is verifiable. This talks about what action the signer completed, documentation evidence to support the transaction and how the document was signed.

Part 6: eSign documents online FAQs

How can I create an electronic signature using my webcam?

Using your webcam to create an electronic signature involves scanning an already handwritten signature. Sign using black ink on a sheet of paper, then take a picture using your PC or MacBook’s webcam. Then, upload the signature to your online signing platform and attach to the document you want to sign.

How can I send a document for someone else to sign online?

Using CocoSign, you can sign a document and send the document to another party to sign. All you have to do is declare the signers, send them the link and they can sign the document electronically.

What makes an online signing solution the ideal e-signature provider?

There is more to an online signing solution than just appending signatures on a document. The ideal e-signing provider is one that is easy to use and versatile. The best e-signature applications allow you to sign hundreds of documents at once. You can also use them to forward a document to another party to sign and track the signing progress from a dashboard within the app.

Are there any differences between an electronic signature and a digital signature?

Yes. Unlike an e-signature, a digital signature verifies the signer’s identity. It does so by using the PKI technology which makes use of two keys for unique identification of the signers. All signers to the document are given a digital certificate. It is generally more secure than an electronic signature.

What happens when my handwritten signature looks different from my e-signature?

If the signature is a digital one, you have nothing to worry about as it can be verified using biometric data. However, if it is an electronic signature, it may be a little tricky as there is no other method of verifying your identity.

Final take!

E-signatures are now used in many industries for a host of reasons. First among them is convenience. They are also very secure and can save a lot in administration costs. For assured security, use a reliable brand like CocoSign.