While using my Surface 3 pen to sign a contract received via email I decided to write this post about the process. Why? It amazes me how many conversations I have with friends and I hear them say “My printer was acting up today and I really needed to get that contract signed.” I usually say, “Why are you trying to print a contract anyway?” There are still some people that receive a contract via email, print it out, sign it, scan it and email it back. That sounds like a lot of work to me. 🙂 I have not printed a contract in months. There are plenty of online tools that will save paper, get the job done in less time it takes to put paper in your printer.
Instead I utilize technology. I know you are not surprised. 🙂 If you are a blogger you may have noticed that some companies will send you contracts using an online service. You simply click the link, read the contract, and if it looks good you sign it electronically and send it back. Well guess what? Not only can those companies use that technology, but you can too! There are 2 services that I use, although I use one more than the other at times.
And not only can you utilize tech to save paper on contracts, you can also avoid printing invoices, quotes, and other documents. And not only is this saving paper, it is saving on postage.
Here are the tools that I use to save paper when working from day to day. Most of these services are free for most general users. However if you find that you use them so much that you become a power user you can opt for one of the paid plans. 🙂
Signing Contracts Electronically
Docusign: I use this one every time I receive a contract or form to fill out via email. Save your ink and paper and sign them using DocuSign. DocuSign allows you to sign contracts and forms using your PC, Mac, iOS device, or Android device. You can upload Microsoft Word, PDF, or other common document formats from your computer, or popular Cloud based file-sharing sites like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. If you receive a contract via email you can save file to your computer, then upload it to Docusign. You can then sign them electronically using a saved signature that you scan in or snap a photo of. Or you can even draw your signature right on the screen if using a touch screen computer. It saves a ton of time and it’s easy.
Echosign: Echosign by Adobe is another great service for signing contracts online. Most of the companies that send me contracts electronically use Echosign. I use it myself when I send contracts to photography and web design clients. It provides an easy way to let your clients know exactly where to sign by putting form fields on the page. You can also create fields to allow them to type in other needed information like name, address, and phone number. Once your customer signs, you will receive a notification via email. You can then add your own signature and send a completed copy of the contract. It gets filed securely into your Echosign account for future reference.
HelloSign: I am going to have to start using HelloSign more. My main email client is Gmail, and I use Chrome. If you use the same then you can install the HelloSign Chrome extension. I love a great Chrome extension. This allows you to quickly sign contracts or other documents right from your browser and send them back to the sender. You don’t even have to download the file first. After installing the extension, you’ll get the option to sign any PDF, Word document, or other document that comes your way in Gmail. It’s really one of the easiest methods I’ve seen yet, since it’s integrated right into your attachments box in received emails. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is.
FaxZero.com: I don’t have to send faxes often, but when I do I use FaxZero. FaxZero allows you to quickly and easily send documents on your computer as a fax. All you need is the recipient’s name and fax number. The service is easy to use. To prevent spamming once you fill in the forms to send your fax, you must click a confirmation link in your email before the fax is sent. You then receive a notification once the fax was sent successfully.
If using the service for free you get:
FaxZero branding on the cover page
Maximum 3 pages + cover
Max 5 free faxes per day
Or if you need to do more you can pay the only 1.99 per fax via PayPal and get:
Max 25 pages + optional cover
Priority delivery vs. free faxes
No FaxZero branding on the cover page
Or, no cover page at all
eFax.com: I have used eFax for years. I have my own eFax number that I can give to anyone that needs to send me a fax which I then receive in my email as an attachment. If you don’t mind having an area code that is not local to you an eFax free account will work fine. That is what I use. Since I don’t use it for sending faxes and I don’t receive that many faxes, there is no need for me to upgrade my account. In addition to the free account, you can pay a monthly fee for 2 different premium plans, but if you have to send faxes quite often it might be worth it to you.
OneNote: I’m putting Microsoft OneNote on this list too because with recent improvements it is a great tool for taking notes, jotting down ideas, and filing away important tidbits of information that don’t necessarily need a full document. And the ease of use from your tablets and mobile devices makes it a great sticky note replacement! I usually end up with sticky notes all over my desk… then I lose them! Having electronic sticky notes means that you will not lose them, even if you lose your device. All of your notes are saved in the Cloud and accessible from any web connected browser or mobile device.
Evernote: I still love Evernote for note taking also. The navigation is easy. And if you are a stickler for screenshots like I am Evernote will save them all in one place using the Skitch add-on. They have also added the ability to chat right in Evernote so collaboration is a piece of cake. You can install the app for Windows or Mac, access it online, or use it on your mobile devices and tablets.
Sending Invoices and Quotes
PayPal: If you are a small business owner and you are not using PayPal you are missing out on getting more payments, more easily. Yes in some cases there are fees which people complain about, but if you are receiving smaller payments that does not really become an issue. Not all transactions incur fees. And PayPal allows your customers to easily pay you via credit card on the web even if they do not have a PayPal account themselves. Or you can sign up for PayPal Here and carry your own swiper that plugs into your smartphone for processing credit card payments while in the field. It also allows you to manually enter your customer’s credit card number in the PayPal Here app and quickly send them an email receipt. This is great if taking a payment by phone.
This is one that some people miss… if you do use PayPal, even if you do not use it a regularly sign up for a free PayPal debit card. This gives you access to your funds immediately rather than waiting the standard 3-4 days to transfer funds to your bank account.
Freshbooks: Freshbooks is a great online system for invoicing clients, creating quotations, capturing expenses, and tracking your time. I’ve been using it for a couple of years and I would be lost without it. I subscribe to the Seedling plan for $19.99/month which allows me to manage up to 25 clients. This is usually just fine for my needs. If I find that I am at my limit I just move a client that I have not worked with in a while to the deleted folder. Clients can always be retrieved when removed. Freshbooks also allows you to accept PayPal payments and credit card payments. And you can easily send payment reminders.
I am all for saving time and paper in my office. The above tools help me do so.
Are you using any of these? If not, what are some of your favorites?