How to draw eSignatures online: step-by-step guide

Electronic signatures are an essential part of efficient digital workflows. Companies that leverage straightforward e-signing technology have a higher close rate and greater overall client satisfaction.

What’s more, knowing how to securely approve digital documents can save you and your team hours every week, while also protecting you from any legal issues that might arise further down the line.

Yet many businesses still rely on cumbersome, outdated e-signing practices or traditional pen-and-ink signatures. With the right technology, however, it’s possible to sign a document online in seconds, even if it has to be approved by multiple people in your organization.

In this post, we’re going to show you how to draw legally-binding online signatures in a fraction of the time it might otherwise take.

What are electronic signatures?

An electronic signature is a digital mark, such as an image or scanned version of a traditional signature, that is affixed to a document as a means of approving it.

Let’s say, for example, that you upload a PDF or Microsoft Word document to your computer and insert a scanned PNG image of your signature on the signature line. That is a rudimentary way of electronically signing a document.

Various tools build on and streamline this basic process. Contract management apps, for example, can be used to add fields to documents, enabling recipients to sign without having to create a separate image file. Often, these apps will also create a “signing certificate”, which records the date and time of approval, thus adding a further layer of security.

Electronic signatures have a number of benefits. First, adding them to documents is much faster than relying on handwritten signatures or “wet” signatures, which require numerous instances of printing and scanning. Second, they’re usually easy to verify if a contract or proposal is disputed. And third, there are types of electronic signatures, called digital signatures, which are highly secure and almost impossible to forge.

Drawing a signature “online” simply means uploading a document to a browser-based app and using the app’s tools to create and add a virtual mark of approval. It’s also possible to draw signatures using a stylus or touchpad.

Are electronic signatures the same as digital signatures?

While the terms “electronic signature” and “digital signature” are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same things. A “digital signature” is a type of electronic signature that’s encrypted and very difficult to forge.

Companies will use digital signatures if they want to ensure an extremely high level of security for sensitive documents or when completing high-value deals. They tend to be more common in certain industries, such as defense and government.

In the vast majority of cases, normal electronic signatures, which are just as legally binding as digital alternatives, will suffice. Unnecessarily opting for digital signatures is a waste of money and makes approving documents much more involved.

In order to affix a digital signature to a document, a recipient must first purchase a certificate, which enables third parties to verify the authenticity of the signature via a public key infrastructure (PKI).

Digital certificates are stored on a USB or the owner’s hard-drive. Whenever they wish to approve a contract or proposal, they will use special software to add the certificate to the document and create an encrypted “hash”. This hash can only be decrypted using the signer’s corresponding public key.

Are electronic signatures legally binding?

Electronic signatures are fully legally binding. Usually, they’re more secure than pen-and-ink alternatives. Along with the signature itself, online software will often auto-generate a digital certificate which includes the date and time of signing. Associated documentation, such as emails from the recipient, can also be used to verify electronic signatures.

Governments around the world have passed various laws that ensure the enforceability of electronic signatures.

These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • ESIGN – The Electronic Signature in Global and National Ecommerce Act comprises the main US laws which endorse the validity of electronic signatures.
  • eIDAS – The Electronic Identification, Authentication and Trust Services harmonize laws across Europe.
  • PIPEDA – The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is the primary Canadian legislation relating to the use of digital methods of approval.
  • Electronic Communications Act 2000 – This Act of Parliament governs the use of e-signatures in the UK.

Most countries outside of Europe and North America also have specific laws regarding the validity and enforceability of electronic signatures.

How to write electronic signatures with CreateMySignature

CreateMySignature is a free and easy-to-use tool for drawing e-signatures and signing documents on desktop devices (including Macs), touch screen tablets, and mobile phones. There’s no limit on the number of PDFs you can sign.

Follow the steps below to sign your document:

  1. Go to CreateMySignature website.
  2. Select from one of two options: Draw signature if you want to create an electronic signature to use on documents stored on your hard drive; Sign PDF document to upload and sign a PDF file.
  3. If uploading a PDF document, select Choose File, and upload the relevant PDF and follow the on-screen prompts.

How to write electronic signatures with PandaDoc

If you want to add an electronic signature to your document using PandaDoc, which offers a free unlimited eSign plan, follow the steps below:

  1. Login to your PandaDoc account.
  2. Select New Document in the top right corner of the screen and choose either Add Document or Upload from the dropdown.
  3. In the document editor, click on Fields from the menu on the right of the screen and drag-and-drop the Signature field to the relevant area of your document.
  4. Once you have placed it, double-click on the field to open the signing pop-up.
  5. Choose to Draw, Type, or Upload your signature and then click Accept and sign.
  6. Once you’re happy with the document, select Complete from the main menu.

Use PandaDoc for fast, efficient electronic signatures

Electronic signatures have a myriad of benefits, from boosting client approval rates to saving time for you and your team.

PandaDoc contract management enables you to quickly create signatures online while also taking advantage of a range of tools to streamline the signing process and your document workflows. These include automated approval notifications, storage for signed documents, template libraries, and auto-creation of signing certificates.

Try the 14-day free trial (no credit card required) to see if it’s a fit for you.