How to sign documents online

Thanks to eSigning, SSL encryption, and audit trails, signing documents online has become a reliable business trend in recent years. Documents signed with a digital signature are as legally binding as paper documents carrying a handwritten signature. Adopting the digital signing process into your document workflows just got easier with PandaDoc.

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Why is it better to sign documents online?

Signing documents isn’t new. Most companies have a signing process that they follow to keep their paperwork properly filed, but that can be a slow and tedious set of steps that require in-person signing or mailed documents.

Considering that modern business is as much about velocity as it is about quality, that can be a huge disadvantage. Clients want great products and services delivered quickly. Employers need to interview, hire, and onboard new hires to keep up with business needs. Sometimes, a business needs to hire vendors and outside consultants to change directions or break into new markets.

That’s why signing documents online is so important. Today’s online documents make it easier than ever for everyone to provide a safe and secure digital signature. Most of the time, an electronic signature can even be acquired from a mobile device with an Android or iOS operating system. Plus, thanks to modern encryption standards, the person signing the document can feel safe and secure while signing documents.

That security is important because an electronic signature can be considered legally binding when documents are authenticated correctly.

What do you need to know about signing documents online

It’s important to understand a few key things before you sign documents online. Most key points come down to security and validation — ensuring that the right person has access to the document and taking appropriate steps to keep the eSigning process secure. These are important features because they create validity and authenticity around a signed document in the event of a legal challenge.

While PandaDoc users have nothing to worry about, if you’re using other signature apps or another eSignature solution, make sure that the app or service you use provides tools to keep every digital signature secure.

eSignatures

In the United States, electronic signatures have been legal since the ESIGN Act was passed in mid-2000. While the law has gotten more complex since then, the ESIGN Act stated that contracts can’t be disregarded simply because a signature existing in an electronic form. This means that regardless of whether you have clients sign in Google Drive in a Chrome browser or through an Adobe PDF tool on a desktop platform, those signatures are considered to be valid and legal once the document is signed and returned.

SSL Encryption

Until recently, most electronic documents were created and sent by email. They often required eSignature software to open and sign. Online SSL encryption standards and e-signature solution companies like PandaDoc have changed that for the better by allowing signers to submit their online signature in a secure, electronic environment. It’s a huge benefit for businesses, too, because using shared documents hosted in cloud storage equates to fewer emails slipping through the cracks and fewer obstacles, like software requirements, to get in the way of signing documents.

Audit Trail

One new feature in the digital signature space is the presence of an audit trail. This allows businesses to see who accesses a document and how they interact with it before moving on. These metrics can help your business better assess where customers spend their time before submitting an online signature.

Start using PandaDoc to sign documents online

While it’s important to create and sign documents online, the process doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Let’s walk through how you can use PandaDoc to digitally sign and send documents electronically.

We’ll use a consulting agreement to illustrate our document workflows, but you could use the steps here to use any contract or service agreement with PandaDoc.

Note: Keep in mind, any document you use with PandaDoc to sign will follow the same steps!

Step 1. Create or save a document to your device  (Or use our template!)

You can use the steps below to bring your own document into the PandaDoc dashboard. If you don’t have a document that you want to start with, you can create a new document or use our consulting template to jumpstart the process.

Step 2. Uploading your own document to the PandaDoc dashboard.

If you have a service contract or consulting agreement that you would like to import, you can upload that document to PandaDoc. Visit our signup page to start a 14-day free trial.

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After you’ve completed the signup process, select the green “New Document” button in the top menu bar of your browser. You can import your document into PandaDoc by selecting “Upload” and by dragging your file into the popup box.

While PandaDoc maintains support for a variety of formats, including Google Drive, DropBox, Box, and OneDrive, it’s important to be aware of the document filetype that you upload to PandaDoc.

Some formats, like a PDF file, can’t be edited after they have been saved and won’t be fully editable in PandaDoc for this reason. While you can still modify these formats with some PandaDoc tools, using file types that can be modified (.docx, .doc, Google Doc, Word Online) will ensure that you experience all the tools that PandaDoc has to offer.

One important exception is our signature field, which is usable even when using preformatted PDFs and other locked documents. If your document is preformatted and you’re satisfied with the way it looks, our drag-and-drop interface allows you to play a signature field in the document quickly and easily.

Importing your document directly into the PandaDoc platform is the first major step in the online signature process. Once your document is imported properly into the PandaDoc dashboard, inviting signers to the document and creating templates from a document is simple.

Drag and drop your file into the box to upload it from your hard drive or use any of our connect document sources by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the screen and following the prompts.

Step 3. Check our document and review your tools

Before you begin modifying your document, be sure to check what tools are available to you. While PandaDoc comes equipped with powerful tools to help you digitize your document, some of these tools may be unavailable if you uploaded a non-editable document.

On the right hand side of the screen, you’ll notice two separate button groups. “BLOCKS”, at the top of the screen, are modifiable text components that can be used to build complex documents in a fully-digital format.

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Blocks are not available when non-editable documents are imported to PandaDoc.

The bottom section, “FIELDS” is available to any document that is uploaded to PandaDoc. One important feature to note is the “Signature” field. Using this field, you’ll be able to enable capture electronic signatures through PandaDoc.

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PandaDoc provides enhanced flexibility when it comes to editing documents. Read on to find out how our native blocks can help you create complex documents or enhanced your imported designs.

Use PandaDoc native tools to build your document

Step 4. Customize your document with blocks

PandaDoc uses a drag-and-drop editor to help you customize your document quickly. Using the tools located in the “BLOCKS” menu, you’ll be able to customize and expand your online document.

These tools can help you build complex and fully-editable contracts, proposals, and agreements. Using “BLOCKS”, you can insert rich media, pricing tables, and text to appropriately brand your document and define the terms relevant to your agreement.

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Once you’ve built your document, create a digital signature requirement by inserting the “Signature” field to make the document official and legally binding.

Step 5. Modify your existing content

All documents are a work in progress until you’re satisfied. If you need to modify your layout, select a content block inside your document and select the “PROPERTIES” tab in the top right.

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Using this tab, you’ll be able to modify the basic features of the selected block. You can change the background color or use advanced tools to set padding and margins and block spacing. These features aren’t necessary to create a great-looking document, but PandaDoc provides total control over the document layout so that you can create the perfect look and feel for your forms and agreements.

Step 6. Create reusable documents with variables

If you’re using the PandaDoc Consulting Agreement template, you’ve probably noticed that this document is designed to be reusable.

PandaDoc makes it easy to create templates from your existing business documentation by using custom variables within the document. To do this, you’ll need to make a special note of which document items change each time you use your document and insert variables in their place.

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Capture digital signatures from employees, vendors, and key business partners is fast and easy when using a template.

Signing documents online with digital signature fields

Step 7. Add a signature field to your document

Whether you built your form from scratch or uploaded a non-editable PDF file, you can always attach a signature requirement to your PandaDoc form.

To do this, drag and drop a signature field from the “FIELDS” category onto your document. Doing so will add a signature capture form which indicates where signers should place their electronic signature.

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It’s possible to use a single electronic signature to finalize the entire document, but if you’re worried that signers might miss important parts of the document, you can use the “Initials” field to make sure that they note a particular section before they sign documents.

Step 8. Capturing online signatures

PandaDoc makes it easy to sign documents online and provides a variety of creative options when it’s time to place their signature onto the document. While submitting a handwritten signature is possible, signers can also use a preselected font or upload their own signature directly to the document.

Step 9. Create a template from your agreement

Once you’ve completed the document signing, don’t forget to create a template from your document.

To do this, select the three vertical dots in the top right corner of the screen and select “Convert to Template”. PandaDoc will create a modifiable template from your existing document, which you can use to standardize your document workflow.

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You’re finished!

Now that you’ve saved your work as a template, you’ll be able to create a new document using your existing content by accessing your template library.

The next time you have someone who needs to sign documents, capturing that online signature, simply generate a new copy of the document from a template and fill out the relevant information before sending it to the signer.

Learn more about online documents signing

Here are other ways you can use PandaDoc to sign documents