What Are Digital Signatures?
First of all, digital signatures are not the same thing as email signatures. The little section at the end of each email where you include a quick sign-off, your contact details and your name isn’t a ‘digital signature’. We’re talking about a way that you can digitally sign a contract or agreement, in the same way as you would in real life. Digital signatures are legally binding across the world: here in the EU and in the US, too.
The tech for this actually dates back to the last century! Back in 1999, Adobe introduced digital signatures to their Acrobat software so that you could ‘sign’ .pdf files without having to print anything off. It’s a little in-depth, but the way it works is this:
- Everybody who wants to be able to sign a document like this is issued a unique, encrypted and completely private key. In order to get one of these keys, you have to first prove your identity with ‘real world’ ID. You’re given one by an accredited provider like DocuSign.
- This private key has a corresponding public key. That’s because digital signatures are based on something called public key cryptography, in which anything encrypted using one key can be decrypted only by the other.
- When you sign a document, your encrypted private key is added to it. To verify your signature, the public key can prove that it’s your private key that you used to sign with. At the same time, it’s impossible to figure out what the private key is just by knowing the public one. That’s why digital signatures are so secure.
Benefits Of Using Digital Signatures
Digital signatures are a small part of the bigger ‘digital revolution’, something that most people don’t appreciate or even come across in their day to day lives. But for a business, they can be revolutionary.
- You’ll never have to use a fax machine again! Digital signatures mean that you can sign any contract you like, online.
- For a small business, this is less of a concern, but for a large business that normally eats through paper and office supplies? Digital signatures will save them money.
- It’s difficult to appreciate unless you have a genuine grasp of difficult mathematics and cryptography, but public key encryption is very, very secure. If there is an agreement you need to keep private, you’re better off doing your business online; your snail mail could get lost, for instance. Plus, forgery is actually impossible.
- A digital document with a signature can’t be edited after the fact, even if you don’t notice the changes. If it is edited, the signature becomes invalid, and verification will make that apparent.
- It’s impossible for somebody to deny that they signed a document. Each signature is time-stamped and linked directly to their identity. Furthermore, nobody has access to their key but them.
- Signing a document digitally is just as fast as doing it in real life (if not faster!). What really saves time is no faxing and no waiting for the mail to arrive.
As we’ll get onto in a moment, they’re surprisingly easy to set up and just as easy to use.
How To Use Them In a Proposal
So, that all sounds good, right? But how do you actually use them in a proposal?
If you want to start offering documents for others to sign, no matter the size of your business, you can integrate a platform like DocuSign’s into your existing operations. With a dedicated platform like theirs, you can draft documents, send them and manage them once you get them back all in one place. All in all, what you get is a streamlined process that’s easier to manage than email and most definitely easier to manage than snail mail.
As for how best to incorporate them into a document, there’s no trick to it. All you have to do is draft your proposal as you would if you were sending it to be signed manually. The signed section should be in the same place as it usually is. Just make sure you let the recipient know that they can sign it digitally if they want to!
How To Use Them to Sign Documents
If you’d like to sign a document, it’s very, very easy. All you need to have is sign up for one of a number of eSignature providers like DocuSign, Adobe Sign or SignEasy. There are literally dozens to choose from, some for different niches and some at higher or lower price points. The process starts with you simply registering on their website, filling in a form with your details. The most important part, however, is where you verify your identity with your chosen provider. You’ll need a typical form of ID like a passport or driver’s licence to complete the process.
Take Adobe’s digital signatures as an example. All you have to do is open your .pdf file as you usually would, and do the following:
- Click on the Tools tab on the right hand side of the screen
- Look under Sign & Certify
- Click Sign Document
Alternatively, you can set it up as one of your ‘quick tools’ so that all it takes is one mouse click. As we mentioned above, there are dozens of different eSignature providers; but suffice to say that for each and every one, it’s just as easy. So if signing documents and streamlining the proposal process sounds like something that would help your business, why not try using digital signatures?