30- Using digital contracts for business efficiency

Using digital contracts leads to efficiency, professionalism and easy booking..but are they legal?! https://rachelbrenke.com/epi30

This episode of The Business Bites is sponsored by HoneyBook.

Conquer the chaos of your workflow.  HoneyBook streamlines and automates your client’s experience from inquiry to final invoice. They keep your clients moving through the workflow with automated reminders and notifications. Your pipeline visualizes where you are with your clients and what you need to work on, all in one place.

 You guys know I love this because I love digital contracts, which we’re getting ready to talk about. So I encourage you to check out HoneyBook. They’re pretty awesome to help you at conquering the chaos and making sure you stay on top of your workflows so you have more time for life in the end.

I am going to get on a soapbox today, guys. I am going to talk about using digital contracts. I’m not going to talk about the reasons you need to have contracts. In a nutshell: expectation tool, legal protection tool, customer service tool. We’ll talk about that in another episode, but the use of digital contracts saves your life, your client and customers’ lives, it allows everyone to be happier, more efficient, and saves the trees.

Because in this day and age with technology, there’s no reason that we’re not using digital contracts to the best that we can for more efficiency, best legal protection, and just so that we don’t have to wait on the other person. Because, think about this: you send me a contract in PDF form. I’m on my phone, picking up the kids from school, sitting in the car pickup line. I get your contract for me to sign. I’m the customer in this case; right? You want me to book you. Well, I have to wait until I get home, go plug my computer into the printer, realize that the printer is out of ink. Either get on Amazon and wait a day or two for it to come or drive down to Walmart after I get all five kids back in the vehicle, fight through Walmart trying to figure out which ink I need, come all the way home only for it to jam and having to sit there for 15 to 20 minutes. So frustrated.

Imagine if you had sent me a digital contract that I could one-click and sign online. I’d have been done before even little Timmy got in the car to tell me about his day and to take him to soccer practice; okay? I absolutely can’t stand it when people do PDFs, want me to print, sign it, and send it back. Online digital contract is the way to go. If you get nothing else out of any of the podcasts that I talk about, please listen to that most.

But, of course, I’ve got to give you a little information. Are digital contracts even legal? Well, obviously, if I’m on my soapbox about this, digital contracts and signatures are legal. We have the E-Sign Act in the United States that backs this up. Congress enacted this act with three goals in mind: to allow us to use and sign legally binding contracts online; to increase business efficiency by speeding up the contracting process, which is what I’ve been talking about, and facilitating commerce; and lastly, it’s intended for it to strengthen consumer protection as it relates to e-commerce because there’s mandated disclosures, retention of accurate records, and they also create specific exceptions as well. We’ll talk about that in a little bit.

It’s awesome that we can have these digital contracts and signatures; right? But what really contracts a digital contract or a signature? Really the scope of what I’m going to talk about is when you’re using the online systems that are available out there that are contract signing systems. They may vary in their terms a little bit, but just know that is not all that you have to have in order for it to be a legally and binding document. You could utilize dependent contracts like I talked about but that’s such a pain in the behind.

Fast-forwarding a little bit, what is their criteria for admissibility for a contract? First, we must be able to prove by the intent of the individual that’s signing and security of the signed document, which is really important because a digital contract may not be allowed in court due to lack of security or authentication. I share this to say you guys need to check on the systems that you’re using. Free is not best. In fact, free often does not have the security, and it’s also a line for your clients’ information to be publicly shared. Happens all the time. I’ve seen it. Trust me. It happens.

I do want you guys to keep in mind that in a contract, not just in the digital signing age, but we need to have clear and consistent terms, the parties need to have a legal capacity to sign, there needs to be an exchange of value between parties, no duress or undue influence, and they did not sign by mistake or without knowledge and meaning of the contract. Essentially, use these online contract signing systems for efficiency, facilitate your commerce, and also allow for people to understand they’re signing a contract. Label as a contract, send it through a contract signing system. They’re going to see that it’s a legal document. It also gives you professional points in the consumer’s eyes, and you’ve fulfilled the last requirement of the valid contract, that is knowing that it’s a contract; right?

There are some contracts that are not really that important to create, as you’re entrepreneurs, that are enforceable by electronic signatures such as wills, documents relating to adoption, divorce, and other family law matters. Those types of things, if you want to look at the entire E-Sign Act of carving out these exceptions, go ahead and go take a look. Just Google E-Sign Act, and you’ll find it. That’s just to let you guys know the context of how you need to work with digital signatures. They are valid as long as your contract is valid. The contract is by signed by the persons intending to. They’re in their right mind, and all those items that I just listed out.

We’ve got that. We’ve got all the elements of a contract. We’ve got our contract signing system, but we need to make sure that the system is secure. This is really, super important to me. We have the duty as business owners to protect our clients’ information and to let them know what they’re signing. Alright. I’ve already sold you guys on digital contracts. There’s a variety of options out there: WordPress plugins, studio management softwares, and so forth. I’m going to link my favorites into the transcript of this episode. You can go to rachelbrenke.com/epi30. Just keep in mind that there’s a lot of systems out there, and I don’t recommend you choosing systems that do not have the security in place. They don’t identify that it’s a legally binding contract.

Once you’ve done that, you’re not done. I recommend backing up the contract. In fact, I recommend backing up in the rule of threes. On my computer, I have an external, and then I have a cloud. Then I have my computer always running for Dropbox as well. I have three. I have the computer external, I have Backblaze or CrashPlan that’s running in the background, then I also drag all my important documents into Dropbox.

Keep in mind, utilizing digital contracts up front before you ever get the client in the door for any type of session is the perfect way for you guys to be able to have a one-on-one. Whether you’re having a photography session, you’re designing a logo for them, or you’re a wedding planner, you don’t necessarily want to spend the entire time that you meet one-on-one working on this contract stuff. Sending contracts digitally ahead of time, giving the clients an opportunity to read it, understand it, and ask questions and then digitally sign and send back to you. Gives copies to you both. You both can electronically store it and have it backed up. Everyone is happy. There’s a law that supports it for you, uses business efficiency. Make the most out of it.

I hope that this really has encouraged you to dig into the area of digital contract signing. Keep in mind the prerequisites that you need to have. You need to have the clear and consistent terms in contract, legal capacity to sign, exchange of value between parties, no duress or undue influence, and make sure that it is identified that it is a contract. You’re not hiding it in little text of your website. Put in a different heading to it. Make it nice and clear. These contracts signing systems that are secure, that are intended for contract signing, will do this for you. Get onboard with one of these. Get behind them. Use them. Integrate it into your client workflow, and you guys will have no problem protecting yourself legally assuming that it is a lawyer-drafted contract, but ensuring that you’ve delivered all the information to the client. They’re going to feel more confident. They’re going to buy into you, see you as more professional. They’re going to feel protected. You’re going to be protected. At the end of the day, that is what matters most.

This episode was sponsored by HoneyBook, an online client management system that I strongly recommend you guys check out for your business. It has contracts, questionnaires, payment options, anything you could think of to help facilitate and run your creative business. I highly recommend HoneyBook for contract signing, for all the reasons you guys just heard through this episode, go on and check it out.

 

Thanks for joining Rachel on this episode of The Business Bites. For show notes, a list of recommended tools, or referenced episodes, you can find them at businessbitespodcast.com. Until next time …

This episode of The Business Bites is sponsored by:

 

 

 

Honeybook (50% off your first year with this link!)

Conquer the chaos of your workflow.  HoneyBook streamlines and automates your client’s experience from inquiry to final invoice. They keep your clients moving through the workflow with automated reminders and notifications. Your pipeline visualizes where you are with your clients and what you need to work on, all in one place.