One of my big projects lately is reducing my administrative overhead -- all the time I spend writing contracts, creating PDFs and waiting for a signature to come back by fax, e-mail or snail mail makes each project more expensive and distracts me from doing real, valuable work for my clients. I've never been satisfied with my contract workflow, but I think I've finally found the solution: digital contracts and electronic signatures with EchoSign.
Price: $20/month ($15/month paid annually)
Competitors: DocuSign, ContractPal, AgreementExpress
Verdict: Takes the pain out of contracts and gets projects started quickly and professionally.
My contract creation and execution process has always been cumbersome -- I'd edit my template in Office, save it as a PDF, e-mail it to the client, and eventually get back a copy of the signature page by mail or (if I'm lucky) as a scanned and e-mailed image. It took way too long for me to create the contract PDF each time (and back in the day, I had to crack open InDesign too). It was a pain for the client to print it out and scan or mail it -- and don't even get me started on faxes. The signature lag time delayed the start of my project, particularly with new clients, and I was never comfortable getting only the sig page of a 5-page document, which is what clients sent me 90% of the time.
With EchoSign, that whole process goes online and can be completed in a matter of minutes. The signatures are legal and enforceable (perhaps even moreso than my sig-page-only responses), and I never have to create a PDF again. EchoSign allows me to create a contract template with some fill-in-the-blank fields (like Client and Project), then attach a statement of work to the end that's unique for each client -- and I can even import the SOW directly from Google Docs. The world of contract law just got a lot more convenient.
EchoSign's interface is generally very friendly, and it's certainly leaps and bounds beyond its competitors. That said, it took me five or six tries to get a document properly formatted (I uploaded a PDF and placed signature fields through the Flash interface, though you could do the same thing with text tags in your document). That meant by the end of my testing I had more than used up my five free-trial signatures, but once I had conquered the learning curve I had an awesome, fast and easy-to-use contract that I could shoot off to any client in a matter of seconds.
So, if you're in the market for a faster and easier project kick-off, check out EchoSign. It's the last part of my paperwork that I've taken fully digital, and it's already making my life easier and more efficient. Enjoy!
EchoSign -- Painless, paperless contracts