If you're doing business, you'll quickly run into contracts. Written contracts just make good business sense, whether you're providing services to clients or selling products to customers. Consultants, freelancers, web developers – all kinds of businesses benefit from written agreements and provide some certainty for both partners.
Some of those benefits include a reduced risk of disputes, a better outcome and lower costs when disputes do occur, and more certainty in the transaction. Each party knows exactly what their obligations are, and what happens when they don't perform those duties as they promised they would. Yet, contracts can often be a bit intimidating for small business owners and freelancers.
To make the contract creation and execution process easier, many business owners turn to a third-party contract tool or SaaS application. However, these services usually charge recurring monthly fees. They're also hosted on someone else's server, which can raise tricky questions of security and confidentiality. Instead, why not sign your contracts right on your own WordPress site?
- Why signing contracts in WordPress makes sense
- Legal requirements for e-signatures in the U.S.
- WP E-Signature by Approve Me
- WordPress Online Contract
- Electronic Signature
- Contact form plugin signature add-ons
Why signing contracts in WordPress makes sense
Paper contracts are wasteful and take time to create, process, and file. When you consider what's involved in using third-party tools and SaaS alternatives, the ease and security of e-signing documents on your own WordPress website begins to make some sense. Electronic signatures are quick, easy and secure in order to sign contracts online.
When you adopt a WordPress-based signing method, no one else sees your documents or the confidential information in them. Besides, your documents and confidential information is hosted on your site's servers, not someone else's. Also, most third-party tools charge a monthly fee for access and use. Most of the WordPress-based solutions come with a single up-front cost.
Legal requirements for e-signatures in the U.S.
Before we take a look at specific plugins and services, we need to talk about two specific laws. The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) is a state model law that's been enacted in 47 states, DC Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. ESIGN (the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global & National Commerce Act) is a federal statute signed into law by President Clinton in 2000.
Together, these two laws establish what's required for a valid and enforceable electronic signature on transactional documents (contracts and agreements). Why is this important? Let's say you provide services to Joe Client, but Joe doesn't pay you the $10,000 fee he agreed to pay. Months go by, all your politely-worded letters have been ignored, and you're out of options.
So now you're in court, attempting to collect that $10,000. But your lawyer has some bad news. Because you're the plaintiff, you have to prove that the contract exists. But if the contract doesn't comply with UETA/ESIGN's requirements, how can you do that? Talk about a literal no-win scenario! Luckily, major players in this area yield contracts and documents that do comply with these laws.
WP E-Signature by Approve Me
Approve Me's WP E-Signature is probably the most often recommended WordPress e-signature plugin. It's fully UETA/ESIGN compliant, and allows for unlimited signers and documents. It also offers encryption to keep your documents secure. E-Signature creates an automatically-generated audit report for every signed document, including detailed information about signers, logged IP addresses, document analytics, and more.
A number of add-ons can give you additional functionality, such as custom signer fields, branding and logo importing, syncing with Dropbox, and more. It's not free, but there are no monthly fees per user. And it could end up costing less than the total monthly fees for a third-party app. Approve Me offers a 3-week money-back guarantee, no questions asked, so if it doesn't fit the bill, you’re safe.
If that's not enough to convince you, E-Signature also integrates with many form plugins, such as Ninja Forms and Gravity Forms, allowing your clients and customers to e-sign documents submitted through those forms. You can also use additional plugins to integrate E-Signature with other platforms, like Easy Digital Downloads storefronts, WooCommerce sites, and Sprout Apps' invoicing.
WordPress Online Contract
Another solution is WordPress Online Contract. More powerful than some other solutions, Online Contract isn't just a signature add-on – it also gives you a platform to manage the entire contract process, from creation (by setting up contract templates in the dashboard’s editor) to execution. Your clients or customers can also sign the contract from any device.
WP Online Contract logs both IP addresses and timestamps for signers, to help create an audit record. You can also integrate this plugin with a number of payment platforms via add-ons.
While the plugin's sales copy doesn't explicitly mention UETA/ESIGN compliance, the developer has replied to a commenter's question about this issue: “… this really depends on … how you handle your contract template. If done the correct way, it should be compliant. If you model your templates from ours, you will see that the appropriate notices are in place to adhere to ESIGN and UETA.”
Electronic Signature by SwiftCloud is the perfect plugin for sales contracts, liability waivers, permission slips, and more. This e-signature plugin makes any page on your WordPress site signable. Its features include:
- Single-page or multi-page modes – where your user will submit form inputs to generate the contract for signature on the same or separate pages.
- Integration with Swift Books accounting, which means you can create a streamlined workflow for transactions (i.e., user-generated contract, payment, signature, etc.).
- Generates time and date-stamped reports for audit reports.
In order to use Swift Signature, you'll have to create a SwiftCloud account – either free or premium level accounts will work with this plugin for signing contracts in WordPress.
Contact form plugin signature add-ons
A number of contact form plugins offer add-ons that will turn their forms into signable documents. If you're comfortable using a particular contact form plugin, and don't need additional features such as contract management, these might be a good solution for you:
- Contact Form 7 Signature Addon
- Formidable Forms Signature
- Super Forms Signature
- Signature Addon for ARForms
Most of these add-ons are modestly priced under $20 (Contact Form 7's add-on is free). However, these add-ons may not produce signatures that are fully compliant with UETA/ESIGN. If this is a concern, you can either consult an experienced business attorney for advice on how to ensure compliance, or select a different solution.
Conclusion: Signing contracts and documents in WordPress
Creating a system for handling and processing contracts within your WordPress dashboard may take a little time, but in the long run it'll save you time, effort, and money. Do you use an e-signature plugin for your WordPress site? Did we mention your favorite native WordPress solution? If so, what's your experience? Let us know in the comments section below!