As freelance developers we are innovators and we like to create and build things. If we’d been born in the 30s we would have been the sorts of people who invented stuff in our backyard.
So, as developers we like to look at ways in which we can improve our product; add beneficial features, add-in unique selling points, and create a more seamless and efficient user experience. When I think about designing a software product, I think about how it can benefit its users and the real, underlying reason why it should be developed.
This is often to make jobs easier or to improve productivity. We can also use software to on-board our clients too. Just in the same way that we think about creating software products, we can use the digitization of manual processes to build better customer relationships, get customers on-board fast and in doing so, free ourselves up to be more productive.
Econtracts and Freelance Developers
One of the ways of building a relationship between a freelance developer and a client is to offer econtracts built into your web interface. Econtracts is a movement towards a faster and more seamless contract process and experience. It is where UX meets business process.
This movement towards taking common business processes, online, is part of the digitization revolution. Analysts like McKinsey are backing this movement wholeheartedly, citing cost reductions of up to 90% for businesses that digitize their processes. It makes sense that freelance developers embrace this and build digitization of business processes into their client on-boarding process.
In terms of implementing econtracts, freelance developers need to use tools to create the right framework to manage a freelance contract lifecycle. This involves features such as access control and authentication, online document collaboration and sharing, alerts, audit, and ultimately, esignature application. That is a big architecture to code up, and one which requires specialist knowledge, including security and digital signatures to create it. This is why we have developed the ApproveMe WordPress e-signature plugin.
How Does On-boarding of Freelance Developers Using ApproveMe WP eSignature Work?
Getting anyone on-board with a new idea can be tricky. So, making the process straightforward is the goal. Getting clients to sign on the dotted line need to be collaborative, coherent, and in the main, simple. It’s all about automating otherwise manual and time consuming processes, but keeping the essence of what they are.
It’s also about working smart in a highly competitive industry. According to the United States Department of Labor, the number of working software developers has increased, year-on-year, between 2013-2015. In a competitive industry, you need to grab clients attention and engage them. Making the on-boarding process, especially around contract negotiation and completion, simple, is one way that you can do this. Below I’ve listed out the main steps and benefits to getting an econtract system in place and using it to drive the client on-boarding process:
Step #1 Creating an automation platform for econtracts:
The ApproveMe WP plugin was designed to be a platform for econtract automation. What this means is that it mimics the typical manual processes behind contract creation, negotiation, signature and archive and makes each of these lifecycle components digital. The ApproveMe WP plugin has been designed for freelancers to integrate with their existing WordPress site as a plugin. By acting as a plugin, it allows you to maintain your branding across the econtract platform – keeping your client within your site.
Step #2 Generating econtracts:
ApproveMe supports the WordPress plugin Ninja Forms. This is a free plugin that lets you create custom forms. These forms can then be used as the basis for your econtracts. The forms are highly configurable and offer templates for a number of types of form based documents, including various contracts. Once you have the contact template ready, you can start to use the platform to send out email alerts to start contract negotiation and completion.
Step#3 Fast contract negotiation:
One of the worst things that can happen is that while you’re negotiating your contract terms the client goes off the boil or finds someone else. Manual contract negotiation is painful. The back and forth emails / printouts/ revisions, etc. slow the process down massively.
Online access to contracts, from a central document repository, like DropBox, speeds things up. ApproveMe WP plugin gives you the ability to take your Ninja form based econtract (or other econtract template) and place it in a central document repository. It also allows you to send out email alerts, letting the parties know the econtract is available to view / change.
Step#4 It’s all about the legals:
There’s no point in technology for technology’s sake, it has to actually add value and do the job it sets out to. Econtracts are one of the areas of digitization that need to carry legal weight, as well as offer appropriate features. Esignatures need to be applied easily, by all parties, with no additional downloads and minimal, if any, training – it needs to be intuitive. But it also needs to stand up in a court of law, if an econtract is ever under dispute. ApproveMe WP plugin has been designed to work within the esignature laws of a number of countries, including in the U.S. ESIGN.
Step #5 The fast track:
As a freelancer, you will know that time is money. Your time needs to be spent on your core discipline; not on chasing down contracts signatures or making sure contracts are sent to the right person, at the right time. The key to the ApproveMe WordPress plugin is that it has a component-wise architecture.
Building on the strengths of other WordPress plugins like Ninja Forms, ApproveMe WP plugin brings all of the components of an econtract framework together. The normal time needed to on-board your client and complete the contract lifecycle is greatly reduced by digitization of the process. This fast tracks all of the parts of the econtract process to get your signed contract in place quickly, leaving you to get on with what you do best, develop software.
Using econtracts is a win-win Situation. On boarding of clients using an econtract framework like ApproveMe WordPress Plugin, and supporting plugins like Ninja Forms, gives you the tools to build your own digitization platform. You win, by getting clients to more quickly sign off on a project, freeing up your time to work; clients win because their time is not wasted and their costs are reduced – no more multiple contact stage printouts and postage costs. Using econtracts is a natural extension of the freelance developers business model; after all, you’re already in the business of making other people’s lives more easy using software, so why not apply this to your own, and your clients business too.