Effectively sending a fax takes more than just transmitting the pages of the actual document. Without also including a fax cover sheet as page one, you expose yourself to a few easily avoidable risks, like disclosing confidential information, creating uncertainty about the intended recipient or document purpose, or simply appearing unprofessional.
Luckily, it’s easy to create a fax cover sheet and include one with every fax you send. I’ll show you how.
Write Your Fax Cover Sheet in 3 Easy Steps
If you’re going to send a fax, you want to make sure to include a fax cover sheet with every transmission. The cover sheet makes the who, what, and why about your fax crystal clear to the receiver. A fax cover sheet also serves as a layer of protection for confidential or sensitive documents.
Fax cover sheets are easy to create, and it takes just three steps.
- Decide How You Want to Send Your Fax
- Identify All Essential Cover Sheet Information
- Create A Fax Cover Sheet Template
Ready to level up your faxing game? Let’s get to it.
1. Decide How You Want to Send Your Fax
Today, you have options when it comes to faxing documents. The option you choose dictates how you’ll create a fax cover sheet.
Use a Traditional Fax Machine
Readers of a certain age surely remember fax machines of old. These are standalone units where you manually type in the recipient’s fax machine telephone number on a keypad, then listen to ringing and the random beeps and hums until your call is connected to the recipient’s fax machine.
If you haven’t had to fax anything since the early 2000s, you might think those old-fashioned fax machines are obsolete. But you’d be wrong. There are many businesses and organizations that still rely on traditional fax machines to send important documents.
Why? Fax machines can be used without any internet connection, you just need a working telephone line. If your internet connection goes down, you can still fax. Plus, with a traditional fax machine, you don’t have to worry about your physical fax being sent to someone’s spam email folder where it is overlooked.
Likewise, your faxed documents don’t become part of internet traffic. This eliminates the risk of being intercepted during transmission. And you’ll never question whether your fax was successfully sent, since the confirmation page that prints out at the end offers proof of when, where, and to whom your fax was sent.
So don’t write off using a traditional fax machine. Depending on your business needs, it may be the preferable way to share important documents with third parties.
Subscribe to an Online Fax Services
Of course, there’s a higher-tech solution for faxing, too. With the advent of online fax services, you can leverage the power of your computer or smartphone to share documents with others–no fax machine or dedicated telephone line needed.
Online fax services offer a number of other benefits, too. They keep all your faxes digitally organized in a single location. They also secure your faxes with 256-bit SSL encryption, the most secure protection publicly available, to keep your information protected as it moves through the cloud.
But one of the biggest features is convenience. With an online fax service, you can send and receive faxes from your computer, tablet, mobile device, and even a fax machine. Yes, that’s right–if you do have a traditional fax machine, it can be incorporated into your online fax service, giving you even more flexibility.
Best of all, online fax services include the option to automatically include a fax cover sheet with every fax you send. You set up your preferred cover sheet options once, and the service takes care of it after that. A fax cover sheet is automatically created for you every time you use the service.
If this type of convenience sounds good to you, check out our comparison guide to the best online fax services. Whether you send just a few faxes each month or are a power faxer, there’s a service that’s perfect for you.
2. Include All Essential Cover Sheet Information
As you create your fax cover sheet, keep in mind that its purpose is to make things crystal clear for the recipient. The more information you include, the better the chance of your document getting to the right person right away.
The information you include also depends on the nature of what you’re sending. Private documents, business contracts, and employment agreements are just a few things that demand a specialized fax cover letter noting the confidential nature of the documents. In some cases, like medical records, specific disclaimer language is required by law.
Basic Information to Include on Every Fax Cover Sheet
No matter what you’re sending, at a minimum your fax cover sheet should include the following:
- Sender’s company info: Display this information clearly to make it easier for the recipient to recognize your fax as a legitimate business communication.
- Sender’s direct contact information: Include a direct dial telephone number or extension for the fax sender, so they can be quickly contacted with questions or issues related to the fax transmission.
- Recipient’s name and fax number: Note this on the cover sheet so the fax can be easily sent by anyone and quickly delivered to the correct recipient upon arrival.
- Number of total pages: Include the fax cover page in your total page count so the recipient can verify they received all pages.
- Date of transmission: Include the date you sent the fax so the recipient can easily see when you sent it, no matter when they personally receive it.
- Short message: Explain the purpose of the fax and any special instructions, so the recipient knows why they received it and what they need to do next.
Special Requirements for Confidential Fax Cover Sheets
If you’re faxing anything that contains sensitive or confidential information, you’ll want to be sure that it is clearly noted on your fax cover sheet. While such a notice won’t eliminate the possibility that someone other than your intended recipient will view the information, it does provide a warning, which is the best you can do when sending a fax.
In addition to all the basic information listed above, there are two additional things to include when sending private documents.
The word CONFIDENTIAL should be prominently displayed on the fax cover sheet. Use a large font and capitalize all letters for maximum impact. The point is to make it easily known that the pages that follow are intended only for the named recipient’s eyes.
A confidentiality clause should also be included, usually at the bottom of the page in smaller font. Again, it isn’t going to eliminate the chance that your fax is viewed by someone other than the receiver, but it at least explains the importance of the confidential materials. You can find many examples of confidentiality clauses, like the one in the example below, by doing a basic Google search.
As a general best practice, you can create a single fax cover sheet that includes these confidentiality notations, and then use the same cover sheet no matter what you fax–confidential or not. Here’s an example of what such a multipurpose sheet might look like.
HIPAA-Compliant Fax Cover Sheets
There’s a separate category of faxes that have special legal requirements for their cover sheets. Any time you transmit a patient’s healthcare information via fax, you’re governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This set of U.S. laws is more commonly known as HIPAA.
It’s very important to be HIPAA compliant when sending faxed medical records. Violating HIPAA can result in large fines.
While HIPAA laws themselves don’t spell out exactly how to design a compliant fax cover sheet, there are basic elements that must be included. In addition to the bullet list above, a HIPAA-specific disclaimer is required. This can replace or be in addition to the general confidentiality disclaimer discussed above.
Here’s an example of what a HIPAA-compliant fax cover sheet might look like.
Now that you know what to include on your fax cover sheet, it’s time to create your own.
3. Create A Fax Cover Sheet Template
Let me help you streamline all your future faxes. The best way to do that is with a template.
A template helps you avoid reinventing the wheel every time you send a fax and saves you cumulative time and effort.
If you choose to use an online fax service, it should provide a template you can customize. The service will walk you through the process to create your fax cover sheet when you sign up for a plan.
But even if you intend to send most of your faxes through the online service, there still might be an occasion when you need to send something manually on a fax machine. For those situations, you’ll still want to have a fax cover sheet available.
And if you’re not using an online fax service, you’ll need to create a fax cover sheet on your own. So no matter what, it’s a good idea to design and keep a fax cover sheet template on hand.
Using Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or other word processing software is the fastest and easiest way to create a fax cover sheet template that you can use again and again. You can find and modify these templates in the software’s template library or import a template from a third-party source.
I picked Microsoft Word for this example since they have a very robust library of fax cover letter templates. Here’s how to create a personalized fax cover sheet template.
From the Word main menu, select File > New from Template.
In the search bar, type in Fax to display all the available fax cover sheet templates.
Select the template you prefer, then choose Create.
Edit the template to your specifications, then click File > Save as Template.
Name your new template, then click Save. Note: The default location will be Word’s template directory, and the default file extension will be .dotx. Do not change either of these settings.
Your new template should now appear at the top of the screen anytime you visit the Word start screen, as shown below.
And that’s all there is to it. Once you create a new fax cover sheet template, it will be ready to electronically fill in anytime you need it. Alternatively, you can print a few and keep them close to the fax machine for those last-minute transmissions.
Final Thoughts About Writing a Fax Cover Sheet
Whether you use an online fax service or still rely on your trusty fax machine, a fax cover letter is an essential part of the faxing process. They’re easy to create and should be included with every transmission you send.
Make sure you include key information on your fax cover sheet and that it is the first page of your fax. This way the person on the receiving end knows exactly what and why they’re getting something from you.