When I started out as a Virtual Assistant I thoroughly researched other VA websites and noticed that many of them mentioned contracts or terms and conditions – yet when I asked another Virtual Assistant in my area about them she said she never used a contract and simply trusted her clients. So what did I do?
I can tell you that I immediately went online, found a contract template for freelancers and tailored it to my own business – and I have never once regretted it. I’ve since heard many chilling stories from both experienced and new freelancers who’ve had to remedy some ‘misunderstandings’ about what was expected of them. And some of those situations turned quite nasty.
Why do I need a contract?
Although T&C’s and a contract won’t always prevent a client from reneging on your agreement, it definitely helps to prevent any confusion as to what you have been hired to do, timeframes, your payment terms, what your fee does and doesn’t include as well as defining confidentiality. If there are then any later misunderstandings you can refer back to the contract you both signed.
I personally always include my terms and conditions along with a contract. I email them to the client before any work is agreed so they know from the outset how I work and what is expected from both of us.
Then neither of us can claim that we didn’t know what was going on.
Contracts are important for Virtual Assistants because:
- They’re evidence that your client has read and understood your terms and conditions
- Even if the client has their own confidentiality doc they show you take their business seriously
- They make you look more professional
- You’re covered for copyright infringement
- There’s no confusion as to what is expected of both parties in regards to payment and timelines
- You have written evidence if it is (unfortunately) needed at a later date
What if a client won’t sign my contract?
You should be extremely wary of any client that won’t sign a contract or asks to remove a clause. The only client who asked me to remove my overdue invoice charges was the one who never paid on time! He knew he was a late payer and wanted to minimise any financial penalty to himself.
Decent clients will not have a single problem signing your contract. When you get a new client tell them you’ll email over your T&C’s and a contract so they can look over them before they come to sign. I also outline the main points to them verbally (my payment terms actually!) so they’re perfectly clear on what’s what.
How do we actually both sign the contract?
If you have a one-to-one meeting with your new client then either bring two copies of the contract with you, sign both then keep one, or get both of you to sign one copy then take a scan of it with a free Smartphone scanner app for your own records. I use Camscanner but I’m sure there are others.
If you’re not going to meet you client face to face then sign your copy and email it to the client for signature then scan it and send it back or email it via an online digital signature website.
Terms & Conditions
In a way my terms and conditions are more important than my contract because they outline what I will and won’t accept. I make it quite clear how and when I expect to be paid, what expenses I expect covering, my late payment fees, copyright infringement, confidentiality and who has the legal rights to the work etc.
Make sure clients have copies of these and fully understand what is expected from both of you.
If you’re looking for a water-tight contract and other legal and website policies, I’ve teamed up with freelance international contracts lawyer Janet Alexandersson to create all the legal documents that a VA will need whatever stage their business is at. They cover UK< US, Canadian and Australian VAs and are also fully editable, brandable and GDPR compliant.