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, bought 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 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
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 Notebloc but there are others.
If you’re sending the contract over later then just use an online digital signature platform such as HelloSign, DocuSign or EchoSign.
This is probably the most common scenario and it gives the client time to read through the document and come back to you if they have any queries.
Terms & Conditions
The Freelancer Agreement I sell has two parts to it. The first is the contract itself and the second is your ‘terms of service’ which are your T&Cs and explain how you, in particular, like to work. So if you only want to be contacted between 9-5 Monday to Friday then you would put that in your T&Cs.
In many ways, my T&Cs are more important than my contract because they outline what I will and won’t accept.
Between them, my contract and terms make it quite clear how, when and how much I am to be paid, any expenses the client will pay, late payment fees I may charge, what intellectual rights belong to who, confidentiality and GDPR expectations.
What if a client won’t sign my contract?
You should be extremely wary of any client that won’t sign a contract. Changes to a contract are normal but beware of any client who wants you to change your payment terms.
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 problem signing your contract.
When you get a new client tell them you’ll email over your contract and T&Cs so they can look over them before they come to sign. I also outline the main points verbally during the consultation (always my payment terms!) so they’re perfectly clear on how much they are paying and when.
It’s normal for clients to query your contract
It can be a little nerve-wracking when a client queries or wants to change a clause but a contract is just a starting point and negotiation is a normal part of doing business.
Do not freak out or think you need to do whatever they ask.
The contract I sell has been written to protect your interests over your clients, but you can change or remove any clause you like. It literally has everything in it because it’s far better to remove stuff you don’t need than not to have something you might want.
If you have a client who wants something changed and you’re happy to do so, then just make a call on it.
For instance, I tell any VA that I work with that I do not want them to outsource any of my work to an associate – I want them to complete my tasks themselves. And they have always been happy to remove that clause in our contract.
However, be careful about removing anything from your contract that may negate your insurance as you do not want to leave your a*rse swinging naked in the breeze ready to be spanked. If you’re not sure then tag Janet Alexandersson (the lawyer who wrote the contract) in the VA Handbookers Facebook group and she will advise you.
I highly recommend you watch this short video on how to how to negotiate with clients who want to change parts of your contract because you will find it eye-opening (you have bargaining chips and you can get them to negotiate with themselves!) and an invaluable way to understand client relationships.
Remember that you both just two business owners coming to an agreement about how your working relationship will operate.
You need to ensure that you understand your contract and that you are legally covered. So do not shy away from having ‘difficult’ conversations because they could be the difference between you being paid or taken advantage of.
Looking for legal contracts?
Whether it’s a Freelancer Agreement a DPA or website policies, you need the legal stuff in place so you don’t get sued or screwed!
Written by an international contracts lawyer specifically for VAs, all the docs are updated and resent to buyers free of charge any time the law changes.