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 Virtual Assistants 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 upon 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
- 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 ever needed at a later date
- Working without one may invalidate your insurance
Your Virtual Assistant Terms & Conditions
The Freelancer Agreement I sell has two parts to it. The first is the contract itself and the second is your ‘Statement of Work’ which is basically 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 and what I do and don’t charge for.
Between them, my contract and terms make it quite clear how, when and how much I am to be paid, any reimbursable expenses the client will pay, late payment fees, intellectual property ownership, confidentiality and GDPR compliance.
What to do if a client won’t sign your contract
Usually, clients will not have a problem signing a contract so you should be extremely wary of anyone that won’t.
I’ve been in business since 2009 and, while I’ve never had a client refuse to sign my contract, a couple of VAs in my training group have reported this happening to them.
Here is an example:
“I’ve just had a call with a potential client. Looks like a great company run by a husband and wife team, the work would be interesting and totally flexible so I could do more when I’m quiet and less when I’m busy. Sounds perfect.
But they don’t want to sign a contract!
They say they work with lots of freelancers and have never had to sign one before. They asked if I’d be prepared to work without a contract in place and I said no, at which point they said they would probably have to leave it there.
From our conversation, I think the problem is actually that they are really busy so don’t have the time to get their heads around my contract and all the ‘legal speak’ so don’t want to sign something when they don’t really understand it.
I tried to explain it is just there to protect us both and they did say they would try and have another look through it and come back to me if they felt happy to sign it.
Normally I’d just walk away at this point but I would really love to work with them so keen to try and resolve the issue if I can.”
Various pieces of advice were offered (all saying don’t work without a contract obvs) and one member even said she had to make the margins bigger and the font a little smaller simply to make the contract appear shorter to one reluctant client – which I thought was genius.
Overall, the other VAs rightly pointed out that you need to have all of your work details sorted in writing as this presents misunderstandings and holds both parties to account.
The trainee had another couple of conversations with the potential client and the matter was resolved.
“Just popping back here to say thank you so much for all your comments and advice. After a couple more conversations and agreeing to a small change they have now signed the contract.
They said they were impressed that I was persistent but professional as that’s exactly how they would want me to be with their clients. Watching Janet’s negotiation video again definitely helped!”
Whether to sign your Virtual Assistant contract or the client’s own contract
Sometimes a client will ask you to sign their contract instead of them signing yours – and this is fine.
It doesn’t matter whose contract you use as long as the terms are ok by you. If you are happy with your own contracts and unsure of theirs, insist on using yours or review theirs to make sure you are sufficiently covered.
However, when comparing clauses, remember that the Virtual Assistant contract I sell was written to give YOU the best possible protection from legal harm whereas your client’s contract will more likely protect their interests over yours.
What to do if a client wants to make changes to your contract
While changes to a contract are normal, you should be wary of any client who wants 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.
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.
Don’t freak out or think you need to do whatever they ask.
The Virtual Assistant contract I sell has been written to protect your interests over your clients, but you can change or remove any clause you like.
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.
How to virtually sign your contract
If you have an in-person meeting with a potential client tell them you’ll email over your contract and T&Cs when you get home so they can look over them and come back to you with any queries before they sign.
It also pays to outline the main points of your contract verbally during the consultation (always your payment terms!) so they’re perfectly clear on how much they are paying and when.
To virtually sign a contract you need to use an online digital signature platform such as HelloSign, DocuSign or EchoSign. Most of these are free to use depending on how many documents you need to sign each month.
I highly recommend you watch this short video on 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 your relationship with your clients.
You need to ensure that you understand every clause in your contract and that you are legally covered.
Also, please do not shy away from having ‘difficult’ conversations with your clients. It may help to remember that you are both just two business owners coming to an agreement about how your working relationship will operate.
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.