Disclaimer: This post does not constitute legal advice. You should seek independent legal advice from a certified professional that will be able to advise you on how to best create a virtual assistant contract based on your personal situation.
The two most common reactions we encounter when we bring up the topic of asking your clients to sign your virtual assistant contract are:
- The contract-phobic freelancer – Don’t even mention the word ‘contract’ to me. That’s just for big corporations! -or-
- The litigious-happy freelancer – I can’t wait for my client to do something wrong, I’ll sue them in a heartbeat.
Neither of these approaches is very productive – for your business, your reputation or your own well-being.
Why do I even need a virtual assistant contract?
The reason why you need to use a VA contract is simple – setting clear expectations and confirming that both parties understand and agree with these expectations.
Yes, both parties.
You should consider the purpose of a contract is to protect both you AND your client from complications in your working relationship. In fact, if a client refuses to sign your virtual assistant contract, you can use this “mutual benefit principle” to sell them on the advantages of using a one.
What elements should I include in my virtual assistant contract?
Whether you employ a professional, take a DIY approach or use a hybrid method by purchasing our customizable VA contract template, the final version of your contract should be tailored to your personal situation, the way you choose to run your business and your expectations.
That being said, here are the essential elements included in our VA contract template:
1. A description of services
This section of the contract specifically outlines the tasks you will perform for your client – whether we’re talking about specific deliverables (such as designing and delivering a Powerpoint presentation), service-oriented tasks (such as checking their inbox twice a day and replying to emails on their behalf) or hourly assistance (such as spending two hours every day scheduling social media posts).
Be as specific as possible and include clear expectations about deadlines, schedules, availability or any other milestones you have agreed to with your client.
Why is this section important?
Most newbie VAs believe that the biggest problem that might arise will be not getting paid for their services.
Now we’ve been experts in the VA community for half a decade (and we’ve trained thousands of virtual assistants!), so we can tell you this – the most common problem you will encounter won’t be payment, but scope creep.
Scope creep means that your client is adding more tasks to your plate without adjusting the terms of the contract and without increasing your pay.
In other words, you end up working more for the same pay. Because this happens in slow increments (and often over a longer period of time), it becomes an issue that virtual assistants are slow to notice and even slower to address.
More often than not, clients aren’t deliberately trying to take advantage of their VA.
Clients are just getting used to delegating and starting to trust the VA more and more, so they often don’t think twice about pushing an extra task on to the VA’s plate. But all of these extra tasks eventually add up, and a virtual assistant should be compensated for them.
Having a “description of services” section to point to makes the conversation with your client easier and more straightforward. The presence of a contract helps take the emotion out of the equation –and without strong emotions clouding your judgement, you’ll be able to make sure your workload remains manageable.
2. Payment terms
Obviously, we’re all hoping to get fairly compensated for our skills, knowledge and time.
This part of the contract should outline these expectations as clearly and comprehensively as possible.
Your virtual assistant contract should clearly state the amount you’ll be paid, the frequency of invoicing (weekly or monthly), the method of payment (bank transfer, Paypal, FreshBooks, etc.) and when the payment is due (for example, due upon receipt or net-15).
You can also use this part of the contract to outline the consequences of your client not paying on time. Will they incur a late fee?
If you’re working on a per-project basis, what happens if the project is cancelled by the client halfway? Is there a project kill fee?
Why is this section important?
This section of the contract will protect you if your client runs into unexpected scenarios that make payment difficult.
It’s not always the case that a client is out to get you. Often, payment issues arise when the client is facing cashflow problems on their end, or when their internal processes aren’t as well organized and details such as invoices from contractors fall through the cracks.
While gentle reminders and opening an honest line of conversation should be the first recourse when you’re not getting paid on time, it’s also a good idea to have a binding document backing up your request if money transfers get delayed for too long.
When we start a working relationship with a new client, we rarely think about how to end said relationship.
But business relationships inevitably end and it’s important that neither party feels trapped in an arrangement that no longer benefits them. That’s why the termination section of your contract should mention how to terminate your collaboration. Does an email suffice, or should you send a termination letter?
This section should also mention the notice period (can you terminate immediately or should you stay on for an additional 14 or 30 days?) and terms covering the payment due to the contractor (for example, making sure you are paid for the work you’ve already done since the previous invoice payment, or the work you’ll do until the termination is effective).
Why is this section important?
Having to break up with a client can often lead to awkward conversations. And the day you’re parting ways with a client is definitely not the best time to be negotiating terms such as notice periods or payments due!
That’s why having these terms well-defined beforehand will protect you and your client from having to make any rash decisions under emotional and time pressure.
Other elements of a VA contract
These are the three main elements that are covered in our virtual assistant contract template.
However, this list is not exhaustive. Other elements that we’ve included to better protect your interests – as well as those of your client – include:
- How to handle retainers
- Non-disclosure and non-solicitation clauses
- Confidentiality clauses
- Copyright -and-
- Work ownership clauses
In a nutshell
We have a “better safe than sorry” approach to contracts.
Do you NEED it? Certainly, it’s a good idea to have a contract in place.
Can you start work without it? Absolutely! Don’t let the lack of a contract for virtual assistants prevent you from setting up your business or prospecting for clients.
Ultimately, if your working relationship with a prospect is a parade’s worth of red flags, no contract will protect you one hundred percent. So if your client has a history of unpaid invoices to suppliers, aggressive behavior or unreasonable expectation, we advise you to move on.
However, if you’ve done your due diligence on a prospect, and you’ve decided to start working with them, all you need to do is download our virtual assistant contract template, customize it to fit your needs, get it signed by both parties and start bringing value to your new client’s business!