Setting up as a Virtual Assistant is relatively straight forward. First you decide to go it alone. Then you decide if you’re going to specialise. Then you start telling people you’re a Virtual Assistant and what support you can offer them / their business.
Next you get yourself a website. Start promoting it online. Network online and face-to-face. Perhaps you get some business cards to hand out at those networking events. Then you start getting clients. Then you start working with those clients. Then it comes time to bill those clients and get paid.
But wait. What if you don’t get paid for the work you’ve completed? Well, of course, you start chasing those clients. But what if days roll into weeks, and weeks roll into months, without receiving a penny?
What have you got to fall back on? What agreement did you put in place?
Without a contract you may have a battle on your hands.
So you can see why a client agreement is a necessity. Not something that should be thought of 3, 6, 12 months down the line after a bad experience.
What does a client contract exactly do?
Well for the most part it secures fair pay.
By setting out a clear agreement between you and the client, both parties know exactly where they stand, what’s expected, who has the rights to what, when payment must be made, how to terminate the agreement, and so on.
What should you client contract include?
1. Names of both parties.
Clearly state your name and company name, as well as your clients.
A good tip here is to title each party as “The Virtual Assistant” (aka you) and “The Client” (aka Bob Sands, Director of Bob Sands Enterprises). This just makes it a lot easier when continuing to create your contract – rather than writing your full name and business name along with your client’s full name and business name, simply enter “The Virtual Assistant” and “The Client”.
2. Date the agreement commences.
Clearly state when your agreement starts. This avoids the possibility of a future dispute when it comes to the first payment period.
3. Outline of services to be provided.
If you are undertaking specialist work write it on the contract. If you’re doing general VA work, write it down and give examples.
The reason this is important is that when it comes to being asked to do work outside the remit of your agreement, you can either say no without any major consequences, or quote for that specific task outside of your agreed terms i.e. at a higher rate if the task is more specialised.
4. Payment rate.
Clearly state your agreed rate. This could be an hourly figure, or an agreement to quote per project.
Being open and upfront about your rate ensures there can be no disputes when it comes to getting paid.
5. Payment terms.
This outlines when you will bill your clients and explains what period of time you expect to receive payment within i.e. Invoices will be sent the last working day of the month. Payment to be made within 14 days.
You may also wish to include payment methods to ensure that both parties are agreeable with how you will charge and expect payment. This minimises later disputes, or the possibility of deferring or withholding payment.
Some VA’s also include a ‘kill fee’ in their contract. In particular those VA’s who quote for each project separately. A ‘kill fee’ is a percentage of the quote that the client is obliged to pay if they decide to end the project before it’s completed.
6. Confidentiality agreement.
This section should provide acknowledgement that the information shared by the client is not to be discussed or used elsewhere, and any documents provided under this agreement must be returned if requested by the client.
7. Proprietary information.
Following on from the confidentiality agreement, this provides further acknowledgement that any materials given by the client to the VA in order to do the agreed task, belongs and should be returned to the client on completion of the project or termination of the contract.
8. Terms of agreement.
This reiterates the date the contract starts and, if applicable, the date the contract will come to an end.
It also should outline the termination agreement i.e. 30 / 60 / 90 days’ notice period required from either party when terminating the working relationship.
9. Legal fees.
You may wish to include a caveat relating to legal fees i.e. who pays what if either party opens a law suit to enforce or interrupt the provisions of your agreement.
Finally, ensure an area for both sets of signatures along with a date is available.
Getting legal advice
Now you know what the contract should include, you’re ready to go – right?
Well not really. Yes, there are plenty of VA’s who leave it at that. They create their contract, get the client to sign it, and then get on with the work.
In an ideal world you’ll be working with honest clients so that’s absolutely fine.
But sadly, the real world can be somewhat different.
There are dishonest clients. So what happens if you’re unlucky enough to be working with one of ‘those’?
Any glitch in your agreement could make it pretty much null and void; meaning you could have no leg to stand on if a problem occurs.
So, get it checked out. Yes it will cost a little money upfront, but then you’ve got it for all future clients and most importantly you have confidence in the knowledge that if you needed to take it further, you can.
Working with Associates?
If you are working with associates, the same rules apply. Get an agreement drawn up so you both understand each other.
I’ve known VA’s that have had their associates steal their clients from under their noses. Even after working with them for years. Sad but true I’m afraid.
So cover your own back.
Additional areas to include in your Associate Agreement are:
- Notice of sickness or holiday – to ensure you can find a replacement or schedule the task into your own working day.
- Deadlines – agree to adhere to all deadlines provided or discuss alternatives at the initial stage of being briefed.
- Disclosure – agree to disclose any information that may affect the business relationship between the VA and the client.
- Quality of work – an agreement that outlines quality control measures. If they fall below par, the Associate must amend / re-do at no additional cost to the VA.
- Non-solicitation – Clarity that the Associate cannot approach or be employed by any of the VA’s existing clients for a period of X months after terminating your contract together.
If you don’t already have a contract in place, now’s the time to do it. The sooner you do it, the safer and more rights you have.
If you do have a Client or Associate agreement already, have you covered all angles? Or are there any that we’ve missed? Please leave your comments below.