You’ve made the commitment to go into business for yourself. You’ve hung out your shingle as a Virtual Assistant(VA). Your social media channels are up and running, and your website is live.
Then it happens. You get your first client. Maybe they’re a neighbor or someone you know casually, or a direct referral from a friend. You have an initial call and you and your client click right away. You close the sale and are ready to begin working.
Not so fast.
So many novice VAs make the mistake of forging ahead without a contract. The client seemed really nice, and…
Before you do anything as a VA, you must have a solid contract in place. Not only does a contract protect you against such instances as non-payment, your contract allows you to establish professional boundaries with your client and to signify you literally mean business.
At the very least, a contract should have the following items:
Names of both parties: both names as well as business names for you and your client
Scope of Services: in this section, describe the exact services you will provide. Be very specific. Sooner or later, you’ll encounter “scope creep,” in which a client will enlist you for services beyond your scope of expertise. A Scope of Services clause will protect you from scope creep.
Payment policy: Another key contract element. State your rates, payment schedule, payment methods, late payment policy, and policy for dishonored transactions. State the consequences of late payments, e.g. suspension of work until account is brought current, and/or late fees.
Collection policy: Sooner or later you will encounter a client who will not pay, even though you performed the work. Use this clause to outline the steps that will be taken in the event of non-payment.
Revision policy: If graphic design or writing services are part of your offerings, how many revisions will be free of charge, if any? What is your revision fee, and how many revisions are allowed? Your revision policy can be your best friend with indecisive or demanding clients.
Deliverables: In this section, specify your deliverables or the end product of your efforts, and when they are expected to be completed if you have deadline-sensitive projects.
Communication policy: If you’re a VA for long enough, you’ll get that one client who is pinging you on your messaging app at all hours, and who expects a reply almost immediately. Your communication policy is another boundary you establish with clients from the outset to avoid this common problem.
That one client may ping you at all hours, but your communications policy clearly states when you’ll get back to them.
In your communications section, specify your timeframe for replying to client communications, your phone call policy, email policy, and teleconference policy. If you have a preferred method of communication you’d like your client to use, specify it.
Many experienced VAs establish “office hours” for replying to same-day communications from clients, keeping in mind client time zones. Specify when they can expect to receive a reply to communications sent outside of office hours.
By having a firm communication policy, you’re establishing clear boundaries around your time. This is vital if you want to stay sane and stay in business.
Terms and Conditions: This is where the “legalese” comes in. This section covers confidentiality, non-disclosure policy, intellectual property, and more. Think of this as the “fine print.”
A contract is a legally-binding document between you and your client. It will protect you from non-payment for services, scope creep, and other obstacles in your relationship with that client.
A contract is also your first step in establishing professional boundaries with your client, even if they are the friend of a friend or someone from your community. A contract conveys professionalism and a willingness to enter into a legally-binding agreement with another party.
(CTA) : The contract is just one of the many components of a Virtual Assistant business. Starting out can seem intimidating. The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Check out my new VA course, The Joy Formula.
You’ll not only learn about the nuts and bolts of starting a VA business (including those contracts) you’ll learn about the joy that comes with having your own business: the opportunity to create the life you want with a flexible schedule you can live with.
It doesn’t get much better than that.