Having a contract in place as a virtual assistant is essential to ensure that you're aligned with your client and protected if anything goes wrong.
Contracts can be really challenging to understand, but we're going to break it down, so you can better understand what needs to be included to protect virtual assistants.
While you'll need to update your contract template to fit each client's needs, there are several things that should be standard across all virtual assistant contracts.
What is a virtual assistant contract?
Virtual assistant agreements are legal documents that detail the working relationship between a freelance virtual assistant and their client.
More importantly, a VA contract provides evidence that this working relationship ever happened, which is especially important if something were to go wrong.
More often than working a traditional full-time job with a company, virtual assistants tend to work as independent contractors. Hence, a virtual assistant contract is essential to protect your rights as an independent contractor.
The Essential Components of a Virtual Assistant Contract
What to Include
Contracts are made to outline what will be done by each party and when it will be accomplished. This helps make sure that there's an alignment of expectations. Contracts are a great way to prevent future scope creep.
Virtual assistants often get pulled into many different types of work, and understanding what happens when things get outside of the contract is valuable.
The service section details what actions are going to be performed by the consultant for the client. Typically, there is a section on ‘description of services' that lays out the specific actions or deliverables that will come from the contract. This is where you're able to review what your client has laid out or what you're putting together for your virtual assistant work.
While keeping fairly brief, you still want to be specific on what services you're providing. A vague contract leaves your services open to interpretation, so it's just as important to state what you won't be doing as it is to express what you will be doing.
While you shouldn't rush through any clause when drafting up your virtual assistant contract template, this section is fundamental as it covers the main aspect of your job.
Scope of Work
Spelling out the scope of the work you'll perform is another crucial way to help you prevent that dreaded scope creep from growing out of control. While the service clause details the exact services you'll provide, the scope of work clause will cover the degree to which you'll perform these services.
You'll want to clearly state every element that you'll provide as their new virtual assistant. Any time your client tries to extend the scope of the project, you'll have this section to refer back to in your template.
The term length is the amount of time this agreement will be in effect and can be renewable per the terms.
Here are some common ways to spell out the term length of a contract:
Project: A client may hire you for a specific project, whether short-term or long-term. In this case, the term length of the contract will be until the project is finished.
Fixed-Term: A fixed-term contract will discuss the fixed period of time that you'll be working for a client. For instance, typical term lengths can cover six months or one year from the effective date. Fixed terms are appropriate when clients need a virtual assistant for a limited time, or want to explore if you're a good fit to extend the term length.
Indefinite: An indefinite contract will run until one or both parties decide to end the agreement. In general, this clause will spell out terms for how many days in advance you'll need to warn the other party before the contract ends.
A payment clause outlines everything your client needs to know about payment rates, including how much, how often, and how soon you'll be getting paid after each invoice. This section is crucial to prevent you from having to track down payments.
If you want, you can make your clause easier to read by splitting this clause into two sections:
- Payment amount and transaction method
- Payment schedule and collection
Outside of just compensation, there are a lot of things around money that should be specified in the contract.
- Compensation: The virtual assistant's compensation should be outlined within the contract specifying how much the assistant will make. This can be an hourly amount or project-based and may include a specific amount of hours.
- Invoices: This includes what the process for invoicing is. Is it submitted to the client on a certain cadence? Is there a biweekly or bimonthly payment schedule, or is the payment due upon completion of the project?
- Considerations: Including what to do in the case of late fees, delayed payment, or who's responsible for taxes
Ready to sign your next client?
You can build trust with the Contracts tool from Indy. Start with an industry-specific contract template, add your own terms, and send it off to be signed.
A solid contract for virtual assistants will define the levels of confidentiality between the parties involved. This clause comes into play when you're working closely with sensitive information your client doesn't want revealed to competitors.
If you don't have the proper sign-off, you won't be able to share your past work with anyone, which is an important step for landing future clients.
While it won't be possible for all contracts, you should try to define some terms that allow you to share your proof of services for future clients to see that you'll be a great fit for them.
Confidentiality is usually in reference to who retains IP rights. Intellectual Property Rights help both parties understand who owns what's being created. This is especially important for writers, designers, and other artistic components of digital marketing who want to understand if they can use what was written within their portfolio.
For virtual assistants, this may not be necessary, however, review the information on confidentiality. You may be given proprietary information regarding the company and the people that you're working with.
There are often non-disclosure agreements that are either included in or separate from the services contract, but be mindful of what's included so you don't share anything confidential. We'll talk more about that in a bit!
Cancellation & Dispute Resolution
Sometimes, things happen that are outside of our control as virtual assistants. If you do work and your client decides they're no longer interested in working with you, you want to be protected to ensure you get paid for the work up to that point.
On the other hand, if you need to cancel the contract, you still want to make sure you'll be paid for the work that's been completed and how that payment is determined.
Cancellation: This includes information on what would need to occur for a contract to be canceled. What fees would need to be paid, and what are the other repercussions?
Dispute Resolution: The dispute resolution details what happens if something goes wrong during your contract and the steps that will be taken. This can include which third party may be utilized for resolving any disputes. Dispute resolution isn't very common in working relationships, but understanding what it is will be helpful for that one unlucky time.
At the end of any contract, you don't want to be left in limbo wondering what happens next. That's why it's best to have outlined what will happen once a contract is completed so you can eliminate the guesswork.
Will the contract be automatically renewed or do you need to have another contract in place to continue work?
Renewals help to outline what happens when a contract ends. If the contract is renewable you'll need to outline the processes for continuing forward with the existing contract.
Equipment & Expenses
The last area we'll mention covers the expenses. As a virtual assistant, you have access to numerous software tools to help manage your client's workload.
This clause lays out who is responsible for paying the fees for any equipment a virtual assistant needs to accomplish the job. Is it the client's or the consultant's responsibility? Different expenses in virtual assistant contracts can include tools, advertising costs, website associated costs, etc.
Your client may onboard you onto their software tools, or you might already be familiar with another software you choose to use. Spelling out who is responsible for paying these fees is an important element in any virtual assistant contract.
What to look for when choosing a template
If your client isn't providing the contract for review, there are a few things to consider when choosing a virtual assistant contract template. Make sure you have the right to use the contract and it's not previously copyrighted.
At Indy, we suggested going through a tool or service to download a contract to ensure that a larger organization has done the research and all that is included in the contract is valid and law binding.
Indy provides a free contract template that you can customize based on your specific needs. Indy has many contracts to help as you grow your business and services like contracts for digital marketers, graphic designers, or any other type of contract you may need.
If you're hoping to work with a past client again, creating a new contract isn't the only thing you've got to get right. Reaching out is no easy task, but Indy's got you covered! Check out this article on connecting with past clients during COVID-19 for more templates to help you get in touch with people you want to work with again.
Do you really need a virtual assistant contract template?
You're in charge of your own virtual assistant company, whether you're a solo freelancer or you subcontract work to additional assistants, so it's always a good thing to take the steps to protect your company. But are there any other benefits to having a contract besides protecting yourself? Let's take a look:
- Provides a Reference Point: A good virtual assistant contract template does more than just protect you and your client. These contracts provide a reference that outlines everything you said you would complete for the client. This is an invaluable resource to keep you on track so you can accomplish your goals with flying colors.
- Levels Up Your Business: In short, having a contract adds another layer of professionalism to your business. Unless you're well established, any potential client is going to be a little bit hesitant when first working with you. When you have a contract template in place, they'll feel more at ease that you're running a legitimate business.
- Filters Through Bad Clients: If you happen to run into a client who puts their foot down on wanting to sign a contract, or feels there isn't a need to sign one, this is a red flag that you should move on to another client. This contract is meant to protect you both, so if they refuse to sign then you're opening the door to a client going beyond what you originally stated you were willing to do as their virtual assistant.
Now that we've discussed the basic elements that you need in your virtual assistant contract agreement, here are a few extra clauses that can help you crush your contracts!
Here are a few more clauses to consider for your virtual assistant agreement
As a virtual assistant, you'll have access to a company's private information as you manage their day-to-day tasks. Different from intellectual property rights, some businesses may feel the need to have you sign an agreement that you won't disclose any confidential information. You can display your professionalism by adding this agreement to your own contract.
Though this section is usually included in your client's contract if they work for a larger company, it doesn't hurt to add this clause to your own virtual assistant contract template. Non-solicitation means that you agree to not solicit any of their employees to come work for you after a contract ends. This type of clause will most likely be used if you become a subcontractor for another virtual assistant company.
Be careful about signing non-compete clauses. A non-compete clause means that you won't be able to work for competing clients in the same industry for as long as the contract states. It's up to you, of course, but weigh how much you'll be getting paid and if the contract is worth it to you. Your ability to work for other clients will be limited by this clause.
Should you seek legal help?
The legal side of a contract can be pretty intimidating if you're not used to reading legal talk. As a freelancer or an independent contractor, you should take some steps to ensure that your template complies with a legally sound contract. As your contracts grow more complex, especially those with a lot of legal jargon, it can be very helpful to have a lawyer make sure you're protected.
While it may seem obvious, when working with any legal documents, make sure you have your client's signature before beginning any work.
Signatures are the only thing that makes these contracts legally binding, so even if a client downplays the importance of their signature, don't hesitate to ask for it anyway. Otherwise, all of the time you spent drafting up the contract will have been for nothing. Signatures are that important!
Not only that, there are some other key areas that which a lawyer could be beneficial to you.
Lawyers & Attorneys
Your mileage may vary, but as your business grows and you begin working with larger clients, you may need to consider bringing a lawyer and an attorney on board. This is especially true for IP protection. If you form your own VA company with unique branding, you want to cover any IP rights that will help protect your brand.
A lawyer will be able to read through your virtual assistant contract template and add the necessary clauses that will make it bulletproof.
A great VA contract means covering every possible scenario that could happen and having a good solution both parties can agree on. Lawyers can get pretty expensive, though, so make sure you're making enough money from your business to feel comfortable paying those fees.
Contracts are extremely helpful in giving clarity to both parties. That's why a virtual assistant agreement is vital to helping you grow your freelance business!
With the right template, you can protect yourself from getting roped into more work than you planned, make sure you're getting paid on time, have a strong reference guide to refer back to, and keep yourself protected, all while looking like the true professional you are.
For any of your VA contract template needs, join Indy's service provider to keep your virtual assistant services protected as you grow your business!