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Many virtual assistants are independent contractors. The common practice is that a client would not want to hire a contractor to do some work for him/her without a valid contract in place. This need arises, perhaps from the fact that the virtual assistants are not full time employees coming to an office every day.They often work from home, which can be miles away from the client. They often handle a number of tasks for the clients at a fee.

The specific duties vary from editing and updating websites and social media posts to handling calls and sending thank you notes to a client's customers. Some of the tasks they handle has them accessing information with varying levels of confidentiality requirements. Similarly, the wise Virtual assistant (VA) won’t want to start work without a contract in place. In many instances, you might prefer relying on verbal agreements.

A verbal agreement is not appropriate as it exposes the two of you to the possibility of misunderstandings. The problem with misunderstandings is that they can be costly to the client and the VA; hence, the need for preparing and signing a virtual assistance contract.

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Credits: Image courtesy of freetimewebdesign

A Contract Clarifies Issues

Confusion can easily arise in business agreements in terms of what is to be provided and when it should be provided. It also clarifies who owns what rights and who has what responsibilities to fulfill. A contract clarifies issues such as the money that the client should pay the virtual assistant. The contract clarifies the role the VA is expected to perform for the client. It explains the duties of each party that signs the agreement. Without these clarifications, it becomes hard to know whether the VA or client has failed in doing his/her part.

The contract is necessary to clarify the measures to take in case of a dispute between the client and his virtual assistant.

The virtual assistant contract doesn’t only focus on the clarifying issues around what the VA is supposed to do. It also delves into the payment terms specifying:

The amount the client is supposed to pay, Whether a flat fee or time based, Whether there’s a refundable or nonrefundable deposit to be paid, The means through which the payments will be made, The timelines for payment.

Aside from the payment details, the virtual assistant contract also specifies the termination terms. Firing can often go two ways; the VA can decide to terminate the deal, or the client can choose to fire the VA. Either way, the terms of the VA relationship termination must be included in the contract. It must address issues around termination, specifically:

Who has the right to terminate the virtual assistance relationship? Most times, either party can do it.The procedure for termination. It’s a bad practice to just wake up one morning and inform the client that starting immediately you won’t provide the virtual assistance services to him/her anymore. Clients also sometimes terminate the relationship without notice and at times without a word. Therefore, any wise VA or client must be protected against these unpleasant surprises.

How? By including a clause specifying the process to be followed in order to terminate the agreement.The required length of notice before actual termination. As mentioned before, clients and VAs have been known to terminate contracts without notice; leaving the other party basically stranded and at a loss of what happened. It is therefore important to lay down the terms in writing specifying how long a notice must be given before the contract is terminated.Payment terms. It is only fair for a VA to be paid for work done up to the time the termination takes effect. VAs should however not assume that every client will automatically do that. A good virtual assistant contract should specifically state that the VA should be paid pro rata. When to hand over. If there are any documents in the VAs possession that need to be handed to the client upon termination, a clause in the contract can clarify when this is expected to happen; before or after the final payment.

A VA working relationship involves access to information about clients; sometimes sensitive information that a client wouldn’t want in the public domain. The client might also be privy to information the VA doesn’t want to be known by other parties. Therefore, while trust is important and confidentiality is a virtue desired by both parties most importantly the VA. A confidential VA that’s good at his/her job is gold. With such a VA a client can often trust that their private information will remain that way.

Nevertheless, it is important to clarify exactly what is covered under the confidentiality clause of the virtual assistant contract. This will ensure that all the parties know what should not be disclosed; whether knowingly or unknowingly. Having the confidentiality clause also helps to lend legitimacy to your virtual assistance business.

Some clients also want other restrictive covenants. Therefore, a virtual assistant contract can include these in the form of a non-compete clause. This clause serves to restrict your ability to take on a similar business as a client during your contract period. It can also include a non-solicitation clause that bars either party from soliciting clients from the other. This clause is especially common among virtual assistant companies hiring subcontractors as it helps prevent the subcontractor from poaching clients. However, note that the enforceability of such covenants can vary so you should check how enforceable such agreements are in your state. Otherwise, such clauses would only make your contract larger without adding any value to your business relationship.

Another important issue that the virtual assistant contract clarifies is what exactly are the deliverables expected from the VA. A detailed list of tasks with some measurable criteria such as a product delivered, a project completed or a log tracking the time taken may be necessary. The contract can also clarify the number of hours that a VA is required to put in.

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Credits: Image courtesy of documatica-forms.com

A Contract Must Be Legible and Without Omissions

As with any other contract, it’s only logical that the virtual assistant contract should contain some basic details. These are the names and contact details of both the client and the VA. The dates of preparation and signing of the contract should also be present. Following the rule of any communication, it must be clear, coherent and to the point with only as much detail as is necessary.

This means that it should be in a language that both parties to the agreement will understand. It should be without errors and omissions. It should also be concise and easy to read thus the font styles and sizes, whitespaces, margins, line spacing and all other aspects of its formatting must make it easy for anyone to read.

If need be, i.e., if you don’t know how to prepare a virtual assistant contract you can get someone to help you write up one or use one of our contract templates. A template can keep you from making certain grave mistakes such as leaving out crucial clauses. But it doesn’t do much in terms of keeping the grammatical errors that affect readability at bay. Therefore, proofreading is necessary and should be done faithfully. This is important to avoid things such as ambiguity as well as other mistakes in writing it.

You want all terms, conditions, and procedures to be as clear as possible.

Forms of Virtual Assistant Contracts

Primarily, there are a number of different agreements that VAs can use depending on the specific details and nature of the work they are contracted to do. However, you will often find clauses relating to these different agreements included in a single virtual assistant contract.

The independent contractor agreement

This is used when the VAs services are only for a specific project; whether one-off or recurring. They address the issues discussed above, but can also include clauses addressing other issues as the job, and the VA demands.

The retainer agreement

This is usually used when the job requires you to provide virtual assistance for a longer period of time. Either you work a specific number of tasks monthly, or you work a specified number of hour monthly. In such cases, discounted rates can be negotiated and can often serve as an incentive for the client to make upfront payments. This type of arrangement has its benefits, but regardless, a contract is still necessary to ensure the interests of the VA and the clients are protected.

Confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements

This aims to guard against disclosure of confidential information. This often comes into play if the VA is likely to get access to information that the client considers private.

A Contract Is Great for Solving Disputes

A number of times, and this is more likely among the inexperienced virtual assistants; you will find a VA wondering if they really need a virtual assistant contract. Many starts with operating on trust, but learn later how essential a written and duly signed contract really is. For the lucky ones, this lesson comes with a few unpleasant experiences only. For others, the lesson comes at a huge cost; often a substantial loss after having spent time and effort in providing the required services only not to be paid at the end of it.

According to an article on lexology.com library, many times, the verbal agreement between a client and the virtual assistant is enough, and there's no need for referring to a contract. Even when a contract is in place and properly signed, the client rarely disagrees with the virtual assistant to the point of consulting the contract to see the way forward. Nevertheless, when something goes wrong, the client and VA will have nothing to rely on except their word against each other. Unfortunately, this rarely bodes well for the two.

While a contract won’t always prevent conflicts and situations of clients reneging on your agreement, it sure is helpful when you have to prove that you indeed had an agreement. It could also be the last strand of hope to get what is owed to you. After all, the typical virtual assistant is a freelancer and according to various sources, and forums; failure to get paid and late payment challenges are among the top problems freelancers and small businesses face.

A Contract Serves Many Purposes

A properly crafted virtual assistant contract serves two main purposes. First, it acts as a legal agreement that binds the client to the virtual assistant. It sets the conditions under which the two are to work together. Secondly, the contract shows the professionalism of both parties. It shows that the client and VA both take their roles in the project seriously and want nothing to stand in the way of a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship. Here’s why a virtual assistant contract is so important:

It is proof that a client read, understood and agreed to the terms and conditions of the agreement. By appending his/her signature on the contract, the client agrees to those and becomes bound by it.With a good virtual assistant contract, you can be covered when it comes to copyright infringement.It eliminates confusion as to what is expected of either partyShould you need to provide evidence of the agreement at a later date, you will have a written and signed a document to turn to. You won’t have to battle on the basis of your word against the client.

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Credits: Image courtesy of interiorhousing.biz

A virtual assistant can prepare and sign several types of contracts. For example, he can sign an independent contractor agreement and use it with clients who need his services only once. He can also sign a retainer agreement, which is for clients with whom he would like to forge a long-term relationship.

A Non-Disclosure Agreement is also permissible. In some cases, a subcontracting agreement would also be welcome if the VA thinks it necessary.

Therefore, a virtual assistant contract is better than verbal agreements. The virtual assistance contract is, however, binding only if it is duly signed by the parties involved. Otherwise, it won’t be of much use when you need to provide evidence.

A Contract Must Be Duly Signed

The virtual assistance contract is usually prepared in two or more copies. Each copy must be signed by each party. Each party is given time to go through the contract and if okay with the terms, agree to them. If it’s during a one on one meeting, the signing can take place at once. If not, one party signs their part before sending both copies back to the other party. After signing, each party is given a copy.

Straightforward as it may seem, some VAs haggle with the client just to get them to sign the contract.

While the terms of the agreement should be negotiated, it doesn’t mean that you should yield to all that the client wants.

Be especially wary of a client who insists on you removing a crucial clause that protects your interests. Most often, many of the clients who insist on certain useful clauses being removed before they sign the virtual assistance contract are problem makers. They are often the ones that tend to delay payments. You should be wary of such clients. At times, it’s better for freelancers and VAs to let some jobs go if they cannot come to an agreement with the clients that works for both parties.

That said; some level of flexibility on the terms and conditions therein is also at times necessary. It is up to the VA to determine what is acceptable to him/her and what s/he can compromise on.

Reap the Benefits

With a good, solid contract between you and your client, you stand a better chance of enjoying a peaceful business relationship.

Should some conflicts arise, it will be easier to resolve them. You can also terminate the contract professionally and rest assured that the client can also do the same. It also improves your chances of not just being paid, but also getting your money without too many unnecessary delays. This is undoubtedly the dream of any freelancer; not spending months trying to follow up on payments, especially if you have employees and subcontractors to pay.

Get a good template today to help you prepare your contract and get the protection that a virtual assistant contract can afford you. It’s also worth noting that enforceability is not just a concern when it comes to restrictive covenants. Rather, other parts of the contract might be enforceable in one state but not so in another. Find out what is considered enforceable in your state. At times, this may mean getting the advice of someone knowledgeable in the laws of your state. Even if it costs you some extra money, this due.

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