Contracts - What you need and why
As a virtual assistant, there are few things that must be in place before you begin conducting business. One of these things is getting your contracts organised.
I cannot stress the importance of having sound contracts in place, and not just generic one’s that have been downloaded off of the internet.
Why do I need a contract?
Contracts are there to protect both you and your client, and there are many reasons behind why a contract is necessary.
- It outlines what can be expected from you and from the client. It will cover aspects that are legal necessities for both sides to address, such as GDPR/data protection, IR35 Regulations, AMLR and much, much more. Clients have become more and more aware of these regulations and will expect to sign a contract that covers them.
- They serve as a record of what was agreed by you and the client. Nobody can come back at a later date and said “you said such and such as the rate you were going to charge me” or “I thought you would hold on to all my work for such and such amount of time after we worked together.” It is there in black and white, signed by you and the client.
- Contracts are binding and legally enforceable. They ensure you get paid for the work you have carried out. If a client is late with their payment or has no intention of paying you at all, the contract is a legal document that shows they agreed to make payment in the first place. This can, if it goes that far, be used in court as evidence and will ensure that you get the payment you earned.
- Everything is in one place. If an issue arises, you won’t have to hunt through emails, texts or phone call notes; it is all there in the contract.
- When you give your client a contract, it shows you know what you are doing, that you are professional and legitimate businessperson. Most clients expect a contract, so alarm bells will start to ring if a virtual assistant wants to begin work without one. Once again, clients are more and more savvy these days about these things.
- When you set up your Professional Indemnity insurance policy (see our blog about insurance), they will expect you to have your contracts in place, you may find that you are not fully covered if contracts are not in place. This will differ between insurance companies, but it is something to be aware of.
Where do I get my contract?
Getting your contracts in place will cost you money; it is one of those necessary business set up expenditures. Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking “oh, I’ll just download a free contract template off of the internet.” This is not a good idea for several reasons…
- It may not have been drafted in the UK, meaning it won’t have an understanding of UK law, GDPR, IR35, Anti-money laundering regulations, data protection laws and much, much more.
- It was probably not written with the virtual assistant industry in mind; this means that it won’t be set up to cover you for things that could go wrong or misunderstandings about the way you work.
- It may not be legally binding if it isn’t set out correctly in relation to UK law.
- Some clients know what they are looking for in a contract and can tell if it isn’t up to scratch. This will make you look bad, and people talk, so you don’t want word spreading around that you are not working in a professional way.
So, where do I get them, and what do I need?
There are several places around the UK where you can go to get your virtual assistant contracts.
You need to ensure that they come from a business that fully understands the VA industry, that works or has a background in legal work and is up to date with legal changes and what is going on within the industry.
There are a few common providers within the UK; these are…
You will need a Virtual Assistant Terms and Conditions / VA Terms of Business. Usually, this will come with a booking form and a data processing form for your client to fill in.
It may be frustrating to have to pay out for something like this at the start of your business when you don’t want to be spending out much, but it is necessary, and it will protect you and your business.