So, you’ve gained or you’re about to gain a brand-new client. Congrats! Now, it’s time to get to work, right? Not quite. For most VAs, a contract is a final step before beginning any project. In this post, I talk about what a contract really is and how to get one set up for your own business.
It’s a good idea to have contracts with your clients because they protect you and them. According to Entrepreneur, “Contracts clarify what each party expects and what each party is willing to give in exchange for the expected results.” I love this definition; it makes it easy to imagine what should go into a contract when you view it like that.
Start with all the information that’s going to be the same for everyone. This information includes your name, their name, and the basics of working with you and paying you. Then, each time you work out a new package with a new client, you’ll want to add in that information.
For service providers, a contract is a place to include not only pricing, but terms such as working hours, work scope, contact info, and more.
Related Post: How to Set Up Your Virtual Assistant Business Like a Pro
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Signing the Contract
Electronic systems such as Hellosign, Docusign.com, and Pandadoc.com are available for you to be able to get documents signed. Hellosign is a popular choice with a lot of VAs; you can get up to 3 documents signed per month for free, and that may be all you need.
Pandadoc’s site includes a great contract template that you can download and customize for your own needs.
You could also consider a contract established if the client deposits a specific amount after your proposal email. Even if you do this, you should still collect a signature just to be on the safe side if you’re working with people who weren’t referred by people you know.
Here’s a great post on document signing companies and their pricing.
Do you need a lawyer?
You could get an attorney to help you set up a basic contract. But, the truth is, a contract is good if it’s written on a napkin and there’s proof that both parties agree to the terms. Also, and sadly, when you work remotely as a small business, if someone doesn’t want to pay you, they’re probably going to get away with it.
Trying to recoup money from people who don’t want to pay can be expensive, especially if you’re using a lawyer. And, if the amount you’re trying to get back is a fraction of the cost it will take you to get it, is it worth it? Sometimes, it’s best to move on, older and wiser.
But, for honest people, a contract helps both of you know what to expect from each other. It lists the responsibilities and expectations of both parties so that everyone understands their part. You can also get paid up front by people you don’t know or have “a feeling” about.
What it all comes down to in the end
You’re performing a valuable service, and you should feel secure about getting paid for those valuable services. Don’t be shy about asking for what you’re worth and collecting the payment. It’s okay to negotiate but never agree to do anything that makes you feel unimportant or resentful.
If you charge less than you should for a project, just get it done as best as you can, and learn from it. The client shouldn’t suffer because you didn’t charge enough for your services. When you agree to a project, do your best work, every time.
The most effective way to get paid consistently is to produce quality, timely work. Most clients will be more than happy to pay you on time if you’re doing your best work and genuinely helping them in their business. And, to be honest, I don’t have official contracts with my own best clients! If a client intends to pay you, they will.
However, contracts do help set up a system for you and your client that make everything legal. They also maintain standards for your work and responsibilities for you both.