In any business relationship, having contracts in place is a great way to stay on the right side of the law and have proof that you are acting in accordance with the expectations placed on you. As a business, contracts are a great way to protect your business interests, especially in cases where the privacy of your day-to-day business dealings and content need to be kept secure. The same is true for virtual assistants, where contracts provide a way to protect yourself against companies trying to take advantage of you, forcing you to do more work than was originally agreed upon, or failing to provide compensation.
A virtual assistant contract is exactly what the name implies: it is a legally binding contract between a company or individual and a virtual assistant.
Today many people are working from home, including those who are finding positions serving as a virtual assistant for individuals, entrepreneurs, and larger businesses. Just as you would sign an employment contract when you work for a company directly, a virtual assistant contract can help spell out the specific roles and responsibilities and offer protection to everyone involved.
It is always better to have an agreed-upon and signed contract on file when working with another professional, no matter how small that relationship might be. However, a legal contract does not need to be full of complicated legal jargon and 20 pages long. Instead, the contract only has to serve as an understandable agreement between yourself and the virtual assistant or the virtual assistant company with whom you are working.
A virtual assistant agreement can help you lay out the details of your payment terms, each party’s responsibilities, and the length of the engagement. Without this agreement, you do not have any legal protection to fall back on in the event that something goes wrong. For example:
You decide to hire a virtual assistant without signing any type of agreement. You verbally explain the expectations of the position with the virtual assistant, and they agree to complete a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation and associated white paper for your business. Once they have completed the assignment, the quality is not at all what you wanted, nor does it adhere to the length or content that you requested. However, the virtual assistant refuses to make any changes. Your only option at this point would be to withhold payment. Neither you or the virtual assistant have any legally binding or protective arbitration or mediation resources at your disposal because you do not have a contract. So, in the end, they do not get paid and you do not get the content that you needed.
Generally, there are three situations that involve a virtual assistant contract:
Download the Microsoft Word sample of a virtual assistant contract here.
The first thing you want to write into your virtual assistant contract template are the details of the job itself. This should include the basic duties, the names and contact information for both parties, and the date the contract is prepared. This should clearly explain who is responsible for tasks, and what is expected of each party.
The next step is to add project or task deliverables. For instance, you may have tasks that the virtual assistant is meant to handle on a daily basis, such as handling phone calls or client details, sending certified mail and receiving it on your behalf, or updating your social media posts. It is important to be as clear as possible about each task and their frequency.
If you want to ensure that your virtual assistant does not go to your competitors and immediately disclose information about what your business is doing, products you are selling, or the clients you are engaging, a non-disclosure statement within the agreement will prevent the virtual assistant from sharing any pertinent information outside of a workplace capacity.
In addition to the task deliverables, you will want to add a section to the agreement that explains exactly when or how often you expect your virtual assistant to work for you. In this section, you may want to clarify that they are responsible for managing the entire office and therefore must work five days per week, eight hours per day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Eastern Standard Time. Or, if it is a remote or part-time position, the agreement might instead stipulate that they have to work 10 hours per week, but there are no set days of the week during which time those 10 hours must be accumulated.
Finally, include information on how payment will be rendered. This will include the rate you are paying (i.e. per hour or per task), when or how often payments will be made, what options there are for work outside of the original agreement, and what payment method will be used.
When you create and sign a virtual assistant agreement, it is a binding contract for which you might consider using a template. The contract can be a word document or a PDF and can still serve as a legal and binding document. If you, for example, want to ensure your virtual assistant signs a non-disclosure agreement about your client information, or you want to include a clause that late work will incur a fee, you might consider using a PDF, as a PDF is a more secure way for your company to outline details pertaining to payment to the other party, restrictions, or a special company clause that you know cannot be edited. Even with the control to restrict editing access, it can still be easy for someone to change aspects of a word document over a PDF. A PDF can be made secure such that the virtual assistant only has the option to print a copy, sign it, and return a scanned copy or mail the printed copy.
Virtual assistants tend to work in a freelance capacity or as an independent contractor. A contract is always the best option for any business arrangement. Both in scenarios where you have hired someone to complete menial administrative tasks online for a few hours each week, or you have hired someone to work full time, it is best to have a signed contract in place. While it is not required, bear in mind that if you are the virtual assistant, failure to have any type of contract means that the person with whom you are working can literally disappear without finalizing your business agreement, without warning, without pay, and/or fire you for no reason. Similarly, if you are the person who is hiring a virtual assistant and you do not have a contract in place, you might not get the work that you pay for, and the virtual assistant can leave whenever they want, fail to communicate with you, or just disappear.
Included in a virtual assistant contract should be the terms of your professional relationship. At its most basic, this means:
It may also be useful, especially if you are working in a more long-term capacity, to explain the agreed-upon policy for vacation days, sick days, or holidays. If you hire a virtual assistant who lives overseas, you may decide to negotiate which holidays they observe based on their location and if anyone takes their place during these breaks.
Having a virtual assistant contract template makes it much easier to draft a comprehensive yet succinct document because the majority of the work is done for you. A template provides you with easy sections that you can add or remove based on your needs, just like an a la carte menu. A template also gives you the chance to make sure you include things you may not have initially thought of. Perhaps you are just starting a new business and it never dawned on you to include a legally binding non-disclosure agreement as part of the contract, but after you review the template, you realize that it would be beneficial for you to include.