As savvy VAs, we know we should have a contract our clients sign. But there may be times when we wonder if it’s truly necessary for a certain client because we know them. There are many reasons why a VA should never work without a contract. In this article, I’m going to explain why there are no exceptions to that rule and talk about what to do with your agreement if you’re signing a client you aren’t sure you can trust.
Do I have to have a client sign a contract if I know them, and they are trustworthy?
Yes. Even if you know the person well and you think working with them will be a breeze, you must have them sign a contract. Don’t be afraid you’ll offend them with this request because they’ll think you don’t trust them. It’s actually more important to have a signed agreement with someone you know. The better you know them, the more likely you both will be to assume you are in sync about what your working arrangement will be.
It’s easy, for example, for a client who is a friend to think you’ll be happy to work late, accept last-minute assignments, or let them be late paying you because of your friendly relationship. If they didn’t sign a contract with you, they may think they have the leeway not to be as disciplined about dealing as professionally with you as they would any other colleague or contractor.
Executing a contract will ensure you both understand one another’s obligations and expectations. It takes away any opportunity for misunderstanding and miscommunication that could damage your personal relationship and your professional reputation. Protect yourself, your business, and your client/friend by asking him to sign your agreement to make sure you are on the same page about your work together.
How should I edit my contract if I’m not sure I can trust the person?
The answer is, you shouldn’t. You don’t need any contract for that person. If you don’t trust someone, you shouldn’t do business with them.
Here’s an excerpt from an email Jon Acuff recently sent to his audience sharing how his mentor explained this to him:
“If you trust the person, the contract doesn’t matter. If you don’t trust the person, the contract doesn’t matter.
“What he meant was, if you trust the person, you don’t need to worry about the contract. If something is wrong with it, a person you trust will make it right. They will fix, amend or edit the contract to make sure it’s fair. Your trust that they will do the right thing overrides the specific words in the contract.
“If you don’t trust the person, the contract doesn’t matter. If you can’t trust someone to be fair or keep their word, the contract is useless. Why? Because an untrustworthy person won’t honor what they agreed to in the contract even if they signed it.”
Being a VA is fulfilling work, and it can be profitable – but not so profitable that most of us could afford a legal battle with a client who breaches a contract. If your client takes advantage of you, it’s most likely the cost of taking them to court will be more than you could recover. And the costs won’t all be in legal fees.
Working with a client you don’t trust can create levels of stress, and sometimes fear, that hamper the work you do for everyone else. Think of all the time you’d have to waste to pursue a lawsuit and how draining it would be on your mental and physical energy. That’s countless hours and creative power you won’t be able to devote to good clients or to developing your own business.
If you’re a new VA, it can be tempting to take any client who will hire you because you want to grow your business rapidly. But it’s critical to resist the temptation to take on someone you aren’t sure you can trust. If a client has your Spidey senses tingling, it’s perfectly fine – and wise – to decline their business. You are a business owner, not an employee. You have the right to say “no.” Simply tell them you are not a good fit for one another, wish them well, and move on to better clients.
Rachael Hodo is the Founder of ProAdmin Solutions, LLC, a VA firm that specializes in general administration, content marketing, and association management services. Rachael and her team work by referral only. You can reach her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rachaelhodo.