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“Yes, A Virtual Assistant Has a Contract.”

Posted by collinsadmin on August 19, 2008

Recently I read a blog post about virtual assistants.  This person wanted to know if anybody has used one and what they thought about it.  There were some positive posts about virtual assistants but there were also some negative posts and of course, the negative posts stuck.

One of the comments was that virtual assistants had contracts that needed to be signed and they didn’t want to sign them.

Yes, virtual assistants do have contracts but they don’t only protect the virtual assistant, they also protect the client. A well written contract will protect the rights of both parties in a balanced way – you really DON’T want to work with a VA who does not use a contract (unless the work involved is a very small amount and non-sensitive in nature), since it is both unprofessional, and risky!

Some common contract clauses:

  •  Intellectual property rights and copyright protection clauses. This protects the client because it is in writing that the VA will not use or sell any material belonging to the client.  If this is not included, virtual assistants would be free to use and sell any material that their client provides to them. That means trade secrets, articles, etc.
     
  • Most contracts state that the VA will return all materials to their client should there be a reason that they no longer work together. If this was not in the contract, the VA could hold those items “hostage” – this can happen with an unethical assistant of any kind, including in the office, if you do not have the requirements legally spelled out.
  •  Many contain confidentiality assurances. This protects you and gives you a legal option if your information is carelessly shared with others.

Another commenter said that it didn’t work out not only because the client didn’t take the time to plan what needed to be done but also because the VA didn’t take the initiative to do anything without detailed instructions.  When you do an initial consultation with a potential VA, you need to have a list of what it is that you don’t believe are the core tasks of your business and what you really don’t like doing. If you don’t have a list, you need to be able to explain what a typical day entails for you, then a VA can help you figure out the best things to outsource.

Working with a VA is the same as working with an in-house employee, neither can read minds so they need to know what it is that needs to be done, at least at the beginning.  Once you have worked together for any length of time, the VA will be able to get a routine going and know when you like articles done, or when to backup your website, etc.

Communication is essential – a good VA will remind you occasionally, or ask questions to clarify, but YOU must state definitively what you need to have done, and how you want it done. Again a VA can not read their clients’ minds, and if you want the job done completely, and correctly, you must give clear information about what that means.  If you send them a spreadsheet with no specific instructions, it is just a spreadsheet.  VA’s are there to make their clients’ lives easier and to do the work the way the client wants it done, or to find a way to do the same task more efficiently without compromising the results. You can’t just send them a file with nothing else.

Over time, a VA will get to know how you want many things done, and will be able to lessen the amount of instruction needed for routine tasks. If instructions have been given, and the work is still not done without prompting, then you may be working with a VA who lacks motivation. If that is the case then by all means “fire” them and find a different VA that is a better match.

Another person stated that they need more of a relationship with people they work with. There may be VA’s who prefer to be professionally reserved, and everything is work, work, work with them but there are VA’s who really like to get to know their clients personally as well as professionally, you just have to find the right match.  To do this, when you initially consult with a potential VA, talk about business but also ask them about themselves personally. If the VA tends to shy away from talking about themselves and you can’t carry on a casual conversation with them, then that VA might not be right for you.

Just remember a VA can not read your mind, they have contracts so they can protect themselves as well as their clients, and as in all industries there may be a few bad apples but for every bad apple, you will find a dozen good apples. Also remember the most important tip of all, you get out of a VA what you put in, so take the time to build the relationship, convey your wishes clearly, and you can build a working relationship that benefits your business for years to come.

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