Why not Just Make a Verbal ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’?

Any business owner who has burned her fingers over a verbal gentleman’s agreement will tell you why you need proper Virtual Assistant contracts. And it is actually not really rocket science to see the reasons.

Why is it then, that we still hear about so many VAs that trust informal verbal agreements and do not operate with the proper contracts in place?

Verbal gentleman’s agreements only invite costly misunderstandings.


Because there is no clear written agreements of what the VA needs to do, how much the client should pay, or what will happen if a dispute do arise.

In most cases, things do go well between you and your clients and you will rarely need to refer to a contract. Yet when something does go wrong, and you operate without a written agreement, it will be your word against the client’s, and there is no telling who is right or wrong.

These misunderstandings might be innocent. You and your client may genuinely have different memories about what you agreed to – or sometimes they may be purposeful.  Either way, having a signed contract in place can prevent a lot of disputes and misunderstanding.

A proper contract serves two main purposes.

Firstly, it represents a legally binding agreement between you and your client.

It clearly set out the conditions and terms under which you operate.  It furthermore gives both parties the opportunity to clarify and discuss al terms and conditions beforehand to reach a mutual understanding of what is expected from both. In case of a misunderstanding or a dispute, the contract will be the source of information to consult of what was required from the beginning. It is therefore extremely important that the responsibility sections of the contract such as the services rendered, payment policies and individual responsibilities be written in as much detail as possible.

Secondly a contract indicates that you are a professional who takes your business very seriously. In most cases a standard contract that can be modified to fit any particular services request can save time, yet still portray a professional image.

The type of contracts that you will need for your VA business include

  1. An independent contractor agreement that you can use as a per-project contract for clients that only require your services once-off.
  2. A retainer agreement for clients who want to establish a longer term relationship with you and requires that you work a predetermined number of hours a month.
  3. Although you can include confidentiality clauses into the above two contracts, a separate Non-Disclosure Agreement is a handy document for those clients that might prefer a more elaborate and formal confidentiality agreement in addition to the other working agreement.
  4. If you consider subcontracting (either giving work to other VAs to do, or receiving work from other VAs) a subcontracting agreement is important to spell out the terms of the collaboration.

Remember, this contract belongs to both you and your client and to build the VA-client-trust relationship, the contract should protect both parties.

NOTE: Be Virtual Assistant Wise has excellent VA contracts as part of their Premium Membership and these contracts comply to South African legal standards.

PS: We would love to hear from you. If you have any thoughts on the issue of using contracts, please feel free to make then in the comment section below.