I didn’t have a written contract when I first started as a solopreneur. I did business on a handshake when I first started my training and consulting business, which was the custom inside my community of conflict management professionals. Initially, it worked great. I loved and trusted the people worked with and served. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who do business without a contract for similar reasons.
A handshake represents a promise between you and your client to keep your word. It creates sense of trust and commitment based on a shared understanding and goal. You probably already feel that sense of trust for your clients already as a VA, which is great. I want to make sure your trust is returned and you can grow without the problems that come along with untrustworthy or difficult clients.
I needed a contract once my client base and network started to explode. My world expanded and I didn’t personally know every client personally anymore. Gaining a flood of new clients is always a good problem to have but you have to be mindful about the impact. Yes, there were more clients, but I didn’t know them well enough to do business on a handshake anymore.
You can recreate the bond of a handshake with your contract. Communicate in writing your promises and expectations in a kind way that helps your client see you as a partner and friend, not an employee or gofer.
Why do you want to bother with a written agreement? Some virtual assistants think they don’t need a contract, others think it’s too much trouble and expense. I understand but disagree. Your contract is an essential tool for a couple of reasons you might not have thought of…
1. Legitimize your business to yourself and others. Feel like a true business owner.
2. Grow yourself as an entrepreneur. How you want to run your business.
3. Communicate who you really are so you’re not an imposter. Attract clients who ‘get you’ and appreciate your work style.
4. Lay the foundation for a happier, respectful working relationship. Teach clients how to treat you like gold.
5. Makes getting paid easier. Teach clients how to pay you and what to do if it’s ever an issue.
6. Focus your energies on building your business, not bending over backwards for demanding clients.
7. Enjoy the inner peace and satisfaction you wanted when you started your business. Your contract eliminates misunderstanding & conflicts.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a written agreement. If you’re just starting out, it will save you untold amounts of aggravation and self-doubt. It still works if you’ve been in business a while, maybe better because you have a keen sense of the clients and situations you’d like to enjoy or avoid. Sure, you can take a positive attitude and hope that you’ll never have a client issue (or assume you won’t because there hasn’t been one yet). But sadly, that’s simply wishful thinking.
Fabulous clients don’t come from wishful thinking. You need a strategy for guiding new clients into a wonderful working relationship with you and having a written contract is one part of your overall client relationship strategy.