Don’t feel bad about saying “no.” It’s your business. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
If you’re listening to someone who does not have their own business, you may be hearing their fear. #vatipGotta Tweet!
It’s up to you whether you want to use the contract or not. #vatip Gotta Tweet!
Let’s talk about how to say “no” to someone that was referred to you. Really it doesn’t matter if they were referred to you or they found you through a Google search, you still want to say “no.” That’s Dee’s question.
Let’s look at three reasons that you would possibly say “no.”
It could be a time commitment. Maybe they’re looking for someone to do some type of support for eight hours a day, or five hours a day. Whatever the commitment is, or maybe they want weekends or nights, and it’s just something that would not fit your schedule.
If it’s a time issue, let them know you appreciate them for their interest in your business. Thank you so much for your interest in our services. However, based on your request, this is not something that we can commit to. We maintain flexibility in our business. You don’t have to go into all that. Scratch all that, period, short and sweet. Okay.
Let’s say the business itself is not a good fit for you. I’ve had this come up where whenever someone sends an inquiry to me, whether they’re referred to me or not, I find out the person’s website address and social media and I do a little research to find out who they are, what they’re about, what their business is, to see if I want to go to the next step in hearing what service it is. From that I can tell right away based on what they’re posting, what they’re sharing, what their business is, as to whether or not it’s something I want to be associated with and connect myself to.
If it’s not, I politely let them know, thanks so much for your interest in our services. I have reviewed your website and your business. Due to the nature of the service that you provide or the product that you provide, depending on whether they provide a service or product, I will not be able to service you, and leave it at that.
I have sent that before and I’ve gotten one response back where the person wanted to know why. I really didn’t want to go into specific details. It had a lot to do with really just basic beliefs and, you know, everybody’s morals, ethics are different, but theirs just didn’t match with mine. I didn’t want to get into a whole long discussion and so I didn’t respond after I declined.
Let’s say it’s a service that you don’t provide. A service that you don’t provide, again, thanks so much for your interest in our services. However, XYZ that you’re looking for is not a service that we provide. In that case, if you know someone who would be a good fit for them or a good option, give them a name and a number, and of course, let the person on the other end know that you passed on their name and information as a referral. If you don’t know a referral, it’s okay. They may come back and ask you if you know someone and just let them know you don’t and that’s fine. Okay.
Leave it at that. Don’t get all caught up and emotionally involved in your response because you’ve having to say “no.”
Sometimes a reason could be because maybe the person is too close to you relationship wise. If it’s a friend or family member and you just don’t want to mix business and personal relationship, then just be honest with them and let them know, hey, you know, I would love to. However, I just don’t feel comfortable mixing business with our friendship, or whatever the case may be.
Dee, I hope that helps and you being able to say “no.” Be strong and firm in that.
If anyone else is having problems saying “no” and you just kind of shrink and decide to say yes anyway because maybe they twisted your arm, you will regret it.
Don’t feel bad about saying “no.” It’s your business.
The next question: contracts. Oh, this is a fun question, contracts.
First off, should you provide a contract as a virtual assistant? Some people say, “Yes, absolutely.” You could lose money if you don’t use a contract. Other people are like, “No, I don’t use a contract because of the trust and building relationships.”
So what are my thoughts on this? I don’t use contracts. When I first started in 2008, you guys know I started on Elance. If you’re on Elance, you don’t even have to worry about contracts. Elance already has that stuff built in for you, so if somebody skips out, they don’t pay, and really most people are funding escrow first anyway, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Contracts come into play to make sure you get paid, make sure things are timely and on schedule, and to show that both of you are on the same page.
Instead of contracts, what I do is use that as part of the project agreement, and it’s in an email where I lay out what we’re doing, the timeframe, how the payment structure is going to be, when they’re to provide the information, when the project will be completed, so on and so forth.
Here’s the deal: a lot of times, depending on who you’re listening to, if you’re listening to somebody who does not have their own business, you may be hearing their fear. Okay. I know when I started I had someone to ask, “Well, how can you make sure you get paid?”
The only way to make sure you get paid is to get paid up front.
This is where I’m going to get personal and share some stories with you, and I learned from experience. When I first started and was taking clients off Elance, off the job boards, these are going to be monthly clients. Actually, I would do it for monthly single project. I was using contacts in 2009 and, you know, basically agreeing to what the project is, how they’re going to pay, how they cancel, our start date and our end date. If it was a one-time project, those are things that were included.
It was fine, but something stuck out to me really big and that’s the one client I had. After I started in 2009, the years go on, and let’s say 2011. I realized the client that stayed with me the longest, this is when I had the light bulb moment, 2011, evaluating that, is the client that stayed with me the longest, we never had a contract. We had been working together for so long. We had build that trust and that relationship and we did not have a contract.
In fact, the only reason why we stopped working together was my choice. They were moving to a system that I tried, but I wasn’t comfortable with, and their management team changed. I wasn’t comfortable with that. Anyway, I dissolved that relationship and gave a 30-day notice to give them plenty of time to find a replacement.
Just like the flip side of that, we want our clients to give us a 30-day notice if they are no longer going to use our service. It’s just a courtesy.
All this information that you would include in a contract, put it in your project agreement that you’re sending through email.
Save all your emails. You’ve got the information.
Payment – one of the concerns of the contract, we feel like that contract protects us with payment. It does. It’s a written agreement. It’s signed. But here’s the thing: if somebody skips out and doesn’t pay, let’s say they owe you $400, how much is it going to cost to get legal advice, to take them to small claims court? I mean, is it really worth it?
The energy that you put into that is energy that you could put into getting another client and making sure that you don’t work with that person again or anyone that they referred to you, because their people may be like them.
I had a client once. We did a contact. She had a contract she wanted me to sign, which was fine, a contract, non-disclosure agreement. She did a background check. She did a credit check on me, and I was new. I didn’t know. This is back in 2009, and the funny part was, it took me months to get paid the remaining $50 that she owed me.
It was funny, and I was just sending reminders on a regular basis to see how long was it going to take. When at the beginning, she’s the one that wanted me to sign all these forms and stuff like that. It was almost like an eyebrow raise because you wanted me to go through all of this paperwork and all these checks and things like that, and here I am having to chase after you for $50.
Funny thing is, years later, was that last year? Yes, 2014, she wanted to work with me again. Well, by 2014, I changed my policy. I get payment up front.
If it’s a one-off project, I get payment up front. A one-off project could mean they want a website set up, they want help with their product launch, our new system with thepodcastva.com, all of that is payment up front.
If they have questions once something is delivered, we address it. We, of course, work until they’re satisfied. We’ve got a policy for design, up to three revisions. They know that up front. That’s in our project agreement that’s sent through email when they say they’re ready to go.
The contract is up to you whether you want to use it or not.
It’s your own personal business, but I just want to let you know if your concern is about payment, take care of that on the front end.
If it’s a situation where you want to make it so the person pays you a certain percentage up front, have them pay you a percentage up front. Wait. Before I even say that. If it’s a project that something has to be delivered, for example, if you’re doing email support for someone and it’s hourly, maybe you don’t know how long, they’re not sure how long, that’s a different situation. You couldn’t necessarily ask for payment up front in that case because you don’t know how long it’s going to be. It’s going to depend on how many emails, so that’s going to be a different situation.
Let’s say you’re doing their blog posts every month. You set up their blog posts. You know exactly how many blog posts they’re doing, so you want payment up front for that, and then you can set up the recurring payments through PayPal or send out an invoice every month, whichever works best for you and your business, and ask them to give you a 30-day notice if they want to cancel, like a month-to-month membership.
You all are a part of some type of membership program if it’s for your email service, your web service, training. You know how month-to-month memberships work, same concept for your clients. It’s a membership that they sign up for. Okay.
There’s something else I was going to say in regards to breaking it out into percentage. Let’s say you’re setting up their website and let’s say it’s over $1,000 and you want to break it up. Then you can have a certain percentage, let’s say 55 percent, and I’m just throwing out percentages, not giving advice on what the exact percentage should be. That is something you put on a test site so that it’s always in your hands until that final payment is made, and when the final payment is made, then you release it to go live.
The reason why I have this structure is because I have had a situation where, twice actually, where I didn’t get paid, and those two situations happened around the same time. After that, I changed my policy to payment up front. Yes, I could have started saying, oh, from now on I’m going to do contracts. But I still would be chasing payments, so I want payment up front. Okay, and off course, it depends on the project.
In episode number three, we talked about client payment options, and I gave you the options and talked about hourly rate versus flat fate versus select where a client buys time or has a package. Review episode three of the podcast to get more details on that.
But in regards to this contract, make it all together with your project agreement. It’s easier to keep up with. Your client is already reading the information. It’s the same information you will put in a contract. Have them pay you something up front. That is like the handshake. The payment is like the handshake. The payment is like the signature.
To me, the payment means more than the signature. Right? Because that means they’re serious. They’re putting their money on the line. They’re ready to go. You’re ready to go on the other end. You’re putting your time and effort on the line. Here we go.
If you ever have a client that asks for a contract, let them know it’s a part of your project agreement. If you choose to do them separate, and my opinion is just put it all into the one project agreement that you’re emailing that details what the project is, when it starts, when it ends if there’s an end. If it’s ongoing, how do they cancel if they want to cancel? What’s your policy on that? What’s the turnaround time? What’s the payment option? Whether it’s full, hourly, you know, whatever you choose on that. So it’s all laid out from there.
All the clients I work with are small business owners that work online and they’re out of state. Your situation may be different. You may be dealing with corporate clients where it does require you to have a separate contract, same information, just a different title. Okay.
In that instance, you may have to have an attorney or someone review that. I’m not sure. I don’t work with corporate clients. Don’t desire to work with corporate clients. I enjoy working with the small business owner. I like having the direct relationship with the person who owns the business.
The advice that I give on this show comes from the standpoint of a virtual assistant business that services small business owners directly versus corporations like banks or firms and things like that.
So great, great question about the contract.
Let’s talk about non-disclosure agreements. You could add something on your website regarding that. That means that you won’t disclose the information that your client shares with you. Clients are giving you privileged information. You’re getting access to their programs, their training, their passwords, and their business life. So make them comfortable with you.
This is also why it’s good to have pictures of yourself or videos of yourself. Be out there. Be open so they can feel comfortable and know who they’re working with.
You know how it feels on the other end when you go to a website and there’s no person. You’re seeing cartoons or clipart or something like that, and there’s no personal anything to make you feel connected. Or there are stock photos, and I’m not talking about on blog posts. I mean on the About page, a page where you expect to see a face.
This helps build rapport, helps build trust, and helps build relationship. If they want you to sign a non-disclosure agreement, be open to that, know about that. You could have a blurb on your website letting them know about that, and in most cases once you build a relationship, it’s implied that you won’t share anything.
You know, do you have to say it every single time? We’re not going to share anything. No. You’re exclusive to that client. It’s just like if you work at the bank and you’re given access to certain things, you’re not to share outside of work what’s going on in that case.
The times I have signed non-disclosures is when I was given access for transcripts, information, access to trainings. I have written eBooks for clients, and so, you know, signed non-disclosures on that. All of that, in that instance, that’s separate from the contract. Those NDAs is what you’ll see for the non-disclosures, and that will be something your client will present or ask you about. The more informed you are about that, the better, depending on what type of information they’re providing you.
If I’m not mistaken, no, no, no, I was going to say Elance had a non-disclosure agreement, but I don’t think they do. That’s something you could Google and get that very quickly.
Anyway, I hope this helped you guys when it comes to the paperwork, the legal side. This is not legal advice. This is just sharing my experience, my suggestion in regards to this.
Talk to other people. Find out what they think. If somebody else has another thought on the whole contract thing, let me know. Let’s talk about it and go from there.
I don’t even know if I shared any links, but you can find any links I talked about today or show notes on tiffanyparson.com, click on Podcast.
Thanks so much you guys. Come back next time. Every Thursday is when a new episode gets released.
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