Have you ever pondered the true essence and necessity of work agreements in the dynamic world of Online Business Management?
Leanne explores the importance of work agreements and contracts for Online Business Managers (OBMs). She shares her own experience and emphasises the need for a legally binding agreement to set clear expectations, protect both parties and demonstrate professionalism.
Whether you’re a seasoned OBM or just starting, this journey is tailored for you, offering invaluable insights into the world of professional agreements.
This episode shares:
- Understanding the function of a Work Agreement for your business: You can have an Agreement and it might not be all about legal proceedings for you, it might just help you to communicate with your clients better.
- The art of Agreement communication: Explore effective strategies for presenting and communicating the terms of your Work Agreement to clients.
- The role of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): Unveil the significance of NDAs in safeguarding your and your clients’ intellectual property.
- Incorporating Contracts into your business process: Where Work Agreements and Contracts fit into your business process.
Understanding the function of a Work Agreement for your business
Understand a Work Agreement’s function for you because you can have an agreement and it might not be all about legal proceedings for you.
It might be, to do with the appearance of professionalism.
Maybe you want a way to show that you are in it for the long haul in this business.
Work Agreements can look different and be there for different purposes.
This is why I’m saying understand its function.
Its function might be a way to include how to work with you, how best to work with you or what your standards are.
So, when you’re looking into Contracts or Work Agreements, think about what you want it to do for your business.
Tip:💡Invest time in identifying the function of a Work Agreement for your business.
The art of Agreement communication
Understand how you’re going to present your Work Agreement to a client and what communication is required to deliver it.
One option might be that you have a templated Work Agreement and every time you get a new client, you populate the fields specific to them and their business, and you email it through to the client for them to review and sign before sending it back to you.
Or you might want to sit down face-to-face with your client and go through your Work Agreement page-by-page together so you’re both clear on what you’re agreeing to.
It’s about thinking through your process of how you’re going to communicate what’s inside of this Agreement or Contract with your client so everybody is clear.
Tip:💡Choose a communication method that aligns with your client’s preferences and your business style.
The role of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
Along my own OBM journey, I’ve discovered people are quite sensitive when it comes to their business and their information and the things that they have worked so hard to create and protect, therefore, they want some kind of guarantee that their information is safe.
With this, people started asking me to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
I remember one time someone wanted me to sign their NDA and I was talking to some business colleagues of mine and said, “is it standard practice to sign somebody else’s?”
Because then it has their terms and the way that they want the rules to be. It covers them. It doesn’t really cover me or have in it, anything from my standpoint.
The advice I got back, was you can have your own NDA. So now what I’ve done is, I’ve put an NDA into my own Agreements/Contracts that reflect that I’m not going to share a client’s information far and wide and I don’t want them disclosing the information that I share with them either. So my IP, my secrets, my way of doing things, like that’s a benefit for my clients, not for my clients and their friends. And their friends of their friends . So it becomes a mutual thing.
So now, I show that I’ve already thought about their information being sensitive because I already have an NDA in my Agreements, so they don’t have to worry about me going and sharing their IP with their competitors. I’m not interested in doing that.
Tip:💡 Consider including a mutual NDA in your Work Agreements. It’s a testament to your professionalism and care for both parties’ intellectual assets.
Incorporating Contracts into your business process
So, how do Work Agreements or Contracts fit into your process?
When are you going to deliver them?
One method is before you even have a conversation, inform them that you need to have a Work Agreement in place.
Or you can have a conversation and then have the first invoice paid, and then do a Work Agreement.
Personally, I like to get to know the client a little bit, learn about what they need and where they’re going. Then sometimes I might jump on a Zoom and chat more to get a really solid idea of if we’re gonna work together and what that might look like to ensure we’re compatible. From here, I’ll quote them and once they say yes, then I send them the, “let’s get the boring stuff out of the way email”, and that email outlines the first step for us to move forward which is organising all the legal admins and bobs which covers their invoice and the Work Agreement.
Once all of those things are ticked off, then we move to service delivery which typically starts with a Strategy Session.
It might not be fun and it might even be a little bit awkward. Some of us find asking for money really awkward. Some of us find asking anybody to fill out forms awkward.
Tip:💡 Tailor the timing and method of your Work Agreement presentation to suit your business style and client dynamics.
And… that’s a wrap!
So, in terms of Work Agreements and do OBMs need them, I would say yes.
I invite you to embrace these insights and apply them to your own OBM journey. Remember, in the world of online business management, it’s not just about the services we offer but the professionalism and structure we bring to the table.
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Follow along with the transcript
E27 Do OBMs need Work Agreements and Contracts? A necessary evil or overdone formality?
[00:00:00] Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to today’s episode of the [00:01:00] Audacious OBM. Today we are talking all things OBMs, work agreements and contracts. Do OBMs need work agreements and contracts? Are they a necessary evil or an overdone formality? I’m really excited to talk about this today because it actually came from one of our listeners.
Thank you, Kirsten, for submitting your question around if you really need a work agreement as an OBM. Kirsten has been thinking about the way she operates as a virtual assistant and the agreement she has now and if that needs to be changed, or what is the standard for OBMs. So I am not a legal professional in any way, shape or form, and highly recommend going and getting your own legal advice.
But I can tell you what I did. The first thing was I did not create my own. [00:02:00] So, Legal is its own language, and I know enough to know that just writing something down does not make it a contract. . I very early on went on a hunt for a legal contract to use as a work agreement with my clients. So I bought the template from a legal provider years ago, and I still use it.
I’m very much of the opinion that I paid money for it back then and, I read through it in detail and I still think that it is valid and relevant. And it is something that I can always get checked and updated by a legal professional if I want to, rather than starting from scratch. When considering work agreements and contracts, I personally would not offer services without one.
And I know that there is some conversation around, but do they really hold up in court or whoever really goes down the [00:03:00] contract path to then say, ‘Well, it’s in your contract’, and does that actually work? And my response is, understand what you’re using it for, understand its function for you because you can have an agreement and it might not be all about legal proceedings for you. It might be, to do with the appearance of professionality. Maybe you want a way to show that you are in it for the long haul in this business. And if you are a serious business owner, then maybe you need a work agreement, other people have them. It’s one way to show I’m not just here to play, like I’m serious about this now, work agreements can look all different ways.
And this is why I am saying understand its function. Because its function might be [00:04:00] a way to include how to work with you or how best to work with you or what your standards are. And doing this, it sets a certain level and it actually helps you to communicate with your clients better. So when you are looking into contracts or work agreements, think about what do I actually want this to do for my business?
Do I want it to be legally binding so that no matter what, if I’ve done work for someone that it’s iron clad, it has the payment terms, it has everything I need to feel safe and secure. And if that’s the answer, then you know a lawyer is gonna be the one that’s gonna create that for you. Okay. The second thing I wanna talk to you about is thinking about and understanding how you are going to present this work agreement and [00:05:00] what communication is required to deliver it. So you know, one option might be that you have a work agreement, it’s templated. Every time you get a new client, you populate the fields, you email it through to the client, you have them sign it, send it back. That’s one way you might use a, an online document signing tool, or you might use a secure document signing tool, like different tools do different things.
Or you might want to sit down face to face with your client and go through your work agreement page by page with your client so that you and them are really, really clear on what you’re agreeing to. Or you might wanna do that on a Zoom and then get them to sign it through a digital meets. Are you going to give them a copy of it?
Please say yes. . So it’s about thinking through your process of how are you [00:06:00] going to communicate what’s inside of this contract with your client? So everybody is clear. Now, some things that are common that are included in work agreements, and I know that these are some of the things that are in mine.
It’s the price. What is the service that I’m offering? What is in scope? What is not in scope? How much am I charging for it? What is the payment schedule? What is the way that I like to work? How can they expect communication from me? What are the limitations to this service? I also have things in there, a little bit about me and my team because it’s nice and honestly, work agreements, contracts I find really boring.
I find it hard because I don’t fully understand it. I’m not a legal professional. I’m an online business manager. You can also have in that when this contract will be reviewed. So if you’ve got [00:07:00] long-term clients or you’re working in retainers, you might not have a contract that just goes on forever and ever and it’s good to have a something in there that indicates what the limitation on the timeframe for this contract is.
Then I also want you to think about . If you do have ongoing clients, do you need to redo a work agreement for every job? And my answer to you is it depends. I have offered services in all different ways before, and I usually would do a work agreement at the start, and if it is a retainer client, if it is someone who’s committing to a certain number of hours, if you’re charging hourly per month, then I might do one agreement and I might, put that in place covering however many months.
That would be the way I would’ve approached that. Now [00:08:00] if I do project work and it’s a set, this is the project, this is the scope, this is where it starts, the middle, the end, this is the milestones, these are the payment terms. For that project, or if you look at it as a job, for that job, I would do one agreement, and then if that client was to come back to me even a month later and say, oh great.
That project was amazing, Leanne, can we work on this thing next? I would say, absolutely we can. We’ll do another agreement. So it’s a different service. Like one project is open and then closed. Now we’re working on another project, so that needs to open and close in the same way, kind of like buying a house.
It doesn’t matter if you’re going to buy, if you go and you buy a house from someone. You’re going to fill all out all the paperwork for that house and make sure that legally it’s yours, and then say a month later you wanna buy another house and it happens. You happen to be buying it from that same [00:09:00] person.
You’re gonna want another contract for that house. So for that reason, I’m saying I would start new contracts if I’m doing project work like that.
I have currently got some of my clients on retainers, and as I said, I do that for periods of time because I understand as vital team members, sometimes it’s not as clear as, here’s the project I’m working on. You are working as a consultant or a service for X amount of months. That might be what your agreement covers.
And what you’ll find is when you start looking up templates for work agreements, for contracts, you’ll find different, formats based on the way that you offer your services. So you might find contracts that have, for retainers, contracts that are for. Projects. So have a look like Google is our friend, and there’s lots of providers of these.
And [00:10:00] really, if you’re brave enough, pick up the phone and talk to the person behind the screen, the person who created it, or send them an email because they’re likely a lot more clever in this area than you or I. And they will be able to answer the question of, is this for me? And what do I consider?
There are some services too, which offer contracts and then they might offer an hour of consulting with that contract and help you set it up so that you can answer your questions. They help you tailor it a little bit, and you pay for that hour in that little package and then you’ll sort it. So I think it is something that I would always invest in upfront and it’s definitely something that I still do for every client.
The other thing that I want to cover one final thing. Sorry, I lie. Two final things, . One is NDAs. So along my journey I found that people are [00:11:00] quite sensitive when it comes to their business and their information and the things that they have worked so hard to create and protect and they want some kind of guarantee that their information is safe.
And that started to come across with people asking me to sign non-disclosure agreements, NDAs. And I remember one time someone wanted me to sign their NDA and I was talking to some business colleagues of mine and said, is it standard practice to sign somebody else’s? Because then it has their terms and the way that they want the rules to be.
It covers them. It doesn’t really cover me or have it anything from my standpoint. And the advice I got back was you can have your own NDA. So now what I’ve done is I’ve actually put a non-disclosure agreement into my own contracts that says look, [00:12:00] I’m not going to share your information far and wide.
Obviously I am saying this in layman’s terms, , And I don’t want you disclosing the information that I share with you either. So my IP, my secrets, my way of doing things, like that’s a benefit for my clients, not for my clients and their friends. And their friends of their friends . So it becomes a mutual thing.
So I really liked that. And then it’s something that I know people are already sensitive about. And so now I show that I’ve already thought about it. Hey, there’s an NDA in there, so you don’t have to worry about it. You don’t have to worry about me going and sharing your IP with your competitors. I’m not interested in doing that.
And then the final thing is, when does work agreements and contracts fit in to your process? When are you going to deliver them? Talk to your client about them and what surrounds [00:13:00] that you can, a lot of people do it all different ways. You can, before you even have a conversation, say we need to have a work agreement, you can have a conversation and then have the first invoice paid, and then do a work agreement.
I like to get to know the client a little bit, learn about what they need, where they’re going. So possibly have a 15 minute chat, then maybe jump on a Zoom and chat more to get a really solid idea of if we’re gonna work together. Then usually I will quote them. I let them sit with the quote and what my approach would be to work with them.
And then once they say, yes, I’m keen, then I send them the, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way email. And that email has, okay, so the first step for us to move forward is to sort out the legal and admins and bobs, and that is their invoice. It is the payment [00:14:00] terms, it is the start date, and it is the work agreement.
Once all of those things are ticked off, then we move to strategy session. Then you get the best of my brain, and so it’s like I give it to them all in a little nutshell. So that. it doesn’t feel like they’re getting 10 emails filled with different requests for forms and admin. It’s in a little bundle.
I’ve already told them, Hey. This is the evil necessity, right? It might not be fun and it might even be a little bit awkward. Some of us find asking for money really awkward. Some of us find asking anybody to fill out forms awkward asking them to do something when you are providing the service. But in this way, I’ve added my own little personality to it.
I’ve, just kind of said, I know, but let’s do it and get it out of the way, and then we’re all happy. And we do, and people just jump on board. They do it, and we move on and it’s great. It’s also a great way [00:15:00] to show them what’s coming next. Now we’re doing this. Then once we’ve done that, we move into this phase.
It shows that you are structured and that you’ve considered things and you are planned that you know how you are gonna work with this client and what is happening in the future, even if they don’t. So gives you that opportunity to create that relationship and for you to start becoming a partner in this conversation instead of as an assistant.
Yeah. So in terms of if OBMs need work agreements. I would say that they’re a necessary evil. I would not say that they’re an overdone formality, even though hey, they are overdone. People do contract upon contract upon contract, and I think that there is a legitimate reason for that. So Kirsten, I hope that that answers your question.
If anybody else has questions, please [00:16:00] send me a DM, Leanne Woff on Instagram, you’ll find me on LinkedIn, you’ll find me on Facebook , or send us an email. Help firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you. I really want on this podcast to talk about things that are relevant to you right now and help get you unstuck.
And the more feedback I get. The easier it is for me to do that. Otherwise, I’m just guessing. No, I’m not. I actually get a lot of questions all the time, but I do wanna hear from you and if you are finding these episodes helpful, please jump on to whatever podcast app you are listening to this on and leave me a five star review because that is how other OBMs hear about me and my show.
Thanks guys. See you next week..