Question Duration of contract/agreement for different packages

Rosa Bosma

New Member
Hello everyone,

I was wondering about the duration of your client commitment, mainly about the difference between hourly clients and monthly retainer clients. I've read about VAs working with a 3-month contract/agreement, VAs who only require a written termination notice 2 weeks in advance, as well as VAs who work with a one-year commitment.

How about your contract/agreement? How would you suggest to treat different clients (retainer, hourly, etc...) differently?

Also, I'm currently considering to offer blocks of a certain number of hours, that can be used according to the needs of the client, but are paid in advance. I don't see what extra policy I could have there, other than:
- Hours are valid for one year after purchase
- No refunds
Any suggestions?

For monthly retainer clients, I'm not sure about the best duration to mention in the agreement.

Thank you very much in advance!
 

MaplewoodVA

New Member
Hi Rosa,

I frequently have contracts that auto-renew unless the project/service is something that has a defined start/stop dates, e.g. copywriting. Copywriting has set start and stop parameters so that once the copywriting is completed there is nothing on-going to renew.

As for whether someone is hourly or uses a retainer much depends on what the service is or how much support the client requests. I do not rollover retainer hours. The hours must be used within 30 days. I generally intake retainer clients so their billing happens on the 15th or at the end of the month. This staggers the work and gives me two reliable monthly income streams. I take on project work in-between the retainer work as it comes - as it catches my interest and based on openings in my client base.

Carrying hours over can tend towards chaos.

You want clients who have work and are moving in their business so the workflow is continuous. Those needing sporadic support shouldn't get a retainer. (These types a better suited to a fixed time project status.) It occupies your time slots - retainers mean you're holding space open for their projects - when you could take on other work.

Held over hours have a tendency to crop up during the busiest of times and put you in a crunch because you promised to hold time for "one year after purchase." How do you handle multiple clients who have held their hours over until December, for example, and then all want work completed when you already have projects scheduled with other clients? There are only so many hours in a day or week.

If you plan to offer refunds for unused hours then you must also have a surplus of funds on hand. This can have an impact on your business growth and isn't an ideal situation to put yourself into. I discourage you from refunding or rolling over unused hours. Instead work with your client to find ways to use the retainer with adding more services.

The same can happen on the final week of the month when a bulk of retainer hours haven't been filled and everyone is scrambling to use their hours and get work to you so they don't forfeit the time they paid for and didn't use.

One of my favorite sayings shared by a veteran VA to me when I first came into my business 16 years ago was, "Lack of planning on your part (client's part) does not constitute a crisis on my part." That's some insight.
 

Rosa Bosma

New Member
Thank you for your elaborate reply, Ruth!

Like most VAs here, I also decided not to rollover retainer hours, since it's kind of against the purpose of a retainer package.

Actually, by one-year validity, I meant that non-retainer hours can be used until one year after purchase (not until the end of a specific year). But now I can't see how that policy would have a value for me or the client, so I dropped it. :)

One thing you wrote really made me think! If a VA has multiple retainer clients, the VA promised to all of them that their package time (e.g. 20 hours/month) is reserved (that's my understanding at least). But what if they don't distribute the hours equally and, as you said, all clients are scrambling to use their hours in the last week of the month? Wow, I believe that's something to mention in a policy. In that case, you can't make a 100% promise that they can use the hours whenever they want. I'm curious to learn more about how to handle that.
 

MaplewoodVA

New Member
In my experiences, rarely do clients distribute their hours evenly over the course of a month. Using the 20 hours per month retainer example: in an ideal world that would equate to 5 hours weekly over 4 weeks. I've had some clients that have projects that use 10 hours in a week...or over 2 days.

Clients won't necessarily know how much time they need or how to long it will take a VA to do since we do these tasks and have built up speed and efficiency.

Juggling everyone, for me, comes down to maintaining good scheduling practices. I schedule everything and don't take on same day services. Depending on the services needed, my turnaround time will vary between 1-3 days unless something is more involved. I give the clients my projected turnaround date.

Keep communication open. If a client requests a quicker deadline then I review my schedule to see if it's possible. Sometimes it simply isn't, others that's no problem, and I shift projects around. I rarely miss a deadline because when I give turnaround estimates I add in some wiggle room for the unexpected. It takes some organization.
 

Tess

Administrator
Staff member
I can only really second Ruth's excellent input on this.
Great response Ruth ;)

One thing I would add is that you will learn with practice and time to help clients utilize their hours effectively throughout the month. But yes, there can be those crunch times when things just get really busy (end of year/New Year is like that often in my experience) and being prepared for it, knowing it's coming can help mitigate the chaos a little bit! :)
 
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