Guest post: Top legal tips for new VAs by Annabel Kaye from Koffee Klatch
When I first started my VA business in 2016, I read various things on the web about not really needing to use a contract with my clients. On top of this, I didn’t know what my legal obligations were other than letting HMRC know that I was self-employed! I cobbled together bits and pieces of information without really understanding how or why I might need to do things in a certain way. It was confusing to say the least.
One of the many reasons I decided to create my programme From PA to VA was because I didn’t want any other new VA to have little or incorrect information when it came to the legal side of running a VA business. What works in one country isn’t necessarily applicable when trading in the UK, and with GDPR, Brexit and changes to IR35 on their way, it’s hugely comforting to be given the correct information.
I’m pleased to be working with Annabel Kaye at Koffee Klatch, who provide a terms of business pack to my From PA to VA trainees as part of the programme. Koffee Klatch are gurus when it comes to freelancing law, and alongside contract templates and guides they also run Facebook groups for VAs who would like ongoing legal support. I asked Annabel what top tips she would give to new VAs , and here is her advice.
Annabel’s top legal tips for new VAs
1. You will need a set of terms of business (or T&Cs as some people call them) that set out how you operate. If you miss this out people will take advantage of you and you won’t find it easy to get paid. Make sure you are not just copying things from non-UK based VAs as the American legal system is different and you can’t just cut and paste from one country to another.
2. You will need to handle GDPR/data protection. This will involve properly contracting in your terms of business for data security and confidentiality (sometimes called a Non Disclosure Agreement or NDA). Copying American versions will not give you right words to comply with UK GDPR.
3. You will need to understand GDPR and secure ways of working. If you are coming out of a corporate role this will have been done for you, but you will need to make sure you can set this up for yourself (or get help). Don’t ignore it. The fines for data protection losses can be eye wateringly high and you don’t want to just assume it is nothing to do with you.
4. If you are going to be a sole trader, you will need to get your unique tax payers reference number for HMRC (which is not the same as your personal tax and national insurance number). You get this by notifying them that you are now in business.
6. If you are planning to work with associates, you will need to properly contract with them for data security and make sure they are following the right processes too.
7. Understand that material produced by other people is usually their copyright and you can’t just cut and paste things from other people’s websites. Not only is that a breach of copyright but you may also be contracting to do (or not to do) things that suit someone else’s business but not yours.
8. Be clear about who owns the copyright on what you do. At the very least don’t assign it until you are paid. You may prefer to assign a license for your client to use the material you produced for them rather than copyright, since if you assign the copyright to them you can’t use the material again. If you are working from templates (which you will be if you are efficient) this will be a problem.
9. Make sure you are registered to own/license your own email domain, website, and any other software you need. Do not let your web designers or marketing supporters do this for you in their name. You must always be in a position to turn off unreliable suppliers or ones you are in dispute with.
10. Don’t just add random people to your email lists. This can usually only be done by consent (unless they are existing customers or it is a non-name email such as sales@...). You can be fined (PECR) but you will also find people don’t see them or open them as they will go straight into their spam folders. Find more personal ways to market so that people will consent to be on your lists and be happy to receive your stuff.