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A Legal Guide For VAs Launching A Virtual Assistant Business

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

A Legal Guide For Virtual Assistants

Launching a virtual assistant business has become an attractive career option in the past few years. Especially for skilled individuals craving more flexibility, more variety and more independence. As most companies and entrepreneurs working with VAs are not requiring full-time hours, it can give the virtual assistant the ability to work around their needs, usually from home or another place of their choice, and create their desired work-life balance.

Specialisms and areas of expertise also vary in VAs so a virtual assistant may choose to pursue work in their desired field of interest, whether that be by the sector they wish to work in or the tasks they prefer to undertake.

Launching a virtual assistant business is also being undertaken by a variety of individuals. From those who want to supplement their income with fewer than 10 hours per week, to entrepreneurs who are intent on a full-time career as a VA and possibly expanding into a virtual assistant agency. This means a career as a VA is appealing to:

  • Students needing flexible working and business experience

  • Freelancers in other specialisms able to take on extra work

  • Parents who need flexibility and may not be able to work ‘typical’ office hours due to childcare restrictions

  • Experienced professionals, not ready to retire but keen to become self-employed and manage their own hours

  • Those who have moved to another country and need to make their income working virtually

  • Former employees who have built an impressive and varied skill set and wish to launch their own businesses

Fortunately, VAs have been in demand. With many businesses either not requiring or being able to afford full-time assistance, VA freelancers have provided an invaluable solution. Small to medium businesses benefit from a skilled virtual assistant, when they need them, without the responsibilities and overheads that come with employing someone.

Yet, when working with multiple clients and on projects with varying deadlines and demands, possibly requiring non-disclosure agreements or licensing copyright, VAs launching a virtual assistant business will need to ensure they are legally covered.

In this guide, I will highlight some of the key issues, contracts and legalities that VAs going self-employed or setting up a virtual assistant business will need to consider.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Freelancers or third parties are often required to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) when working with clients. An NDA, sometimes referred to as a confidentiality agreement, is a contract between two or more persons designed to maintain confidentiality. These may be used when a contractor, partner or agency may become privy to knowledge, information or plans the client wishes to remain private.

Before signing an NDA, VAs should consider whether the contract is fair and reasonable. Some NDAs may prevent a virtual assistant from declaring publically that they have worked on a particular project. Although such requests are reasonable, it may be that the restriction on using the work or mentioning the company as a current or former client, impacts the VA’s ability to professionally benefit from the work being undertaken. It is therefore important to have clarity on the details of an NDA, what it prevents you from disclosing and for how long.

Non-disclosure agreements should be clear and detailed. If you are struggling to understand the contract then you should seek clarification from a commercial solicitor before signing.

Breaking an NDA could result in legal action against you, as well as damage to your professional reputation. Therefore, if you do sign an NDA this agreement should be taken seriously and you should be careful about discussing any work you are doing for the organisation, even just with friends and family. However, it is essential to know that no non-disclosure agreement can be upheld if it is designed to cover up law-breaking. NDAs can legally be broken if doing so is necessary to expose illegal activity or malpractice.

An NDA is likely to be presented to you as a separate contract, but NDA clauses may also be included in more generic contracts, such as service agreements. In fact, you are advised to include a confidentiality clause in your VA Business Terms, to both reassure your clients and to avoid having to sign multiple agreements with your clients.

Data Protection

VAs are both data controllers and data processors. You will be a controller because you will likely collect and store personal data relating to your clients and possibly other business contacts. As such, you have a responsibility to protect this information and keep it secure. You may also have to register with the ICO and pay a data protection fee. You can use this questionnaire to determine whether you need to register with the ICO.

Virtual assistants will also frequently act as data processors as the work you undertake is likely to involve handling the personal data of your employer’s clients. How your client is storing and protecting this data is, unfortunately, also your responsibility. If they aren’t efficiently doing so and you are privy to this, you may be liable. Ensure you are using robust and trusted providers or systems to store any customer data yourself and that your client is also doing so.

It is also essential you understand that, although you may be handling data held by your clients, this data does not belong to you and may not be used for any other purposes except those directed by the company with the permission of those to whom the data refers.

You may find you need to check which data protection laws apply to you, as this will be dependent both on the country you’re working in and also on any other countries you are working with. For example, UK VAs will need to comply with UK GDPR, but if you are working within or with EU countries/clients then you will need to be compliant with EU GDPR.

*The above is correct as of March 2023 but may be subject to change with the proposal of new data protection legislation in the UK.

Setting Up A Virtual Assistant Business Checklist

A VA launching a virtual assistant business will need to:

  • Register as a sole trader with HMRC or set up your business as a limited company with Companies House

  • Choose a business name using the company name availability checker to ensure it’s available

  • Register a domain, even if you aren’t yet launching a website - you need to own the domain for your business name so no one else can use it

  • Consider trademarking your company name or logo. This prevents anyone else from legally using it. Remember to carry out your Intellectual Property Office trade mark checks first

  • Prepare some business terms to govern the relationship between you and each of your clients

  • Have a privacy policy, cookie policy and terms of use on your website

  • Get yourself covered with business insurance

  • Open a business bank account

Most of the above processes are surprisingly quick. Although you may need to consult a commercial solicitor for help with your business terms, website terms of use, privacy policy and cookie policy. If you are applying for a trademark you may also consider getting legal assistance as failed applications are non-refundable so mistakes can be costly, especially if you haven't carried out your pre-application searches properly.


Intellectual property rights can be confusing when you’re providing services for other businesses. A VA launching a virtual assistant business will need to consider the work you’re producing for your own business and also the work you’re producing for your clients. You'll need to be clear on who owns what and what this means.

First, let’s look at any materials you create for your business. As a VA, these are likely to include the website and marketing materials. These are granted automatic copyright which means that anyone who uses them without your written permission is infringing on your copyright. However, you may still wish to add the © symbol or copyright legend to marketing materials and your website to further stipulate ownership rights.

Secondly, as a VA setting up a virtual assistant business, you’ll be producing work on behalf of your clients. Usually, since they’re paying for your services in the form of the work you produce, they would expect to own the copyright to this. This clause will usually be agreed to in your services agreement or in your terms and conditions.

As a third-party supplier, you may sign the client’s services agreement before working together. However, I strongly recommend that you have your own terms and conditions drawn up by a professional solicitor. Properly drafted terms and conditions can protect you from:

  • Non-payment for your services

  • Cancellations of a project resulting in non-payment or part-payment

  • Having your services suspended without notice

  • Disputes over deadlines and deliverables

Furthermore, you can use your terms of business, or terms and conditions, to define ownership over any work produced. Usually, you would agree to assign the rights to the client after payment for your services has been received. However, there may be some materials you have created and wish to protect. For example, you may have created templates that you utilise in your work for your clients. These, you will want to retain the copyright for and will need to ensure your terms of business properly specify this.

Want to know more about your copyright rights as a VA? Get in touch to find out more or arrange a consultation. Head to our blog to read the 5 Things Every Small Business Should Know About Copyright.

Other Things To Consider When Setting Up A Virtual Assistant Business

Whether you are registering as a limited company or are going to freelance as a sole trader, you will still be a third-party supplier to your client. It is important that this is clear and you have a written agreement stipulating you are not in their employment. This is important as your employment status will affect how you pay tax.

As a business service provider, you will likely need to promote yourself extensively on social media and other platforms. When doing so, ensure you respect the copyright of others, getting permission and giving credit when sharing anyone else’s work or ideas.

Confidentiality is also going to be key to building your reputation as a VA. You will likely have access to various systems and subscriptions which you contribute to or manage for your clients. It’s essential that you protect their privacy and ensure your online security is robust so you are not putting them at risk.

Lastly, it may now be necessary for you to learn a little more about AI. Many VAs, particularly those who produce written content for their clients, will be considering utilising AI to maximise their capabilities. Even if you are instinctively AI adverse, you may have clients begin to request you use AI to assist you in your work for them. There are several factors to consider when working with AI and some potential issues you may encounter from a legal perspective. The use of AI must not compromise your data protection, confidentiality or IP responsibilities. To find out more about ensuring compliance when utilising AI, check out my article - Top 5 Tips for Using Artificial Intelligence in your Business.

Do you need templates/more help?

If you’re setting up your VA business in the UK or you need a refresh of your current legal documents, we have recently launched a new downloadable package, which provides the key legal documents you need to ensure your business is protected legally. Written in clear, plain English, and all for only £149. It includes:

Virtual Assistant Business Terms – these are the terms between you and each of your clients. It enables you to agree all the commercial information (such as service offering, fees, payment terms, etc) up front in a flexible table. Your legal terms and conditions sit with this, but won’t need to be amended.

Virtual Assistant Privacy & Cookie Policy – you just need to fill in the marked gaps in this document to tick all those data protection compliance boxes (including the PECR requirements over cookies).

Virtual Assistant Website Terms of Use – this will sit as a link at the foot of your website. It is there mainly to protect your content on your website and to make sure no-one causes damage to your website.

Masterclass Recording – a pre-recorded session from me (with slides) on how to protect your copyright, your brand, things to think about when creating online content and legal tips when using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your business.

You can easily download via my Online Shop.


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