Question Time off in retainer contract


New Member
As I'm working on getting everything put together to start my business, I was wondering, is it typical to plan for vacation time and include it in the retainer or do you leave it out and deal with taking time off as it happens?

I have a little statement that says I can take off time when I want, and that when I'm unavailable I have so and so to cover for me while I'm out.

If you know you're going to be taking time off. Then you can prepare for it, but even in emergencies you should have some sort of plan.

Partnering with other VA's now and learning their working styles and figure out who you think you can trust to cover for you is a great idea.

If you plan on building a team then you can choose from within your team and train someone to take over for you when you are unavailable.

You just need to figure out the logistics and what works best for you, but you will want to plan for them to have access to everything they will need to service your clients.

I have one VA who is titled my Business Manager. She handles client accounts (bookkeeping) as her regular routine, but also because she has other admin skills that fit my business she is a good fit for covering for me.

I've given her access to everything via dropbox and my password keeper. This way she can log into whatever whenever. We keep a running policies and procedures manual in OneNote (you could use Google docs/evernote as well) which the entire team shares. It is always being edited and this way they have access to the actual manual to keep up to date as changes occur. All they have to do if a question comes up is look it up in the manual. With my team they also have editing access so they can add items related to a particular project or client. This is up to you if you want to allow that, but it makes my job easier if each team member is documenting what needs documented. There is a in house P&P that covers general items in regards to the overall op of the biz, and a separate one for each client. This is why I like OneNote as it allows for me to put each area of the P&P on a new sheet so that it is easy to locate and document new items as needed.

Most of my clients love that I have someone to back me up. I have one who wasn't into it, and we work around that. She pays her retainer and if I know I'm going to be taking time off then I put her tasks on priority list and get all her work mapped out around my vacation time and get it done.

Clients don't care when, how, what tools most of the time you use. What they care about is that you did the job, did it well, and got it in by deadline. They just want to know they can depend on you. So as long your on vacation is not going to prevent you from meeting deadlines I wouldn't worry about the retainer. I would let it come in, and just make sure you get the work done, done well, and on time.

However, if you think that the vacation because of extra long vacation or the project being to big. Then it depends on if this is something you foresee being an issue every time you go on vacation or not.

If you do not plan on having someone to cover for you then you will need to address this with each client individually and putting it in writing is probably a good idea. So if you are going on vaca for the entire month or a huge chunk of the month in July then you might say that you will prorate the retainer to reflect the difference for that month, but ...

Keep in mind once the client knows you are going on vacation they will start sending you more work to get it all done before you leave. So you may want to work something out in that way as opposed to prorating or do a combination of the two.

Honestly, I would put in writing that you are taking the vacation, but depending on the clients needs at that time you will map out a plan to get the must have's done before you go, and do just that and let the retainer come in. Because the client will rush to get many things done before you leave and you will be working extra hard prior to you leaving.

You still want to get paid for that and I would handle it on a case by case scenario. Some clients will be like okay no problem I'll see you when you get back and they'll just put things on hold, but others will play the rush game feeling desperate to get things done and you will work your butt off doing that.

I'd seriously consider partnering with another VA and agreeing to cover for each other while out of town or building a team.

If you partner with others or build a team you will want a non-compete of sorts and this can go into your service agreement as well as a non-disclosure agreement.

It all boils down to planning though. If you know you are going to be out then a well laid plan is a good idea, but realize that even the best laid plans often have issues.

I've been fortunate and blessed to not have any issues yet while I was out of town. My backup person had a way to contact me in case of emergencies (make sure you choose someone who doesn't view everything as an emergency), and she's never used it. She always handled everything it works out nicely. I just checked in once or twice a day depending on ongoing work and she knew if she needed me she could easily contact me.

I'm sorry for rattling on like that. You asked and I see all these different directions in my head. I hope what I've said makes sense and is helpful. If you want clarification on something please don't hesitate to ask.


New Member
Every retainer client receive my Terms and Policies which tells them the specific holidays and my vacation schedule for the year. This explain how they will be covered by me on those days. I have partnered with another VA, that act as my backup during that time and I also do the same for her. :computer:


New Member
Thanks for the responses to my question, it is really helpful and provides me some direction as I work on my own policies and procedures.

I have been thinking about trying to connect with other VA's to have at least a list of resources if needed for clients so if they need something that I can't provide I will have some VA's to recommend. Having someone that would be a backup and have access to everything, especially if there was an emergency sounds like something I will need to work on.

I guess a step at a time, first I have to have enough pieces in place so that I can start working on getting my first client.:)


New Member
I don't list my time off in my retainers, but I do notify my clients well in advance of when I am taking a day off/vacation time. You could put something in your welcome letter or policies (where you may include your hours of operation, etc.), but it's not a problem I've ever encountered.

Good luck with the start of your business! :)
My plan is to put all of the holidays that I will not be available in my contract, along with a clause that I may take days at my discretion. However, I have a business associate that I have worked with in the past that will fill in when I am gone if there is a need.


New Member
I'm in set-up mode right now and hadn't even thought of how to manage vacation/sick days yet so this is super helpful information to help me plan.

As always, thanks!



Staff member
Rhonda gave such an awesome and thorough answer, I only wanted to add that I also take time off as needed and don't schedule a particular vacation into my contract, although I do list the holidays I plan to be unavailable.
thanks for this, I have been wondering how to do with time off and contracts. and what a great idea to team up with another VA I will definitely have this in mind when my client base starts building up.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
― Charles Dickens

VN Linda

New Member
Tess - Can I ask when you say you list holidays you plan to be unavailable do you mean you have this on the website or as additional information when giving new client contract ? reason I ask is our business has two of us so for holidays / sick time we are more or less covered but of course then some over lap may happen with our local holidays I like idea of having a notice of holidays we are not available but unsure where to have this.

Thanks Linda
Hi, One thing to remember is to list down

all the holidays and occassions that you

will not be available so that the client

can adjust on those dates. And do not

forget to notify your client in advance if

you need to take a day off or vacation.

Mariane Lacaba (Elitework)
The one thing many are not realizing is that you are business owners in your own right. You do not need to provide a schedule of your year's holidays in the same way your client does not advise their employees of their planned holidays. You are not their employees either, therefore you are well within your right to take holidays and days off when you see fit, that said, of course you should advise them when you are due to take time off and in some cases provide them an alternative contact who will cover you while you're gone.

In five years, I have never given way in advance warning of my holidays, normally because I do not know myself when I will take them and I have never received a complaint from anyone. I do not have anybody to cover me whilst I'm gone either but my clients know that in the event of an emergency, they can reach me by email.

Your Virtual Wizard

Community Leader
I don't provide any holidays or timeline when I am off or will be on vacation.

In the 10 years I have been a VA, I just tell the client when I am not going to be in the office and make sure that all work is done ahead of time or that someone I have contracted is filling in.

If there has been an issue while I have been away and something comes up that needs my attention, I have used my phone to respond. But there has never been a true time that any real emergency occurred that needed my immediate attention.