Coaches can either be professionals who are curious, thought-provoking, caring and step into service for their clients or they can be business-savvy professionals who set appropriate parameters around the coaching profession. Whichever category you are in, a significant part of your business practices as a coach is a reliable system for making coaching contracts. A well-written coaching agreement with an efficient process for getting the contract signed enables you to help others grow efficiently and quickly.
What is a coaching contract?
A coaching contract template is a document that sets the tone of your coaching relationship. All coach and client relationships vary. Whether you’re a business, life, or sports coach looking to create a contract, there are specific points you should include in your agreement when creating one.
What should a coaching contract include?
You can liken these contracts to email marketing systems that catch the attention of their readers. Whether you create a business coaching contract or a life coaching contract, including all of the relevant details will make it more official. But you don’t need to use complicated legal jargon. Using simple language is more recommended. Here are the basic elements to include in this document:
This sets the tone for the whole document. It clarifies why both parties are part of the agreement and what the purpose of the agreement is. For example, a client requests a coaching contract from you to help them master a sport. As for the purpose, it makes sure that the client understands and agrees to all of the terms of the document before you deliver your coaching services.
This section protects you against an unreasonable understanding of what your services are or what you will do. For example, the term “coaching” can get misinterpreted when it comes to the kinds and levels of services that clients expect. Including a Disclaimer serves as a safety net for these misinterpretations.
You should detail all the types of help and advice you won’t provide. It helps clarify your relationship from the beginning. If you’re a business coach, you should want to include a disclaimer to help you define your limitations and whatever services you aren’t comfortable delivering.
Here, you set clear expectations of how much your payment will be and when your client should provide that payment. Without having to worry about your payment, you focus on more important things like helping your clients.
Being very clear about your fees and due dates in the agreement informs your clients when they need to fulfill their obligations. It also informs you when to expect their payments in your account. Create this section as clearly as possible to avoid confusion by including the following information:
- How much the client should pay
- What services do the payment cover
- The payment structure (full or in installments)
- When the client should make the payments
In this section, you set in clear terms when you would will or won’t offer refunds. This is very important as it keeps you protected against refunding your clients after you’ve done the work.
A clear refund policy spares you from having to decide whether to give a refund or not. If you include a refund policy in your agreement and your clients sign the document, they will know they have a specific number of days to decide whether to keep working with you or not.
Specify the clear expectations of your clients about how rescheduling or cancellations work and what they should do if they want to reschedule their appointments. Some clients tend to abuse the rescheduling option which makes the time to complete their program extended unreasonably.
Rescheduling can also disrupt your schedule and potentially take away time you could give to other clients who show up and pay on time. To prevent this from happening, your contract should have a clear and firm rescheduling policy. It also spares you the headaches of sending countless emails or messages to all of your clients.
This section serves as a reminder to your clients that for them to get all the benefits of your coaching services, they have to do their part to make your agreement successful. Many consider this the tricky part of coaching – that the success often depends on what your clients will bring to the table.
Even if you keep your part of the agreement, you cannot find success if your client doesn’t do their part. If this happens, should you lose out on your payment? No. This section clarifies that if your client wants to see results, they should put in the effort too.
This section protects you and your client from any sensitive information getting leaked out. Trust is an important aspect of coaching relationships since your clients will share sensitive information with you during the whole process. Examples of these include payment information, personal details, some information about their lives, and more. Clients place your trust in you that you will keep this information confidential.
Of course, confidentiality works both ways. This means it’s as important that your client should protect any sensitive information you divulge, specifically any exercises or materials that you share with them as part of your coaching program. Remember that copyright infringements are real risks, especially to information product coaches and entrepreneurs. Many clients might not know that when they share materials or exercises that you provide, they are potentially infringing on your intellectual property.
Covering all of this information in your coaching contract avoids bad feelings and crossed signals while ensuring that you and your clients are on the same page in terms of the information you can and cannot share.
This section provides you with a legal way out of your agreement in case you need to end your relationship, especially with a difficult or toxic client. Those in the coaching world call this the “nuclear option.” It means that you should only part ways if you both agree or if you know that there’s nothing you can do to help your client.
This section protects you against legal liabilities in case something goes wrong. It covers the subject of what happens in worst-case scenarios. For instance, if a client doesn’t want to pay or if they threaten to take you to court. You might need a lawyer to review your coaching agreement to ensure that it covers all of the things that it needs to cover so the document holds up in court.
Life Coaching Contracts
Do I need a contract for coaching?
Without a coaching contract, your relationship with your client won’t be on solid ground. It might sound a bit overwhelming but to emphasize this point, try to imagine taking on a new contractor without deciding on the services you need from them and when you expect those services. Since you’re a coach, imagine taking on a new client without agreeing on your fee and when they should pay you.
Since neither party knows where they stand, the relationship won’t work. But a coaching contract can remedy the situation as it specifies what your client can expect from you and vice versa. Before you start a coaching agreement, make sure to consider the process or end goal. Take the time to consider these benefits of the contract too:
- A higher likelihood of achieving your goals. People would feel more committed to their development and learning if you can make them feel like they have some level of control over the situation. Creating an agreement together requires you to get involved emotionally and intellectually to see the whole program through to the end.
- More trust between you and your client. Before your client can speak honestly and candidly with you, they should first have absolute trust in you. This is because they will provide you with information that you should treat with empathy, sensitivity, respect, and confidentiality. Having a written contract establishes this trust before the coaching process starts.
- Better rapport. Building rapport between yourself and your client is a great way to find out whether you’ll work well together. It becomes easier to establish this rapport by having a contract, which, in turn, increases the likelihood that your relationship will work. Creating a contract takes things up a notch as you both get a better understanding of each other while enhancing rapport and establishing the practicalities of working with one another.
- To avoid conflict. Creating a clear contract helps prevent conflicts while promoting a more harmonious professional relationship. For you and your client, it’s important to know and understand how you both work, what values you have, and what you both won’t agree on. The agreement means that both you and your client understand why one party would do something differently. This reduces the risk of frustrations, miscommunications, and disagreements.
- A stronger working relationship. Creating a contract generates a more profound understanding of each other, which leads to a stronger and longer-lasting coaching relationship.
Business Coaching Contracts
How do I start a coaching agreement?
As a coach, the coaching contract should be the first legal document or agreement you put in place when you accept a client. Entering into a coaching contract is a serious business and it allows you to be legally protected from the start. Having clear boundaries for your services, which you will define in the contract, saves you energy, effort, and time.
The contract helps you set the terms for your coaching services. This is just like clarifying how you conduct your coaching services, how you interact with your clients, and how the clients can get in touch with you. Creating the document isn’t about telling your client what they can’t do. It clarifies to your client what your coaching services entail. It protects you and your client too.
Ideally, in most professional relationships, both parties walk away feeling satisfied with the time they spend together. But there are times when you need to enforce your contract and the specific rate of this enforcement depends on different factors. For example, new coaches tend to feel reluctant about enforcing clear boundaries in terms of refunds, cancellations, and payments because they might lose their clients. Because of this, they might end up with clients missing their payments or having to deal with clients who have unreasonable expectations.
This reluctance may fade away in time as their coaching business progresses and they become more comfortable expressing their concerns. They won’t have to chase down payments and they only need to reschedule appointments for an agreed-upon number of times. As a coach, you have the right to enforce your terms when your client oversteps a boundary or doesn’t hold up their end of the agreement.
Enforcement can be in different forms. For example, it could be in the form of making a phone call to a client to discuss the situation or sending them an email to clarify certain things. In a worst-case scenario, you might have to resort to a lawsuit if you lose a lot of money because your client hasn’t made their payment yet.
The most common option is to send an initial email instead of calling your client on the phone. The email serves as proof that you tried to reach out to them in writing to resolve the issue. Emails also have a date when you sent them, which adds to their validity. Here are the steps to take when enforcing your contract:
- Try to enforce the terms of your contract politely first. Send a couple of emails before trying to call your client by phone.
- If reaching out to your client doesn’t work, send them a cease and desist letter. To write this letter, you will need the help of a lawyer.
- This is the most important step when you need to enforce a conflict resolution clause, either privately or in court. Remember that this is a process that comes with its own costs. You should only take legal action as a last resort when dealing with such a situation.
Aside from these steps, there are also standard processes for non-payments and chargebacks. If you have a big coaching business, you can set up systems that allow you to handle these cases. If you’re a coach who is just starting your business, it’s recommended to handle the issue yourself.