Coaching Agreements – What the …? And why do I need one?

For those of you who know something about my background, I’ve spent the last 20+ years in law practice. So, I know a few things about business relationships and how things can go wrong.

Of course, just because you have a contract doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems, but a good contract does pave the way to a move professional relationship.

Any relationship that you have is about negotiation – anything – whether there is a written contract or not.

E.L. Jones

So, I want to share with you some of the reasons why I think all coaches, whether they are starting out or already well established should have in place a coaching contract. And while I’m at it, I want to remind you about two pages you should have on your website: your Privacy Policy and your Terms of Use.

Why do you need a coaching contract?

First and foremost, a coaching contract is a great way for YOU – the coach – to get clarity. What does a successful coaching outcome look life for you? How about for the client?

In your coaching contract, you will set out the ground rules: what are you committed to? What are your obligations and what does the client need to be committed to?

Additionally, your coaching agreement limits liability, offering you protection. In your disclaimer, you will clarify for the client what is not covered in the coaching relationship.

In the end, the coaching contract answers all of the following questions:

  • What?
  • When? How often?
  • Where?
  • How?
  • How much?
  • Why?
  • Who does what?

What should your coaching contract contain?

I consider that your coaching agreement should contain the following bare minimum clauses or points:

1. Clear identification of the parties

While in some cases it is obvious that there are two parties – the coach and the client (coachee), this is not always the case.

Are you signing the agreement as the coach in your personal name, or are you running your business through a legal entity, such as an LLC in order to limit your liability? If you are using an LLC, then who should sign the contract is your LLC, rather than you personally. You are simply the manager/member of the LLC that is providing the service (like an employee).

By the same token, on the side of the client, you might have multiple parties – for example, when a company hires you to coach an executive or an employee. Who is your client? Who is responsible for payments and for showing up to the sessions? Who is making which commitments?

2. What are they signing up for?

This might not even be a proper “section” of the contract, but more of a consideration or explanation that goes at the beginning. It might mention what kind of coaching you provide, and the reason and scope of the agreement. What expectations does the client have?

You might mention here (or later on) – how many sessions and whether the coaching is in person, on the phone or through video conferencing online.

3. Payments

How much does your coaching cost? Do you charge for a package or for individual coaching sessions? Will the client pay you for each session in advance, or for the whole package deal? Do you accept partial payments when you offer a program?

You might also include in this section – or another section separately – how you handle refunds. Do you even offer refunds? Under what conditions?

4. Client responsibility

There is so much that you might include in this section. You might mention here about how appointments are made and the terms under which they can reschedule the appointment time. Other things you should consider in this section:

  • Timeliness – showing up on time
  • Presence – what happens if they have a very noisy background and you cannot hear them well? What if they have children or work colleagues interrupting? Or they are in a place where they feel that they cannot open up and speak vulnerably?
  • Preparation – do you require them to come prepared to each session?
  • Homework – are they given tasks from one session to the next?
  • Inner work – do you have any requirement or expectation of what kind of work they might do between sessions that is essential for them to move forward?
  • Accountability – are you holding them accountable or do they have to have their own accountability buddy?
  • That they are responsible for knowing when and where they have the sessions
  • How they should give you feedback and what they should do if they feel that they are not advancing as they expected.

5. Coach responsibilities

The same way you lay out for the client their responsibilities, you should lay out your own commitments. This section should clearly enunciate your standard of excellence. In many ways, it will be a reflection of the client responsibilities, and will probably cover:

  • Timeliness;
  • Presence;
  • Direct & honest feedback and mirroring to the client of what you are seeing;
  • Preparation;
  • Acceptance;
  • Co-creation of possibilities;
  • Support & accountability.

6. Disclaimer

You can include the disclaimer here, although I’ve often seen it at the very beginning of the agreement. I would expect to see in the disclaimer a description and confirmation of what coaching is NOT. For example, clarification that coaching is not therapy and that should something arise for the client – either in terms of medical conditions or mental and emotional concerns, that they should be committed to getting the appropriate professional assistance when this is beyond your preparation and practice.

Additionally, I might include here something about the client being responsible for their results, as they are expected to do the work between each session in order to get the changes that they hope to achieve in their lives.

Ideally, your disclaimer should set the tone of realistic expectations.

7. Limited liability and indemnity

Your coaching contract might have these together or separately. But in any case, you will want to limit your liability – possibly as to an amount as well as to the outcome.

Because, at the end of the day, what guarantees can you give to the client if they are responsible for doing the work between sessions?

8. Confidentiality and non-disclosure

Remember that confidentiality goes both ways – the client will open up and be vulnerable to you. But there might also be moments where you use a personal story from your past in order to explain or encourage the client to consider another perspective. The same way that the client will want you to maintain all your communication and records confidential, you will probably want to make sure that your stories are not shared with others.

Another part of this section might include protection of your intellectual property, especially if you provide the client with forms, documents and programs that you have created. Can the client turn around and share all of this with others? Can they create something from what you have given them and sell it?

9. Termination

Finally, you will probably want to include something in your coaching contract about termination. What happens if the client has an accident or personal tragedy? Can they cancel the sessions?

What if you need to cancel the sessions?

Additionally, what reasons could there be for terminating your relationship with the client that is not “force majeure” or an “act of God”? For example, what happens if the client starts to creep you out, or is being unreasonable in their expectations or fails to do any of the work between the sessions?

Do you need a lawyer to draft this up?

Ideally, yes. This is particularly true because each country will have different rules and regulations. You will be able to limit liability in different ways, as well as requiring different types of insurance coverage.

These are questions you should get good advice about, rather than simply copying a friend’s contract and hoping everything will be okay!

Bonus information

Putting a Privacy Policy on your website

In almost all cases, you need to have a Privacy Policy page on your website. The only sites that would not need a Privacy Policy are those that do not have any traffic trackers (such as a Google add-on) or any type of Opt-In where the visitor has to give you their email and name.

If you collect any data, of any kind, from your website visitors, then you need to have a Privacy Policy. This will describe:

  • What information your site gathers about them
  • What you use this information for
  • How you store this information and keep it safe

You need to be sure that you are compliant not only with the country where your website is hosted, but also where you are and possibly where your visitor is from. This could mean that your privacy policy should cover three or more countries! With the introduction of GDPR in the EU, you should at a minimum ensure you are GDPR compliant if you have any visitors from the EU inputting their personal data into your website.

Terms & Conditions

You will probably have seen this page on other sites. It might be referred to as Terms of Use or Terms of Service or even Disclaimer. It is probably the most boring page of your website!

Unlike the Privacy Policy, this is not required, but it make good business sense to have it.

What does your terms and conditions do for you?

  • Copyright protection and that you own your content
  • Indemnity or disclaimer about links you include to other websites – you are not responsible for what they say
  • Limit your liability – this is particularly important, especially if you provide a lot of advice. What disclaimers do you need to include to limit your liability?
  • Prevent abuse by users – especially if you have any type of membership site, this is really important.
  • Termínate users, and even take steps to ban them from your site.
  • Set the governing law in the case of any disputes.

Final thoughts

Obviously, this is not legal advice… it’s merely a suggestion that this would be best business practice for your coaching or helping practice. In the end, you need to decide what legal and business advice you will get and where you will get this from.

You might check out our Privacy Policy and the Terms and Conditions that we have on the DiscoverYourPathU site for an idea of what these include for our services!

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