One of the most crucial phases of coaching is the intake process, which can also serve as the starting point for a long-lasting working relationship. This process not only serves to collect all the facts you need to analyze and help your client in a knowledgeable manner, you also need to make sure that your relationship will be enjoyable and productive.
While this first session can be challenging and hard to balance, there are several resources that can help you be fully prepared and guide you in determining how to go about it. We have prepared an excellent intake session checklist to walk you through these tools and give you actionable tips to put you on the right track.
Whether you are just getting started in your practice, or your business is already booming, you'll want to take a look and make sure you're not missing anything.
Note: Use Bonsai to enhance your onboarding process and get a head start before your first coaching session. We help you create professional and personalized intake forms that make a difference! Claim your 14-day free trial here.
An intake session is all about setting the stage; understanding your client's goals, history, and most importantly, managing expectations. At the same time you'll want to cover some administrative details and make sure there are no doubts left unresolved before your client agrees to work with you. Here are 6 essential elements you should incorporate to all of your intake coaching sessions to achieve this.
Client intake forms can be a powerful tool to understand your client's background and gain super useful insights for your first coaching session. A coaching client intake form is a set of strategic questions aimed to discover your client's challenges, concerns, motivations, interests and even learning style. You can use this information to plan out your first session so you can ensure it is productive and covers all the necessary topics.
This form usually covers from basic aspects such as name and contact information, to more deep and personal questions like asking your client to describe a painful situation they're dealing with. While some coaches opt for asking these questions in person (during the intake session), sending out a form ahead of time is far more effective and convenient as you will be prepared to ask follow-up questions to further understand your client's needs.
Note: Try Bonsai's intake form templates to easily create onboarding documents for new clients. You'll be able to customize and design professional looking forms, add your business logo, and manage all the documents in one place. Try a 14-day free trial today.
Another huge advantage of sending out an intake form ahead of time is you can draft a coaching agreement or proposal to present to your client at the end of the first session. Your client might decide to sign up on-the-spot, or may ask for more time to think about it, but presenting your offer on the first session will give you many advantages; you can explain your packages in detail, answer any questions as they arise, and sell yourself better if you notice your client is not feeling it.
Keep in mind, if your intake form didn't gather enough information, or you didn't send one at all, it's best to wait until you're done with the intake session and send out a written coaching proposal within 1-3 days after. This way you will be sure you have all the information you need and you don't offer something you can't deliver.
Depending on the type of coaching services you are offering, you may also want to prepare disclosure forms such as an informed consent, social media policy or release of information form. These should be acknowledged and signed before you start the session especially if you're dealing with sensitive company information (usually for business and executive coaching).
The "correct" questions to ask during the intake session will depend on the issues your client is facing. Nevertheless, there are some questions that are helpful in almost every intake session, and you should incorporate them every single time. You want to make sure to always inquire about what the client wants to achieve from the coaching program (in short, medium and long term), and try to learn how they would like to be coached.
Of course, your intake form should give you a solid base to prepare a short but powerful questionnaire, but here are some examples to give you a better idea.
Write down all of your coaching questions and ensure you take note of their answers (while still listening actively so you don't make your clients feel uncomfortable).
You want to make sure your client is a good fit for you, but you also must ensure that you are the right fit for them. A great way to do this is by discussing your coaching philosophy during your intake session. Give them a thorough insight into your ideals, values and standards as well as the why and how you serve your clients. You can effectively do so by clearly defining the following:
This is a great way to allow your clients to determine whether or not their values align with yours and if they will feel comfortable moving forward.
Note: Customize one of Bonsai's pre-made coaching intake forms and save yourself a ton of time today. Our documents are easy to design and allows you to add all your coaching questions to send to clients. Try a 14-day free trial here.
During your first coaching session, you'll want to clearly lay out the expectations for the client-coach relationship and discuss other important parts of the coaching process that must be agreed upon. For starters, it's important to clarify what coaching is and isn't, making it clear that it should not be considered/used in place of therapy, and that the client will be held accountable for their own actions.
Next, explain what they can expect from each meeting with you including the session structure and format, challenges that may come up along the way, what will be needed for the sessions (pens, paper, journals, etc...) and who will be responsible for providing it, as well as ground rules in case of a late or missed appointment. You can also go over your preferred methods of communication and what availability you expect to have in-between sessions.
Finally, clarify what you expect from your client during the coaching program. They should commit to stay open-minded, focused, and always communicate with honesty. Make sure your client understands that change won't come on its own and while you will be there to encourage and support them as much as possible, they must be prepared to take action and face the consequences.
Towards the end of the intake session, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not you can help this new client, and if you are a good fit. This is where you can either present your proposal (if you drafted an appropriate one), and define what comes next. If your client agrees to work with you after this conversation, then you can move on to explaining whether they should expect a formal contract (highly advisable), as well as how and when they should make a payment (your pricing and payment terms should be specified on your proposal).
If your prospective client is still uncertain, and asks for more time, let them know when and how you will be following up. If you already presented your offer, give them a deadline to ensure your offer and prices are still valid. If you did not present an offer, let them know when they should expect your proposal and how they can go about scheduling the next session if they are interested.
Hopefully this comprehensive intake session checklist has been of great help, and you were able to identify key elements you must add to your coaching process. If you need help, Bonsai's all-in-one product suite has tons of excellent administrative tools to get you further. You can use our fully-customizable coaching proposal and contract templates, client intake forms, as well as our complete invoicing software so you can seamlessly and accurately bill your clients.
Furthermore, our software for coaches can help you improve other aspects of your business with efficient time and task tracking tools, income and profit reports, tax estimates, payment processing and even a dedicated business checking bank account. Start your 14-day free trial today and join thousands of independent professionals who are already reaping these amazing benefits!
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?