Business owners pour hours and hours into their brainchild. If you have a coaching business, you'll know this firsthand – it takes an incredible amount of energy to build your client list and create a successful business.
That's why it's essential to have the right contracts in place with your clients. Without them, you're leaving yourself open to potential disputes and misunderstandings that could cost you money and time.
A coaching contract is an agreement between two parties – the coach (you) and the client – outlining how they will work together for a predetermined amount of time or until a specific outcome has been achieved.
Let's take a look at what goes into writing an effective coaching contract and why having one in place is so important for your business.
Why You Need A Coaching Contract
Writing up a contract is fairly time-consuming. It's certainly not everyone's idea of a fun way to spend their day. But it is absolutely essential if you want your coaching business to be successful and protect you in the long run.
A contract sets out exactly what each party will provide, how much they'll pay, when they'll pay, and any other terms that both parties agree on. This provides clarity for everyone involved and can help avoid misunderstandings down the line.
Without a contract, you risk:
Disagreements over payment
Confusion about the goals of the coaching sessions
Misunderstandings about what will be provided by each party
Unmet expectations from either side
Legally, you have no way to enforce a verbal agreement should anything go wrong.
A contract also helps protect your business legally and financially in case something goes wrong. It's insurance that can save you time, money, and lots of headaches down the line.
Coaching Without A Contract
To better demonstrate the importance of a coaching contract, it's helpful to look at what can happen without one.
Without a contract, both parties are relying solely on their memories and understandings of what was agreed upon during the initial conversation or meeting. This leaves them open to potential disagreements and misunderstandings down the line.
For example, if you don't have a contract in place that states how many sessions will be provided for a certain amount of money, there could be confusion about when payment is due or when more sessions are required.
Likewise, if there's no timeline set out in the agreement, it can be difficult to keep things on track. Without a contract, it's much easier for one party to become unreliable and delay progress.
A contract essentially lets you set your own terms for the relationship – so without one, you'll be shooting at a moving target when it comes to client expectations.
How To Write Your Coaching Contract
Ready to set up your contract for better outcomes and firmer boundaries? Every contract will be different, but you can typically rely on a few key elements to remain consistent. Let's take a closer look.
In this section, your goal is to lay the foundations. The ideal scenario is that anyone reading the contract will be able to understand the basics of what's being agreed upon from the first section.
Here is where you will provide a thorough overview; address the purpose of the coaching contract, and give a rundown of what will be covered throughout. Mention the main goal: to understand the terms and conditions of your coaching relationship.
For example, here is a template you might use to get started:
This agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the lifestyle coaching relationship between [Coach's Name] and [Client's Name]. The purpose of this agreement is to clarify the expectations, responsibilities, and obligations of both parties for the duration of the coaching relationship.
The agreement is intended to support the achievement of [Client's Name]'s personal and professional goals through the provision of guidance, support, and accountability by [Coach's Name]. By signing this agreement, both parties agree to comply with the terms outlined herein.
Spend this section outlining the specific responsibilities you will be taking on as the coach. For instance, will you be providing feedback? How frequently and to what extent? What will your support for the client look like?
This section is crucial for a few reasons. Clients can have wildly varying expectations, so it's essential to be clear on what you will and won't be providing.
Your responsibilities are the foundation of your coaching relationship – so they need to be written out in detail. Doing so serves as a reference point if any issues arise during the coaching period.
Yours might look something like this.
The Coach’s Duties and Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Providing personalized coaching sessions once per week, for one hour each.
Developing a personalized coaching plan based on Client’s specific goals and needs.
Keeping all information shared during coaching sessions confidential, except as required by law.
Adhering to the code of ethics of [insert relevant coaching organization].
Keeping detailed records of Client’s progress and adjusting coaching strategies as needed.
Responding to Client’s emails or messages within 48 hours, except in case of emergency or unforeseen circumstances.
Scheduling and conducting coaching sessions at the same time and day each week, and rescheduling sessions in a timely manner if necessary.
Regularly participating in professional development opportunities to improve coaching skills and stay current with industry developments.
Although you're providing a service to your clients, it's still crucial that you outline what their role is as your client. It is well within your right to have certain standards; for instance, you might apply an inconvenience fee if they cancel a session with short notice.
This section might look something like this:
The Client’s Duties and Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Providing honest and open feedback during coaching sessions.
Agreeing to the terms of the coaching contract before each session begins.
Rescheduling or canceling coaching sessions with at least 48 hours’ notice; if less than 48 hours’ notice is given, an inconvenience fee may be applied.
Completing any assignments agreed upon in each session before the next one begins.
Being prepared and on time for each coaching session.
Paying the appropriate fees before or after each session.
Following any instructions given by the Coach during sessions, unless otherwise agreed upon.
Maintaining a safe environment for all parties involved in the coaching process (e.g., no physical contact).
Payment and Fees
Never enter into a coaching arrangement with clients unless you have a clear understanding of how much they'll be paying you, and via what method. Aim to answer the following points in detail within this section:
Will you accept different types of payments (e.g., cash, card)?
Are there any additional fees associated with the coaching sessions (e.g., material costs, travel expenses)?
What happens in the event that a client misses a session or cancels on short notice?
You save yourself a lot of trouble by having these details in writing rather than relying on verbal agreements.
Confidentiality and Privacy
Both you and your clients should have contractual obligations in place when it comes to confidentiality and privacy. This is especially important if you work with sensitive information; for instance, you may need to guarantee that personal details remain confidential at all times.
Sensitive information might include:
Any personal data pertaining to you and/or the client
Any confidential material discussed during coaching sessions
Financial information related to the payment process
The exact nature of your confidentiality clause may vary, depending on the type of service you provide; however, it should always be detailed and specific.
When will your coaching cease? For what reasons? Do you have a set duration? These are all vital questions to answer in your termination clause.
The termination clause should outline the terms of contract expiration and how either party may go about doing so if necessary. You'll also want to cover any potential liabilities or obligations that might arise upon terminating the coaching arrangement.
Even if your coaching relationship with a client starts out completely amicable, there is always the possibility of a dispute arising during or after the contract period. Therefore, it's important to include a clause that outlines what processes and procedures will be used to resolve such disputes.
It might look something like this:
The parties agree to use their best efforts to settle any disputes or disagreements that arise out of the coaching agreement through friendly negotiation and discussion. If either party is unable to do so, they can initiate mediation in order to resolve the matter amicably. Alternatively, either party may refer the dispute for resolution by arbitration before an independent arbitrator agreed upon by both parties.
It's time to sign off on the contract now. You and your client should both sign the document, along with any relevant witnesses, if necessary. Make sure to keep a signed copy for yourself in case of future disputes or misunderstandings.
Get your legal affairs sorted properly with these tips and tricks for creating a coaching contract:
Be clear, concise, and comprehensive. Your contract should cover all the details in language that is easy to understand without being overly long or complex.
Make sure both parties fully understand their rights and obligations. If there’s any confusion about anything, you may need to provide additional information or clarification.
Ensure your terms are reasonable and fair to both sides. You don't want one party feeling taken advantage of in any way; therefore, it's important that each side understands exactly what they're agreeing to before signing the document.
Remain professional at all times. No matter how friendly you may be with your client, it's important to maintain a professional relationship – this includes the wording of your contract.
Have everything reviewed by a legal professional. Even if you're confident in your contract, it's still worth getting another set of eyes to review it for any potential issues or problems.
Your coaching agreement should be a living document. As you and your clients start working together, you may need to make adjustments or amendments to the contract in order to best serve both parties.
Can You Use a Template?
There's no denying that legal documents take time and effort to create. Is there any way you can speed up the process?
Templates are a great way to get started. Here at Bonsai, we offer a range of customizable contract templates that you can use and adjust as needed. They are all approved by law professionals – so you can rest easy knowing that your agreement is legally sound.
A coaching contract should be taken seriously. It lays out the terms of your working relationship and provides legal protection for both parties involved. With a bit of effort, you can quickly create an agreement that works for everyone.
Use Our Free Coaching Contract Template
While your coaching contract should be tailored to each of your clients, there is a way for you to make the onboarding process more efficient. You can quickly create the perfect contract using Bonsai's free coaching contract template. Simply download the template and customize it as you like to add your business branding, then save it in your preferred format to create a professional document for every single new client.
Get started today with our 7-day free trial and see for yourself why we are the go-to solution for freelance professionals in all industries.