The life coaching field (sometimes termed the “self-improvement” or “personal development” field) is a multi-billion-dollar industry that is growing rapidly in the United States and worldwide. Whether you are an aspiring or established life coach, you must be aware that your work in this dynamic field requires you to protect your business from both liability and competition.
The following is a list of five “must-have” components for any good life coaching contract.
A client-coach relationship is, by definition, deeply personal. Clients must be willing to share private and confidential information with their coaches, and coaches should receive assurances that clients will not share the details of their coaches’ proprietary programs and materials on social media or with their friends and relatives.
Similarly, if a business hires a life coach, that business must receive assurances that the coach will protect its trade secrets or other confidential information. Although some life coaches may simply assume that this type of confidential relationship exists in their engagements, a clear written agreement is essential to fostering a truly safe and open coach-client relationship.
2. Scope of Services and Client-Coach Relationship
Coaches should not underestimate the importance of a written agreement setting forth the goals and parameters of the client-coach relationship. Does your coaching practice focus on achieving concrete career milestones, general life goals, or a mix of both? How often will you be available to your clients, and through what method of communication? Just as important, and often overlooked, what are the client’s duties and responsibilities in the client-coach relationship?
Coaches can head-off disputes before they arise by clearly stating these details, in writing, prior to the commencement of a life coaching engagement.
3. Limitation of Liabilities
What would happen if a client followed your coaching advice but still failed─due to circumstances outside your control─to obtain a lucrative promotion at work? What if that client blamed your coaching?
Depending on the specific laws applicable in your state or local jurisdiction, coaches may be well-advised to include a limitation of liability clause in written coaching agreements. For example, coaching agreements often state that the extent of a coach’s liability under the agreement is limited to the amount paid by the client to the coach for their services. A coaching agreement can also disclaim liability for consequential or special damages to provide you with extra protection.
4. Written Payment, Cancellation, Lateness, Refund, and Termination Policies
Although clients usually sign up for life coaching with the best of intentions, life (or bad habits) can get in the way. You can avoid expense and aggravation by including a clear cancellation and/or lateness policy in your written coaching agreement.
Similarly, all payment and refund details should be set forth in writing and signed by your client at the outset to avoid headaches later. Finally, the procedures for terminating the client-coach relationship should be clearly drafted and known to all parties in advance.
These four coaching agreement “must-haves” may not foreclose every possible dispute between a life coach and a litigious or recalcitrant client, but they are an indispensable foundation for any life coaching agreement designed to protect you and your business from legal liability.