It’s probably not a surprise to you that a company called The Contract Shop® firmly believes that you need a contract in place if you’re in the coaching industry.
So, we won’t go on and on about the fact that you need one. But, you might be wondering WHY exactly it is that we so highly encourage you to have a contract in place. Which is what we’re here to discuss today. A well-drafted contract is a powerful tool that lays the groundwork for a successful coaching relationship. It serves as a roadmap that guides both the coach and client towards their shared objectives, while also protecting their respective rights and responsibilities.
Basically, there are 3 major reasons you should have a contract in place as a coach:
It is all too easy to end up in hot water with a client simply because expectations weren’t established up front, and miscommunications happen. When everyone is on the same page, things run a whole lot more smoothly. By being intentional about the clauses you put in your contract, you’re able to establish those expectations in writing right from the start. But what should you include?
When it comes to your work with clients, being clear about exactly what will be achieved is important. Even if you can’t guarantee that those outcomes will happen without the client putting in the work, you’ll probably want to include what exactly it is that you’re working towards and how you’ll measure progress in your contracts.
Since, as a coach, you can’t do the work for your clients and are simply there to help give them a shortcut, you will also want to be sure to include what each of your responsibilities are during your time together. Be specific here about what you’re responsible for, and what the client is responsible for so that if they are unhappy later, due to not having done the work, you can point them back to what their responsibilities were.
Another important aspect to have in your contract is a schedule that includes milestones and when you should expect to hit them. This helps you and the client both to know if you’re on track, and since you’ve already outlined how you’ll measure progress, it should be a piece of cake to put those measurements to dates and create milestones!
How do you want your clients to communicate with you? Is it important to you that you’re available to your clients? Do you want to ensure that your communication is all in one place? This is a common struggle that coaches have with their clients - they don’t establish the communication boundaries up front, and they end up feeling like things are all over the place and that they’re being bombarded with messages. Determine what you’re comfortable with, and outline that in your contracts.
As a coach, what will your process look like? Having this outline will give your clients so much peace of mind, since they’ll know what they’re getting into. It will also eliminate that awkward “I’m not sure what I need help with” moment from your sessions, because they have a clear understanding of how exactly you can help - making it easier for them to dive right in and tell you exactly what they need from you.
It’s inevitable that at some point a client is going to need to reschedule or cancel a session. Avoid constant cancellations and last minute rescheduling by determining what your policies around these will be, and outlining them in your contract.
Also take some time to think about any other policies that would be important for your clients to know and be sure to add those into your contracts as well.
What if, once you have a contract in place and you’ve established those expectations, the client becomes upset anyways? In that scenario, you’ll have one of two options. First, if they’re upset about something they agreed to in the contract, you can simply point them back to that clause in the contract they signed with a gentle reminder.
The other scenario, maybe what they’re upset about isn’t covered in the contract. Now you know that moving forward, this is something to add to your contracts with future clients - making the expectations even more clear!
When you’ve got clear expectations laid out right from the beginning, your clients are able to start off your working relationship excited and ready to get started instead of nervous and a bit unsure. Why? Because you’ve built trust already just thanks to your contract.
When you’ve outlined all of those policies and expectations in one place, and you’re sure to cover everything a client might need to know, you’re showcasing transparency. When someone is transparent, we’re much more likely to trust them because we feel more connected to them. It also gives us peace of mind, which makes trusting easier.
Another thing you’ll want to be sure you include within your contract are your own guidelines for privacy and confidentiality. When a client knows that you’re there to protect them, and you take their confidentiality seriously, they’re more likely to be willing to open up to you. This allows you to take your coaching even deeper, and really help them achieve their goals faster.
Let’s face it, a well-structured, professional contract puts your best foot forward. It makes it look like you’ve got your stuff together. Think about websites. If you’re anything like us, a poorly done website automatically sends us looking for other options. That service provider might be incredible at what they do, but without their website putting their best foot forward, it doesn’t feel that way to us.
The same is true for your contracts. Simply by having a well-foot together and thorough contract, you’re signaling to your potential clients that you know what you’re doing, and you can help them.
A well-done contract isn’t going to just protect you. In fact, it should fairly protect both you and your clients. And when you’ve got a contract in place that does this, it deepens the trust your clients have with you because they can tell right from the beginning of the relationship that you aren’t simply looking out for yourself, but that you also have their best interests at heart.
And, finally, (and obviously) you should have a contract for coaching because contracts provide legal protection. When it comes to running a business, it’s not “if” you’ll run into an unhappy client, but “when”. By building trust and setting clear expectations from the beginning, you make it a lot less likely to run into issues. But at some point you will have someone that’s unhappy.
Which is why in addition to using your contract to set expectations and build trust, you also want to make sure to include clauses that cover you and your business in the event of an unhappy client.
A conflict resolution and disputes clause establishes the framework for addressing disagreements that may arise between yourself and a client. Basically, it helps to provide a way to resolve problems without needing to deal with costly and time-consuming litigation.
By outlining your terms of payment, your refund policies, and anything else that clients should be aware of financially (like if there are fees involved, etc.), you protect yourself legally should a client want to dispute a payment.
Finally, you’ll want to be sure to include a clause about intellectual property and ownership of materials. If you are allowing your materials to be used by a client, but you’re still the owner, the last thing you want is for them to take what you’ve given them and try and pass it off as their own. Protect your materials and intellectual property by including information about who owns what, and how that information can be used, inside your contracts.
And with that, you’ll have a contract in place that not only protects both you and your client, but also builds trust, establishes expectations, and minimizes misunderstandings. If you need a contract, we’ve got an easy-to-use and quick to set up a template for you, along with everything else you need to protect your coaching business.
Now that you’re convinced you need acontract for your coaching business, you might be wondering how to fit in getting your contract signed into your onboarding process. Our blog post on the coaching process has you covered! Go give it a read and improve your own processes along the way!
Amanda Warfield is a simplicity-focused content marketing and launch strategist, author of the book Chasing Simple Marketing, and host of Chasing Simple - a podcast to help creative entrepreneurs uncomplicate their marketing and business. She traded in her classroom lesson plans for speaking and educating creative entrepreneurs on sustainably fitting content marketing into their business, without it taking over their business - so that they have time to grow their business.
Comments will be approved before showing up.