Not sure how it is where you are, but where I live, it is COLD!  So literally everything has moved inside.  No outdoor dining or concerts or such.  So, naturally as we are all indoors together it’s getting into peak cold & flu season.  Add in COVID and its variants (Delta, Omicron, Ihu – Ihu??  Is Apple releasing variants now??), and a wave of event postponements and cancellations is crashing down on people.

I just had tickets for a comedy tour rescheduled to 2023, and a concert for later this year.  While annoying and disappointing, such reschedules, and postponements are just that – inconvenient but not earth shattering.  But, what does it mean for the people on the other end?  Event coordinators, venues, affiliated vendors?  Postponements and reschedules mean money, and not in a good way.

So, as a business owner, how might you protect yourself in the case of these postponements and cancellation?  As a business coach how might this affect you and how can you prepare?  You probably already know what I am going to say – with a clear agreement.

Key Clauses to Include

Fees and Payment – Be clear about what your fees are, when they are due, and how you accept payment.  Pro tip: make it easy for people to pay you – whether you use an invoicing system, accept payments via credit card or allow people to select and pay for services through your website.  Do you require payment in full in advance of services, or are there on-going charges?

Scope of Services – Be sure to describe clearly what is included in your coaching services.  Include deliverables, if there are any, and timelines for the deliverables.

Scheduling & Cancellation Policy – This is a biggie and related directly to what I was talking about above.  People are going to get COVID eventually, including your clients.  Make sure you have a clear policy on how to reschedule sessions, what happens if they don’t give you enough notice, and do you make exceptions for emergencies?

Refund Policy –  If the relationship isn’t working out, or the client doesn’t need or want your continued coaching services, what happens in terms of a refund?  If your services are prepaid for – do you offer a refund?  If so, is it full or partial?  At any point are your fees non-refundable? Be very clear on this.

Force Majeure Clause – This will address what happens if something outside of your control or your client’s control prevents the services from happening – perhaps your group coaching can no longer be held because of size restrictions on public gatherings.  Have a clear policy addressing this – what is the client’s recourse, if any?  What are your obligations, if any?  This will tie directly with your postponement, cancellation and refund policies.

Optional Clauses that can help mitigate your losses

Additional Fees – Postponement or reschedule fees can be helpful in two ways – first, they may discourage people from rescheduling; second, they help recover the lost revenue – especially if you can’t fill the spot with another paying customer.  This would be especially true in cases of group coaching workshops or retreats which may have a limited number of spaces.

No chargeback clause – Imagine this: you have a client sign a year-long coaching services agreement.  You charge $1200 for this, but offer a monthly payment option.  The $1200 is fully earned at the time they sign up and is non-refundable because you can’t fill that space with another client if they cancel.  You process the monthly payments through automatic credit card charges.  The client, in an effort to avoid full payment under the contract files a chargeback with the credit card company.  A no charge back clause prevents the CC from refunding rightfully earned payments under the agreement.

Additional Useful Documents

Confidentiality Agreement –  Coaches and clients share loads of information with one another, and that information needs to be protected – often in both directions.  Having a confidentiality agreement template handy, or a confidentiality clause in your agreement, is essential to protect sensitive information as well as creating trust between you and the client.

COVID Waiver – Meeting in person, holding a business coaching retreat, or offering group coaching services?  You will want a COVID waiver template or a COVID waiver as a clause within your client service agreementEach client and/or attendee should sign it and it should clearly state that they assume the risk of catching the virus by attending/participating.  This waiver removes responsibility from you in the event someone spreads or catches COVID at your session or retreat.

What else can you do?

Have a plan B. That’s something all businesses have had to be able to do to survive for the past two years.  Pivot.  Plan B.  Adapt.  Having the ability to move things online is imperative.  Flexibility is key.  If you are accessible and use creative ways to avoid cancellations and postponements then you don’t lose revenue, and you don’t have to worry about enforcing your agreements. 

Insurance.  Talk to an agent or broker about event insurance for one-time retreats and workshops.  Investigate business stoppage or interruption insurance coverage.  If you can’t avoid cancellations, you may be able to insure the lost revenue.

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