Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean that scary things still can’t happen. Case in point, business attorneys work with clients all year long addressing (and trying to prevent) scream-worthy legal nightmares.
Contracts can seem scary but alas, without a contract, you are setting yourself up for the trick without the treat. Contracts can be a friendly ghost- there when you need them but not going around and scaring everyone all the time.
A Spooky Saga: Taylor’s Ghosting of Coach Cherise
So, to extend the spooky season by a day or so, gather around with a cup of witch’s brew (or your poison of choice) while we pull out some ghost stories of our legal past. We hope this story won’t give you nightmares. We have just the remedy for that: give your business a treat by getting the right agreements in place.
The Initial Agreement
Taylor* was seeking out the coaching services of Coach Cherise (“CC”), who did both small group and one-on-one life coaching. CC sent an email to Taylor that stated:
“I am looking forward to working with you. I propose 10 one-on-one sessions to be used over a period of 5 months. Each coaching session is an hour, over Zoom, and the total cost is $1785.”
Taylor responded to the email: “Sounds great! Let’s do it.”
CC sent an invoice to Taylor, with an email confirming a bi-weekly agreed-upon date and time. CC made sure she blocked those dates and times in her schedules and did not book any clients for those dates for the next five months. It should be noted that CC discounts package prices so that the cost per session is less than if Taylor was to engage in a la carte coaching.
A Bitter Brew: The Unpaid Invoice
Although Taylor had not paid by the date of their first session, CC decided to go ahead and coach Taylor. She had already prepped for her session with Taylor, as she does, based on a comprehensive questionnaire Taylor filled out. The session went well, though Taylor had to go after 30 minutes because she had another appointment. By the time of the second session, Taylor had not yet paid her invoice, despite an email reminder from CC. Ten minutes before the session, Taylor canceled.
Before the third scheduled session, CC sent Taylor a reminder about her invoice, saying she could not continue coaching without payment. Taylor replied, “you never stated when payment was due, so I figured every few sessions was fine.” However, on the date of the third session, Taylor emailed CC and stated “I realize I cannot afford coaching right now. Happy to send you money for the half hour you coached me.” CC reminded Taylor that she had reserved those 5 months, prepared for each session in advance, and that Taylor bought a package. Taylor ghosted CC and simply sent a check in the mail for half of the discounted session price.
If you are cringing, it may be because a client has done this to you. While it may have only happened to you once or twice (or, if you are lucky, not at all), it is a common situation we often hear about.
Legal Potions: Protective Measures for Coaches
What is a coach to do to ensure the terms of the agreements between her and her client outlines clear policies, boundaries and keeps her out of scream-worth situations?
Items that CC should have had in a Client Agreement that could have ensured she was protected from this scary situation:
- A clear cancellation policy, perhaps stating that if cancellation did not occur within “X” amount of time, client would forfeit her session.
- A clear refund policy. Is the entire package non-refundable one a client starts? Is part of it non-refundable once a client starts and decided not to continue?
- A clear payment policy: when is payment due, in what form, etc.
- A clear breach policy if the client does not pay on time (i.e., they forfeit the session)
- CC should also have clear statements surrounding the session time, i.e., that sessions are reserved for an hour and if the client ends early, she will/will not be charged for the entire hour.
You might be thinking that now your contact will sound scary if you have the above language in, but we want to remind you of a couple of things:
- You can always be less scary than your contract given the uniqueness of each situation;
- Your contract also helped the client is knowing the parameters of the agreement, so they do not have to guess on expectations and duties within the coaching relationship.
It’s the time of year for scary sights and frights, but let’s keep that away from your business!
*All the names of people and businesses have been changed to protect the identities if those involved in the above scary scenario