As we are in the thick of gifting season, it seems like a good time to reflect on what is, or more importantly, what is NOT a gift.

The short answer: it’s not a gift if it costs you money. What do I mean? And what does this have to do with Coaching and coaching agreements or contracts?

 Well, let me explain.

You’ve done training and continuing education courses. Attended seminars and workshops. At some point, in any decent training or workshop, the topic of client agreements or contracts comes up. Maybe the subject is retreat agreements or 1:1 coaching agreements. Perhaps it is mentioned in passing or elaborated on. 

But rarely does the workshop host or trainer tell you where to get an agreement, other than “hire an attorney.”

I get it – coaches of coaches aren’t lawyers and likely want to safely shy away from seeming to give legal advice. It’s a sensible approach. Point out that it’s an issue to address in your own business and leave it at that. 

But it still leaves you in the position to figure it out on your own or hire an attorney.

You might have a tight budget and aren’t sure if you can afford a lawyer, or maybe you don’t know what kind of attorney to call. So, you go online: into Facebook groups or searching on Google. You ask fellow life coaches and colleagues where they got their life coaching agreement and if you could use it. Or you find a free sample template online.  

 What a gift! You got what you needed at no cost!

 Well, not so fast.  

Did you actually get what you need? Does that free retreat agreement cover the specifics of YOUR coaching practice? Does it reflect your billing and refund policy? 

Your scheduling policies and procedures? Does it protect the materials you worked so hard to create? Are all the terms even legal?

That 1:1 life coaching contract that your friend gave you that you will try to shoe-horn into your group business coaching practice – where did she get it? Is it a customized agreement drafted by an attorney in her state? (Who, by the way, wasn’t thinking about your business or the state where you are located.) Did she get it from a friend, who got it from a colleague, who found it free online eight years ago? That sounds less like a gift and more like legal “Cooties.”

Maybe you didn’t even think to ask where the agreement originated, and you just trusted your friend and put it into use. Perhaps you made a few edits or left it as is. If you’re lucky, you have it in place and never, ever need to test it because you never end up in a dispute with a client.  

But one day, what happens if you do end up in a dispute with your executive coaching client? Despite efforts to amicably resolve it, you and your client are still at odds and end up in court. Turns out that the free executive coaching contract you’ve been using is riddled with conflicting and invalid clauses, and the judge says it’s wholly unenforceable. And you lose your case.

You’ve lost time spent in court, money spent on legal fees, and revenue that you can’t recover or have to refund to the client. That “gift” of a free coaching agreement just cost you over $10,000.

Now, having a well-drafted executive coaching agreement doesn’t mean you will never end up in a dispute or in court to resolve that dispute. It also doesn’t mean you will prevail in a court case. But it sure does improve your odds drastically. A well-crafted contract is one you and the client can refer back to help resolve any dispute. And suppose the disagreement persists and ends up in court. In that case, a well-drafted agreement makes it easier for a judge and jury to render a fair and favorable decision. That is a true gift and one you can give yourself.

You can get a reliable, DIY legal template, complete with clear instructions on customizing it for your specific coaching business. A quick review by a local business attorney in your state, and you now have a well-drafted agreement tailored to your business at a fraction of the cost of a bespoke client coaching agreement that will protect you and your business. 

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