Why have a Coaching Contract?

This is the most important legal instrument for a coach and serves two purposes. Firstly it sets the ground rules for the coaching relationship so that both parties know their obligations. Secondly, it keeps the liabilities of the coach to an absolute minimum. A simple legal agreement gives both parties peace of mind and, in the event that the client is unhappy, offers the coach protection.

Many coaches, like other freelance providers, do not establish the relationship on a business level, believing it to be unnecessary or that it may give an overly formal impression. Turning this view on its head, a contract demonstrates that you are a professional and that also applies to the coaching relationship. This can assist in keeping a professional objectivity in what can, at times, become quite an intimate situation.

In addition, if you give the client any materials that you have designed yourself, you can set out the rules pertaining to copyright. This may seem a small point but you could lose money if your materials are freely distributed to all and sundry by your clients. Apart from that, you risk l osing competitive edge should another coach use your material.

What should a coaching contract include?

The contract should set out the schedule for coaching sessions, costs including any 'extras' or expenses and, most importantly, payment terms. Whether working with business or personal clients, you still need to establish that the services you offer are chargeable. It is much easier to extract money from a difficult client if you have a written agreement detailing what is charged and what is 'included' and it minimises the embarrassment of resolving misunderstandings over money matters.

Coaching promotes the idea of being proactive so, practice what you preach and ensure that you both parties sign a contract before commencing the coaching programme.

As a Coach with a background in the law, I know the benefits of being legally aware. Primarily, of course, it protects one from being sued for breach of contract by a client. You might think that in the UK and Australia this is unlikely to happen but, on the occasion that it does, it could be extremely costly. If working with international clients the situation can be even more complex.

Rebecca Seeley Harris LLB(Hons) LLM MSc
Seeley Solutions