If you’re a coaching professional, you need an official coaching contract that will outline your services and set terms for your coaching partnership with your clients. It doesn’t just show that you’re serious about your coaching business but sets clear expectations, protects both you and your coachee in case of a disagreement, and allows you to set your own rules for the collaboration.
If this is your first time creating a coaching contract, it might seem like a daunting task. It might make you question if you really need to go through all this legal headache to start helping people create a change in their lives. The answer is yes, you absolutely should never coach without a contract — BUT, by the end of this article you’ll see that it isn’t as scary as it may seem.
In this guide, we’ll go through everything your coaching contract should contain, so you can turn all that baffling legal mumbo jumbo into a professional contract that empowers you as a coaching professional.
Please note though: The information we gathered in this article should not be considered legal advice. We are coaches who’ve been in the trenches, but we’re not lawyers, so if you need professional legal advice, please seek out the help of a lawyer.
What To Include In Your Coaching Contract
Parties, Date, and Signatures
This is probably a no-brainer, but in order to make a contract official, you’ll need to specify who’s signing it and when the agreement became official.
Make sure you include the official full name of you (or your company) and your coachee, as well as the registered address of both of you. Add the date of signing (no worries about a few days of difference) and in the end, your signatures. Paperbell handles all of these details in their included contract-signing tool.
Even if your contract is just a few lines on a piece of paper, this will make it legally binding. But of course, we’re not done here, so let’s move on to the other key elements.
The Definition of Coaching In General
Coaching is a practice that’s often hard to pin down. The outcome of your services depends on the coachee just as much as your expertise. The change is co-created by you and your client in the process of coaching conversations, that isn’t as tangible as other commonly known services.
To shed some light on what coaching as a service is, here’s how the sample contract of the International Coaching Federation describes it:
Coaching is a partnership (defined as an alliance, not a legal business partnership) between the Coach and the Client in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize personal and professional potential. It is designed to facilitate the creation/development of personal, professional or business goals and to develop and carry out a strategy/plan for achieving those goals.
It’s normally easier to define the output of business coaching services, while things get fuzzier with life coaching, especially if it focuses on emotional wellbeing. But remember, you don’t have to guarantee or prove the desired change taking place in your client’s life, and you’re not responsible for their transformation.
What you do commit to is to carry out your services in a professional way. This includes keeping the content of your conversations confidential and following ethical standards in your coaching practice, even if you’re not a certified coach.
The line between coaching, therapy, consultancy, and mentoring often gets blurry, so your coachee must understand you’re not providing therapy to them. It’s also worth mentioning that they are responsible for bringing honest information to the sessions, as the success of your work is reliant on that, but of course, they are free to decide what to share or not share with you as a part of the coaching work. You can either include this in the contract itself or mention it in person to your client.
The Description of Your Services
The basis of any coaching agreement is that you, as a coach, are providing services and your client is accepting (and normally paying for) those services. Since your services are unique to you, you need to describe what they would involve.
If you have a well-crafted coaching package put together, then that should give you a solid basis for this part of the coaching agreement.
Include the number and length of coaching sessions that are included in your package and that you guarantee to deliver. If you occasionally offer additional sessions for clients as you see fit, that’s okay — it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver. Specify if these sessions happen over a call online, in person, or via a combination of both, based on mutual agreement.
If your package always includes a form of accountability, training, or group coaching and they form a core part of your process, you should write them into your contract as well. If these are simply bonuses or a variety of tools to support your coaching process, then you don’t have to mention them.
The Duration of the Coaching Agreement
Many of us have experienced coaching relationships dragging on for an incredibly long time or clients disappearing into the mist. This is why it’s important that you not just define the number of coaching sessions you offer, but set an expiry date for them.
It’s completely up to you if this time frame is two months or a year, but having it in your contract will guarantee that you keep up the momentum in your coaching relationship and get paid on time.
The Fees of Your Coaching Services
This is probably the most important part of your coaching agreement: to get paid for your services on time.
Specify the amount and currency of the fees your coachee needs to pay you, as well as when payments are due. It’s worth listing your payment methods in the agreement as well in order to avoid confusion later, especially with international payments.
If you offer an installment plan, make sure that the due date is clear for each payment, whether it’s an exact date or dependent on the completion of a certain number of sessions. Most coaches request an advance payment before they start the work which guarantees the commitment of the client. What you pay for, you care for.
Another common term in coaching contracts and service-based agreements is a clause on late payment fees. This means that if your client misses the due date for the payment, they will need to pay a flat rate or a percentage as a late payment fee. Of course, if they pay in advance you won’t need to include this.
In case you offer any refunds, make sure that the terms are clear on that too. However, this is rarely something professional coaches do.
The Terms of Terminating the Coaching Relationship
What happens if your client changes their mind or if you need to step away from your coaching practice because of some unforeseen reasons? Hopefully, this never happens, but it’s better to be prepared than sorry.
The first thing to set clear is when the coaching relationship is considered terminated. In other words, when is the coaching really over? Normally, your work is automatically considered done once you have delivered all the sessions agreed upon. Besides, you might want to set terms for terminating the agreement if your client doesn’t show up for X amount of sessions or breaches other important parts of the agreement.
The other thing to set straight is what happens if the coaching relationship is terminated. In most cases, you keep the advance and you will have no further commitments towards each other.
[ Read: How To Fire a Coaching Client ]
Rescheduling & Cancellation Policy
This is another nifty tool to protect yourself from being stood up as a coach and making sure your time is respected.
A common practice is to set a 24-hour or 48-hour rule for rescheduling or canceling your sessions. This way, if your client needs to cancel the appointment last minute, they will understand that they will need to pay for it — or won’t be refunded if they’ve paid the fees already.
The final clause you might commonly see in contracts is the miscellaneous section. This is normally just a section with a few additional legal requirements, such as defining under which country’s law you enter into the agreement or that you both voluntarily signed it. If your template has something like this, you can leave it in there, otherwise, don’t worry about it.
Coaching Contract Templates
We recommend you use a sample contract from a reliable source such as ICF or an accredited coach training center. Even if it’s a well-written contract, always read through the whole agreement to make sure each section is relevant and accurate to how you provide services. If you’re unsure, speak to a legal advisor.
Another great option is the selection of ready-made contracts from Coaches & Company.
How & When To Get Your Contract Signed
The easiest way to get your contracts signed is to use a digital signature tool, so you can skip printing papers while having certainty that the coaching agreement is legally binding. Get the paperwork done before you begin any work with your client (except your free discovery session, of course), and make sure that you have clear expectations between the two of you.
Paperbell makes it super simple to get your contracts signed by clients digitally and to have them all in one place. Your clients will pay their advance payment at the time of signing your coaching agreement, and Paperbell only allows them to proceed and schedule their first session once this is settled. Which means you never have to chase clients for payments again, and you can easily find your contracts to refer back to later on.
What Happens If Your Client Breaches The Contract?
If your client disrespects the terms of your coaching agreement, it’s always better to have a conversation with them first and iron out any misunderstanding between the two of you. If they’ve missed a payment, you should absolutely stop the coaching work until that’s settled, it’s only fair. If you’re unable to sort things out by yourself, you can always ask for help from a legal professional.
In most cases though, a crisp coaching agreement and a great discovery session are all you need to get on the same page with your coachee, so that all you need to focus on is what you love doing the most: helping your clients get to where they want to be.