As a coach, you want to model healthy boundaries and low drama for your clients. If you use clear Terms & Conditions when your clients purchase coaching sessions from you, you will teach your clients how to navigate healthy relationships and lower your stress at the same time!
Terms & Conditions just means an agreement or legal contract that people agree to automatically when they purchase a service or product. The idea is that everyone is automatically bound (or legally obligated) to the terms of your Terms & Conditions without having to sign a formal document.
But this “automatic” process isn’t actually automatic unless you do it right.
How To Apply Your Terms and Conditions Without Signing a Contract
It’s not enough to have the Terms in some random back-corner or footnote of your website. If you want your clients to be bound to your Terms, you must link the Terms from where your clients are buying and have them actually agree to the Terms.
When To Use a Contract or Electronic Signature
For some of your high-end programs, or if your program is complicated or long-term, you may want to require your clients to check a box or even sign a document using e-sign software. This is especially helpful if you want to alert clients to terms like delayed recurring payments or if it is an intensive mentorship-type program where you want them to agree to specific rules of behavior.
The first section of any legal agreement covers the basics of what each side will deliver: what you are doing, what they are doing, and what neither of you will do.
If you are only selling one type of service or product on your website, your Terms might describe your sessions or programs in detail, stating how long the sessions will be and how many are in each package, for example. But if you sell many types of services and products, you might state something general like “the product or service as described on the sales page as of the date of your purchase.”
Exactly What to Include: Timing, Delivery, Downloads, Expiration
In this section describe any limitations on timing or delivery, such as how long they have to use the coaching sessions or whether they are allowed to download multiple copies of an ebook. If you have a service or product that expires after a certain timeframe, check with local laws to determine if you need to give a refund or credit.
Explain What Isn’t Included
Don’t forget to include what you are not including in your services or products.
For example, some clients may assume that email coaching or texting is included in any coaching program. Some coaches do their coaching both in-person and virtually, but some only do coaching via telephone and video conference. You may or may not provide recordings of calls (get their permission now to record their voice and/or image). Clarity is important to avoid misunderstandings later.
Set Clear Expectations For Client Behavior
Let your clients know how you expect them to behave.
You likely expect them to show up on time for sessions, do preparation work such as readings or “homework” assignments, or perhaps communicate with you regularly regarding their progress.
You may also include information here about appointment policies such as rescheduling sessions 24-hour ahead of time, no-shows receiving no refund, and canceling only allowed last-minute if an emergency. If you have group programs or online forums, have rules regarding spam, hate speech, confidentiality, and how they will communicate with their fellow students.
Your Terms & Conditions will also contain a description of how your coaching clients will pay you, and pay you on time.
If you have clients purchasing sessions or programs online, most likely they are paying you ahead of time (which is recommended). This simple solution will solve much of your collections problems, since you don’t need to chase after clients to pay their invoices or awkwardly give their credit card number at the end of an impactful session.
Payment Plans and Reoccurring Payments
You also need some other language in this section to address future payments, such as if your clients are agreeing to recurring payments for installment programs (a payment plan for a fixed-cost program) or regularly recurring payments for a monthly program that they can cancel. Your language needs to state that they agree, in advance, for you to keep charging their credit card on file each month, quarter, or year. State how they can cancel the recurring program and what happens if they cancel mid-period.
Rejected Cards, Charge-Backs, and Late Fees
Think about what will happen if their payment bounces or they do a charge-back on what they already paid to you.
Usually you will have a term for late fees, collection costs, and attorney fees. Late fees have a maximum allowed in some areas, so check local law. You may also expressly state that they will no longer receive services or will be removed from the program if their payments stop. If you don’t allow refunds, you need to state why, such as because you have reserved a spot in your limited calendar that cannot be easily filled.
Refund policies and “money back guarantee” programs need to be detailed clearly.
Some coaches will offer an initial session where the client can receive a refund if either side finds they are not a good fit. Some coaches offer limited “money back guarantee” programs for courses if the student does all the homework and does not see any value, if requested by a certain time. If you offer one of these programs, know that limited homework-required guarantees tend to be a source of drama, so be sure to clearly define the terms of your policy ahead of time and make it as straightforward as possible.
If you are giving your clients any materials or teaching them proprietary systems that belong to you, set expectations that they cannot take those materials or ideas and post them online or use them in their own practice. You can even state that you may be launching a licensing or certification program eventually, and they can contact you to obtain more information (great way to build interest for later!).
Clarify That You Aren’t a Therapist
Make sure to define what profession and type of practice this is, and what it is not.
For example, if you are a life coach, state that you are not providing therapy, mental health advice, or medical advice. If you are providing budgeting coaching, you would need to state that you are not a registered investment advisor or financial planner. The disclosures you need depend upon your type of practice–it is all about preventing confusion for your specific clients. You want your clients to know what you are qualified to do and what licenses you don’t have or are not using.
If something goes wrong, your Terms should state what happens.
Since many of you will have clients purchasing services and products who are located in different states or countries than where you are located, it makes sense to include non-litigation options like meditation and arbitration. If you also see local clients in person, you can include a Small Claims Court option for when it is appropriate, since that’s the most simple and least expensive way to resolve many disputes.
Other Legal Terms To Include
The are other legal terms you may want to include, such as: choice of law (what country/state’s law applies to interpret your Terms), force majeure (no one has to do anything if an act of God or war makes it impossible), severability (if one clause is illegal the rest of the Terms are still okay), and no assignment (they can’t assign these sessions to another person).
If you end up needing to use the Terms, it will most likely be because someone does a charge-back via your merchant account, which can happen months after you deliver your services or products.
This typically is because they are unhappy with the program and they are using a fee dispute to cancel and get a refund. If that happens, you need to be able to show they agreed to the Terms and they already used the sessions or program. Or, you need to show that the client agreed to a “no refund” policy at the time of purchase.
How To Show Evidence
If you have specific evidence of their agreement such as a check-box with IP address or an e-sign with a date, that will be helpful. If you have nothing to show the merchant account company, they might not help you with this dispute, especially if you can’t prove the “no refund” policy or you can’t prove that the client allowed the recurring charges.
This is a guest post. Learn more about writing for us here.