Coaching is a hot career choice today. In LA, it seems like people have “coaches” for everything. There are financial coaches, health coaches, business coaches, life coaches, and more.
In discussing the value of coaching, I like to pose the question: how many championships do you think Michael Jordan would have won without Phil Jackson? Hiring a coach illustrates the importance one puts on self-improvement. Successful people know that learning does not stop with school and hiring a coach is a great way to push yourself to be better than you were yesterday–no matter the playing field.
As you can tell, I am a big proponent of coaching. I will confess, I have hired a few coaches for myself since I moved to Los Angeles and my experience has been nothing short of exceptional. I also have several clients that are excellent coaches. Many have left lucrative careers in finance or real estate to become coaches. These clients came to me with a desire to pursue a career where they could give back and help individuals on a one-on-one basis. In doing so, they realized there are a few important legal issues to consider. I have done my best to synthesize the key elements of a coaching agreement into five main points. I hope you find them helpful.
- Define the relationship (“DTR”). Similar to the conversation we have all had a some point with a significant other, the DTR talk with a prospective client should happen at the outset. Before any coach agrees to work with a client, they should have a clear understanding of the wants and needs of the client. Is the client committed? Are they going to be talking to other coaches at the same time? Do they have a checkered past with other coaches? Wait…I think I have lost track of what we are talking about. Right, coaching, yes, similar to starting a relationship you want to know your client and you want them to know you. Once, you figure out why you are working together, make sure to put it in an agreement you both sign.
- The exchange. All valid contracts require an exchange of some sort. In law, we call it “consideration”. It is important the agreement contains, in detail, the services you are providing (and some of those you are not providing) and what the client is expected to provide in return, e.g., payment.
- Rendering services. How are you going to provide your services? In-person? Phone calls? Texts? Snapchat? (I hope you use discretion with that last one). Each type of communication medium has its pros and cons. Figure out what works best for you and do that. Don’t feel pressured to migrate to a medium that doesn’t fit your personality or skill set. Plus, remember, newer technologies can pose complex privacy risks. Walk before you run. Take time to hone your skills before trying the latest technology just to seem like you are “cutting edge”. Technology is a tool, don’t try to do too much with it.
- Termination. Every contract needs an out. Decide when the agreement terminates. It can be recurring monthly, but that needs to be clear. If it is a year from now, say that as well. Further, what are grounds for termination? If the client misses three meetings? How about if they do not listen to your advice? The clearer you can be here the better so you protect yourself if the relationship is not working out.
- Guarantee. In a services profession, you need to be very careful making guarantees about anything. We hear shady sales people make them all the time and the truth is it can sound desperate and you may catch yourself in a bad spot. Clients may want guarantees if they are going to be paying a high dollar amount for your services, but let your reputation speak for itself and don’t make any promises you cannot keep. More importantly, make sure you state explicitly in your agreement that you do not guarantee any particular outcome from the coaching services. The clients need to clearly understand this fact.
Depending on the types of coaching services you offer, there are likely specific issues to address in your contract. Nonetheless, the above five points give you a great foundation to any coaching agreement you are thinking about drafting. If you have specific questions about starting your own coaching service, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office for more information or help with drafting your own personalized coaching agreement.
Founder of Carbon Law Group, Pankaj Raval has been practicing intellectual property and corporate law for ten years. He has worked with budding entrepreneurs, startups, and fast-growing companies. He takes a special interest in helping his clients solve challenging legal and business problems in an effort to build their ventures and make a positive impact on society.