How To Legally Protect Your Online Coaching Business

06 Oct, 2021 By Bobby Klinck
How To Legally Protect Your Online Coaching Business

If you’re an expert in a particular field, you can start an online business that offers coaching services. In fact, coaching businesses are booming these days. If you’ve already started one or are planning to start one, you need to make sure that you’re legally protected as a coach.

Let’s talk about the major legal protections you need to think about if you’re a coach.

Website Essentials

As a coach, you need to have a website where people can find you. The privacy policy, terms of use, and disclaimer are three essential things for your website. These apply not only to coaches but to every kind of online business.

Privacy Policy

You’re legally required to have a privacy policy page on your website. It lets people who visit your website know what information you’re collecting from them, how you plan to use it, why you’re collecting it, and who you share it with. Let’s be clear: a privacy policy isn’t optional. You can get my FREE privacy policy template here.

Terms of Use

You also need to have a terms of use page, which serves as the basic “rules of the road” for your website visitors. It talks about what they can and cannot do on your website. It’s a loooong document that often consists of up to 20 pages, covering important information, including your refund policies.

Disclaimer

Coaches also need to have a disclaimer on their site. If you’re doing affiliate marketing, you need to include that in your disclaimer. You should also state clearly that you’re not providing professional advice on your website. 

Instead, the information you’re offering is only for educational purposes. The users of your site take personal responsibility for deciding what they should do with that information and the consequences of their actions.

You need to have links to your privacy policy, terms of use, and disclaimer page on the footer area of your website.

Coaching Agreement

As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t accept money from anyone unless you have a written agreement. Before you take on any client, they should first sign your client agreement. Be sure to tailor your client agreement according to the package you’re offering. Here are the major sections your agreement should include.

  • Disclaimer. Your coaching agreement must include a disclaimer that your coaching services are not a substitute for professional medical advice, psychiatric care, and so on.
  • What your client will get. You should lay out if they’ll be receiving a single session, weekly session, or a package of let’s say 13 sessions. You also need to specify how long the sessions will last, how you connect with them, and if they can get in touch with you outside your formal sessions. Many coaching services include one-on-one sessions. If you’re also giving them access to some kind of materials like a course, you also need to include that in your agreement. You need to be as specific as to what your clients will get.
  • Fees. How you define this will depend on the packages you’re offering. Your agreements needs to state how much they’ll pay if they sign up for your monthly program, a single session, or a set package. You’ll also have to define whether it will be a single payment or multiple payments. Everything should be specific and clear so that there will be no question or dispute.
  • Policy for rescheduling calls. Can your clients reschedule a call within 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours? Make sure to set it out clearly in your client agreement. You should also lay out the specifics for the termination of your coaching session. If you’re offering a 13-session package, then the termination won’t be an issue. But what if it’s a monthly package? Can your clients terminate any time or do they have to give a 30-day notice?
  • Dispute resolution clause. Don’t forget this in your client agreement. It should clearly specify how a dispute will be addressed, whether it’ll be taken to court or handled through arbitration. Going to court is expensive, and in most cases, arbitration is the preferred option.
  • Entire agreement clause. You also need an entire agreement clause that says this written agreement is the entire agreement between both parties.

Other Essential Agreements

If you’re offering other services aside from 1:1 coaching, you also need to have other agreements in place. 

You also need to have agreements for your team, whether you’re working with a virtual assistant, contractor, or employee. 

Lastly, you need to secure a release agreement if you’re planning to use testimonials from your other people to promote your business. 

Course, Digital Product, Membership, and Group Coaching Agreements

If selling courses is another aspect of your business, you need to have everyone who purchases agree to the terms of your course agreement. The same goes for selling a digital product—you need to have a digital product agreement, too. 

Now if you’re offering a membership, you’re required by law to provide an explanation of how your clients can cancel their subscriptions. 

If your business model includes a group coaching program, you need an agreement with your participants.

Are you noticing the theme? Everything you sell in your coaching business should have an agreement.

Team Agreements

As your business grows as you bring on team members to help, you need to have a written agreement with them. This includes virtual assistants, contractors, and employees. The agreements must clearly specify the services that they will provide to you, what you’re going to pay, and how you’re going to pay them. You also need to make it clear who will own the work product and make sure that they agree not to use the confidential information they learn about your business during their employment with you for anything other than to serve your business.

For contractor agreements, you need to include a confidentiality clause and a section that says who owns the work product, which is called an intellectual property transfer agreement. 

Now let’s talk about virtual assistants. If you’re controlling how they do their job, then you should hire them as an employee. If not, they are contractors.

Virtual assistant agreements are similar to contractor agreements. It should define who owns the work and must include a confidentiality clause. 

In the US, an employment agreement isn’t necessary if you’re hiring employees. However, you need to have an intellectual property transfer agreement, a confidentiality agreement, and an offer letter, which defines what their role is, what they’re going to be paid, and so on.

Publicity Releases

The last category is about protecting other people’s rights. You need to have publicity releases for testimonials, guest coaches, and podcasts. 

Keep in mind that people have the right to control how their name, image, the likeness are used commercially. This applies to celebrities and regular individuals. If you’re planning to share a testimonial, make sure to get a release from the owner, which says they have given you permission to use their testimonial for business purposes.

In addition to getting releases for testimonials, you should have guest coaches sign a guest coaching agreement that says you can use their stuff to promote your business. If you’re doing a podcast and you have guest speakers, you need to have them sign a release agreement that says you can use the interview and their name, image, and likeness, for your business.

Protect Yourself And Your Business

If you’re a coach or are planning to start an online coaching business, make sure you address these legal aspects so that you’re protected. If you’d like to get FREE access to my legal training program, be sure to check out Online Legal Foundations in BADA$$ Online Marketing University (BOMU). This program offers in-depth teaching on how to run your online business and make sure that it’s legally protected. 

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Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur