THE 10 THINGS YOU MUST HAVE IN A CLIENT CONTRACT
Your client contract might make or break a relationship - i.kid.you.not.
I know plenty of people who have walked away from an arrangement shaking their head because the contract is one sided OR have been burned by previous experiences and apply the once bitten twice shy rule.
Here are the TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO HAVE IN A CLIENT CONTRACT in order to protect you, and your client.
1. THE CORRECT NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS
I know. I know. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you have no idea how many people have the wrong name on the contract. This is not a problem if you are a sole trader, but what if you are operating your business as a company (LLC etc).
2. DETAILS OF THE SERVICE YOU ARE OFFERING
This needs to be very specific. as well as details such as the number of meetings you will have, how you will have contact, what is included in the package etc.
Case study: Coach A has a half a page contract that says she will “provide coaching as discussed”. In her copy, she says that there will be a call a week. When she fills her books she removes the sales page. Coach A attends weekly for 3 weeks and then begins to cancel calls regularly making a myriad of excuses. Her client, who has paid $5000 for a 12 week package is furious. But there is no evidence to show what was discussed, which makes it a difficult case to prove if it was to go further.
3. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES CLAUSE
The expectations you can both have of each other. This is setting up the boundaries, which is often a little tricky when you are in the honeymoon phase of your client relationship.
But this section is very important because it provides an assurance for the client about the promise regarding the service paid for and it also setting boundaries around the limits. Case study: Coach B has a contract that says she will hold monthly calls, three masterminds and three retreats and will organise for the website and copy of the client to be completed by the end of the contract. She also includes that client has unlimited email access during working hours EST with a 12 hour turnaround.
The client emails regularly and becomes agitated when she is not given a response to her emails on the weekend. She threatens to stop her payment plan in protest. Coach B relies on this clause to explain the boundaries around her time.
4.PRICING AND REFUND POLICY CLAUSE
This is an extremely important clause, particularly when there are payment plans. It is also important to understand the consumer law in each country because alot of coaches are currently attempting to enforce no refund policies which are illegal in countries like Australia.
5. TERMINATION CLAUSE
This provision is like having an exit door in an emergency. IT IS ESSENTIAL. You want to know how you can exit the relationship if it all goes pear shaped. Likewise for the client, who wants to force someone to work with them (ewwww).
6. CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSE
Trained coaches and professionals know about client confidentiality, it is ETHICS 101, and often, if you are a member of a professional body you are obliged to comply with this. Even if you are a member of a professional body, you need to have a confidentiality clause in a client contract. It protects you and the client. Clients are paying us for a service which, in essence, is trusting that we will do the right thing. It is not appropriate for information to be given to others, and in some places, depending on privacy law it is illegal.
7. DISPUTE RESOLUTION CLAUSE
Say what? Yep, this is a necessary clause. Trust me, I mediated in the small claims court for many years, people NEVER EXPECT TO NEED THIS.
It’s better going into a client relationship as you would a frenemy than putting your head in the sand singing la la la. I have seen soooo many people regret not working this out ahead of time.
And no one wants to spend a tonne of money on a lawyer or worse, on litigation because once it is in the hands of a judge/judicial officer YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE OUTCOME.
There are rarely winners in the legal system.
This clause creates the steps you both agree to in order to resolve any issues (*coughs problems*) you might have.
8. GOVERNING LAW
This sounds about as dry as a cookie left in great grandma’s biscuit tin, but seriously, there is an entire body of law devoted to this. Yep, arguing over which law applies to which disputes. If you don’t believe me google - conflict of laws contracts.
I told you *winks* Do yourself a favor and put this clause into the contract. If it is your contract you should do it so it is convenient for you or where your business is situated. That is the accepted convention, but there is a whole lot of language that ensure that this sticks.
9. DISCLAIMER CLAUSES
Because you know you are a miracle worker but #iaintnomagician.
But in all seriousness, this can be the tricky end of conflict and it can make lawyers rub their hands with glee because this is where the legal argument gets complicated and you know what that means? Hours and hours and hours and then KA-CHING.
Disclaimers make things clear. You are clear about what you will and will not do and you hand back some responsibility to the other person #allcarenoresponsibility.
Case study: Coach C is a health coach but she was also a medical practitioner. Coach C has a clause in her contract which clearly states that she will not be giving medical advice in her role as a coach. When the client signs this, it is assumed the client understands the limits of the relationship.
Some clients are attracted to coaches because of their experience in different fields. For example people feel confident talking to me because they know I am a lawyer and I have a Ph.D in law. However, in most countries there are strict legal guidelines about creating a client relationship (attorney-client; doctor-client etc) so we need to be clear about how far the work extends.
10. NO GUARANTEE CLAUSES
This is kind of essential and if you’re not trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes then you have nothing to be worried about. If you have promised stuff on your sales page that you cannot deliver then you are probably not going to impress your new client. Or worse, you may be infringing consumer law in your country (or another), so be warned.