“Are you ready? Yes, I’m ready.”
These are the words that mean coaching can begin.
So, to lay out ground rules only makes sense
While setting a written agreement, is one of the things which are highly recommended, and sometimes required from us coaches, some coaches find the idea of asking clients to sign a contract challenging.
They see it as something which goes against one the basic idea of coaching: creating trust between the client and the coach.
We’d like to suggest a different way of looking at this:
Think about signing a contract as an agreement to go on an adventure.
Think about it as a kind of ‘ceremony’ in which the client says: I’m ready to go on this journey, and I’m ready to go on it with you.
While we are not, at ICCI, able, nor licensed, to offer legal advice at all, we strongly believe that every coach requires a written agreement. This protects both the coach and the client.
How does it do this? Why is it important?
- It sets the structure to your work with your clients
- It makes things clear between you and the client
- It allows you to explain the nature of your work
- It makes you look professional and serious
- In case of a dispute: the clear structure of the agreement helps to resolve things in an easier way
- Some professional insurances (such as professional liability insurances) ask that you have such an agreement with your clients
- Some professional organisations (associations / federations etc.) ask that you work with written agreements
It is up to the individual coach to decide what to include in such an agreement, and up to you to take the responsibility and decide how you write it. For example: to check whether you want to obtain legal advice about the writing of your own coaching agreement.
At The ICCI, we recommend that you seek the help of a legal professional. This is to make sure you’re on the right track; make sure you’ve covered all the bases; and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
It’s really important to do it once and well, and it’ll hopefully serve you for many years to come. You can of course pay someone to help you, or use some cheaper (or even free) legal assistance service (some municipalities run free or affordable legal assistance services for example. It’s also worth searching the web: some legal/law companies are happy to sell pre-written agreements and make the changes you need for a lower price).
If you become a member of a professional organization, there’s a good chance that they’ll have a format for a coaching agreement which you can use as a base for creating your own one, and there’s sometimes the possibility to use their legal team, again, for a very affordable fee.
At The ICCI, we’re not legal experts. For that reason, we can not give you (and are not allowed to give you) any advice on how to create such an agreement.
It is therefore your responsibility to prepare one for yourself and use it when needed.
What we can do however, is to share with you the main points which we feel need to be part of your agreement. These are our suggestions, based on our experience, and not to be taken as legal advice.
What are the key points which you might consider to include in a coaching agreement with a client?
- Who is the agreement between (your name / name of company and the client’s name).
- Contact information of both sides (address, phone, email address, etc.)
- The nature of your work: what is it that you offer and do, and how.
- The coaching process: Where and when does the coaching take place? The time frame of the coaching (how long is the process / how long is each session /the frequency between sessions)
- How do you handle the interaction with your clients between sessions / your time of availability for them outside sessions.
- Communication methods and time frame: When and how can the clients be in touch with you and expect you to be there for them.
- Responsibilities: What are your responsibilities and what are theirs.
You might want to consider a disclaimer which states that your client is responsible for the outcomes of the coaching.
- Discussion of a mutual engagement in the process.
- Your ethical framework: Belonging to a professional organisation can help here.
- Your Terms & Conditions if you have them, and where they can be found (on your website for example).
- Fees: amount and ways to pay.
- Cancellation policy (from both sides).
- Refund policy.
- Confidentiality: How you keep it, how do you protect the information of your client.
- Limitations and liabilities, and law applicable.
- Discussion of keeping the client’s files / notes.
- The use of a supervisor: It’s good to mention your use of supervision and connect it to the confidentiality you keep.
- Complaint procedure in case there’s a dispute, but we recommend that you mention that you always prefer for the client to discuss matters of dissatisfaction with you first.
- Ways to end the agreement (for both parties)
- Mentioning of the professional organisation you belong to.
This might look like a lot, because “the fine print” containing the rules is just an attempt to cover every possible situation. As with so many agreements, the “fine print” is rarely needed, but is there just in case.
Once you work as a professional, all will be much clearer and you’ll have most things in hand, so there’s no need to worry about it.
Remember that an agreement is setting the framework for the coaching process, it states your professional boundaries, helps the client understand their part of the process, and in the rare cases of disagreements between yourself and the client, acts as something to lean on.
At the end of the day, it’s there for the benefit of both parties.
 Listed in no particular order. and not an exhaustive list. You’ll have to choose what you want to include and how.