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All hail client service agreements (why you need ‘em and what to include in ‘em)

Let’s cut right to the chase today: you need to be using a client service agreement anytime you work with a client. This is a threat and a promise.

A Client Service Agreement is all about your relationship with your clients or customers, and it’s capital ‘E’ Essential. If you are a consultant, coach, or other service professional, it’s imperative that your clients know what to expect when working with you and what their responsibilities are in the transaction.
A well-drafted client service agreement memorializes the basic terms of your relationship with your client. It also provides next steps in the event something unexpected happens. It can prevent disagreements and confusion with your customers, which in turn can prevent any need for litigation.

It’s definitely not enough to just have a statement of work or a handshake or a friendly conversation, because none of those will sufficiently cover your butt if things go south.

So what should be in your Client Service Agreement?

Your client service agreement should have the obvious stuff like the client’s name and contact information and a place for them to sign, the amount the client will pay you, and what exactly you will provide in exchange for that payment.

Other important items you should include:

  • What happens when a client fails to show up to their appointment?
  • How many calls/emails/meetings with you can the client expect?
  • How and when will the client pay you?
  • What happens if payment is late?
  • How can you, or the client, terminate the coaching relationship?

Another thing to keep in mind is your intellectual property. You’ve likely worked long and hard creating content that you rely upon to guide your work with clients one-on-one or at retreats. That content is your intellectual property, and it’s vital to your business. So be sure to also cover how they can and cannot use the materials you provide. You wouldn’t want them using your handouts or worksheets to start giving informal coaching to their every Sally, Chris, or Jerry they know, would you? (Answer: no; no you would not.)

Sometimes business owners look at a client service agreement and ask, “Do I really need all of that legalese at the end?” The answer is: hell, yeah, you do!

The stuff at the end of your client service agreement is called boilerplate. These are standard clauses that are often found at the end of a contract to protect you if there is misunderstanding, confusion, or just plain trouble-at-the-OK-corral during the relationship with your client. The boilerplate clauses control what happens when the parties to the agreement disagree.

Do you see this serious look on our face? We mean business (so that you can do better business)!

Want more legal help for you coaching practice? Get a load of this free legal cheat sheet for coaches or dive in with our Legal Nunchucks for Coaches—the handy (and dandy) legal resource that tackles the top 10 mistakes coaches make in running their business (and how you can avoid them, duh).

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