[Get Started Series] Legal Protection For Your Programs & Courses with Lisa Fraley

New coaches are always asking, “Do I need a client agreement?” The next question is…what should it say? Well the answer is, it depends on what sort of program or course you’re offering – and when it comes to legal issues, the blind shouldn’t be leading the blind. That’s why Lisa Fraley joined Michelle for this important episode. As an attorney and health coach herself, Lisa’s legal templates are a godsend! Check them out at http://HealthCoachPower.com/legal.

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Michelle Leotta:
Hello there, health coaches. I am back today with another bonus episode, it's all part of our get started series. And I want you to keep an eye out for these because I've lined up a whole bunch of experts to open our eyes to new ways of, of coaching, of approaching our business. And also helping us just get started when we're starting out. And one question that we get all the time inside our Facebook group is what do I need clients to sign? Do I need some sort of client agreement? Like, what's up with the paperwork, you guys, we hate it. We don't know what it's supposed to be. And most of us don't have any of this when we're starting out. And if you do have an agreement, then it's like, or if you want to create one, where do I get the language for that?

Michelle Leotta:
Sometimes coaches and I swear, I did this too. In the beginning, we go and see what other people are doing. And we do a big copy and paste job. So you will hear me say often I am not a lawyer. Please do not ask me any legal questions, because I'm always going to point you towards Lisa Fraley. Most health coaches in our group are also not lawyers. So rather than the blind leading the blind on these things, I have invited Lisa Fraley, who is an attorney and a health coach to talk today about, client agreements and protecting your services, your programs, and everything that you want to have in place, whether you're getting started with one-on-one, with a group course with some sort of online course. So, Lisa, thank you so much for joining us today.

Lisa Fraley:
Gosh, thank you for having me back, Michelle. I just adore you and I love your leadership and you are amazing as everyone in this group knows you have so much content knowledge that you always share. And I appreciate you inviting me always to be chiming in, on legal protections to help people. I do get it because I was trained through IIN as a health coach myself. So I get health coaches and that's why I've created documents and legal steps to help people know how to protect themselves. So, I'm glad we're talking about all of the paperwork today, please, for the client part of the business.

Michelle Leotta:
Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of things. Maybe you just want to give everyone a quick overview of what you do overall and then, you know, today we'll talk just about these specific points.

Lisa Fraley:
Sure. So overall there are, there are lots of different legal documents that you might use in your business, depending on what you're doing and when you're doing it. And I, I know not everyone loves hearing that, but it's kind of just like, there's not one size fits all for legal documents, just like with health and wellness. There's not like one size fits all way to eat or one size fits all way to address exercise or whatever. So, the same is true with law, but you have the documents you need for your website. There's documents that you use for social media there's documents you use if you're doing a live event or an online workshop versus an in-person retreat. So it just depends on what you're doing. But what I always like to do is help, you know, what you need when you need it.

Lisa Fraley:
So, you can just get that. You don't need every legal document at once. You just need what you need when you need it. And you can worry about the rest later. But today we wanted to talk about client agreements and client documents. So you can protect your income and protect your program content and just really help create clear expectations with your clients, whether you're doing a one-on-one program or whether you're doing sort of a combo of one-on-one and group or whether you're doing a group program or online course. So, thank you, Michelle, for having me.

Michelle Leotta:
Yeah, this is great. So I think that the first thing that we should just settle from the get go is, is it absolutely necessary? Let's say I've just graduated from health coaching school and my sister-in-law wants to be my client. Is it essential or is it required that I use some sort of client agreement?

Lisa Fraley:
So the answer is, yes and no. Yes, I highly, highly recommend it. No, it's not legally required, but here's the deal. Y'all when you're a health coach, even if you're working with your sister-in-law, there's still things that you want to make sure are clear. Like, you're not giving medical advice or mental health advice. You want to make sure that she's clear about what she's getting in her program. I don't know if you're charging her or doing it for free, but if you are charging her, even if it's a lower reduced rate, you still want to make sure you have payment terms there, partly because your sister-in-law's kind of your practice to get going. So, it's like a perfect person to practice using your client agreement with. But it is important because it also gets you in the habit of making sure that you have a client sign an agreement before your first session with them. And your sister-in-law is a great person to kind of walk through how to do that when you're signing up your client.

Michelle Leotta:
Okay. So highly require... I mean, highly recommended, not required. You know, the police are not going to come and get you

Lisa Fraley:
Not required by law. There's no law that says you have to have a client agreement, but here's the thing. What happens with law is that you have to actually, um, you have to have something that shares your policies. It's not just a suit. So like you can't just assume, Oh, of course my client's going to know that if I share with them how to eat these foods, that that isn't medical advice. You can't just assume that if you're telling your client or working with her on mindset, that this isn't medical advice, like that's not the way it works in the law. The way it works is that you have the obligation as the health coach to actually tell people what your policies are. And you want them to agree to the policies in writing. Otherwise they're really hard to enforce. So, and then when it comes to payment and things like that, you want to make sure you have your client agreeing to what they're going to pay you and how they're going to pay you and when they're going to pay you otherwise, if they don't pay you, it's really hard to collect payment because you don't have anything in writing that they agreed to saying they were going to pay you by this date or this amount, or this much for your program.

Lisa Fraley:
So, you're really putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don't use a client agreement, and I don't want that for you, please, please, please, please use a client agreement. So, you can have something to fall back on if you need it.

Michelle Leotta:
And I've heard you say like of all the things that we might need when we're getting started, people think about, you know, registering their business with the state and forming an LLC and all these different things that you might need to do, correct me if I'm wrong, but this is your number one?

Lisa Fraley:
Well, number one, or number two, depending on if you have a landing page for your website, which a lot of people will do that, right Michelle, before they start working with one-on-one? They're kind of working on their website or getting a landing page. So if you do a website, you'll want to have a website disclaimer, on your website to let people know you're not getting medical advice or mental health advice and other things as well. But often when it comes to clients, this is the first thing that you want. The first thing you want is the client agreement. So that you're on the same page and you all, it can be a really easy thing to give your client as a part of your enrollment process. It doesn't have to be scary or cold or corporate or complicated. You can just be like, hey, I'm so looking forward to working with you in this program, there's three things we need to do to get started.

Lisa Fraley:
First, I'm going to send you my client agreement. Please review it. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. I'm happy to explain any of it to you or talk you through it, or just answer any questions you have. You want to sign that document and get it back to me. Number two, you want to make your first payment or payment in full or payment by installment or however you do it. And then number three, here's how you book your first call. So like you just make it part of your enrollment process so that it's comfortable and casual and they're not going to question it or be like, why is she having me? Or he having me sign this document? It's just part of the steps they take to get going to work with you.

Michelle Leotta:
Got it awesome. Now I know when I was in school and I'm not sure which schools do this anymore or how it goes for everybody out there, who's just graduating. But I graduated from the Institute for integrative nutrition and they actually gave us a client agreement to use. So is that if we get something like that, is that cool to just use as-is.

Lisa Fraley:
Yeah. If you're starting out and you're, especially if you're using the program that your school taught you. So like I went to IIN also. At the, at the time they taught us a six month coaching program and they give you a client agreement for the six month coaching program. Well, if that's what you're going to do, of course use the one from your school to match the program that you're doing. Absolutely. That makes perfect sense. But as you keep going and growing, if you create a different program or you add more in, or you do things that are different, sometimes you want your legal language to be stronger, more enhanced, more language. And the IIN one is great. It's basic, but good. But sometimes you want more and actually the more your client programs increase in amount in dollar amount and investment amount. The more you want to make sure you have a really strong agreement with all the holes plugged. So, start off with your school's agreement, but then as you keep going and growing and you start doing your own programs, make sure you have a lawyer look at it and, or make sure that you're upgrading to use a different document, but absolutely right off the bat, you use what you have.

Michelle Leotta:
Okay, so that makes sense because when I was just out of school, that's what I did. I offered that same six month program. Most coaches, and it was exact same thing in my business, quickly segue, wanting to offer other things. We want to do a group coaching program. We want to run a detox. We want to do this, that and the other. So, can we talk about those three different types of agreements or whatever we're going to call them that you recommend and you know what they're good for so that everyone who's listening and watching knows what they need?

Lisa Fraley:
Absolutely. Okay. So just so everyone knows the word contract and agreement are the same thing. Sometimes you'll hear client contract or client agreement. Those things mean the same thing. It's basically, a meeting of the minds. It's a document that you sign and your client signs that spells out the expectations. This is what you would use from your coaching school. Like we just talked about for the six month program, or if you're doing your own cleanse or your own program, you might want to use a client agreement that's written specifically for that or a template. And I have a DIY client agreement that you can use if you need. But the idea is that you're spelling out here's what's in the program. Here's how much it costs. Here are my disclaimers. Here's my refund policy. Here are my expectations. It's very clear. Here's how we communicate.

Lisa Fraley:
Here's what happens if we have a dispute, it's a very clear document that both of you are signing and why do you sign it? Why do we have to do the signing thing? Because it actually, I believe helps your clients show up in a bigger way, because if someone's actually signing a document, it's a lot harder for them to be like, Oh, I didn't really see that part. Like you had to actually look at it to get to the end of the document to sign your name. So it creates a stronger ability for them to read the information, absorb the information, perhaps ask you questions about the information and then show up for you. My DIY client agreement, for example, has an expectation section, which most lawyers don't put in their document, but it says things like I expect you to show up and, um, come with your full attention and to actually implement the steps that we take and to do your best and to try and use a hundred percent of your effort.

Lisa Fraley:
So, you're creating a mindset for them right there in the client agreement. And that can be helpful. Plus it has language around your payment. Like we talked about to make sure you can have something to fall back on if they don't pay you and to protect your intellectual property, your content for your program. So, um, if you are giving a program guide or something as a part of your one-on-one program, you have the client agreement to back you up, but that's for one-on-one. You sign, they sign everyone's on the same page with your one-on-one program to work with them.

Michelle Leotta:
Okay. So, that's first and that's probably what a lot of you guys are doing when you're just starting out. And by the way, I just want to remind you that you can access. Lisa's done for you templates that you can just download you, just type your name in where it says name, your address. It's the it's very easy plug and play. Those are all available healthcoachpower.com/legal. So that's the one-on-one client agreement. And then what is the other one that may be applicable for some coaches?

Lisa Fraley:
Okay. So, the next one is that some will say, okay, I want to have a one-on-one calls with my client, but I also want to have group calls. Like I want to have a group, but I also want them to have one-on-one calls with me. So we call this like a combo program, sort of a hybrid combo program, because it's not just one-on-one and it's not just group, which we're going to talk about in a second. That's the third one. I'll hold off on that. But right now you kind of have a combo. So the reason why you're going to use a different agreement, this is the client agreement for, I call it for small groups and masterminds. So it's designed for a smaller group, right? Because you're usually not having one-on-one calls. If you have like 40 people in your group, you have 10 or 12 or eight or 20 or 15, or whatever you, whatever suits your schedule, or if you have a mastermind or something like that, this is where you want to make sure that you have the language that's protecting your time.

Lisa Fraley:
If your one-on-one right? So like if they cancel a call or they show up late, do they get to re-determine a time? Do they get to reschedule? Do they forfeit the time? How does that work with the one-on-one part? But then there's a group part where if you're having group calls and people are sharing information in the group, you know, the client agreement for the small groups of mastermind, we'll have a confidentiality section, which says that you're going to keep confidential anything they tell you privately in those one-on-one calls. But for example, if they share it in the group, you can't be responsible for that because they're sharing it publicly in the group. So, you need legal language that differentiates things that are pertinent to the one-on-one part and pertinent to the group part. That's just one example, the confidentiality. So, that's why we have sort of this combo hybrid document.

Lisa Fraley:
If you're doing the small group mastermind, but again, group calls and also one-on-one, that's the document you'd use. Okay. Then the third one, Michelle, is basically everything else that doesn't have a one-on-one component. Okay. We've covered just straight up one-on-one with the client agreement one-on-one and group combo with the client agreement for small groups and masterminds. Now you just want to have a group program or an online course with maybe you're farther along and you want to do videos or audios, and you want to have Q and a calls on Thursdays from four to five. And to answer questions about the content in your course, or maybe you have a DIY cleanse, they do on their own that they can download and do in their own time, but maybe come for a group Q&A call once a week or whatever, whatever it is, anything that doesn't have any access to you personally, maybe a Facebook group or a Q&A call, but then you use a document called terms of use terms of use.

Lisa Fraley:
That's what I call this document. These are legal terms where when you have people click and buy now for your group program, and they're going down your sales page, they click buy now. And it takes them to the shopping cart where they enter their name, they enter their credit card information. And there's a section that says, check the box to agree to these terms. These are where those terms go. This is a longer document because unfortunately, um, sadly sort of statistically people who tend to swipe people's content come from group programs more than one-on-one, which kind of makes sense, right? Cause they have a closer relationship that does happen. So there is a lot of intellectual property language in that document. There's a lot about online commerce. There's lots of disclaimers because you have technology disclaimers. It's a much longer document say the checking of the box and having the terms there for them is a way for them to agree to those terms, but they don't have to read through like pages of stuff.

Lisa Fraley:
And by the way, y'all we live in this world of like short tweets and short Instagram. Like we try to be short and sweet in the world today. But with legal documents, believe it or not, this is one area where you actually do need some heft in your documents. You can't just use a one-page document. It's not going to give you the protection that you need. So we do want to have some substance to the documents so that you have the language to fall back on. If you need to, that's what it's there for. It's to provide clarity to the client, but really it's also there to protect you. If someone swipes your work, if someone doesn't pay you, if someone, you know, says that someone in the group is being disruptive, you have the terms of use to back you up.

Michelle Leotta:
That's perfect. And I just want to say, like I know with my online course, it's exactly the way that you described where you sign up. There's a little checkbox it's I agree to the terms of use, not everybody's running courses on such a fancy platform, even if you were sort of just like accepting a check from people, a paper check or someone's pay palling you the money. There are other ways to have folks agree to these terms of use. I imagine like you put a link and say, by signing up, you agree to this,

Lisa Fraley:
You can do it in a PayPal invoice. If you use PayPal. It is helpful though, to have, um, the terms either in a, a word doc or a, uh, um, Mac document, pages doc, or on a hidden website on your webpage. Like there are ways to do, if you have a beginner website, you can have a page where it's kind of hidden, but you can refer people to that link. There are ways to do it. Doesn't have to be super fancy, but you do want to be able to make them available. The attachment isn't ideal, but linking it is so, um, there are other ways to do it, but you definitely want to have people to breach your terms. Because again, if someone copies stuff from your group program or someone doesn't pay you and you don't have any terms, it's really hard to prove or to go after them to get them to pay you or to protect your stuff. It's just hard. It's not impossible, but it's just hard. It's so much easier. If you can say, oh, by the way, I love you, my beautiful client. But by the way, when you join this course, you agreed right here that you were going to pay me or you agree right here, you weren't going to take my stuff. And I just happened to see on your website, you've got some of this stuff from my course. You can't do that in. Here's what you agreed to. If you don't have that, you can't really make that argument.

Michelle Leotta:
That's funny. I was going to ask you, you know, what are some of the scenarios that you see when people don't have legal agreements or terms of use in place? But I think you just described one of them quite clearly, and that really does happen. People skip out on payments. People ask for refunds beyond any refund policy you might have, and you can always refer them back to that agreement that they checked.

Lisa Fraley:
And especially, you know, as health coaches, when you're creating these beautiful group programs or online courses or one-on-one or whatever it is, the areas that are most in contention when you're starting out is that people don't pay you, right? You, you, people are not paying you when they said that they will, people don't show up for calls. If you have one-on-one calls, they aren't showing up for their calls. And so how, what do you do there? They wasted your time and can they reschedule? And how does that work? Do they forfeit the call? They also could take your content that happens sometimes. Um, that's a big area. And then the other one that we all worry about so much as health coaches is around the disclaimers. And by the way, each of these documents, the one-on-one for the client agreement, the client agreement for small groups in mastermind for the combo program and the terms of use all have medical disclaimer, language saying, I'm not a doctor.

Lisa Fraley:
Don't stop working with your doctor. Don't stop your medication. I'm not giving you a nutritional therapy advice. I'm not a therapist. I'm not a lawyer. I'm not in all the things that you need because in each of these relationships, you don't want people to think you're giving medical advice or mental health advice. And we worry about that as a health coach. I remember when I started out as a health coach, I didn't want anyone to be reading a recipe on my website or working with me and thinking that I'm telling them to stop working with their doctor, working with their therapist or something, health coaches, as we know, compliment those professions. And we try to help people become healthier, but we're not doctors. And we don't want them to think that we're doctors and just like Michelle gave you that lovely disclaimer, at the beginning of this, where she said, I'm not a lawyer, I'm not, we need to have this language in our legal documents. So, each of those just rest assured each one has all that medical disclaimer language for you.

Michelle Leotta:
Oh my goodness. Okay. That's great. So again, whatever kind of program you guys are running, I want to encourage you to go over to Lisa's site, check out the template that is appropriate for the type of program or package that you were offering your clients and the link to do that is healthcoachpower.com/legal because Lisa is our go-to legal source. You will see me tag her in our Facebook group. Every time a legal question comes up. We are so lucky to have someone who not only knows the law, but understands what we do as health coaches. You know how rare that is. Thank you, Lisa.

Lisa Fraley:
I know I do feel like a unicorn. Sometimes there are just not very many of us out there, but I really appreciate you, Michelle. I appreciate all the work that you do and the leadership that you have, and thank you to all the health coaches out there who are trying to help people. As you know, it's like, it does take some work and energy to get your business going, but when you're going and building and growing, please, please, please use legal documents, protect yourself, protect your income, protect your content, and just help yourself feel more safe and secure and supported and held by these legal documents. They're there to help you. They're not there to cause your life to be stressful in any way. So, um, thank you for all the work that you do and thank you, Michelle so much. I'm so happy to be here and to help answer questions anytime.

Michelle Leotta:
Oh, we love having you. Thank you for joining us today. Everybody, whether you're listening or you're watching, I will be back with a regular Q&A episode soon, but keep on the lookout because we have more of these get started episodes with experts coming up. And if this has been helpful, please leave a rating and a written review on Apple podcasts. I read all of them. Sometimes I even read them live on the air and I appreciate you and I'll see you all soon. Take care, everyone.