Making sure your business is legal is foundational and brings you so much peace of mind. Knowing everything is good allows you to focus on the more fun parts of building your coaching business. But how do you insure legality? What do you need? Where do you even begin?
To answer these questions, I’m very excited to bring you the second episode of my new Foundations for Your Coaching Business series. For it, I interviewed Christy Westerfeld, an attorney and legal resource for online entrepreneurs and coaches. Christy offers templates and resources to guide you in several areas of legal compliance, including privacy policies, contracts, trademarks, copyrights, and more. She shared how not all online templates are compliant, and proceeded to online the common mistakes coaches make. Christy included the legal dangers of missing documents and policies, but also emphasized the benefits and trust it brings to client relationships when you are properly covered.
“Your goal is to build a huge business that changes millions of lives… [So] set up your foundation right so that you can be a force. Right? You don’t want to get knocked down halfway through because none of your stuff was right.” – Christy Westerfeld
I encourage you to not miss a single episode of my Foundations for Your Coaching Business series: mollyclaire.com/the-masterful-coach.
Christy is an attorney and legal resource for online entrepreneurs and coaches. She is the founder of Coach Legally, LLC, has been an attorney for 10 years, and has dedicated nearly 6 of those years to JUST working with online business owners, and developing educational resources for entrepreneurs, etc.
Christy graduated at the top of her class from law school, and was a top associate at the firm she was with before leaving to go out on her own.
She truly cares about her customers and fellow female entrepreneurs. If you’ve seen her trainings or lives, you know Christy can get FIRED UP about some of the most common legal myths, or INCORRECT legal advice non-lawyers (or lawyers who do not know this field) give others in this space.
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Molly Claire: Hey coach, I am continuing the conversation we started last week about building a strong foundation in your business. And I know a strong foundation is not the sexiest topic. It’s a lot more fun to talk about making money and changing lives and converting clients and all of that good stuff. And a strong foundation matters. It makes it easier and more fun to do all of those things, easier and more fun to make money, easier and more fun to grow, scale, expand your business. And so this is important.
Now, last week’s episode kicked off this series in the podcast. So in the coming weeks, I’m going to be sharing with you my thoughts and teachings on some of these foundational pieces, and I’m bringing you amazing experts. Today is a great example of that. Christy Westerfeld is an attorney and she specializes in helping online coaches and consultants make sure your business is legal. Again, not the most fun step, however, when you have that peace of mind that your business is legal, everything else is so much more fun.
I love this interview because Christy, it just makes everything so easy and she really talks about those things you wanna make sure that you are taking care of right away. And she’s not one to tell you you need to do all the things, and you need to do it right now. But she does give really crucial information for you to pay attention to.
So, Christy and I actually connected a few months ago because she created a legal bonus training for my clients in my program. So as I’m working with my coaches in the 10K Accelerator curriculum and laying the foundational pieces of their business, she has this amazing training there for them, and she has templates available. So whether you’re in my program, or you’re not and you’re just listening to this, you can definitely check in the show notes here and figure out where to find her. She’ll be announcing it as well.
Make sure your business is legal. It is a foundational piece. It is fundamental, and it will make a difference. Alright, coach, let’s dive right in. Here is this amazing interview with Christy.
All right, coaches, I am excited to introduce you to Christy Westerfeld. Hey Christy, how are you?
Christy Westerfeld: Hi, I’m good. How are you?
Molly Claire: Good. Good. I’m so excited to bring you to my listeners. I actually can’t remember how I found you exactly, but I remember that I sent you like social media dms and I remember thinking, “I wonder if she’s actually going to see these?” Because, you know, you get so many from different people, but fortunately she did see it and we connected.
So I’m excited for you to share your knowledge with these coaches about the legal aspect, and I just appreciate you being here.
Christy Westerfeld: Thank you so much. I’m so glad you reached out and we connected and I’m really excited for our chat.
Molly Claire: Me too. Well, let’s just ask you first. Tell my audience what you do exactly and why you love it.
Christy Westerfeld: Yes. So, my name’s Christy Westerfeld, as you said. I am a California licensed attorney and a legal resource for online entrepreneurs and coaches. So basically, I’ve been a lawyer for over 10 years now, getting old, and really what I focus on is legal information and education for online coaches. It expands beyond coaches to consultants and digital business owners as well.
But really, I love working with coaches and consultants, because there’s so much- in the world of the legal do’s and don’ts when we run digital business, and an online business, an international business. And that’s just something that is really interesting to me. And I serve people through legal template bundles for every different niche of coach. And then I work with people to file their trademarks or their copyright registrations and other things like that.
So I really try to provide a wide breadth of services, whether it’s a DIY template or a more higher priced, customized work, but there’s really a wide variety of ways that you can get legally protected when you are starting a coaching business. And the reason I love it is I like to actually be helping people. When I started out as a corporate lawyer, my job was fine, but I was working for large companies and it was different. It was just a cog in a wheel, so to speak, and doing the things. And I liked it and I had success at it, but I thought, “Was this really it?” Like, “Have I done it?” Like, I’ve checked all the boxes, but I’m not feeling the way I thought I would feel. I’m sure many, many of you who are listening, and probably you too, Molly, can relate to that.
And so on the side of being a corporate lawyer, I actually became a certified health coach. And was working with people in that capacity. I was really into health and fitness and running and meal prep and stuff, being able to eat healthy while being a busy attorney. And so I was helping other people do that as well. And I found as I was getting more and more into the online coaching space, so many people were interested in the fact that I was a lawyer. They were like, “Wait, like, do you know how to do these legal documents? I’m told I need a disclaimer. Can you help me?”
And I was like, “Oh, yeah.” I had just done all of my own documents as a health coach. And so it sort of happened by accident. The universe just gave me, you know, “This is your path.” And so I just started working with other coaches. Initially I was just doing it on the side to help them out. Like, “Oh yeah, this is what I did. Let me draft yours, lemme draft yours.” And I thought, “Wait a minute. What if I could create a template, a bundle, a bundle of templates”, right? Because it’s largely similar.
Now it’s different depending on what type of coaching you do. But when someone is in the same field, the documents can be somewhat similar. And so I thought, what if I could do this? I could help even more people than I could do on my own every. And so that’s really where it came from. And I love it.
Why I love it, I think, is cuz you get to meet so many incredible people who have these powerful missions and desires to change the world and help people and to even be a small part of that is so cool. To be able to help somebody feel less stressed or feel like they have peace of mind of launching their business. I’ve worked with people who were not launching a business because they were so nervous about the legal.
Molly Claire: Right.
Christy Westerfeld: After they get that squared away, then they’re like, “Oh my God, I just did this huge launch and I, I felt so good about it”. And to just have a small role in that I think is so cool and is so meaningful. A lot of other women are working from home, or they’re moms, or they’re trying to build this thing, sort of against what maybe society has told us that we can do or should do. And so, it’s just fun. It’s fun to be able to foster women, other moms, other business owners go in the direction that they wanna.
Molly Claire: Yeah, I love that and I think it’s true that a lot of people do get stuck and this becomes the roadblock from them not moving forward. And my hope is for all of you listening that wherever you all are in this realm, whether you’re wondering if you’re covered enough or you haven’t done anything, that this is going to give you some new ideas, some clarity, and if nothing else, encourage you to find out more. Because I know for me, and I know this is true for a lot of people as well, is it’s one of those things that’s on that list that we know we have to deal with at some point, but we don’t really want to. And so sometimes we just need that reminder and that push.
Christy Westerfeld: And sometimes it’s one of those things that you don’t know what you don’t know. Right.
Molly Claire: Oh, absolutely.
Christy Westerfeld: And people are like, “What? I didn’t even know I needed this. Oh my gosh.”
So I think just being open to listening and learning, I think is the best place to be with legal.
Molly Claire: Yeah. And I think that, I know I’ve found in working with coaches that, sometimes, it’s like sometimes you have these two ends of the spectrum people, where they’re so worried about the legal aspect, that they put it off longer than they should and they have a lot of fear, and then other people who ignore it. And do you know too much? Which is, I will just admit, like that’s where I erred on that side. Right? I’ll just move it forward.
And so as you’re listening, wherever you fall on that, It’s okay wherever you are, right? And this will give you some specific steps forward because I don’t think it has to be overwhelming. I don’t think it has to be something that stops you, and it also doesn’t have to be something you avoid.
Christy Westerfeld: Totally agree. No, and I think that’s really always my goal as I teach, and train, and educate, I think. My goal is always to make it like uncomplicated. Because people sometimes make it out to be this whole thing, and it’s like, “I don’t even know what I need, or why, or how, or what do I do?”
So I think just for any of us, for anything that feels overwhelming or new or confusing having a clear list of action items, like Yes. three things. And then you will be- that’s the best way to be initially legally protected. Do this for your website, do this for your contract, off you go.
It makes it feel more doable. That’s something that you can- it’s tangible. You can check it off your list and you know, like, this is what I need to do.
Molly Claire: That’s right. It’s not really a mystery. That’s the great thing. It seems like a mystery when you’re not a lawyer, right? But it’s really not a mystery. So that’s, yeah.
Christy Westerfeld: It’s figure-outable, as Marie Forlio said.
Molly Claire: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. And that’s why when I connected with Christy. So, I reached out to her because I had found your templates and I love them. And then saw everything you offered. And Christy has been so gracious to create a training in my program, so I have it available to my advanced certification students, and my coaches in the 10 K Accelerator. So they can know those basics and then they can either get your templates or do something different.
But I do think the templates are an easy way to take that step forward and just cross it off the list. Yeah.
Christy Westerfeld: Yeah, I mean, that’s why I created them. I think it’s hard to know if a legal document is going to protect you. I think a lot of times people think, “Oh, I found something online. Can I use this?”
Or, the one that bothers me the most is like, they have a template through a platform they use. So there’s a website platform or a online course platform. I’ve seen almost all of those templates. I haven’t found a single one that is all inclusive. That has what you need in it. And I’ve actually spoken with those platforms and they say, “Oh, well we don’t know. This is just meant to be a placeholder.”
And I’m like, “People don’t know that!”
Like there’s, “Oh, I have this template from such and such platform. Like, I’m good.” And you know, I’m like, “Okay, but you’re not.” Like, you know, it’s fine. Do whatever you want. I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna step on your toes, but just so you know, this is not legally compliant.
I’ve spoken with this platform, they don’t have intentions of making it compliant. It’s just meant to be a placeholder, which like, tell people that. But yes, I think it’s hard to know what’s a good legal document and what’s not, right? And so I think that’s why the templates can work because they’re meant specifically for online coaching.
So you know, “Okay, I’m an online coach. It has everything in here that I need.” Which is hard, even when you do find a template or you hire an attorney to do one for you, if they’re not well versed in online coaching, they’re not going to know the specifics that you need. So it, it can be, you know, more confusing than it needs to be sometimes when you’re trying to figure out like, “What is it that I need in a contract?” And they’re not all the same. It actually matters what’s in them, and it matters that it’s relevant to your business and all that.
Molly Claire: Right, and that’s one of the things I really like about the idea that of course you work just with coaches and consultants and online because they’re so specific. And then even the specific templates, like the template bundle you put together for the 10K Accelerator coaches, because it’s literally like, these are the things Molly’s having you do, and these are the templates that go with it.
Because I think, I don’t know how many of you listening can relate, but I know that I had bought some templates early on, and then you’re trying to figure out what you need to adjust, and it’s like a foreign language completely, and with legal stuff, it’s never a problem until it’s a problem.
Christy Westerfeld: Yes. I feel like it’s sort of like car insurance, right? Like you think, driving around with no insurance – I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it, but I’m sure people do – no one is checking every morning to be like, “Do you have car insurance?” But the minute you get into an accident or there is a reason that you get pulled over and someone asks for your registration and you’re like, “Ugh…”, then it’s a huge problem, right?
So I totally, totally agree with that, that it is oftentimes not a problem until you know that, “Oh, crap” moment where it’s a big time problem.
Molly Claire: Yeah. Yeah. I wanna ask you more about, some of the mistakes you see coaches make. But before I go there, I just- now, you have how many kids? Two kids. And it’s so nice that you’re able to have this flexible option. I know as we’ve set this up, we’re like working around four kids’ school, and when my kids get home and everything.
And I just, I wanna highlight that for all of you because, as you know, I’m a big believer in like, ‘create the business that supports your life’. And so that’s one thing I love also about, working with you is we’re very aligned. And like, the business is there to support quality of life and relationships, not to be in competition with it.
Christy Westerfeld: So, I mean, that’s really why- I was pregnant with my son when I started my business, cuz it was really that realization of like, “Wait, I don’t- what does my life look like after I had the baby?” And you know, if you’re in the US, maternity leave is essentially nonexistent. You get five minutes and then you’re expected to go back in. And my law firm at the time was very like, “Oh, well, so-and-so was in trial the week after she had her baby.”
And I was like, “What?” I’m so pro people doing whatever they want, right? Like, sure, yeah, go her. Like, good on you. I will give you all the high fives in the world if that is what you wanna do, a thousand percent you should do it. But for me, that didn’t feel aligned. I was like, I wanna be with my baby. And you know, I’m sure so many of us that have kids have sort of hit that crossroad of, “Can I do both? Can I have a successful, rewarding career and be a present mom?” Like, does that, is that a thing? And sometimes we sort of feel like no. But there is a way, as you and I are examples, right?
You can find a way to be a great mom, build a great business, and do both. And I think it’s- people are becoming so aware of that and accepting that. My kids have been like, last week my daughter was home sick and I had a zoom call and like she was on my lap. She’s three and it’s fine, you know? Nobody blinked.
I think it’s just part of life now that like, it’s okay to set that boundary and sort of to say yes. It can be both. Like, I can be a great mom and a successful business owner, or employee or, you know, whatever it is you want to do. There’s always a way. There’s always a way to make it work and people are way more accepting of it than you might think.
Molly Claire: And, and I, and I think it actually sets a good example for others that want to do it, but that don’t think they can.
Christy Westerfeld: That’s a great point. Yeah.
Molly Claire: So thank goodness that we are feeling more permission, giving more permission to have what we want and to have both. And I think one thing, I’ll make a plug for as well, is that I think where we get confused and where we kind of go a little sideways with this is thinking that having both means we have to do it all and be it all and be spread so thin.
Christy Westerfeld: Run yourself into the ground.
Molly Claire: Right. Like, you get to pick. Those of you that are balancing being a mom in your business, I always say like, what are the things that really matter to you as a mom? Focus on those. And all those other things that like, the neighbor thinks you should be doing, don’t do those things.
And then in your business, what are the things in your business that are most important in your mission as to what you’re doing? And then what are all those things that are just on your list because we never question them, you know?
Christy Westerfeld: For things you can delegate.
Molly Claire: Totally, totally.
Christy Westerfeld: You can delegate in your personal life, you can delegate in your business life. I love that you brought that up, Molly. Cuz I think it’s, there’s a lot of tasks. There are endless amount of tasks as a mom or a parent and as a business owner, right? And I think by learning how to pick and choose, “These are the things that I want to do, or must do” or whatever, and then, “These are the things I can delegate, no one can do, or whatever.” Can really be a game changer. And prevent you from being a stressed out, spread too thin parent and CEO.
I think it’s really being protective over your time and saying like, if you wanna work in your son or daughter’s classroom, great. Do it. Here’s the time block for that. Like, if you want to, do a podcast, here’s the time block for that. Do it. Like, it’s just a matter of coordinating it and then sticking to it.
Molly Claire: Yeah, just really, like, decisions. And I always think about how do these two things, how are they in cooperation with one another? How do they work together? Because when we think they’re at odds or in competition, it’s like, if they’re in competition, then my family’s gonna win out every single time. Right? And my family can win and my business doesn’t have to lose. They can both win.
Christy Westerfeld: I love that. Yeah, and I think it’s really too, the whole, you know, we don’t live to work. We’re humans. We wanna live. Period. Like, we’re living and we’re following our passions professionally, and we’re following passions personally and we’re getting to experience being a parent and being a business owner and having this huge mission to change the world.
And you get to just be all of these things. It doesn’t have to be, you know, “Yes, I work. I’m a parent.” You can just be more fluid, you know, and you can just be.
Molly Claire: Yes. I love it. And I love also that you mentioned how this is the way you’ve chosen to contribute to the coaching world. Cuz I have a lot of guests like that where they get into coaching, they love it, they wanna be a part of it, but then they have this like special little area where they can contribute in that way. And it is a great service what you do.
Like, I know, I’ve been so grateful to be able to share it with my clients because it’s just, it’s a huge box that they get to check. That’s a big relief.
Christy Westerfeld: Oh, thank you. I’m so glad. That’s truly my goal and mission. So it means a lot to hear you say that.
Molly Claire: It’s working. It’s working. Okay. So tell me a little bit about what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see coaches making in their business? I know you’ve mentioned some of them there.
Christy Westerfeld: Yeah. I think first I wanna note that we’re all doing our best, right? I know that everyone is doing their best. So when I say biggest mistakes, if you hear something that you’re like, “Oh, I’m doing that”, you don’t need to like pull over and immediately change your course, it’s okay. Like, this is all doing our best. No one is going to jail. It’s okay.
Molly Claire: Not today.
Christy Westerfeld: It is- right, currently, no one is like, unless you know, it’s okay if one of these things you’re like, “Ooh, I’m doing that”. I’m not calling you out. There’s no emergency. Mild emergency sometimes, you know, it’s okay.
You know, we all have experienced, probably by this point, like talking about a brand and then here comes an Instagram ad for that brand, or we’re talking and the Alexa hears us and now we’re getting at- there’s so many ways we can use data. And as consumers, we care a lot about like, who is using my information, right?
Molly Claire: Okay, do pull over.
So hopefully you’ve heard of the phrase GDPR. That’s the data privacy regulations that came down from the European Union in 2018. I know we’re not in the European Union, but because our businesses are digital, They are also international. We sell to the European Union. We have customers there, clients there. People can join our email list from there, so we must respect the privacy laws of people there. It sounds more complicated than it is. Cuz you’re thinking, “Oh my God. I have an international business. Like, now I have to comply…” But really, just comply with the strictest one and then you’re good.
I don’t care where you get it, just make sure it’s right. Because a lot of these templates that come from websites, that come from platforms that you’re using are not, they’re not gdpr.
Molly Claire: So let me ask about that. And by the way, I know she mentioned it in the show notes, there will be a link to the template, to Christy’s templates. And then those of you in my advanced training, or 10K Accelerator, everything is available there.
But what about ,when you were talking, what about someone who is hiring someone to build their website and they potentially, have you ever seen website builders offer up privacy policies or have you seen, they kind of stay away from it? Like, what would you say, if someone’s getting something like that included, what do they look for?
Molly Claire: Yeah. Yeah.
Christy Westerfeld: Not to be doomsday, but just to be real. Right? Like this is something to get right. There are so many ways in your business that you can bootstrap, you can, you know, cut costs. You can do things the cheap and easy way. This is one of those things that, I think, it’s not thousands of dollars, right?
But this is one of the things that I think it’s worth it to get right. Cause when you have that foundational layer, it’s legitimate. Your website is not illegal. Your contract is gonna protect you. Then as you scale, there’s not holes. You’re building solid-
I think of it kind of like a house foundation, like you’re building a solid foundation. And then as you scale, you’re good to go. It’s not a house of cards where you’re like, how far can I go without anything? And you’re just sort of like casually holding your breath.
Your goal is to build a huge business that changes millions of lives. And so the avenue to get there is make sure you can keep doing what you’re doing. Set up your foundation right, so that you can be a force. You don’t wanna get knocked down halfway through, cuz none of your stuff was right.
Molly Claire: Yeah, and I think that as we build a business, there are plenty of places for fears to pop up, and insecurities, and lack of confidence in ways we don’t even realize are there. And so if we can easily fill this one little hole, this one little gap, to have that confidence there, I do think it’s a big deal And also, I mean, we spend so much money in so many places in our business. I know it’s not the most fun place to spend money, on the legal document, but it is important. It’s kind of like, I always think like in the house, when the HVAC goes out, that’s not a fun place to spend my money. I’d rather spend my money, you know, like redecorating the kitchen or-
Christy Westerfeld: Yes.
Molly Claire: yeah. However, it’s actually a really important place to spend the money.
Christy Westerfeld: Right. Yeah. Pretty counters don’t matter if your house is a hundred degrees.
Molly Claire: I know, I know. In Dallas in the summer here.
Number one, if you’re using a contract that you don’t have permission to use, that can be copyright infringement, just like you take a picture online. We know, most of us know you can’t steal a photo from online. If the document was drafted by a lawyer and you don’t have permission from them to use it, which you do if you purchase my template. You have permission. But if someone shared it, now we have an issue. They don’t have permission to. That could be, you could land yourself in hot water there. And I don’t think you wanna be on the receiving end of a copyright- infringing a lawyer’s copyright.
Molly Claire: Yeah, no kidding.
Christy Westerfeld: That’s not where we wanna be, when it’s easy to not be there. Don’t willingly go into the dark.
So, the other thing is when you get a contract from someone or you write it yourself or something else that’s a little bit bootstrapped it might not protect you. That’s the whole point of the content. So I get sad when people try to write it themselves or they get one from somebody else and they defeat the entire purpose of doing it in the first place. Because the point of it is, it’s not just I need something for the client to sign. It’s, this is a well thought out, well-written, easy to understand document that creates transparency and clarity in the relationship. And it allows everybody on both sides to be responsible, to feel safe, and to move forward with the relationship feeling good.
If it’s a document that you’ve copy, pasted, people can tell. If it’s like different fonts or it’s talking about something that has nothing to do with what you do, it’s dated it, whatever. If it’s just not right, it’s not gonna protect you.
And the other thing that can happen is it might question, it might make your client question credibility. Think about it. I would do that, right? If I was gonna invest in a coach and the very first thing I got, first impression, is the contract, and it was not great. I would think, “Ooh, like, is my investment safe? Is this a good plan moving forward?”
Because this contract is probably not gonna hold up. So then I feel less safe. I feel less sure. And you compare that with, if you are about to make an investment and you get this great contract, the onboarding process is easy. That feels different. Like, “Oh, this is a great operation. I feel very safe with my investment. It’s gonna be a good thing.”
So yeah, having a good contract goes so far beyond just having something for your client to sign. It prevents the issue from, you know, “My client- when am I- I without paying me” cause that’s on the contract. It prevents all these things. It makes sure the client is very clear. Everybody’s on the same page. It actually protects you. It actually protects your client and it makes them feel great about moving forward with their coaching with you. It just really sets you off on a great foot as you go into the program and for a couple hundred bucks, like I feel like that’s a good, it’s an easy win.
Molly Claire: Yes, and you know, thing I’ll speak to, the advanced training that I do, it’s all about coaching skills, and having greater results for your clients. But the first thing that we do in there is we talk about the importance of establishing trust in the relationship with your client. Because it doesn’t matter what skills I give these coaches, or how much I help them, really make them amazing. If there’s not that space of trust and safety and that relationship, it’s never gonna be as effective.
And so actually, one of the first things they do is think through what their policies are and how will they communicate that to the client. And so, one question I have for you about this is, I know that a lot of my listeners relate to the way I feel about this. I read a legal document and it doesn’t make any sense to me most of the time. And so, you know, is there merit and value in, here’s the legal document, from your template or whatever, reliable source, and then also having a simple breakdown in clear terms for the client so they can easily see that. Cuz I think that can be helpful to have. It’s kind of this, ‘what this means for dummies’ or whatever, like that book series.
Christy Westerfeld: Totally, and I hear this a lot too, where people have sort of a hesitancy to have a contract. Because they’re like, “I don’t wanna scare my client”
Molly Claire: Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot.
Christy Westerfeld: your relationship to change. I don’t want this. And I love that question or comment because to me, it’s such an invitation to shift your mindset about it. I would encourage you to think about it as a favor to your client. What you’re doing by giving them this document is saying like, it’s a promise. I promise I’m going to be responsible for everything in this document, for the deliverables, how I’m gonna work, how I’m gonna operate. It’s a great favor to them, in my opinion. I promise to be responsible for all of these things, and any policy or that responsibility that you expect of them you’re laying it all out. There’s no mystery, there’s no confusion, there’s no chances of surprise later on when the client’s like, “What? I didn’t know this was a monthly payment”, or whatever.
You’re laying it all out. It’s very clear. There’s no surprises. There’s total transparency and clarity about this is what this. And you’re obligating yourself just as much as you’re wanting the client to. So I really encourage you to think about it as a favor to them. You’re volunteering to be obligated to everything in there.
As far as the legal language, I always try to make mine written in as plain English as possible. There’s no like, heretofore, and like those things. You can think of other words and they still are legally binding. The lawyer words don’t make them- they don’t do anything except they’re the lawyer words. You can use other words though, and it’s still legally binding. So I try to keep it pretty plain language, but as far as, could you have like a translation? Absolutely. Absolutely.
I’ve seen it where people, like there’s the paragraph and then right after it’ll say like, what this means, just make sure that the, ‘what this means’ part like is accurate. Cause I’ve seen it where they explain it and I’m like, “Well no, that’s not really.”
Molly Claire: Exactly.
Christy Westerfeld: Something like indemnification, you know, where someone’s like, “What does that even mean?” You’re not gonna be legally responsible. But so, just as long as the clarification paragraph is accurate. I’ve helped people with those as well. So if anyone’s listening and they want that, I will always help you with that. But I think it’s totally fine to do that, whether it’s just a conversation where you go through the contract, or whether it’s actually something in writing, whether you have the contract and then like a separate one page. However it feels good to you and your business. Totally up to you.
That could be part of your onboarding process and could be a total slam dunk. It could be great, just it, whatever feels good to you. As long as you have a well-written contract somewhere in that process. You can add whatever you want, as long as you’re not signing multiple things. You sign one document, you can explain it however you want, add whatever you want as far as additional stuff. It doesn’t matter.
Molly Claire: Yes. Yeah. Well, I wanna highlight again, what you just said about seeing it as really doing your clients a favor. Because I know a lot of my coaches, I know this from working up close and personal through this piece of doing their contract is, that they are worried that it feels kind of like, “Oh, this will be too much or too much pressure.”
And I do think, not only is it doing them a favor by saying, “Hey, I’m bound by this too. I’m responsible.” But I also think, as a coach, you are really setting a good example for your clients even of being able to set boundaries and make decisions and be clear about things, which can be kind of hard for us to do, I think, as women. And so I think even thinking about it that way, what if you are showing your clients how to be clear about what you want or what needs to happen? I think that can go a long way.
Christy Westerfeld: It’s a great point, especially if you work with other coaches. Like you said, it’s setting an example of, “This is how I run my business, as a leader and as a coach, and it’s not mean, it’s not negative.” There shouldn’t be anything in the contract that is bad. You know, it’s just clear, it’s not super long. I don’t think a contract needs to be 12 pages long. It can be full. It can be short, it can be easy to understand. There’s no requirement that it needs to be giant and scary, but it just needs to be clear. It needs to include the right things. It needs to include relevant information.
And then there’s ways you can be even savvier about. What I like to do in them is predicting ways in which the relationship can go south and building that into the contract. So, your client goes, “Am I on a payment plan?” Or emails you on the last week of your program and says, “I need a full refund. This program was crap” or whatever. Like, whatever the issue can be.
It’s already in the contract that they signed at the beginning that like, if X, Y, Z happens, here’s how we’re gonna handle it. So it does your future self and their future selves such a favor because if there’s drama down the road, It’s already figured out. There’s nothing where you have to go, “Oh my God, this person X, Y, z I don’t know what to do”, like, already written. It’s already done. All you do is look at the contract, paragraph six, here’s what we do done. You know? It’s doing yourself such a favor by having this done. And doing your clients a huge favor. There’s no guesses, there’s no confusion. There’s no wiggle room.
Molly Claire: That’s right.
Christy Westerfeld: This is what it is. Yeah.
Molly Claire: Yeah, and I think it does cut out so many worries and so much indecision for my clients, for coaches when they’re clear on those policies. Because otherwise they find themselves- like that’s what they want help with. “Well, this client did this. What do I do?” Make that decision ahead of time, have it be clear, and it just, then you can just spend your time coaching and helping. You don’t have to spend your time worried about debating what the policy is or whatever.
Christy Westerfeld: Totally. I think you made a really good point though, that it is sort of a flex in the leadership, in the boundaries. In the, like, I’m not, ‘I’m in charge’ in like a bad way, but like they are coming into your container and you are the leader. And it doesn’t mean it has to be controlling or anything negative. Like, you are creating the container. And yes, sometimes that feels uncomfortable. For me, when I first started my business, I was very employee-mentality. Very people please-y. Very important. And it was so hard for me to be, “I’m in charge”, you know? I was like, “Where’s the boss?”
And it’s, it’s weird at first, and so if that’s, you know, anybody listening, if that feels like you, like, it’s okay. We’ve all been there. A lot of us have, some people are like born entrepreneurs, and I so respect that, but that wasn’t me. I was very like, “tell me what to do and I’ll do it, and then give me my bonus and that’s it.”
So it is a flex in that like, I’m in charge. And if someone questions your policy or your whatever, it sometimes feels like what you wanna do is like, “Okay, what do you wanna do? Or what do you think I should do?” And so it is a good exercise in saying, you know, not in a mean way, again, it doesn’t have to be this like big confrontation. But just like, this is the rule.
Just like if we were coming into a coaching program, we would expect there to be policies. Right? Or we buy- Amazon has policies, right? Every store also has policies like, we know there are rules that come with shopping at a store or buying something or being in a container, right? We expect them there to be rules, but people aren’t gonna be mad if there’s rules, right? They expect them.
Christy Westerfeld: I think the final thing that I’ll sa,y as far as the biggest mistake is, and I don’t want this to rock anybody cuz I know it, it happens, but taking payment before they sign the contract, taking payment online, or on the phone if it’s a discovery call. Taking payment before the contract. It’s hugely important to have the contract signed first, and here’s why. I’m gonna give you about 20 seconds of legal, so everybody buckle up.
But the way it works, to have a successful binding contract is there’s three elements; the offer, the acceptance, and the consideration, which is just money or the thing of value. If you are on a discovery call and you are talking to them about the program, and then you take payment, you’ve skipped over offer and acceptance, and you’ve done the money. Which is supposed to be like sealing the deal. So if you start with the end, what happens is ,if you try to give a contract after the fact, you can’t, it’s already been sealed.
So what ends up happening is, whatever was said on the discovery call was the verbal offer. They accepted it by saying yes. And then they gave you payment. That’s it. You have totally written your own contract out of the equation. It’s a verbal deal, and whatever you said in the discovery call, whatever the offer was. And I don’t think you would’ve said, “These are the limitations of liability. These are the…” You have made it so that you don’t get to use your own contract.
What I recommend you do is the offer is the written contract. So you do your discovery call with them, they say they’re in. You send them the contract, that’s the actual offer, right? Because that includes everything. They have a right to review the full offer. Accept it by signing the contract. And then they pay the invoice. That’s the ideal onboarding process. That’s why I say it’s great to have this onboarding figured out for legal reasons. It really matters that you do contract, sign, contract, pay invoice.
There are people that say, “Oh my God, I have to take payment over the phone. Like, that’s what I do. That’s what my coach teaches me.” There’s people that have a big need to take payment over the phone, so people don’t back out, or whatever. Which, you know, whatever. But if that’s you, then maybe experiment with, you take a small deposit to save their seat or something like that. Then you still do offer acceptance invoice.
If you must take payment over the phone, work with doing some sort of a deposit. But try to do written contract as the actual offer. Try to avoid taking payment in full or their first payment or whatever over the phone, because then you end up negating your entire contract when you do that. And that’s pretty prevalent in the coaching industry where a lot of people are taught ‘get payment over the phone as quick as you can’. Plus, you really don’t want the added liability of having someone’s credit card information like on a piece of paper, right?
Molly Claire: Oh no.
Christy Westerfeld: Go with the invoicing that it’s a third party platform. There’s proper encryptions and securities in place. Like, you don’t even have their number, you’re not liable. Don’t incur all that extra liability by having someone’s credit card information and then you have the responsibility to run the card. It’s just a lot of unnecessary risk doing it that way.
So that’s my other big thing is, is have the written contract be the offer, give that to them first, cause that’s really the whole offer. That’s what you’re wanting them to agree to, right? Yes. They sign it, they give you the money. That’s the preferred onboarding process for onboarding a new coaching client.
Molly Claire: Yeah, that’s so helpful. And I think, you know, those of you listening, I think it’s always a good idea to really let your clients know the flow of how things go. I think it’s always a good idea to give your potential clients, like, educate them on what to expect, right? Just like, in a consultation letting them know, “Hey, this is how a consultation goes,” once you’re closing the sale, to let them know, this is how this is going to go. “You’re going to receive a contract. It’s so important that you look through that and sign it. It’s going to…” how, whatever we wanna say about it. And just right then communicating to them, this is a way to, not only explain my policies to you, but for you to feel protected as well. Because I’m legally bound to serve you in this way.
And so I think having that conversation then, not only does it eliminate the uncertainty they might have about what to expect, but it really allows you to communicate to them the value of having the contract right there, which is a good way to start off a coaching relationship.
Christy Westerfeld: Totally. I totally agree with that, that you’re just saying exactly like you said, it makes sure we’re on the same page. It allows us both to, you know, have transparency and clarity, so that when we move forward, there’s no questions. There’s no misalignment. We’re ready. And we can just focus on the coaching. Everyone’s clear.
So I think we totally get in front of any anticipation of a client being leery of a contract by just, letting them know that it is something that is beneficial to everybody.
Molly Claire: Yeah. Yeah. But I think anymore, it is so normal. Anyone, that’s- when I’m working with someone and they send me that legal contract, like you said, they’re legit. Right? I know this is the real deal.
Christy Westerfeld: And
Molly Claire: Mm-hmm.
Christy Westerfeld: And it’s expected too, to the point that if you did enter into a coaching arrangement and you were gonna put a good amount of money and there was no contract, I’d be like, “Well, hold on, wait. Like, where’s a contract?” You wanna make sure that it’s a legitimate enterprise as well. And I think it’s just confirming that.
Molly Claire: Yeah. Well, this is so good. Thank you so much, Christy, for your time. Yeah, so those of you listening, there’s the link for, in the show notes, you can find Christy’s templates. I’m like choking on my words here. The templates there, those of you that are in any of my programs, there’s trainings in there and the templates are in there.
But if someone just wants to go find you, where would they find you? Christy?
Christy Westerfeld: Yeah, so my website is coachlegally.com. You can pop over to Coach Legally. And learn how to coach legally. Yeah. There’s the templates and the bundles there. There’s lots of free resources, and information, blog posts. And then I’m also on Instagram just at Christy Westerfeld. I do a lot of free information and little tidbits, insights, things like that over there as well. Plus you can see my kids. So those are really the main places to find.
Molly Claire: Great. And you also have, because you have your templates, and you also have like a community, like a membership, a community membership where people can ask their legal questions in a really easy way too, which is pretty cool.
Christy Westerfeld: Yeah. So my, my Coach Legally membership is a monthly subscription-based membership. We have weekly Q and A calls where every week I’m on for an hour live. You can ask all your questions. You get discounts on the templates. You get monthly trainings on every topic in there. There’s a whole bank of classes and courses and trainings on anything you could think of from a legal perspective.
I also have guest experts trainings in there as well on things like bookkeeping and things like that. So, want somewhere to maintain legal clarity and you feel like you’re gonna have questions more than just once, I highly recommend checking out the membership and start joining the calls and getting some legal clarity.
Molly Claire: Yeah. Love it. Thank you so much. This has been great. So helpful.
Christy Westerfeld: Of course. Thank you for having me.
Molly Claire: Yeah, and we’re looking forward to having you in the community as well. So in the Masterful Coach Collective, they’re gonna be picking your brain and learning all about this.
Christy Westerfeld: I’m looking forward to it, of course, I can’t wait.
Molly Claire is a 7-figure business builder with a blended family of 10. She is dedicated to helping women overcome their own limits, make the money they want, and have the time, freedom, and flexibility to be with the people in their lives that matter most. Especially the little ones.
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