3 Big Legal Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Health Coaching Business

Starting your health coaching business is such an exciting time!  You have the opportunity to help people achieve their health goals and heal while building a successful business doing something that you love. How cool is that?!  

And I know it probably took something to get here (did you know I’m actually a Certified Holistic Health Coach too?!).  Whether you are a self-taught, certified, a registered dietitian or functional doctor, going into health coaching IS different from other coaching practices. 

This is why Destination Legal is one of the only legal contract shops to have templates specifically made for you.

Why is health coaching different?  The biggest reason is that you are potentially dealing with topics and issues that could cause your clients physical harm.  While business, life and other coaches could potentially cause financial or mental harm, physical harm is a different ballgame. 

Health coaches come from a lot of backgrounds: some are coming from their own experience, others are registered dieticians or physical therapists wanting to work online, or perhaps you’re a naturopath, yoga instructor or functional doctor. A lot of professions these days are working under the title of “health and wellness coach” and doing a lot of different things.   

While it’s unlikely your client will end up in the hospital with anaphylactic shock from a supplement you suggested or with a broken ankle from that exercise video you sent…there is more risk for liability on your end.  

When starting a health coaching business there are legal considerations you need to consider and failing to address them can have serious consequences.

Here are three big legal mistakes to avoid when starting your health coaching business:

Mistake #1: Misrepresenting Your Services

One mistake that health coaches can make is misrepresenting their services. It is important to be clear and honest about the services you provide and the results that your clients can expect. While your clients may very well lose 15 lbs in 60 days, you definitely cannot GUARANTEE that.  

You may have 100 testimonials from clients that have increased energy and improved sleep but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed for client 101. 

In fact, you can’t guarantee ANYTHING. Making false or misleading claims can lead to legal action and trust me, that’s no fun.  Make sure that you are not making claims that are not supported by research or that could be construed as medical advice. 

Be clear about the limitations of your services and make sure that your clients understand what they can expect from your coaching.

Mistake #2: Not Using the Right Contracts

As a health coach, you need to be aware of how to protect your business. This includes having the right legal foundation, including a business entity, contracts with clients, and protecting your intellectual property. Check out this blog post on the foundations of a coaching business HERE.

If you’ve spent any amount of time following Destination Legal, you should know by now that contracts are meant to protect both you and your clients.  How?  Well they outline the services provided, the fees charged, and the expectations of both parties. 

But also know this:  health coaching contracts ARE different from other types of coaching contracts.  Why?  See mistake #1.  When dealing with health, wellness, weight, nutrition, exercise and other related topics you are opening yourself up to more liability. 

In your contract you need to have MORE disclaimers than say a career coach might need.  

You need to make it clear you are NOT giving medical advice or diagnosing.  You are NOT guaranteeing any results.  Your client is working with you at their OWN RISK.  If you recommend supplements, meal plans, or other third party products or services you need to make it clear that YOUR BUSINESS is not responsible for what happens once your client uses them. 

And for the love of all things holy, please do not use the crappy coaching template that you got from your coaching academy (sorry, looking at you ICF and IIN). I’ve seen them and they are not adequate to fully protect you. 

You need a health coaching contract drafted by an attorney that understands your industry. (HI, head over HERE please).

Mistake #3:  Practicing Outside the Scope of Your License

Disclaimer: None of this is legal advice and is only my opinion on the subject.  We all know that coaching is currently an unregulated industry. However, as more and more licensed professionals move into health coaching so they can work worldwide…one of the biggest mistakes they can make is practicing outside the scope of their license. 

Now this one gets a bit tricky and is meant for those of you that do in fact have some sort of license (RDs, PTs etc). When you are working or marketing yourself as a health coach, you are just that, a health coach (who happens to be an RD or a PT, but are not acting as such today).  The bottom line is this: if your license has specific guidelines on what you can and can’t do under that umbrella, you should stick to doing those things only when acting in that capacity.  

For example, for registered dieticians some states may have more restrictive laws or regulations regarding the scope of practice for RDs, so it is important for RDs to be aware of these regulations and comply with them.  If you are working in a state that has restrictions on RDs and working in your capacity as a Health Coach and NOT working in your capacity as an RD, you may not be able to provide medical nutrition therapy or get blood tests (or if you choose to do so, could run the risk of getting in trouble with that state). 

This is definitely a gray area and you need to decide what your level of risk is and what you choose to offer or not in terms of services but if you are not trained or certified to provide certain services, just don’t offer them. 

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Starting a health coaching business can be a fulfilling and lucrative career - I’m excited for you! But as always, you need to Protect Your Passion® and be aware of the legal considerations involved.  Take the right steps to protect yourself and your clients.  By avoiding these three big legal mistakes, you can set yourself up for success and help your clients achieve their health goals.

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