So you finished your teacher training and you’re ready to dive into teaching yoga full time. This is your dharma. You’re doing what you love and loving what you do. You’ve perfected your craft. You’re certified and licensed. You might even open a studio. You’re living the yoga teacher dream. Your classes are full. You’re booking retreats. Best of all, you’re paying your bills! But are you covering your asana?
As yoginis, we rarely think about all the awful things that could happen to us. We’re programmed to positivity. But as business owners it’s our responsibility to make sure all those little things that could go wrong don’t and to cover our asana. What happens if someone gets hurt in one of my classes? What if a coaching client doesn’t show up or worse, doesn’t pay? What if someone reads something on my website, thinks I am a doctor and can cure their sciatica? These are just a few liabilities that can creep up when you’re in the business of yoga – and there are so many more. There are a number of things you can do to make sure you’re protected and to insulate yourself from liability. The first two steps are to choose and registering your business structure and obtained liability insurance. Once these things are out of the way, it’s time to talk about contracts and ensure you’re using the correct forms, properly drafted for your use. It’s important to understand what they are, and why you need them. Before we dig in, lets start with a little Contract 101. A contract:
- Is an agreement between people or legal entities to do or not to do particular things.
- Is an opportunity to write down what everyone agreed to, so that you can minimize misunderstandings.
- Can sometimes be overruled by government laws and regulations (such as employment law, human rights law, consumer protection laws etc). Can be a good tool to manage your business risk.
Contracts can be developed by an attorney, legal consultant or you can utilize online templates. In contracting, words and punctuation are of the utmost importance and online templates may not always address your needs. As a heart-centered business owner, you should take a conscious approach to contracting. Make sure you take time to understand contracts before you sign, and do not sign if you do not understand. Now on to the juicy bits… my top 10 legal agreement list for Yoga Businesses.
1. Release and Waiver of Liability Form You know that form you sign when you go to a studio for the first time? It’s important. It’s called a release and waiver of liability form. In a properly drafted release form the student acknowledges that they accept any and all risks involved with yoga and that he or she will not hold you or your studio liable for any injury that may occur. For Studios – every student that enters your yoga room should be signing this. If you don’t own a studio and you teach in another setting, every person you teach should sign this form. If you’re teaching at a studio, ensure the studio’s release form specifically includes a release of liability for the teacher- many only cover the studio and not the teacher. This means if a student trips on your yoga mat as they’re leaving your class, they can’t sue the studio, but they can sue you! YIKES!
2. Employment/Independent Contractor Agreement. If working at a studio, make sure you have an agreement in place. You could be hired as an employee or an independent contractor, though most studios hire teachers as independent contractors and not part or full time employees. If you’re hired as an employee- make sure you receive an offer letter as well as an employee hand book. If you’re hired as an Independent Contractor, make sure this is also memorialized in writing. The agreement should outline your pay scale, your services/duties, tax implications, confidentiality, liabilities/indemnities and the term.
3. Confidentiality Agreement/Non-Disclosure Agreement A Confidentiality/Non Disclosure Agreement is quite simply a contract to keep a secret; they protect sensitive information If you work with other people (yoga teachers, virtual assistance, web designers etc.) that may potentially have access to your student/client information, even if it’s just their email address, you need a NDA.
4. Content Consent Release Agreement Consent Release Agreements give you permission to use a person’s image or likeness on your website or promotional materials. If you want take pictures in class for future promotional use or to simply use on your website and/or social media, you need to obtain permission to use that person’s image.
5. Client Agreement Many yoga teachers offer additional coaching or private instruction outside of studio classes. If you do, client contracts are essential!! These agreements help protect both you and your client if something goes wrong. The Client Agreement outlines the working relationship, commitments, payments and timing.
6. Workshop/Retreat Agreement This agreement may look similar to the independent contractor/employee agreement or even a collaboration agreement. It articulates the where, when, why, and how much of your workshop or event. This agreement should cover the payment structure of the event and any promotional requirements.
7. Collaboration Agreement A collaboration agreement outlines the working relationship of the parties on a specific project. Yoginis are social people, we love working with others. If you have an idea or something you want to bring to life and you want someone else to do it with you, you need a collaboration (sometimes called a teaming) agreement.
The last three are agreements should include on your website:
8. Terms & Conditions for your Website If you have a website (and you better!) it must must have Terms & Conditions. T &Cs act as a contract between your home on the interweb and all its visitors. T&Cs on your website protect you from liability that any of your visitors might take. If you sell any items on your website it is essential you have T&Cs in addition to the disclaimer (below) and the T&Cs must comply with applicable consumer protection legislation.
10. Website Disclaimer The legal risks you face depend on the content of your website. Many yoga teachers provide information, advice, and/or instructional videos on their websites which exposes them to potential legal claims. To help protect you from potential claims you must have a disclaimer on your website. Your disclaimer must be tailored to include exact language to fit the specifics of your website both in terms of the substance of the material and how it is intended to be used. General language won’t cut it! If you swipe generic disclaimer language from another website, it’s probably useless!
With proper drafting some of these issues can be combined into others, but don’t just start cutting and pasting legal terms together. Consciously approach your contracting needs, be mindful of the relationship and your end goal. If you need assistance with conscious contracting or template design and review – I am happy to help!