Are you wondering if you need a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to maintain client confidentiality in your coaching business? Whether you’re a business coach, financial coach, relationship coach, or mindset coach…we’re willing to bet you go deep with your clients. They vulnerably and openly come to you with heaps of sensitive information, seeking a permanent transformation.
With this vulnerability comes major responsibility to keep private matters private.
Creating a sense of client confidentiality doesn’t always involve an NDA, but you do want to make sure you somehow enforce your professional standards. In this guide, we explain exactly what we mean.
Let’s begin! 👇
What Is Confidentiality?
Before we discuss NDAs, let’s look at the basics.
The concept of confidentiality doesn’t only apply to your professional relationships. It comes into play throughout your personal connections, as well.
In everyday life, confidentiality is not reinforced by official written agreements. Instead, people agree to keep information private through the symbol of a handshake or based on assumptions of someone’s good character.
Do you mind if we nerd out for a moment? If you break down the origin of the word “confidentiality” you get “with faith” or “with trust.”
Yep, confidentiality is a matter of personal trust. 💛
When someone shares information with you, they are taking a leap of faith — whether big or small — and believing you won’t share their information anywhere else.
This means if it’s emailed to you, you don’t forward it to someone else. And if it’s spoken to you, you don’t play a game of telephone with your friends.
This idea gets a bit more interesting when we look at it from the lens of professional coaching.
Client Confidentiality In Coaching
As a coach, you might be wondering, “Do I have a legal obligation to maintain my client’s confidentiality?”
The simple answer? No.
Unlike lawyer-client and doctor-patient relationships, the relationship between a coach and client is not protected by legal confidentiality.
Because of this, if there comes a time when authorities require certain information from you about your client, you will need to share it. It’s not only an option, but a requirement.
With that said, there’s more to consider — especially since you want to run a coaching business that you can be proud of 10+ years from now. 💃
Building a Trustworthy Coaching Business
While you might not have a legal obligation to protect your client’s confidential information, you do have a contractual and moral obligation.
In the coach-client relationship, it’s understood that your client is telling you about their life or business in confidence — with trust. 😉
If you think about the long-term impact you want your coaching business to create, you probably want to offer a safe space for clients to share their struggles, wins, and fears, right? This means you’ll proactively prevent confidentiality breaches.
To make that happen, client confidentiality should be built into your coaching program or service.
Now, this might mean creating an NDA, but at the very least you should include confidentiality in your written contract.
So, let’s take a closer look at written contracts.
Protecting Confidential Information With a Written Contract
If no one told you…we’re big fans of written contracts!
When you begin a new client relationship with a written contract, you get to answer questions before they’re asked and address potential issues before they arise.
Your written contract also serves as the go-to place to remind your client (and yourself) which information is confidential and which information is okay to share. 🤐
Confidential information is anything that is not considered public information or isn’t published somewhere online. This includes proprietary information or details about your client’s world that are not available publicly.
Possible Types of Confidential Information
- Financial wins your client has achieved
- Key information about founders or team members
- Business systems or strategies your client is using
- Anything else that isn’t shared on your client’s website or social channels
How does this apply to your written contract? Well, you can organize all of these ideas into a neatly packaged section of your contract called a clause.
Including a Confidentiality Clause in Your Written Contract
The expectation of privacy shouldn’t just be implied. Instead, clearly communicate your expectations in your client contract. 📝
Your contract’s confidentiality clause should clearly state that particular information will stay between you and your coaching client. Plus, it should state that publishing this information via your website and social media channels (or anywhere else, really) is strictly prohibited.
Some contracts will state that this kind of information can be published, but only with the explicit written permission of your client. The cool thing is that these exceptions and nuances are totally up to you, as the business owner.
This clause should go both ways, too. If your client is privy to any confidential information about your coaching business, a confidentiality clause makes sure they won’t give away your strategies or secrets, either!
🗣️ Remember: Client confidentiality isn’t just about not posting sensitive information about your clients on social media. You want to make sure that you’re not sharing this information verbally with your network or business connections, either.
What Is a Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement?
An NDA (without the “mutual”) ensures that the party that is signing will not disclose any confidential information. This agreement does not expire over time, meaning the signer must maintain confidentiality during and after the working relationship.
This gets taken to the next level with a mutual non-disclosure agreement. Mutual NDAs are used in various settings to create a two-way street, so to speak. Whether it’s for a brand deal, a job offer, or a coaching program, both parties involved are agreeing to keep specific details of their work on the down low.
In this case, both sides are responsible for protecting each other’s privacy throughout time.
Do I Need a Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement?
In your effort to prioritize confidentiality, you might wonder, “Do I need an NDA for my next coaching client?”
The answer to this question will depend on your particular circumstances. For example, are you working with a client during the beta phase of your program? Do you want to be extra careful about sharing your creative process as you build out your new coaching offer in real-time?
Or perhaps the client you’re considering working with has a particular spotlight on them that might bring unwanted attention your way. It’s possible you might be hired by a celebrity, just sayin! 🤷♀️
These scenarios are unlikely, but hey, if you want an added layer of legal protection, then you might consider an NDA or a mutual NDA.
Remember: a mutual non-disclosure agreement ensures that both parties agree to keep confidential information under wraps. Oh and by the way, don’t miss out on our ready-to-use mutual NDA template.)
💡 While you absolutely could use one, a mutual NDA isn’t necessary for most coaches who use reliable coaching contracts.
As long as your contract has a clearly-outlined confidentiality clause within it (scroll back up for a reminder) there’s no need to get your clients to sign a separate NDA.
Pssst. All of our Coaches & Co. plug-and-play coaching contract templates have a lock-tight confidentiality clause! You’re welcome.
Running Your Coaching Business Without Breaching Confidentiality
Ready to look at some specific examples of how to make the most of your coaching contract and/or mutual non-disclosure agreement? Everyone loves a good client win, so let’s start there.
Sharing Your Client Wins (Or Not)
Let’s take Coach A — we’ll call her Sherry.
Sherry’s a fertility coach, and she just found out that one of her clients is pregnant!
Sherry’s jumping for joy and can’t wait to celebrate her client on social media. But unless she’s gotten explicit permission from her client, this could be a huge breach of client confidentiality.
Even if her client has posted the news on her own social media network, there’s no guarantee that she’s comfortable with Sherry’s audience hearing this news.
How about Coach B? Let’s call her Renée.
Renée is a business coach, and one of her clients just launched her very first online course.
She hit it out of the park, y’all! She made $10k on her first launch! Renée couldn’t feel prouder and wants to share the news on her website to showcase her client results.
What could go wrong? If anything it’s free advertising for her client…right?
As the coach, it’s not up to you to judge whether or not you’re allowed to share your clients’ results…even if your intentions are good!
Unless your client has already given you permission to share their results (and they’ve agreed to this through a written contract) you always need to ask.
You might think, “Well I’d have no problem if my coach shared this!”…but that’s not how client confidentiality works.
In the case of both Sherry and Renée, the optimal choice is to ask their clients before sharing.
Yes, it’s easy to quickly post a celebratory Instagram story in excitement, without thinking about the legal side of things.
We’re not stopping you from growing your business by sharing your clients’ transformations. Just be sure to read this guide on legally and ethically use testimonials in your marketing. first.
Next up — when clients want to remain nameless…
Protecting Your Client’s Anonymity
Some clients might agree that you can share their story or results, but they’d prefer to be kept anonymous.
In this case, be sure to not only remove any client or brand names from your testimonial, but also remove key details that might hint at the client’s identity. There’s nothing wrong with being extra careful just to make sure that identities remain truly anonymous.
This might take a bit of extra work, but it’s super important to make sure you’re respecting your client’s wishes.
The same thing goes when talking about your client in group or private settings.
Your clients pour their hearts out to you, and with that comes some serious responsibility. You should not be revealing your client roster to your network.
Say, for example, you’re a coach and you’re experiencing issues with your newest client. Maybe you’re having trouble getting them to pay an invoice or your professional relationship is suffering.
If you decide you need to vent about this situation at your weekly mastermind group session, it’s important not to reveal this sensitive personal and financial information about your client to the group. 🤫
Everyone needs support about certain client situations –- totally normal! But do *not* reveal their name or any key details that could give away their identity to your network.
We repeat: Prioritize client confidentiality by protecting the anonymity of your clients.
What We Covered: Coaching Client Confidentiality
You did it! 🎉 Now you know that an NDA is not absolutely necessary to run your coaching business. While this is true, we hope you’ll take a look at the other tools that can help you lead your coaching relationships in an ethical manner.
We don’t want to alarm you, but there can be serious consequences if you breach your client’s confidentiality.
If your client claims they’ve suffered damages as a result of you breaching their confidentiality, they could take you to court or hit you with a hefty lawsuit.
That’s why the best practice is to maintain confidentiality of your clients’ identities and information. No matter what, don’t share names, stories, or results with your friends, colleagues, or networks.
Be sure to set yourself up with a written contract, a confidentiality clause, and maybe even a mutual non-disclosure agreement before taking on your next client.
Give your business and your clients the protection you both deserve!
Ready to run a coaching business that prioritizes confidentiality? Check out our ready-to-use, lawyer-approved, plug-and-play legal contract templates, so you can upgrade your client contract while staying Profitable & Protected™✨
*The information presented in this blog post is for educational & informational purposes only. This should not be a substitute for customized legal advice from a licensed professional in a private setting. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney. This is not a law firm.