5 Essential Legal Documents Your Fit Biz Needs

May 15, 2024

When you started your business, did you focus on getting all the legal documentation in place? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Many of us started our businesses focused on serving clients and trusting that things would work out.

That might be a noble sentiment that shows faith in people, but it’s not the right one for a business owner. As sad as it might sound, protecting your business means planning for the worst — including the chance that someone might try to sue you or take advantage of your generosity.

So, how do you protect yourself and your business from those people? How do you prepare for legal issues like lawsuits? You set yourself up in a strong legal position by having all the crucial documents written, signed, and in place.

Legal document #1: Waiver of Liability

No matter how careful you are, accidents happen. Someone pulls a muscle during yoga or falls off a reformer. It could be something as simple as a client tripping while performing a physical therapy exercise.

Because those clients are doing things on your property under your care, you can be held liable for those injuries unless your clients waive that liability. A waiver of liability is the legal document that allows them to do so.

Before a client takes their first class or starts their first session with you, have them sign a liability waiver. And make sure your document is clear and specific — it needs to spell out all the relevant details. 

That means you can’t just use a boilerplate document. It’s better to make sure your waiver includes specifics about injuries, equipment, treatment modalities, and any other details that relate to your business.

Legal document #2: Privacy Policy

Sometimes a privacy policy document is also lumped in with terms of service. Either way, the point of this document is to inform your client about how you plan to collect and use their personal information. Make sure you’re clear about what kind of information you may collect, why you’re doing so, how you’ll store it, and what you’ll use it for.

Legal document #3: Media Release

Another crucial document is a media release. When your clients sign this form, they can give you the right to use their images and words online and/or in print. 

You might think that you don’t need a media release because you use stock photos on your website. But what about reviews and testimonials? If you want those on your website or social media, you need a signed media release.

If you ever release pictures or video footage of a class, you need media releases from the participants. Even if your goal was to highlight an instructor, team member, or your studio, you still need permission from your clients. 

Legal document #4: Studio Membership Agreement

Do you have a membership for your studio? Or do you sell packages of classes or sessions? You need a membership agreement. 

This should outline all the details of the membership itself. That means the costs, how billing works, what happens to unused sessions, what a client needs to do to cancel, how refunds work, and anything other crucial details.

It’s also a good idea to include a code of conduct with your membership agreement. This is your chance to clarify what your clients can expect from you and what you expect from them. Having a signed code of conduct gives you legal recourse to take action if a client is behaving poorly and/or making you, your team, or other clients feel uncomfortable.

Legal document #5: Contract/Employee Agreement 

While the other documents we covered relate to your interactions with your clients, you also need legal documentation for internal interactions. That means having contracts and employment agreements in place and signed by your team members.

The exact documents you need depend on whether you have contractors or employees. Make sure you’re classifying your team members properly! Follow state and federal laws. 

It’s also a good idea to have an employee handbook in place. That allows you to clarify your expectations for your team members and tell them what they can expect from you. You may also want to include guidelines for pay raises, promotions, and adverse actions (suspension, termination). 

Protect your business with the correct legal documentation

Without the proper legal documents, your business is open to lawsuits and liability. Avoid putting yourself in a dicey (and expensive) legal fight by getting all those documents signed and in place before you start working with clients.

The exact details of your service agreements, waiters, contracts, and release forms often depend on the laws of your state. If you aren’t completely confident you understand the relevant laws and the documents you need, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney.

Feel overwhelmed at the thought of all the documents you need to create and sign? Want some reassurance that you’re on the right track with your paperwork? Schedule a coaching call with me! I won’t give you legal advice, but I can help you sort through and prioritize the tasks you need to get your business on a firm foundation — legally, financially, and otherwise.

Learn more about 1:1 coaching and book your call today!