Operating a studio or health club is a rewarding opportunity to serve and transform your client’s lives by improving their health. In this historic time we are living through, many wellness entrepreneurs have moved elements of their businesses from in-person to online and had to pivot their business in new ways.
In order to operate your business safely, here is a legal deep dive with 4 core points you should keep in mind.
1. Get insurance
Business insurance is like a seat belt for a car. You don’t need it until you do. Like a seatbelt, insurance can be a lifeline for your business. Especially with all the new rules and regulations around Covid-19, there are various risks that come with running a studio or gym.
Insurance gives you peace of mind from the risk of getting sued by someone who acted on your advice and was disappointed with the outcome or someone who was injured.
2. Understand employment law
Because you run your business with other people, you will need to understand the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. This distinction is critically important in order to avoid getting in trouble with the tax regulatory agency (i.e the IRS).
Contractors work independently and pay their own taxes, while employees work under your direction and you are responsible for withholding taxes from their pay and paying government taxes on their behalf.
3. Understand your need for legal documentation
If you are operating an in-person or online business, you will need the proper legal documentation to formalize your relationships and waive your client’s right to sue you. Without these legal agreements, you run the risk of being sued and held liable for data breaches, improper use of personal information, and losing the trust of your clients.
A. Terms and Conditions
Terms and Conditions are the rules your visitors must agree to in using your website and buying your products and services. Since your website does all the talking for you, you have to make sure it is saying all of the right things to protect you and ensure that you are participating in relationships the way you would like.
Some of the common items you’ll find in terms and conditions or terms of service include: Copyright, purpose, links to third-party websites, license to use materials, limitation of liability, disclaimers, and no guarantees.
A disclaimer is any statement that is used to specify or limit the scope of obligations and rights that are enforceable in a legally recognized relationship. A social media disclaimer is important to keep your business protected from the activity that takes place on your social pages. Disclaimers are important to protect your customers.
Since you are advising people in using your heart-leading business services, you’ll want to be open and honest about your qualifications, what services you are providing or what is in the product that you are selling. Make sure to be realistic about the outcomes your customers can expect by including a ‘no guarantees’ clause, otherwise dissatisfied customers could file a claim against you and your business.
D. Waiver of Liability
This document is a must have for anyone who facilitates yoga, fitness or other physical activities you offer. It explains the risks and possible outcomes of participating in activities with you, and allows clients to absolve you of liability.
Without a customized and professionally drafted waiver of liability (aka a generic template you download off the internet), there is a high likelihood that your waiver will be unenforceable, which defeats the purpose of having a waiver in the first place. Make sure your waiver addresses the unique and specific nuances of your business.
When someone signs a waiver of liability, they forfeit their legal right to hold you liable for what might happen when they are in your care. Waivers protect your company, or instructor, from being sued if someone gets injured.
4. Protect your Intellectual Property
Not only do you need to protect your own intellectual property, you also need to ensure your business does not infringe on the Intellectual Property of others.
Owning and running a health club or a studio requires you to be present for your clients. With the help of a trusted legal professional, you can set the right agreements in place so your business (content, assets, etc.) and your students are protected.
I know the last year and a half has been one heck of a ride. You are not in this alone, and the law is not such a scary place. By understanding a few basic fundamentals and getting proper agreements in place, you can relax with peace of mind, knowing you are secure, confident and safe.
Download your FREE Wellness Legal Checklist here: https://consciouscounsel.pages.ontraport.net/wellnesschecklist
Cory Sterling is the founder of the heart-leading law firm Conscious Counsel, which was awarded the Most Innovative Fitness & Wellness Law Firm of 2021 (Legal Elite Awards.) Cory is a lawyer, yoga teacher, and group fitness instructor. He wrote ‘The Yoga Law Book’ and has served hundreds of fitness & wellness professionals and studio owners around the world. He won the award for “Highest Rated Session” at MindBody Bold and stays committed every day to teach about the law in a FUN and practical way.