I have questions in the following areas – what insurance do I need to teach riding, what release forms do I need to have my clients fill out, what should I charge for my services and should I ever include free services to keep my clients happy?
Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
Wow! There are a lot of questions there, but I’ll take a stab at it. As for insurance, you should at least have professional limited liability. Once you venture into any sort of professional or business endeavor, your home owners, no matter how good a policy you have, will not cover you. Professional liability would not include any property insurance, just your professional liability and it would cover you for lessons, consulting or grooming. You can expect to pay a minimum of $500-750 per year, depending on your certification, your exposure and how much money you gross in these endeavors. CHA works with Equisure, Inc. and they offer the best rates on professional liability. www.equisure-inc.com or (800) 752-2472.
Other insurance you should consider is property insurance to protect from damage to your facility form fire, natural disasters, etc. Also, commercial equine insurance would cover both your facility operations and your professional liability. If you have employees or do not have health insurance on yourself, you may want to look into Worker’s Comp insurance, too.
I would also suggest that you join the North American Horseman's Assn. They produce all kinds of standardized forms, waivers and contracts for boarding, training, breeding, lessons, trail programs, etc. (800) 328-8894 or www.arkagency-naha.com. Any standardized forms or waivers that you use should be altered to meet your needs and then reviewed by an equine attorney. CHA sells two books on the legal aspects of horse operations by equine lawyer Julie Fershtman that may be very informative to you (check out our website or call 800-399-0138 to order).
As for how much to charge, that will be determined by the market or competition in your area as well as your own personal ability and reputation. I would say an average for lessons is $25-35 an hour. You could probably base your consulting fee on what you charge for lessons, since essentially they are the same thing. My guess is that for grooming and taking care of horses, you will have to base your fee on a reasonable hourly rate; the same as if someone was hiring an employee to do the job. Check out your competition and see what the going rate is for these services.
As you get more established in your business, you can begin to pick and choose your customers. Also, with more experience you will know how to avoid the common pitfalls and you should develop policies on when you are paid, etc. Be very professional and timely in your invoicing and people will be more likely to respond in kind.
Whenever you throw in a “freebie” for a client, put it on their invoice, with a note that indicates “no charge.” This way, they will appreciate what you are doing and recognize that it is something that you normally charge for. Remember this old business adage: “Never give away something you intend to charge for later, it will only cause future headaches.”