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How To Write a Cancellation Policy

How To Write a Cancellation Policy

Learn to create a cancellation policy to deter no-shows and last-minute switches that lead to financial losses and frustrating gaps in your schedule.


Sometimes, appointments fall through — it’s a normal part of running a coaching business. But when clients make a habit of last-minute changes, your practice pays the price. A clear and fair cancellation policy can help protect you from unnecessary losses. 

A strong cancellation policy is essential for any coaching business. It mitigates wasted time and money on frustrating no-shows and sudden cancellations, safeguarding your business and setting the bar for what clients can expect.

A cancellation policy doesn’t have to be complicated — in fact, you can draft one yourself. Read on to learn how to write a cancellation policy that works for your business.

What is a cancellation policy?

A cancellation policy outlines terms for clients should they need to cancel an appointment. It also spells out potential penalties for late cancellation, such as a late fee. You’ve probably spotted examples of cancellation policies, like at medical appointments, salons, and spas.

This document is an oft-forgotten aspect of service-based businesses. But as a coach, it’s essential you have a concise and clear cancellation policy to ensure your clients are aware of your requirements before making or changing an appointment. The easier it is to understand, the better the policy. Even if you don’t anticipate a lot of last-minute changes, this policy establishes clear expectations for the coach-client relationship and is a great way to promote timeliness.

How do cancellation policies help you?

A cancellation policy might seem unnecessary, especially if clients seem eager and reliable, but it has many benefits for your business. Here are a few:

  • Respect for your time: Your time is valuable, especially in a service-based industry. You schedule your workday around appointments, and if they turn into no-shows or last-minute cancellations it’s more than just frustrating — it wastes important time. A cancellation policy reminds clients that your time should be respected and may make them think twice about canceling when it’s not necessary.
  • Avoiding losses: No-shows and cancellations with only an hour’s notice mean you likely won’t be able to fill those slots for the day, causing you to lose valuable income. Cancellation policies deter these inconvenient last-minute changes and can protect your income with fees.
  • Enhancing professionalism: Setting a cancellation policy communicates that your business and time are to be taken seriously and adds an expectation of professionalism. You wouldn’t flake on your clients, and you expect the same of them (whenever possible).

Writing a cancellation policy

The policy should be clear and concise so clients easily understand and agree to the cancellation terms. While a short document, it’s essential that it’s easy to read. Here are a few critical elements to include in a cancellation policy:

  • Time frame: Define what constitutes a no-show for an appointment. Try giving a grace period, such as 15 minutes, to accommodate lateness due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Dates: Make it clear how many days clients have to cancel without penalty. Can they reschedule three days before the appointment? What about 24 hours
  • Consequences: Set clear consequences for late cancellations and no-shows. This could be a late fee (even billing for the entire appointment). You decide what penalties best fit your practice and clientele. Many businesses collect credit card information in advance to charge the fee automatically. Be sure to inform the client of this before scheduling an appointment.
  • Number of offenses: A strike system can address repeated late cancellations and no-shows — once the client has missed a certain number of appointments, you can end your contract. Be sure to outline any leniency in the policy. For example, make it clear if there is a penalty-free first offense.
  • Refunds: A cancellation policy should be fair to both parties involved. As a result, a client should still be able to cancel or reschedule an appointment without penalties if they follow the guidelines set in the late policy for clients. Spell out a clear refund policy for bookings that are changed appropriately (e.g., if you charge ahead of time).


Don’t forget the details

Once you’ve drafted a policy, comb through and double-check the minutiae. Here are a few key details you don’t want to forget:

  • Availability: Make the policy available to clients before they book their first appointment. Include the policy on your website or in your place of business so it’s easy to find and refer to.
  • How to cancel appointments: Provide clients with simple instructions to cancel an appointment. Should they call your business? Send an email?
  • Ask clients to sign: Have clients provide their signatures to show they read and understood the policy. This way, you have the agreement to draw on if they push back on a late fee.
  • Keep clients in mind: Ensure that the notice period for cancellation is reasonable and doable for clients. If someone experiences an unavoidable emergency, waiving a cancellation penalty shows compassion and helps build a good relationship with that client.
  • Be proactive: While a cancellation policy can discourage last-minute cancellations, having clients stick to their appointments is ideal. Automated appointment reminders sent to clients in advance are another way to notify busy people that their appointment is approaching. Include the time, address, and policy in the reminder email or text message. 

Cancellation policy FAQs

Still have lingering questions about drafting a cancellation policy for your coaching business? Here are the answers to some common queries. 

How do you tell a client about a cancellation policy?

Include the cancellation policy as part of the new clients’ booking process. This ensures they see the policy before penciling in their first appointment. Place the policy with any contracts and payment agreements so there’s access to all the relevant information.

When introducing the policy to current clients, tell them there is a new policy in place and share the document with them. Encourage them to take a look before their next appointment and reach out with any questions.

How much should a cancellation fee be?

The amount of the cancellation fee is at your discretion. Most often, coaches base the cost on a percentage of the price of each session. 

Some businesses charge 50% of the appointment cost for no-shows, while others opt for a lower fee. The late fee should help prevent losses, but an overly strict policy and an expensive fee could deter clients — so choose carefully.

What is the difference between a cancellation fee and a rescheduling fee?

A cancellation fee is charged for the last-minute cancellation of an appointment without rescheduling for a later date. A rescheduling fee is charged when a client can no longer come to the initial appointment time and wants to reschedule the appointment. Some businesses choose to set rescheduling fees at a lower amount than cancellations.

Manage your business with Practice

A cancellation policy is just one of many crucial documents every business owner needs. It can be a lot to handle — so let us help. 

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