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A Legal Guide To Running Workshops And Courses

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Legal guide to running workshops and courses

Running workshops can be an excellent way to help and/or educate people in a group learning environment. Many types of businesses may find that running workshops supports and bolsters their brand, their values and their sector in general. It can be a wonderful way to share your passion, raise interest, gain support or even change hearts and minds. Or perhaps running workshops is central to your business because you, or your company, possess skills and knowledge that others wish to benefit from.

Whatever your motivation, most people find running workshops highly rewarding. Sometimes financially, sometimes emotionally and often both. Still, it is a process and there is a lot to think about and plan for. In addition to creating the actual workshop content, you will also need to ensure you have all the legal aspects covered so you're not jeopardising your business by running workshops without the proper contracts and compliance in place.

Here are some of the things you will need to know and consider depending on the format of the workshops you are running:

Legal Guide To Selling Pre-Recorded Online Workshops And Courses

Selling pre-recorded online workshops and courses can be a great way to add an income stream and build your brand. Initially, it can be a lot of work to plan and write a workshop or course, record it, promote it and publish it. However, the benefit is that, once done, it can continue to generate revenue for some time without the need for too much ongoing investment or even involvement. However, selling online products does mean having to comply with several legal requirements including consumer rights, data protection and privacy laws. Furthermore, you need to protect your content from being reproduced, repurposed or resold.

If you need help preparing legal documentation to sell pre-recorded online workshops and courses then you can either get in touch or purchase my Terms And Conditions For Online Courses And Workshop Template to amend accordingly for your business.

Meanwhile, here are a few essential legal considerations when selling pre-recorded online workshops and courses:

Accurate Service/Product Descriptions

When selling anything online you must ensure that you provide a full and accurate description. This is especially important when it comes to courses and workshops where the buyer will have expected outcomes from having invested in your service. To minimise complaints you should ensure your description is available and detailed so that consumers can be confident regarding what to expect from your course. You may choose to include details such as:

  • Length of the workshop or course (including modules if it is broken down)

  • Who the course/workshop would benefit

  • Course content

  • Expected learning outcomes

Providing this visible information will help you avoid disputes that may arise from requests for refunds etc.

Cancellations And Refunds

When selling goods and services, most businesses must provide customers with a 14-day cooling-off period. When selling online courses and workshops this would also apply. Except, this cooling-off period would automatically end once the workshop or course files have been downloaded and made available to the user. Once the buyer has done this it would be considered a used product and therefore unreturnable. Unless, of course, a customer claims that the course/workshop has failed to deliver or meet its own terms and conditions.

Licensing Terms

It is extremely important that you further protect your intellectual property in your terms and conditions by emphasising ownership of all of your course/workshop content and placing restrictions on what the end-user can do with the course. Importantly they should be restricted from sharing with others and re-selling!

Online workshops and courses are at particular risk of being reproduced and having course content shared without permission. Although copyright law is automated in the UK, meaning that any work you create belongs to you and cannot be republished without your permission, it is still important to relay this in your terms.

Legal Guide To Running Live In-Person And Online Workshops

Many freelancers or companies may decide to run their own live in-person or online workshops. As well as being a potential extra income stream this can help to build your brand and promote your business aims and/or values.

Launching and promoting in-person or online live workshops can be challenging. It’s difficult to write and deliver a workshop that benefits attendees and it’s a worthwhile but sometimes daunting endeavour. Understandably, being focused on creating a great workshop can mean the paperwork and administration aspects get rushed whilst promotion is prioritised. However, those hosting in-person and/or online workshops must ensure that they are protected whilst doing so and that they are also protecting attendees. Therefore, there are a few legal aspects to consider when you run this type of event.

As with selling pre-recorded courses and workshops, an accurate description of what your workshop will entail and provide is essential to avoid consumer complaints or refund requests. Furthermore, licensing terms, as cited above, are essential to include in your terms and conditions.

If you are putting together in-person or online workshops, you will need terms and conditions as part of your booking process, even if your event is free to attend. I provide a downloadable template for this that may be more cost-effective than instructing a lawyer to draft a bespoke document - Terms And Conditions For Online Courses And Workshop Template - so please do make use of this.

A few key things to consider, from a legal point of view, might include:

Third-party Terms

If you’re selling tickets to your event through a third party then your terms and conditions may need to reference the third party's terms. They will have their own data protection policies and terms and, although that is between them and the purchaser, since the end-client will be yours it's worth pointing them towards the agreement they may have made and making them explicitly aware of the third party involved in the booking. Similarly, if you are using software and/or online platforms to deliver your workshop, attendees will have to agree to their terms to access your workshop online. Therefore, you should make this clear also.

It's important that you read through the terms of any third party involved in delivering your workshop. You should ensure that their terms are reasonable by your assessment and that you separate yourself/your business from the agreement your end clients make with them, in order to access your services.

Data Protection For Online and In-Person Workshop Bookings

If you are collecting personal data then you need a privacy policy and you need to be compliant with UK data protection. If you are delivering workshops to people outside of the UK then you need to be compliant with their data protection also. In the EU this would mean GDPR.

Usually, to accept a booking you will need to take names and basic contact information. This is enough to mean you need to have a privacy policy and adhere to data protection processes. You can find out more about how to do this from the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and in my article: Data Privacy, GDPR And Data Protection Must Knows.

You must provide a link to your privacy policy during the booking process so that customers are informed as to how you will collate and process their data. For assistance in drafting a privacy policy to meet the needs of your business, please get in touch.

If you are getting this information from a third party, such as a ticketing website or social media platform then they will have permission to share this information with you. However, if you are going to store or in any way use this information then you will still need your own documentation in place and they must be made visible and available to the general public.

Consumer Rights

To stay compliant with consumer rights, businesses must provide customers with a 14-day cooling-off period. This means anyone booking your workshop or course, whether online or in-person has the right to cancel and be refunded so long as they do so within 14 days unless, of course, the workshop is set to take place before then. You may use your terms and conditions to state by which date an attendee needs to cancel to receive a full refund.

Legal Guide For Providing Workshops To Businesses

When providing workshops to businesses, you will need a services agreement. This may be provided by the company instructing you or you may provide this yourself. It is recommended that you read through and consider carefully any contract provided to you, however, it is general practice to provide your own agreement, especially if this is a service you plan to provide more than once or to multiple clients.

If you don’t already have a suitable agreement in place then you may wish to use my template - Business Workshop/Course Service Agreement Template.

A few things to define, from a legal point of view, when delivering workshops as a contractor or consultant include:

  • Intellectual Property - Who owns the course content and proprietary materials

  • Payment Terms - What is the fee and when will payment need to be made

  • Confidentiality/Non-disclosure - In cases where confidential information is obtained either to conduct your workshop or through running your workshop, you may need to commit to non-disclosure

  • Cancellation and Rescheduling Terms - Notice needed to cancel as well as associated fees for doing so

You may also need to secure professional liability insurance and run a risk assessment, depending on where the workshop/course is taking place. If you are collecting, storing and/or processing personal information on attendees then you will also need to ensure you’re compliant with data protection.

Running Workshops Online Or Outside Of The UK

For those delivering workshops online, you may be attracting attendees globally. Whilst much of UK and EU business and data protection laws are similar, you may find that compliance with US regulations requires a little more knowledge.

Never fear - it’s not all that difficult and to prove this to you I’ve created a Selling To The US Checklist that you can work through to ensure you have a solid understanding of what legal requirements you need to meet to work with consumers in the USA.


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