The other day I was reading an email from a trainer in New Zealand. He reached out because he needed some advice, and of course, I’m all too happy to lend a hand. He mentioned a few areas that he needed some assistance with. I told him what I would do If I was him and pointed him in the direction of a couple of relevant articles, but one of his pain-points stood out to me.
His main concern, the one that was troubling him the most, was that he wanted to regulate his income. He was sick and tired of not getting paid on time.
If there’s one mistake that I see both new and burnt-out personal trainers overlooking far too often, it’s operating in a state of disarray when it comes to collecting payment from clients.
What’s the point of busting your ass, working early morning and late at night, if you feel like you’re out of control when it comes to getting paid for the work you do?
You do great work—and deserve to be paid on time, all the time.
I remember a conversation I had with a trainer buddy of mine a few years ago. He told me that one of his best clients (according to him) was behind on 12 sessions. I asked how he got so far behind and why he hadn’t chased him up. He told me it was because “he’s a good client, and he’ll eventually pay”.
You need to know how much you’re getting paid and when. I see trainers, even those that have been in the industry for years, seemingly out of control when it comes to charging their clients. No one becomes a personal trainer because they enjoy asking people for money, but it’s a necessary part of the job. The simplest way to avoid money headaches is to implement some strategies that work for both you and your client.
For personal trainers that work with clients in-person, I recommend the following two methods of payment:
Charging clients via direct debit
The primary method of payment I recommend personal trainers embrace, especially those that work in-person, is the direct-debit method. It’s more common than ever for companies to charge via direct debit. Think about your phone, internet, paid TV bills. Charges for these services are deducted automatically from your account. If you see clients weekly, which most of you do, then I highly recommend you start using a direct debit arrangement to collect payment.
The great thing about charging your clients via direct debit is that you’ll be able to dictate when during the week you charge your clients and how frequently. I charge my clients on Thursday for the following week of training. This means I charge in advance of their training session. Because my clients know they’ve already paid for their training, they’re much less likely to cancel, especially at the last minute.
Most direct debit companies charge a small fee for this service, which you can either absorb yourself, or add on top of your client’s session fee. I charge this back to the client. I’ve been doing this for the last ten years, and I can’t remember a client complaining about it.
Additionally, the other positive reason for charging clients via direct debit is that it helps blendyour training fees into their regular expenses, helping to establish your service as a part of their routine and reducing ongoing money conversations.
Selling packs of sessions
The other method of conducting payment, albeit less advisable, is selling packs of sessions up front.
The reason why I don’t advise you to sell packs primarily is that it reduces your cash flow. Having cash regularly and consistently flowing into your bank account is essential to creating a career that will fulfil your financial goals. When you sell packs of sessions, you’ll get large, infrequent sums of money paid into your account. This might seem attractive at first but can make your day-to-day financial management more challenging. Appealing as it may seem, being financially responsible with large lump sums of money is often easier said than done.
Given a choice: always seek to be paid more frequently and consistently rather than infrequent, lump sums.
With that said, there may be occasions where using a direct debit method won’t suit, such as if your client doesn’t train consistently, or just doesn’t like the idea of allowing you to charge their account. This is the only situation where I would offer a client another payment option.
Selling packages of 10, 20, or 30 sessions upfront can work well. This is also the only scenario where I would entertain the idea of offering a small discount for someone that wants to purchase a large number of sessions upfront.
I wouldn’t offer a discount for ten sessions. However, a 5% discount for purchasing 20 sessions up front, and a 10% discount for buying 30 sessions upfront may be a reasonable trade-off.
Keep in mind: when selling packs, you must be sure that your client understands your cancellation policy. Otherwise, you will find yourself in an awkward situation where your client cancels their session at the last minute and expects to have it rescheduled for another time. Putting aside the fact that it’s just plain annoying, it extends the amount of the time before they renew their training with you, stunting your cash flow.
How you collect payment from clients may not be a particularly attractive topic, but it’s an incredibly important one. Don’t fall into the trap of doing great work, yet not getting paid consistently and on time. By putting in place some simple, effective strategies in how you collect payment from clients, you’ll take control over your income and be in a steadier position to build an enduring career in the fitness industry.
P.S. Do you need some advice, or a helping hand? Drop me a message here, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read and respond to every single email I get.