When you’re an independent personal trainer, it’s hard to know if you’re charging too much or too little. Most trainers, as a result, simply compare their rates to others in their market, and adjust based on experience—a little less if you’re new and trying to build your client roster, a little more if you’re established and get steady referrals.
Bad idea. Experience alone doesn’t account for all the factors that might boost your value.
Let’s start with some numbers. A typical rate is around $60 to $70 for a one-hour training session. But outliers can make anywhere from $40 to $400 and beyond. Some may even offer weeks- or months-long packages for four or five figures.
But of course that’s gross income. To get to your adjusted annual salary, the money you end up with, you need to deduct taxes and operational costs like equipment, insurance, and transportation.
Next figure out your Freedom Number. This is the monthly net income you need to pay the bills, put food on the table, save for retirement, and enjoy some of the indulgences that make life worth living.
Finally, decide on a realistic number of training sessions you can put in each month. Divide your desired monthly net income by the number of hours you can train clients, and voila! That’s your hourly rate.
That was the easy part.
Step two is where it gets tricky: making sure you’re comfortable with the rate you’re charging.
You want to be able to maintain eye contact with the customer, communicate the price without flinching, and happily accept the client’s money because you know it’s a fair exchange. If you can’t do that, you need to either adjust your rate or improve the value of your service.
For the rest of this article, I’ll help you figure out exactly what you’re worth. More important, I’ll show you how to convey that worth to your clients.
Three pricing factors personal trainers must understand
To help you decide what to charge, you need to consider three principles.
1. Customers buy on value, not price
When you buy something at a convenience store, you’ll probably pay more than you would somewhere else. That’s because, in that moment, it was worth it to you to pay a premium for convenience. Value outranked price.
While price can be arbitrary, value is essential. Price is what the seller wants to make, but value is the product’s actual worth.
Besides convenience, value can be increased by:
And here’s a really weird one: Some people even place value on higher-priced items simply because the price is high. Always have at least one higher-priced option for those folks.
Every prospective client you deal with will assess your value based on the criteria that matter most to that person. Always highlight the value you can offer.
2. It’s not about you
One of the most common mistakes trainers make when selling their value is letting their own fear of rejection get in the way.
Yes, it’s personal training. But don’t take it personally when potential customers raise objections or choose not to buy. Instead, listen to what the person has to say. Maybe you’re not effectively communicating your value. Believe me, that’s something you want to know.
Go into the sales process with this in mind, and let go of any anxiety you might have about rejection.
3. You can’t lose what you don’t have
I’ve heard people from all service industries talk about “losing” a prospective client if they price themselves too high or push too hard. They constantly second-guess themselves, trying to find exactly the right thing to say or do to “keep” the prospect.
Part of me has to laugh, because you can’t keep or lose what you don’t have. Until you actually make the sale and secure the client, you literally have nothing to lose.
Semantics aside, the truth underlying this impulse goes deeper: It may be a sign you aren’t convinced of your own worth. In that case, you need to work on understanding your value.
Bottom line: Believe in yourself. If you’re afraid to lose a sale, use that fear as motivation to up your game rather than lower your price.
Simple ways for a personal trainer to understand and communicate value
So far, we’ve talked a lot about you. Now it’s time to consider the person on the other side of the transaction: your prospective client. To close the deal, you need to communicate value. And to do that, you need to understand what that person values in the first place.
These three steps will help you figure it out—although, as you’ll see, this isn’t necessarily the order in which they’ll come into play.
Step 1: Qualify the prospect
Selling can be an exhausting and time-consuming effort for both of you. So before you invest that time and energy, you should make sure the person has realistic expectations about cost.
Ask if he or she has a budget in mind, and decide if that number fits your pricing structure. Can you build a personal training program that will help the client meet his goals for the price he wants to pay?
If yes, proceed with the sale. If not, be honest with the client. But don’t give up yet. Maybe the client didn’t know what to expect, and just picked a random number. Maybe your service is worth more than the client realized.
Try phrasing it this way: “If I can help you reach all your goals, what would that be worth to you?”
Step 2: Determine the desired outcome
Of course you can’t offer to help the client reach his goals until you know what those goals are. So you may need to have this part of the conversation before you prequalify the client. That’s something you’ll have to decide on the spot.
When you do ask the client about her fitness goals, you also need to ask why she wants to achieve them.
For example, if the client says, “I want to lose 20 pounds in six months,” you need to ask why. Maybe it’s for a wedding, and she wants to feel confident and special on her big day. Maybe it’s for a school reunion, and she doesn’t want her former classmates to think she’s let herself go.
If the client says, “I want to lose six inches off my waist,” the reason might be that his dad died young of a heart attack, and he doesn’t want his kids to experience the loss of a parent. Maybe he’s recently divorced and about to start dating. Or maybe he overheard his young coworkers making fun of him behind his back, and he wants to project a more vital presence in the office.
Whatever it is, you can be sure there’s an emotional driver behind every goal. Understanding that driver will not only help you keep the client motivated during your workouts, but also give you the context you need to frame the value of your service while you’re making the sale.
Step 3: Understand the impediment
Here’s another question you may need to ask before you qualify the candidate: “What’s prevented you from getting that result in the past?”
The answer will reveal why this client needs you. Take detailed notes. When you repeat it back to the client later in the sales process, she’ll be primed to agree with you.
Communicate the value
Once you know what the person values, why it’s important, and why she hasn’t yet achieved it, it’s time to communicate how you can deliver. When possible, use language straight from the client.
Say something like, “Let’s make sure I understand. What you’re after is a program that will help you achieve so you can . You don’t think you can get on your own, because . If that’s right, here’s what I recommend.”
Describe the rough details of the program you have in mind, explaining how it will help the client reach her goals and get past her impediments.
When you’re finished, ask this question: “Does that sound like something you can commit to?”
If you’ve properly communicated the value, the deal will very likely be done.
Quit being anxious
There’s too much anxiety about pricing, most of it unnecessary. We all value time and money differently, which means some folks will be a good match for you, and some won’t. If you take the time to understand the value of your service and what’s important to the client—and more to the point, how those two concepts overlap—you have nothing to be anxious about.
Get this right, and not only will you know how much to charge, you’ll also attract more personal training clients who will gladly pay it.