The two primary fee structures you’ll use for your personal training business are hourly and flat-fee contract service agreements. While some trainers use one or the other exclusively, most use a combination. It’s a good idea to offer a variety of service agreements and hourly rate structures but not so many that your prospective clients are confused. Keep your fee structures simple but with sufficient options to suit both your clients’ ability to pay and their individual fitness needs.
Finding that perfect rate that isn’t too low or too high is a challenge for most personal trainers. You need to consider a number of factors:
- Overhead. This includes the various costs involved in operating your business, such as rent/mortgage, payroll, insurance, taxes, advertising, debt service, utilities, professional services such as accountants and attorneys, telephone, office supplies, etc.
- Desired income. How much do you want to be able to take out of the business? Depending on your structure, this would be either your salary or the business’s net profit.
- Capacity. How much time can you reasonably expect to be working with clients? Another way to think of this is to figure out how many billable hours you’ll have. For example, if you’re working with clients in their homes, your travel time will likely not be billable, so think about how many hours you can realistically expect to be training. You’ll also need to spend time doing administrative tasks; those aren't hours you can bill to a client, either.
Now calculate your monthly overhead. Some items, such as insurance premiums, may be paid once or twice per year, so you need to prorate those costs and factor them into your figures. Then add on your desired income or profit. Divide that by the number of billable hours you have in a month, and you have an hourly rate baseline.
This number can guide what you charge when working by the hour and serve as the basis when developing contract packages. If this hourly rate is at or under the going rate in your market, you’re in good shape. That will likely be the case if you’re working from your home or only part time and have little overhead.
If this hourly rate is overpriced for your market, you have a few options. You can look for ways to reduce your overhead or your desired income. You can also look for possible supplemental income opportunities that will allow you to reduce your hourly rate while still meeting your income requirements. For example, you might consider selling health and fitness products along with training your clients. If you have a studio, you might be able to sublet or rent out a portion of your space to a related health and fitness service provider who's not in direct competition with you. Or, if you can justify the higher rate and there are enough people in your market who'll pay it, market yourself based on specialized services and high quality. Take the approach of the popular cosmetics line that admits to costing more but says its customers are worth it.
Trainer Tyrone Minor believes when people see your service rate is appropriate for the qualifications you’ve earned, then it's better to charge at the high end of that scale, rather than breaking your rate down into a psychologically “discounted” rate to get customers to feel they can afford you. For example, if he offers them one $100 session in which they can get the knowledge they need to quickly accomplish their goals, and he meets with them a few times, it’s actually less expensive for them than a 10-session package at $50 per unit.
Barbara Crompton’s yoga class fees encompass three different price points, structured to encourage more frequent attendance in exchange for reduced charges. An unlimited usage pass, good for a month, usually also extends an additional 20 percent savings.
Within the yoga community, bartering for services is a popular means of containing costs. In exchange for training in an apprenticeship capacity, for example, a technically savvy student may “pay for” his or her experience with website design or photography skills. Likewise, hotel accommodations may be gratis for the teacher who brings a dozen or so out-of-town paying guests to the site for a workshop.
Jennifer Brilliant, a personal trainer in Brooklyn, bases her fees in large part on how strong the market is and what other trainers are charging. She has steadily increased her fee per session over the years. “It’s anywhere from $75 to $175, depending on the situation," she says, "and the clients I’ve had for a longer time pay less because they started a long time ago.”
Lynne Wells, another personal trainer in New York, started out charging the same rate as the staff trainers at the gym she used, but eventually raised her fees. Because she goes to her clients’ homes and offices, she factors travel time into her rates.
Another option is to not charge by the session but rather for a monthly package with a minimum of three months, with clients paying in advance at the first of the month. Or consider offering several tiers of pricing. You can have one for one-on-one training with a long-term commitment. You might also develop several packages designed to target less affluent clients who can’t afford to see you three times per week for several years. Those packages can be designed to help someone get started, make sure they know how to do the exercises correctly, and monitor them periodically to measure their progress and make adjustments as necessary. It’s quite likely that the client who can’t afford $200 per week for a year would still be willing to pay $600 for ten visits over a six-month period.
This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Personal Training Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Ciree Linsenman explain how you can get started as in the personal training industry. From choosing your niche to developing your skills, this guide offers step-by-step instructions to help you create a business that answers the health and fitness needs of your customers. In this edited excerpt, the authors outline the steps you should take to set appropriate prices for your personal training business.