Having policies in place as a fitness professional is vital to establishing boundaries early on when working with a client. But oftentimes, we learn as we go and don’t realize the need for a specific policy or boundary until something happens. In other cases, enforcement of these policies is loosened over time and longtime clients start to take advantage of these blurred lines. Re-establishing boundaries, creating new policies, and raising prices with longtime clients can be uncomfortable, but necessary. Fortunately, we can approach these conversations with confidence and improve our client relationships by having them.
Sometimes policies and boundaries are already in place, have been communicated to clients, and agreed upon but, over time, they are forgotten or loosened.
For example, you may have a policy that states clients are still responsible for paying you for a session in the case of last-minute cancellations. Of course, emergencies happen and there may have been a few unique times where you didn’t require payment when there was a day-of cancellation. In this scenario, you may have to remind your client that although you have made some exceptions, they cannot cancel at the last minute without payment.
This may be an opportunity to update your policy elucidating what scenarios may warrant a last-minute cancellation without payment (i.e., a car accident, loss of a family member, medical emergency) and what scenarios would require them to still pay (i.e., getting busy with work, not sleeping well, having other plans come up). It may be as simple as reminding them of the policy in a quick conversation, “I know I did not enforce this when you had to cancel last time, because I understand life does get in the way, but I do have a policy stating clients are responsible when canceling within 24 hours of our appointment.” Try to state the terms of the policy in a way that encompasses all of your clients to avoid putting them on the defensive. This could be a great time to share a link or document listing all of your policies with this client as a refresher.
Of course, a last-minute cancellation is just one example and this could be applied to any other policies you already have and need to remind your clients of.
If you are able, depending on your booking system, you could attach an overview of your policies each time your clients book a session or purchases a new package.
Setting new policies
Setting new policies may be a little more challenging because it will change the agreement you currently have with your client and it may even be addressing a specific issue that has come up since you began training. Whether your client is being difficult or you simply need to implement new policies due to changes like Covid-19 guidelines, it can be as simple as updating your policies and/or contract and asking them to review the changes.
In cases where a separate conversation is necessary, be sure to have the conversation in a way that feels comfortable to you, ensuring you are professional in your communication whether it is written or verbal.
Similar to setting new policies, you may fear that raising your prices will rock the boat with your client but, oftentimes, raising your prices means there are good things happening for you! Other times, it’s a necessity which likely means that the cost of not having the conversation is greater than the cost of having it.
If the price change is because you have more education or additional certifications, you’re moving to a nicer space, have new equipment, or have added perks to working with you, it can be a positive conversation in which you share all of the exciting things happening that have contributed to the price increase. Ideally, the client will be happy with all of the positive changes and willingly pay more for their sessions. If not, all of these benefits will hopefully help to attract new clients.
In other circumstances, factors like rent or business expenses may contribute to a need for raising your prices. You may even just feel that you are not making enough to continue at this rate. In these cases, it is up to you how much you are willing to disclose but remember to be professional in your approach. If your fitness business is your livelihood, you have to figure out how much you need to make in order to stay in business. This happens in business all the time, and you have every right to raise your prices even when your offerings remain the same and especially when your prices haven’t changed for years.
It can be as simple as having a conversation with your client that you will be raising your prices and hope to continue working with them, providing options if they are not able to pay more (like shorter or less frequent sessions), and giving them enough time to think about it and prepare for the price change.
You may also need to raise your prices because there is such high demand to work with you and you don’t have the time anymore. Again, this is a good problem to have! Your clients will likely be happy for you and your growth, and proud to train with someone who so many people want to have as a trainer.
Be consistent in embracing your policies
Whether you are re-establishing boundaries, setting new policies, or raising your prices, it can be helpful to remain consistent. Don’t provide special treatment to some clients but not others, and don’t enforce policies sometimes and let it slide every now and then. Ultimately, remember that your policies are in place to benefit everyone! If possible, communicate to your clients the ways that these policies and changes will allow you to better serve them.