Should personal trainers charge for initial fitness consultations? This is a question many fitness professionals and gym owners might contemplate as they build their businesses and consumer base. I wish there was a simple “black and white” answer that every trainer could apply but few things are ever that simple. The lack of a clear guideline with respect to fitness consultations shouldn’t be seen as a negative. This means there is room for flexibility and autonomy in how you approach this commonly asked question.
What is an Initial Fitness Consultation?
Every professional has a different take on what a fitness consultation involves or what it should involve. Unless you work for a big box gym or are employed by a studio that has already defined this aspect of the business, you have some room to decide what this means for you and what you can offer your clients.
Some fitness professionals offer a free “meet and greet” session designed to introduce the client to your specific niche, how you approach personal training and/or health coaching, and what services you offer specifically (i.e. one-on-one sessions, virtual, small group, etc.). This option is a great way to “hook” new clients and build initial rapport without placing a price tag on the experience. It is also a good way to assess chemistry between you and your potential client. Does your philosophy mesh with their values and ideals? Are they looking for a specific type of fitness guidance (performance-based or general health, etc.)?
In contrast, other fitness professionals may define an initial fitness consultation more rigidly (also not a bad thing). With this approach, an initial consult might be more business-based and include a discussion of the client’s intended goals, your session/package pricing, scheduling, facility tour, and contract information. While contractual obligations may be discussed in this type of consultation, it may not lead to a signed agreement right away. Offering the client time to review what was discussed and give thought to their level of commitment and specific goals is necessary before entering into any contract.
Still, others may go a step further and gather a complete health history as well as collect information about the potential client’s exercise behaviors (past and present) and attitudes toward exercise as well as the client’s unique lifestyle, and even perform fitness assessments and/or evaluations. In doing so, the personal trainer has collected solid information that informs the ultimate program design. This approach offers a way for fitness professionals to “dig deeper” and find out the potential client’s “why” – what is driving them, why are they seeking these services, what’s their ultimate motivation? And where do you as the trainer need to take the potential client on his or her fitness journey?
How to Decide If and What to Charge
Decide what your initial fitness consultation “package” will include. If you’re new to personal training and trying to build a solid consumer base, consider offering a free meet and greet session. Once you are more established, you could then consider charging a reduced rate (50% of your hourly rate, for example). Still, you could offer frequent promotional deals (one every quarter, for example) that include a free 45-minute fitness consultation.
Whatever approach you take, treat every initial fitness consultation (free or not) as the foundation of your future success with that client. It’s an opportunity to make a positive first impression and begin the rapport-building process.
If you aren’t sure which way to go, here are 5 tips intended to serve as guideposts as you begin to answer this very question.
- Research what other studios and competing gyms do and contemplate how you can be competitive but not “cheap”.
- Evaluate the economic climate. Our current COVID-19 society has seen a large drop in employment across the nation. Can you offer an affordable or free option that speaks to a specific clientele deeply impacted by the current state of the world?
- Ask others in your network. This doesn’t mean you have to limit your information gathering to other personal trainers. Cast a wider net and seek professional insight from other professions who typically offer consultations.
- Get creative. Just as you need to be creative with your program designs, be creative with how you recruit and retain new clients.
- Ask your certifying agency for guidance. Your certifying agency can be considered “home base” and a rich source of information, research, and best practices. Lean on those within the organization for support.
There are several areas in the health and fitness industry that will not have a “right” or “wrong” answer. In these cases, we have to build the rules for ourselves and rely on professional reflection and intuition to guide us in the direction that is best for those we serve.