Ask any personal trainer, or at least any trainer I know, about why he or she got into the field. Chances are you’ll hear an answer that involves passion. Trainers, at least the good ones, simply love what they do. And it shows in their work. In an ideal world they’d spend their time helping others achieve their goals and that would be the end of it. But in the real world we have business to consider.
Personal trainers operate independent businesses. They therefore must handle all aspects of the business side, such as setting rates and times, creating schedules, and of course collecting payments. It’s the last item that many trainers find troublesome. Who wants to be a nag about money? Yet failure to persist can lead to lost income. The scenario can put many trainers in a pickle.
The trainers at my gym typically receive payment via check, which the client brings at a predetermined time. What happens if the client forgets the check? Most trainers won’t refuse the next session. They trust the client is good for the money. Unfortunately, that kind of trust is the easiest way to get burned. Not every client will skip on the bill, but some will. Each one makes your life more difficult.
Modern technology gives us a number of alternative payment methods. In fact, given the availability a few readily available tools, many trainers should nix the old check payment method and require clients to pay by credit card. Despite the transaction fees, the ease of payment can actually help trainers collect on-time payments and ensure full receipt of all monies owed. So while you might pay 3 to 4 percent per transaction, you’ll make that up with funds you might not otherwise have collected.
1. Virtual terminal
What if you could carry around a credit card machine with you? Many trainers who are employed directly by gyms have this advantage. But in my experience, trainers prefer their independence. In those cases its unlikely that the trainer brings a credit card machine to work. Those costs can be overwhelming. But a new payment method changes all of that.
GoPayment is a virtual terminal that plugs right into the headphone jack of your smartphone. Once you plug it in and open the application, you can simply swipe a client’s credit card. It’s just like having a credit card machine, but without the bulk and the cost. That leaves clients with no excuses. Forget the check? No problem. Just swipe your credit card. That saves you a trip to the bank, too.
What if your client claims he forgot his wallet? That seems like ample excuse to refuse the session. Forgetting a check is one thing. “Forgetting” a wallet can be a signal that they don’t intend to pay at all.
2. Website payment
If you are an independent personal trainer and do not have a website, you are missing out on huge opportunities. With virtually everyone on the internet these days, you can’t afford to not have a presence. It has never been easier to build a website, either. There are even services dedicated to building your personal trainer website.
For most trainers, a website will act as a business card. It will let people know that you’re an option, and will give you an opportunity to show them why they should choose you. Displaying certificates, listing achievements, and providing valuable content are some of the many ways to market yourself to prospective clients. People like to research their buying decisions on the web. If you’re not there with a pitch, they might not even consider you.
Some trainers can also tap into new markets by offering virtual training services. This is a more complicated option, since training clients remotely can be a tricky tactic. Setting rates can be even tougher. But many trainers have found it as a great way to supplement their incomes.
No matter your purpose with a website, there is one thing you can do: collect payments. Even if you don’t offer services directly on your website, you can still create a page where clients can pay their bills. It is yet another way to eliminate excuses. If they haven’t paid by the time they visit, you can just load up the web page at the gym (or use your virtual terminal).
3. Email and calendar reminders
Despite the many advantages of virtual terminals and website payments, many trainers will still remain averse. Again, those services will charge you a per-transaction fee, so you’ll be losing money. If a trainer has a fairly clean client payment record, she might not feel it necessary to install a payment system whereby she doesn’t get paid the full amount. Yet there are still ways for these trainers to ensure they get paid in full and on time.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to share calendar reminders with clients. For every scheduled payment date, make a calendar entry in Google Calendar. (This is compatible with many other calendar programs, and so makes it easier to work with most clients.) Then share that calendar event with your client. When the date arrives, the client will receive a friendly reminder to bring payment.
Another method, though more directly persistent, is simple email reminders. Don’t overdo it, or else you’ll turn off the client. But a friendly reminder the night before is innocuous enough. Again, this helps eliminate excuses. You can even use free software such as Yesware to confirm that the client viewed the email. If Yesware confirms that the client did open the email and he or she still did not bring payment, that is reasonable grounds for session refusal. You took the effort. The client did not. It’s not fair that the client then gets a pass.
All about friction
The more difficult it is to make payment, the less likely it is a prospect will convert. That’s a rule of business that is commonly referred to as friction. More steps and more items to remember equates to more friction. Trainers who reduce the friction in any client transaction will win. Not only will they receive full payments on time, but they can collect payments that they perhaps otherwise would not have. Additionally, future clients might be more likely to choose a low-friction trainer, even if the like a high-friction one slightly more.
Clients don’t particularly like payments, either. Trainers who make the payments side easy will find many advantages in the field.
Few trainers relish the financial side of the business. The money is nice, of course, and for many trainers the money means a lot. But actively prompting clients for payment is never easy. The modern trainer should adopt at least one of these methods listed above, though a combination of all three will create a smooth process that appeals to many clients.