I am a relatively new trainer and am wondering how to handle the odd case where I meet with a potential client who really needs personal training and is 100% ready to commit, but absolutely cannot afford my services.
Hear me out- today I met with a young woman who is obese and having severe knee pain. Her doctor has told her that she must lose weight through diet and exercise to treat the pain. Without going into detail, she is severely economically challenged. After meeting her and conducting an assessment, I’ve determined that it is a good match. However, she cannot afford personal training at all. I would hate to deny her help just because she can’t pay. Have any of you set up a type of scholarship or trained someone for free for a long period of time? I was thinking of doing an exchange- if she would let me post monthly before and after photos and write about her experience, I could offer her my services at low or no cost.
What’s your take? I tend to be a big softie, and it doesn’t work out to well for me financially but I’m trying to find a silver lining or solution here…
I have trained someone for almost free ($10 a session) for several years. The difference is I was already an established trainer so could afford this. It was a similar situation in that she was extremely sedentary and obese with related health problems, but could not afford a trainer. The good news is the program worked for her; she is far from slim but can move without pain and has reduced most of her medications. Her success has been noted however, and over the years I have had several people ask about training after seeing her before and after, so I could have gotten more clients had I needed them. I would charge her something; even if only $5 a session,I feel it gives more accountability. As Jonathan said; she needs to get results. He is also right about training in your down time; I train my client mid afternoon, and she comes to my home (I go to most of my other clients). Harris has a great idea about networking with her doctor. I have gotten many physician referrals from another formerly obese client, her results were so impressive that her doctor asked for my name and now hands out my cards.
All the points Karin and Jonathan made are excellent. However, keep in mind that this is how you have decided to make a living. I have given clients 1 or 2 free sessions in the past, but I have never trained anyone for a long period of time for free. I understand this is a unique case, but if you do it for one then why not for others?
Maybe if you decide to take her as a client, it would be a great idea and opportunity for you to make a contact with her physician and establish a professional relationship with him/her. If you do a good job with this patient of theirs, you could earn some credibility and have the doctor (or the office they are working at) to keep referring you future clients who will need your help. This way you giving your time wasn’t for nothing (as far as $$ goes).
It’s a sweet thing to do but you want to consider how it might impact your business. Here’s a list of points to consider:
1. You would want to schedule your sessions during what would normally be your down time. Your client would need to be flexible to change her appointment time if other paying clients want her spot, as well as around any other appointments you have.
2. Your client would need to be fully committed. No excuses. She should make an extra effort to make all sessions she schedules with you. You could institute a policy that if she doesn’t show she owes you a regular session rate, or if she misses too often then your offer is off the table so you can work with another person in similar position (or perhaps paying clients).
3. Results should be mandatory. One of the main incentives for her to keep training; and if she’s not willing to put in the work to make necessary physical, dietary and lifestyle changes than why would you want to keep training her?
4. She should be willing to write a review for you after some time when she’s seen results and some positive changes, and act as a reference as well. As you mentioned periodic pictures or other means to demonstrate her improvement would be a great idea.
5. You could also institute a time frame that you’ll be working with her; such as 6 months or whatever time frame you feel appropriate. You could even repeat with someone else in need of personal training who is in a similar financial position.
this situation is particularly tempting for a rather new trainer who does not yet have many clients, and there is nothing wrong with training someone under those circumstances. I would still try to come up with some form of exchange, maybe a very reduced rate of training. I would also limit the length of the commitment on your part so that you have a defined end date. It should not end up to be a ‘long period of time’.
After all, we all know MANY people who can benefit greatly from personal training but who cannot afford it, and you need to decide where you draw the line. What if a second person asks for the same deal, and then another? What do you do then? You also need to keep in mind that someone may ask you for training at a normal rate at the very times of training you have agreed to with your non-paying client.
I wish you well.