Professionalizing In-Home Personal Trainers

by Kay Cross, MEd on Jun 23, 2008

Profit Center: Improve your reputation and income as an in-home trainer by upgrading your business practices.

No one will respect you if you don’t respect yourself first. I’ll never forget, in my 20s, a good friend telling me (in regard to dating), “You won’t be treated with respect unless you require it.” In other words, if you want to be treated with respect and dignity, don’t accept any behavior that is less than what you want and deserve. You condition people how to relate to you. The same is true in the in-home personal training profession. If you want to be paid well and respected for your time and expertise, you must operate at a level that elicits the admiration and esteem you desire.

In-home trainers are often not viewed with the same appreciation and respect that studio or club trainers are. Why? In most cases, health clubs and private studios have professional managers or owners who set their training staff a standard of extreme professionalism. If you are a solo in-home personal trainer like me, you alone are responsible for your business practices. If you work for someone who subcontracts in-home training, you are still responsible for how professionally you conduct your business. Unless you have a business coach holding you accountable or you are a highly motivated person, it can be easy to let your standards slide when you are down, tired or burned-out. When I meet people at social functions and they discover that I am a wellness coach and an in-home personal trainer, I can tell by their facial expressions that they wonder about my income, knowledge, etc. I find it quite amusing. I know that referring them to my website (www.kaycross.com) will clear up any doubts about my business.

In-home personal trainers: you need to let the world around you know that you are serious about business. It is past time to improve your reputation in the community and upgrade your fees to reflect the expertise that you possess. You can increase your professionalism by polishing to perfection your work standards, scheduling policies and expectations. Let’s get out the sandpaper and smooth your rough edges.

Upgrade Your Work Standards

If you work for yourself, it is easy to get lax about work standards. After all, who is holding you accountable? You need high work standards if you want to be known as a top-notch, sought-after in-home personal trainer. Review your standards in the following areas and make a “to-do” list of improvements you require.

Work Attire. Invest in great-looking workout attire from companies such as Adidas, Nike, Reebok, etc. Look very clean and put together, and do not wear clothes that look too relaxed (yoga-wear, weekend clothes, etc.). If you have a company logo, consider having it added to your shirts or jackets. Do not go to clients’ homes looking as though you just worked out yourself. You have a paying job, so look like you do.

Policies. Take a serious look at your scheduling and cancellation policies. If they cost you more than 10% of your income per year, you need to make some changes. In-home personal training is not like a salon that takes “walk-ins.” You have to prepare for your clients, so filling late cancellations is difficult, if not impossible. Enforce policies that work for you yet allow some rescheduling flexibility for your clients. I allow clients to reschedule in the same month if they give at least 24 hours’ notice. Also, when clients do not already have weekly standing appointments, schedule the next session before you leave their homes.

Billing. Run your business like any other professional business by organizing your billing practices. Decide on an orderly way to bill clients and collect payment. To prevent late cancellations with no pay, I bill each client monthly, with payment due on the 1st before any sessions occur. If payment is not received by the 5th, I call or send an e-mail reminder.

Marketing and Promotion. Spend the money to have a professional design your stationery, business cards and marketing materials. Instead of clients looking at your materials and thinking you are without doubt a “one-man show,” you want them to think, “Wow, this is a serious business that charges respected fees. She must be good—I want to hire her.”

Transportation. Many in-home trainers drive cars to clients’ homes. In this money-driven, materialistic world in which we live, appearances are very important in business. If you drive a dirty old clunker to a high-end neighborhood and are collecting fees of $85 or more per session, you are going to look like the used-car salesman in movies—not a good idea. You need to drive a current, clean car. You don’t have to drive a brand-new Lexus, Mercedes or BMW, but you do need to realize that if you charge a lot for your services, you must look like someone who can.

Maximize Scheduling

Scheduling in-home training sessions can become a disorganized, money-wasting ordeal. In my early years, I literally drove all over the metroplex, squeezing in as many sessions as I could. I wasted hours on the road and a lot of gas money because I did not group sessions together in the same areas. Now I am smarter. I drive to specific areas on certain days and other areas on other days. If a new client lives in Colleyville and wants to train, I let him or her know that we can make that happen on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. To maximize scheduling and the income you make, implement the following practices:

1. Arrange to be in specific locations on certain days of the week.

2. If you have downtime between sessions in the same area, take work with you to do at a bookstore or coffeehouse instead of driving home. Plan for this time instead of wasting it.

3. Outline your ideal work schedule, and plan sessions during those hours only.

4. Let clients know that you have a full schedule and that to ensure they have a slot, they need to book their sessions now. Portraying a “full-schedule” mentality will make you more attractive to good prospects. A trainer who is available any time does not appear to be in high demand.

5. For clients who want three standing appointments per week yet travel frequently, make an agreement that they will pay for missed sessions when they are gone. It is too difficult to fill three sessions per week on a frequent basis. You can replace some of the missed appointments with e-mails or coaching sessions when these clients are on the road.

6. For clients who train with you less often than 2 days per week, request any out-of-town dates for the following month by the 20th of the current month. This strategy will give you time to fit other clients in those slots and preserve your income.

Gain the Respect You Desire

In the Dallas–Fort Worth area where I live, some in-home services charge $45–$100 per hour for pet grooming, lawncare, decorating, wardrobe consulting, massage therapy and handyman work. I have a master’s degree and a dozen certifications, so I am going to charge more for my expertise. Clients and prospects need to know that your services are worth more than other delivered services because you are a highly trained professional. I make sure that clients have copies of my resumé in their files and know about all the continuing education and training I do each year.

If you are receiving less respect than you want, take a good look in the mirror. To be a sought-after, highly regarded in-home personal trainer, you must act like it, dress like it, project it, charge for it and believe it. True change starts with you.

SIDEBAR: RAISE EXPECTATIONS

If clients are to view you as a true professional, they need to expect a lot from you and you must expect good results from them. A few years ago, I created a “Great Expectations” document that lets prospects know what they can expect from me and what I expect from them. It acts as a tool for weeding out people who are looking for a baby sitter versus people who are truly committed to making change in their everyday lives. Expectations are part of the self-fulfilling prophecy cycle—you will get from people what you expect. Let clients know what you expect from them in the beginning, and you will save yourself the suffering and frustration that come along with the not-really-committed-but-want-to-say-I-have-a-trainer types.

Create a “Great Expectations” Document. In it, outline what you and your clients should expect of each other. For example, you will be on time and prepared for all sessions, and clients will be on time, not answer cell phone calls while working with you, etc.

Don’t Continually Extend Sessions or Reschedule “Rescheduled” Sessions. If clients begin sessions late, still end their workouts on time. You do not want to positively reinforce negative behaviors or clients will continue to practice them. If people learn that you will make exceptions all the time, they will tend to take advantage of your flexibility. A trainer who is available any time or can easily reschedule does not appear to be in high demand.

Look and Operate at Your Best. By always being at your best, you will educate your clients that you also expect their best. They will operate at a higher level when around you because you expect more from them.

Weed Out Flaky Clients. I can usually tell by phone if prospects are going to be more pain than pleasure. In that case, I do not take them on as clients. I refer them elsewhere. Occasionally, however, a current client will start putting her sessions on the back burner. After a client called me a few times over a few months to cancel her session because she “totally forgot about this luncheon/meeting/whatever tomorrow,” I suddenly did not have any openings for her. She quit training for about a year and started back later. She learned to respect my time as being as important as hers, and we no longer have that issue. Condition your clients how to treat you.

Kay L. Cross, MEd, ACC, CSCS, president of Cross Coaching & Wellness in Fort Worth, Texas, is a certified business and personal coach, an IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer and a motivational speaker. She can be reached at www.kaycross.com.

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About the Author

Kay Cross, MEd

Kay Cross, MEd IDEA Author/Presenter

I have retired from personal training to return to my passions: painting, dance and coaching. I am a professional artist specializing in watercolor and pastel. I am also a creative life coach helping people discover their true self and passions again to live their purpose. You can find my artwork at www.kaycross.com as well as information about my coaching services. Kay L. Cross, MEd, ACC, CSCS, president of Cross Coaching & Wellness in Fort Worth, Texas is celebrating 29 years of business. Kay is a trained and credentialed life coach through the ICF. She is a national presenter and author of more than 60 published articles. Are you following your passions? Are you living your dream? Is your life full of good things? Are you listening to your spirit? Kay conducts coaching sessions by phone and can coach clients anywhere in the world. Visit us today at www.kaycross.com.