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tricks of the trade

What strategies do you use to tell clients you are raising your fees?

I work for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, North Carolina. Each branch of our association operates differently due to many factors, such as our geographic location, membership base and mission. When I took over the personal training and ┬┤┬╝├╝tness departments 4 years ago, the personal training department was struggling with its budget. When our strongest, most quali┬┤┬╝├╝ed trainers worked, we lost money. We were digging ourselves into a hole and I had to do something to make us at least break even.

At about the same time, IDEA introduced the Personal Fitness Trainer Recognition System. I thought the system was brilliant and much-needed in our industry. I began requiring my trainers to join the system and see where they ranked. I then researched the job descriptions for YMCA trainers, matched up the four different grades of trainers the YMCA employs with the four levels in the IDEA system, and attached increasing rates to each level (i.e., Professional, $50; Advanced, $55; Elite, $60; and Master, $65). I just simply decided to charge more for the more experienced, more quali┬┤┬╝├╝ed trainers. I posted signs clarifying the system and listed IDEA’s Web site for those members who wanted to do more research on their own.

I typed a really nice letter about the system, explaining how each trainer would advance through the levels during his or her career. In the letter I congratulated the trainers on their achievements and explained the price increase along with the date it would go into effect. The reaction from the clients was great. Each one was happy for his or her trainer and felt good knowing that the trainer was knowledgeable and up on current trends. Every couple of years when trainers move to a new level, we inform clients that their trainers’ rates are increasing, sending the same general letter explaining the increase. We have never had any negative issues arise from this system. It seems to be very well received.

Amy Bunting

IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer

Fitness/Personal Training Director


Charlotte, North Carolina

I have been doing personal fitness training and weight management coaching since 1984. One of my pet peeves is going to a service provider, such as a dentist, and paying a higher price every time I go, without prior notification.

As a result I virtually never raise current clients’ fees. I am fortunate that I am a sole proprietor and can set my fees as I wish. However, like everyone, I occasionally need to raise my fees. In that case I hand my current clients a note approximately 2 months in advance, notifying them that I am raising my fees for new clients only. I tell them how much I appreciate their patronage, and that keeping their fees the same is a small token of my appreciation. But I tell them that when they refer friends to me (and I work solely on referrals), my fees will be higher for the new clients.

My clients seem to really appreciate not paying higher costs, and this appreciation is reflected in their loyalty. I feel that I make up the cost difference in the long run by keeping clients longer. Clients don’t feel that they’re just a paycheck to me and because they feel good about that, they’re more likely to refer others to me.

Fran Werner

IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer


Lifestyle Consulting

Austin, Texas

I have been personal training since 1982, when my rates were $45 an hour for a single session and $35 a session for a package of seven. I’ve raised my prices only four or five times since 1982. I don’t make rate changes very frequently so I don’t have to go through this challenge often. I’ve handled it in a number of different ways. For example I have:

  • Sent out brochure that included the new rates.
  • Allowed current clients to keep the old rate.
  • Told clients who paid the old rate what the new rate was, but offered to split the difference in price; or offered to let a couple pay the new price, but only charged them as a single. (An additional person is usually $15 more.)
  • Informed old clients about the rate increase when they paid me, but said that for a time they could pay me at the old rate.
  • Sent out a letter like the excerpt below. (This letter was for the sister of a client who had Down’s syndrome.)

“Thank you again for the opportunity to work with your wonderful, challenging and very charming brother, Brad. I have enjoyed working with him and seeing the progress he has made since we started. As you are aware, I am continually taking classes as well as home study courses to update my education. These classes, along with the many life experiences I have had along the way, enable me to give my clients the best service possible.

“As my costs increase, I am periodically forced to adjust my rates. Therefore I am increasing my rate to $80 per session. The new 10-session discount rate is $700. Of course this will not be effective until the current session package has been used up.

“Please provide me with additional information when you can to help me better assist Brad. If possible I would also like to see his doctor’s update of diagnoses and recommendations/restrictions. Thank you.”

Michelle Hazlewood

IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer

Universal Wellness

Thousand Oaks, California

Our strategy when it comes to raising fees is to employ honesty and early warning. Prices aren’t elevated without prior notification. An increase in pricing should never come as a surprise to clients. We give our customers 3 to 4 months’ notice, and explain the reasons for the price hike. Increasing costs for gasoline (we provide in-home service), exercise equipment, liability insurance and workers’ compensation are common reasons for us to raise our rates.

For the most part this system has worked well for us. In addition we show an understanding for our customers during times of ┬┤┬╝├╝nancial hardship by offering payment plans that make a transition to higher rates more comfortable.

Hartmut Broring, MA

IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer

Founder and President

Back in Form Inc.

Los Gatos, California

If you have a question, send it to IDEA Personal Trainer via regular mail (see “Access IDEA” page), e-mail to WebsterS@IDEA┬┤┬╝├╝t.com or fax at (858) 535-8234. Include your name, company, city, state/province and phone number.

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