Newly qualified personal trainers (PTs) face what can be a daunting question when they first start out: how much should I charge? From projecting your expected income, to taking costs, taxes and the competition into account, there’s a lot to consider. Thankfully, help is at hand.
The following guide has used the wisdom of experienced PTs to help you set your rates. Here are the main points they think you should consider.
Location, location, location
Where you live can play a big role in how much you can charge. Finding out what a range of other local PTs charge (in return for what specific services) can give you a good idea of the going rate in the area. One-to-one sessions in certain parts of London, for example, can easily cost £100 an hour. In other parts of the UK, around £25-£35 an hour is the norm.
Compare yourself to the competition
Mollie Millington (@PTMollie) is a PT and fitness writer who runs group and one-to-one sessions in East London, as well as a digital-only service. She made sure that she did plenty of research before deciding what to charge:
“I looked at what other PTs were charging at local gyms and on Gumtree. When I first started, I wasn’t that experienced, so I charged a little less.”
She’s not alone. Darren Craven, a PT with Amaven with five years’ experience, also warns against setting your fees high at first. Especially when you don’t have the experience or advanced qualifications to back your perceived value up:
“As a new PT, it’s tempting to jump into a high pricing strategy in order to cover all of your overheads, gym rental fees, uniform, travel etc. But unfortunately, clients aren’t going to pay huge sums for a trainer with no experience. When I started training in the gym I stuck to a competitive pricing strategy, but I made sure I offered clients something that others didn’t, so they had a reason to choose me over the other trainers in the gym. For me, this was the option of online fitness training to supplement their weekly sessions.”
Know your target market
Some PTs might hope to find a couple of wealthy clients which will pay a great deal for their services, but the reality is most PTs won’t. The majority of clients who want to use PTs don’t have an endless supply of expendable income.
Millington advises new personal trainers to thoroughly research the people who live in their planned operating area before setting their prices:
“How much does your target demographic actually have to spend on a PT? Also, take into account the time it takes to plan each session, to move between locations, and other costs such as equipment and website hosting.”
The value of experience and qualifications
Don’t be afraid to put your prices up as you gain more advanced qualifications and experience. In the five years that Millington has been charging clients for PT sessions, she has raised her prices twice:
“As my CPD courses started to add up and as I became more confident, I also increased my fees. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices from year-to-year if it is still a competitive rate to your competitors.”
Craven also experienced a similar impact on his bottom line and working life as he spent more time learning the ropes:
“As I gained more experience and a loyal customer base, I was able to increase my prices and I became more selective about who I took on as a client.”
Developing your PT services and finding a USP
The UK personal trainer market is estimated to be worth over £600 million annually, with well over 20,000 registered businesses operating as of mid-2015. Making your PT services stand out in this crowded marketplace is vital if you want to be able to grow your business and increase your prices.
Craven found that traditional one-to-one sessions were not turning out to be as profitable as he wanted as he got busier:
“As my career continued to grow, I found that I had less and less time to continue doing the same hour-long training sessions with all my clients as I had previously done. So, I switched to only offering online training sessions. I charge my clients a monthly subscription price rather than asking them to pay per session. It makes more sense and even though I’m charging less monthly, I have managed to pick up a lot of new clients so it actually works out better for me now.”
Pre-paid packages vs pay as you go sessions
Any personal trainer knows that last minute cancellations or clients who simply don’t turn up can be frustrating. And if people don’t pay for sessions that they don’t use, it can prove costly. Millington found that even having a standard cancellation policy wasn’t enough of a deterrent to stop this from happening. Taking this into account, she decided that making her services into pre-paid packages was by far the better option:
“I learned that packages are the way to go as it ensures I am always paid for my time. If a client cancels at the last minute, there is no way for me to enforce my 24-hour cancellation policy. Training people in pairs is another great way to offer a discount without having to do too much more work.”
Factor in taxes when setting your PT fees
It’s the part that no one likes to think about, but it’s important that you consider tax when figuring out a competitive, sustainable pricing strategy. The amount you need to pay for NI contributions will depend on your earnings, but they start at around £2.80 a week and are paid via self-assessment. The tax personal allowance is currently £11,000 for the tax year 2016/17, so any earnings over that threshold (after business expenses are deducted) will be liable for tax. The HMRC website is a great resource for information on how it all works if you are new to self-employment.
Factor in any other business costs
Running any type of business is no simple matter, even if it’s a sole trader business, which many personal trainers begin as. You’ll need to keep an eye on your business expenses, from gym equipment to stationery and computers. You’ll also need to factor in essentials like personal trainer insurance, petrol costs for travelling between clients and marketing costs like a website, business cards or flyers.
Capacity planning and PT fees
If you can charge clients a higher rate, then, in theory, you will need fewer clients. This could help you maintain a good work/life balance once you’re established. You’ll need to calculate how many clients you can fit in and make sure that your pricing structure allows you to achieve the lifestyle you’re after.
For example, building a schedule that includes 4 separate sessions a day might be physically possible. However, are you sure your potential client base includes enough people who are usually free at those times? If your clients are likely to be 9 to 5 workers, your capacity plan needs to take this into account. This also includes the logistics of fitting these sessions into your days, travel times between clients and the amount you’ll need to charge in order to make everything viable.
Be realistic, but don’t sell yourself short
Your session and service costs are not set in stone. If you start operating and find after a while that you’ve over or under-priced yourself, you can always change your fees. Or you could expand into new services, new types of package discounts or types of sessions with new prices.
Taking extra qualifications can be a good way to move into new areas. Even teaming up with other PTs who offer a different type of service can help your own business to expand. Asking more experienced personal trainers for advice can also help give you some great ideas to maximise your earning potential.
About the author
Insure4Sport is trusted by thousands of personal trainers, fitness instructors, coaches, teams and players to help when misfortune strikes. They rely on us to protect them from public liability claims and protect their equipment from theft, loss and damage, and much more. Our sports insurance policyholders and newsletter subscribers speak to us regularly, so we thought we’d compile their insights and those from the wider industry into this handy guide for up-and-coming fitness professionals.