Base your rate on the market; not the perception of your worth
In Part 1 of this series, we saw how a good living could be achieved. It involved getting a good hourly rate for your training, which for me is $120 per hour. Part 2 shows you the science of setting the right rate for you and your market.
Part 2. Your Rate
Not long ago, I was doing my certification 3 and 4. The PTA facilitator had the class to write down and share what we would charge per hour once we were qualified. The results ranged from $30 to $200. The discussion sparked to try and convince the person who decided $30 that this was too low. We then discussed whether $200 was reasonable or realistic. This discussion was revealing and important, but we missed the most important thing: you can’t set your rate without knowing the market. Let’s look at how to find out the market rate relevant to you, and the consequences of getting the rate wrong.
Before I was a franchisee of the fitness chain I am currently with, I an employed trainer for them. I was on the princely sum of $23 per hour (this is still their current rate). However, they had no trouble offering me $42.50 for a 30-minute session. This equates to $85 per hour, so I had a base rate that I knew was achievable as a minimum.
During my time on staff, I was undergoing further training. I was gaining significant experience but most importantly investigating what the going rate was for the savviest trainers at my gym. I did not value what someone at another gym was getting. My thought process was that there will always be someone that claims they earn a huge amount, but unless that person works at my gym, I was not interested in comparing. My investigations revealed that the best operators at my gym got $120 per hour. So I decided to charge $110 per hour, reflecting a “discount” due to my lack of experience at that stage of my career.
How Much Can You Raise Your Rate?
I raised the costs of my sessions to $55 for 30 minutes (or for some clients who had bought in bulk, as low as $39). I agonized over this at first, but no one blinked an eye. I continued to retain clients. However, this was not the experience of another trainer who changed over to the franchise at the same time as me. She made a significant strategic mistake: she jumped straight to the $120 mark, and she made her minimum session length 45 minutes. This meant a current client who was used to paying $40 session now had to pay $90.
I now offer 45-minute sessions, but I made my entry point to training accessible with 30 minutes as my default length at the beginning of a client relationship.
Don’t Go Too Low
Another disastrous scenario is making your rate too low. An example of this came up this week. Stephen* is a first-class trainer, but he is beginning to suffer burnout and as I talked to him I began to see why. He did not shift his rate from the $85 per hour that the chain started us on. As a consequence, he is working crazy hours compared to me.
From Part 1 we know that at $120 per hour, 10 hours of actual training per week will earn $40,000. After a year of training and further education, I put my $110 rate up to $120 per hour. For Stephen, this is 14 hours (which is almost as many hours as I’d need to do to earn $70,000). To earn $100,000, I need to do 20 paid hours per week, for Stephen, it is nearly 30 hours, which when you take into account cancellations, admin time, etc., he is in the gym from 6 am till 7 pm. This is unsustainable.
Personal training can be a great lifestyle, but if you don’t get the fundamentals right, it can be a draining and disappointing experience. It doesn’t have to be. In part 3 we put it all together and show you how you can make the numbers work for you so you can enjoy bringing life-changing experiences to your clients.