Know Your Worth: Is It Smart for Trainers to Reduce Price?

TAGS: contest prep phase, business exposure, reduced training fees, personal training prices, online trainer, word of mouth, personal trainers, Just Sayin', Skip Hill

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I never have and never will claim to be a brilliant business mind. I will, however, claim to be very logical, planful, creative, and think outside of the box. The last one is a bit of a misnomer because a lot of people claim to think outside of the box in this industry, and all they do is come up with dumb shit that is illogical. So, I should probably say that I think outside of the box but do so logically.

Because I am going to opine (or rant, you pick the word), I will give a general background to attempt to qualify my opinions that will follow:

I have been in business in this industry since 2001 and making a living since roughly 2006. I have made what most would consider a good living; one that has supported raising four kids, some travel here and there, a nice house, and the ability to have top-shelf vodka poured down my wife's throat on weekends. I am not rich or "well-off," but I am comfortable and my business has provided this for my family and myself. For the record, my wife is a professional and has worked hard for years as well, so I am not going to let that go without mentioning.


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It is also important to note that I started building my business and reputation long before social media was a thing. I started on the message boards, and it took a long time to call people names, argue with people about how smart I was and how dumb they were (if you were on the boards you will understand) before making what I call "side money." It was a "side hustle" before side hustle was even a term. Almost no one was making a living solely by training people online at that time. I was not a pioneer, but I am comfortable making the statement that I was one of the first few that were able to transition my business to become my sole source of income. Some would say that my popularity peaked in or around 2012, but I would counter by saying that my business income has not changed more than 10% over the last 10 years. Again, the previous is simply to shed some light for those that may question whether my opinions carry any weight.

The above being stated, I want to discuss the phrase, "Know your worth." This statement has been thrown around a lot lately, and is most times used in conjunction with statements like, "If you discount your fees to clients, you are doing it because you aren't very good at what you do." My response is to say that that statement is absurd and shows that you may not understand business as well as you should. Let me elaborate.

First, I need to be very clear that most "start-up" or "wannabe" prep guys or online trainers are guilty of reducing their prices for no other reason than they attempt to get more money than they are worth. Yes, I concede that this happens. However, blanket statements like, "Know your worth" and "Anyone who discounts their fees aren't worth a damn" are inaccurate.30594559_l

There are many valid reasons for someone to offer reduced fees to clients when the trainer or prep guy has a solid reputation and has a proven track record. I am going to use myself as an example because I have done this on and off over the years. Though there are more reasons than you or I have time for, I am going to focus on three main reasons that I find incredibly valid if you want to be more business savvy and put your ego aside for a minute, thinking that you have a set fee range and "fuck anyone that can't afford it." That isn't good business acumen, in my opinion.

1. Exposure and Word of Mouth

Some potential clients can represent your brand well and be easy to work with but simply cannot afford you. That means they may never have the ability to work with you if you have the mentality that you have one fee and if a person can't afford it, oh well. Exposure in this business is hugely important and so is word of mouth. If I get a potential client who I know can execute, has potential to make my brand look good, and will talk about me and my brand, I am going to at least consider working with him or her if my client load isn't maxed out at that time. The alternative is working with an asshole who pays me full price when I could be working with someone who can execute, not argue, and not scapegoat me when he or she throws food in his/her pie hole every time he/she lacks discipline.

If you can truly see potential and feel they will be in this game for the long haul, they will laud you for years to come for helping them out. Ask Phil Viz, who to this day gives me props for taking him on when he couldn't have ever afforded me. I didn't make much money working with him, but what I gained over the last 12 or so years of him publicly giving me respect and mentioning me as a mentor to him in his early years has paid for itself 100 times over.

2. Expanding Consumer Base

If you train people internationally, know your dollar exchange rates. What I mean is that if I get a client who contacts me and they are in South Africa, I already know before responding to them that the exchange between the South African rand and the US dollar typically fluctuates between 13 and 16:1. I also know that if someone from India contacts me that the exchange between the Indian rupee and the US dollar can be as much as 60 or 70:1. It is highly unlikely that anyone in India can afford me for even two weeks, let alone a contest prep phase or one year of off-season training. In a situation like this you have two options:

  • I could tell them, "I can’t work with you because you can’t afford me."
  • I could understand from a business standpoint that they probably cannot afford to work with anyone else in the US either, so I could stand to spread my brand to an area of the world that has not even begun to be tapped yet by reducing my fees substantially. If this person has a reach on social media, is popular in their area, or has potential to start to rise through the ranks as a competitor, I am going to consider working with them. I call that smart business; unfortunately, most do not.

3. Promotions (Seasonal or for Other Reasons)

You could also run reduced fees during specific times of the year for whatever reason. This idea gets trashed all the time but typically only by online trainers or prep guys who haven't established themselves yet. Why? Because if someone who is more established and is respected in the industry can get more money (sometimes a lot more money) when they drop their fees, they are potentially taking away clients from those who can't charge as much. My response to that is, "waah.”


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The lesser-known online trainers and prep guys are saturating the market with their start-up "businesses." If I want to run reduced fees to work with people who otherwise can't afford me, I will LOVE to do it, because it means that they will work with me before they will want to work with those other trainers. I have no sympathy for online trainers who have to provide low-ball fees to get clients. It wasn't this much of a cut-throat business until the market was saturated with low-ball fees, so I could care less if those trainers get a little less income for their "side hustle" while I am over here making a living feeding my kids and paying taxes as legitimate businesses do. I can't think of one legitimate business out there that doesn't provide incentives from time to time to further their business and revenue, and that includes large corporations all the way down to mom-and-pop pizza places.

In the end, you have every right to set your fees at any amount you see fit. You also have the right to complain and whine about what others do. I have no interest in what my competing online trainers and prep guys think or do. I am entirely focused on continuing to build my business and revenue, even after doing this since 2001. If you are in this industry for the long haul, it would behoove you to think further down the pike instead of focusing on how much money you can make this week and whether you can buy your dime another LV bag that she doesn't need anyway. Just Sayin’.

 Image credit: Balint Roxana © 123RF.com

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