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How To Set Your Price: Getting Started as a Fitness Trainer

As a private personal trainer, one of the first decisions you need to make for your business is determining which clients you want to attract. Different types of people will invest in your services depending in part on what you charge. Various price points come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Based on your desired work style and financial goals, you’ll need to evaluate which price package aligns with the type of business you want to create.

By offering prices on the high end of the spectrum, you’ll likely attract fewer clients, but the ones you do will be steady customers who take training seriously. On the other side, low prices minimize the barrier to entry, creating a wide appeal that opens the door to more potential clients. However, those clients may be more prone to cancel on you. The price point you decide to set depends on your preferences and desired business model.

To better illustrate my point, let’s look at a broader comparison between two very different businesses: Planet Fitness and Equinox.

One, Planet Fitness, built its price point around appealing to the “every person.” At $10 a month and an annual fee lower than most gyms’ monthly membership costs, this fitness center offers little barrier to entry. As a result, clients are highly incentivized to join, although most hardly show up. Emphasizing this point, on average each Planet Fitness gym has 6,500 members, yet the gyms can only actually fit around 300 people at a time. This works out fine for Planet Fitness because most members simply don’t utilize their memberships. The gym makes its money by appealing to many people at a low cost, despite how many people actually commit to exercising.

Contrastingly, Equinox is the pinnacle of expensive, luxury fitness centers. It costs between $200 and $300 in starting fees, and around $160 to $250 in monthly rates, depending on the location. If clients are willing to pay these expensive initiation costs, they’re likely serious exercisers who are willing to invest in their training. Members are more likely to remain loyal and subscribe to other Equinox services like in-house training or massages. However, the high prices will deter many people from even considering joining. Similarly, the air of exclusivity may dissuade a casual exerciser who might prefer a “Judgment Free Zone,” like the one promised by Planet Fitness.

So as a personal trainer, should you charge high or low prices? Which are better?

As previously stated, your price point depends on your preferences as a business owner. Who do you want to work with and how much time are you willing to devote to each client? Casual clients might readily sign up with you, but also may break their commitments to you. Contrastingly, a serious exerciser may be harder to attract. Once you do, however, you will probably have a dedicated, long-term client.

By isolating for profit margins, it would take, using the Planet Fitness vs. Equinox example, approximately 20 casual clients to equal the profit value of 1 steady client. That’s something to consider as you determine your own business model. So is scale. How many clients can you handle? Are you a single person starting a business or do you have a team of employees? Perhaps even if you had 20 people sign up to work with you, your schedule restrictions could only allow for 10. Plus, how busy do you want to be? Is training a full-time career for you, or is it a side hustle where you’re already working around a busy 9-5 schedule?

Also, consider how an economic downturn would affect financial prospects. In the case of reduced income, history has shown that casual users of products are more likely to cut spending than serious users. Applied to this example, a committed exerciser will be more likely to stick with their training even when external influences fluctuate. This point suggests that there is an inverse relationship between the dedication level of a client and the financial risk involved.

An additional factor to consider is a psychological phenomenon called the “marketing placebo effect,” in which people associate higher quality with higher price. This means that, generally, if someone is faced with a decision to choose between two otherwise equal products, he or she will associate higher value with the more expensive option. The cheaper option, meanwhile, is linked with perceived lower quality and higher risk. Therefore, someone choosing between Planet Fitness and Equinox may be enticed to choose the more expensive option because they believe it will generate more reward. Consider when setting your own price point: How will people perceive the value of my service based on the price I set?

To conclude on the above Equinox and Planet Fitness comparison, I’d be remiss not to also mention their annual profits. Because after all, the foundation of building a successful business is making sure that you’re creating a sustainable, revenue-generating foundation. According to Owler, an online platform that offers competitive insights on businesses around the world, Equinox takes home an estimated $144M in annual revenue, while Planet Fitness takes in approximately $600M.

Of course, gyms don’t exactly parallel trainers in terms of business considerations. Nonetheless, the comparison explored in this article provides a thoughtful jumping off point for you to frame your business for the greatest chance of success. As you determine your own business model, make sure you frame it based on what matters most to you. For example, is profit generation, work-life balance, or customer impact most important to you? This thought process is the key to consistency, satisfaction, and longevity for your personal training business.