Payment and Billing Policies
Requesting payment and dealing with money is certainly not the most enjoyable part of personal training. However, the fact is you are in business and you need to make money. You are providing a service for which you must be paid. To avoid any misunderstanding, be upfront and clear about what you expect from your clients in the areas of pricing, form of payment, and time of payment.
There are several ways you may collect your fees. It is common for trainers to require payment upon completion of the session. However, some clients like to pay up-front, while others prefer to be billed. Some trainers will allow clients to choose when and how they want to pay, while others have a strict policy regarding when the session is paid and the means of payment.
Invoicing can be a nice option for clients who train with you multiple times per week. Instead of writing twelve checks per month, you can bill them monthly, which requires them to write only one check. If you do choose to send invoices to your clients, you may create your own or use any number of programs available for small businesses. Your decision will likely depend on how many invoices you will be sending monthly. At a minimum, the following information should be included on the invoice:
Name of your business
Address to which the payment should be sent
Date of invoice
The number of sessions for which payment is due
Total amount due
Date by when the payment must be received
If you do not mind waiting for payment, clients who see you multiple times per week may appreciate this method of payment; it simplifies their lives. Keep in mind, however, that your bill will be one of many and may not be as high of a priority, so payment could take longer.
If you collect money after each session, you will always have a cash flow. You will not have to concern yourself with budgeting receivables. Asking clients to pay by the session will also reduce the sticker shock. Some people find it easier to pay $50 per session for ten sessions than to receive a bill for $500 at the end of the month.
There will be clients who wish to pay for multiple sessions up-front. They will likely be looking for a discounted rate. This is a common practice in the industry, and it too has pros and cons. The benefit of selling packages is that you have the money up-front; you are guaranteed those appointments. If someone misses an appointment, they have already paid for it, and you do not have to chase them down for payment. The drawback is that if you discount your services too much, it cheapens the perceived value. You may also end up spending the money before you complete the sessions you were paid for. Then it feels like you are working for free.
If you do choose to sell packages, be specific about the timeframe in which your clients may use the sessions, and whether or not the sessions are transferable to someone else. Be as flexible as possible for your customers without causing your business to lose money.
Forms of Payment
There are four different ways you can accept payment from your clients. Most trainers who work on their own accept only cash and checks. Those who work in or own a facility may also accept debit and credit card payments. There are benefits and drawbacks to all forms of payment. Figure out what best suits your business and set your policies accordingly.
Some clients will prefer to use credit cards over cash or checks, especially if the amount owed is a large sum. Credit cards are convenient and many people use them for the rewards programs offered by the credit card companies. People will be more willing to make big purchases if you offer this option of payment. If you choose to do so, you will first have to be approved by a financial institution. You will also be charged a fee by the credit card processing company. If you are an independent trainer, you must determine whether the benefit outweighs the cost for this option.
Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) will take money directly from the client's checking account. This form of payment is only necessary if you own a facility and are charging a membership fee. You will be required to pay for this service as well.
Checks offer an easy way to accept payment. Many people feel comfortable with checks because they are not carrying around large amounts of cash. You may at times find an account with insufficient funds to cover the check you cashed. You will then be charged a fee by the bank. When you write your payment policy, include that you will charge a fee for this situation. You have to deal with the inconvenience, as well as the penalty imposed upon you. It is well within your legal right to do so.
Accepting cash is the easiest way to conduct business. You have immediate access to your money, and you do not have to pay a handling fee, wait for a check to clear, or deal with insufficient funds. As the saying goes, cash is king. The danger with cash is, if it is in your hands, you will be more tempted to spend it.
Having a refund policy will put people at ease about buying your products or services. Basically, you want to let your clients know they will be 100 percent satisfied, or receive their money back. You will also have to consider your policy on refunding packages if you sell them. You may choose to refund a percentage of the purchase price or all of it, depending on circumstances. At the end of the day, keep your client satisfied. Losing a long-term customer over a refund is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.