You’ve recently graduated from PT school, and are starting to get out there as an actual professional in the Fitness Industry.
After seeing your grad night photos on Facebook, your cousin’s boyfriend asks for you to ‘do them up a bit of a program’.
You agree, since you kind-of enjoy writing up plans, and want to do your cousin a favour (in a way) by helping out their boyfriend.

At no point does Jamie’s boyf ask you what your fees are.

You guess it’s just sort of implied that you’d help them out – since you’re (sort of but not really) family, right?

Should you train clients for free?

Should I Train Clients for Free?

In the above example, the very likely reason why cousin Jamie’s boyfriend^ smashed out a Facebook message to ask you to write them a program is because they don’t presently value the services of a PT.

^ (Gordon? They sound like a Gordon)

It’s not like you are the first PT they have ever heard about, or knows in a two degrees of separation kind of way.

Sounds to me like Gordo hasn’t hired a PT already, because the pain (of parting with money paying a PT for training or a custom program, plus actually working out) isn’t less than the potential reward of reaching their goals. Yet.

Gordon is barely contemplating starting to undertake a training program – which even as a once-off *paying* client, is a client you need to avoid.
You joined this industry to help people – you can’t help those who aren’t truly willing to accept it, even if they pay your fee.

contemplation stage – never train clients for free


What’s the problem, here?

‘Every time you say ‘Yes’ to something, you say ‘No’ to something else.’
Our most precious resource is time.

You exchange your time for a fee, because you’ll never get that time back, and you may as well get something out of it. You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.

We don’t go into business to earn money so we can simply ‘have money’, it is the potential of money that is attractive to us. We work hard today, in hopes to at some point exchange that money for a better quality of time – what time we have in retirement, or between stints of work while we are on a holiday.

Even the ones that pay…

Now – give consideration to the quality of the time that you are spending earning money.

Client A: Frankie. 35. A little overweight.

  • Wants to lose 5kg in 3 months (before their wedding).
  • Already bought exercise gear
  • Has spoken to a few potential trainers
  • As of last month, has already starting working up a sweat every single lunchtime
  • Wants you to write them a program every month, and adapt based your results.
  • Already asked your fee, happily agreed to pay you $90 / program.

Client B: Corey. 35. A little overweight.

  • Would like to lose 5kg.
  • Already bought exercise gear.
  • Wants you to write them a program every month, and adapt based your results.
  • Already asked your fee, happily agreed to pay you $90 / program.

Which do you choose?

Even though Client A (Frankie) might have more questions for you, thus potentially taking up more time, they are also far more likely to succeed than Client B (Corey).
In addition to opportunity for return business, referral clients, and the rest – the warm fuzzies you’ll get from helping Client A are going to be far more than Client B.

So why are you spending your time on Client C: GORDO?

Even giving thought to helping out your cousin, it still isn’t worth your time. Even if Gordon starts to sound like a version of Client A (who doesn’t want to pay you).

This is free labour, not charity.

Unless you can exchange your services in lieu of a wedding present (again, swapping your time for money, but in an indirect way), then you should decline their offer for ‘business.’

“Ya Mum.”

Quick note here – if it’s your Ma, and even if it’s her 47th go from jumping from the Contemplation stage to Preparation, help the old bird out. She loves you to bits. Maybe this time she’ll stick to it 🙂

“It’ll be great experience for you”


You’re a Qualified Personal Trainer.
You’re a professional.  By definition, you earn a fee for your services and expertise.

never train a client for free

I am Jack’s wavering enthusiasm. (source: 27bslash6)

Client Referral Strategy: Fill your appointment book immediately.

This is the year you make serious money

Grab the Free Client Referral mini-course Now.

Abort Mission.

‘The number one cure is prevention,’ and that old adage definitely applies in circumstances such as these.

Biggie might’ve said ‘Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,’ but the inverse absolutely is not true.
If you had No money… well…
‘I’ve got some bad news for you, son…’

1 Easy Step to Not Being In This Position:

When any potential client sends through an enquiry, follow this simple 1 step checklist to not end up in this position.
Even if it is your BFF. Unless of course, you have some mutually beneficial exchange of services (again – time) instead of money.

If you are unsure if they are someone you should do an exchange of services with, see this very handy decision flowchart. (Here’s the version with profanity – exactly the same, but I like it much more for some reason).

  1. Quote them your fee. (which should be at market rate, or above).

Happy Training.


Photo sources: 

  • $5 Dollar Notes / DSC_0146 | Idiom | ZEYREKhasan_swin | Flickr
  • fiddy_note | Australian 50 Dollar note on top of my Samsung … | Flickr