I would really like to see an article on the following: the written agreement trainers could or should have between their clients; how to structure these agreements so that they benefit both the trainer and the client; how to make sure you can get your money when people are tardy with their payments; and what the legal implications are, etc. In regards to something like Phil Kaplan’s "series" method of payment, I would like to know if clients pay upon completion of every session, or do they make some other agreement?
First things first: Whether you like it or not, the best thing to do is discuss these matters with your business attorney.
That being said, while it is critical you have all your policies and procedures in place, many times most agreements aren’t going to be worth the paper they are printed on. If a client owes you a few hundred dollars and skips town on you, are you going to pay a lawyer a few thousand dollars to recoup it for you?
I’m not telling you not to have your clients sign an agreement. In fact, I recommend you do. I just want you to understand that personal training is by its very nature "personal," and it is your responsibility to fully explain your policies upon closing your initial sale. Under no circumstances should you hand them a piece of paper and tell them to sign it and give it back to you before their first session. Go over it piece by piece so that they are completely aware of and agree with your policies involving:
- Payment (how can they pay and when is payment due?)
- Returned check fees (what is the fee if check bounces?)
A person is not a client if they haven't paid you. They are merely a prospect. I would recommend you don’t perform the service unless they have paid in advance. If you are using the “series” method and you have a credit card on file, you will always be ahead one session as one payment is held as a retainer. At least that is my understanding of it. I’ve never used the “series” as I don’t believe it creates commitment. Exchanging money is where the rubber meets the road. Extraordinarily successful fitness professionals like Alwyn Cosgrove (three-month minimum commitment) and Brian Grasso (12-month commitment) don’t charge session by session. Both these gentlemen make well over six figures as fitness professionals, and if you want to work with them, you are going to have to commit by putting your money where your mouth is – before you start to train with their companies.