Being a personal trainer and working with clients is much like being in a relationship – you see each other multiple times during the week; you share intimate details of personal lives with each other; you go through some difficult times together (albeit it may be a challenging workout session). Over time these relationships grow and change. You learn more about each other, you share new stories and experiences, and you begin to see someone for what they really bring to the table. Sometimes all this is for the better, other times for the worst.
The Honeymoon period is over…
The beginning of any relationship is great – you get along well, sessions are going as planned, and you think this is the “perfect client” for you. Once that honeymoon period is over though and true personalities begin to shine, you may realize this person you once thought was the “only one for you”, is now your biggest nightmare.
Maybe they aren’t respecting your time – with constant no shows, late cancels, or schedule changes. Or perhaps their goals have changed and no longer fit into your training philosophies, beliefs, or training styles. Or maybe you have just had enough with their constant complaining and whining throughout sessions. Whatever the case may be, you know it is time to break it off.
Ending a client-trainer relationship can be challenging. Maybe you’ve been with that person for years, and don’t want to hurt them. Maybe you see their potential and want to help them. Or maybe simply you need the client sessions. However, sometimes the best thing that can happen, for both you and your client, is to say goodbye.
As a person who really doesn’t like goodbyes, the first time I had to break-up with a client left me with a lot of anxiety, fear, and angst over the situation. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by ending it, but I also knew that they were slowly killing me on the inside. When I was happier that they canceled sessions than showed up, I knew it was time to cut the cord.
While the situation wasn’t fun, once I told them we were going separate ways, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Since then, I have had other situations where I knew it was better for me and the client to split up than to stay together. It’s never easy, but it does improve the lives of everyone involved.
Here are 4 ways I have successfully told a client “It’s not you, it’s me…really”.
- Give them wings to fly: When their package is coming towards an end, start to encourage them to workout on their own. Discuss group exercise class options. Provide them with workouts they can do on their own. Let them know how far they have come in your time together and emphasize that they have the skills and knowledge to go off on their own.
Even if you know they may not do a lot on their own, at least you are inspiring them to be self-sufficient and it brings an end to your relationship. Let them know that you are always there as a support for them, but you are happy to see them in the gym working out on their own.
- Working with another trainer: When you know that time has come to let a person go, but they have no desire to workout alone, it is time to suggest another trainer. Talk with your colleagues about this individual, and see who may be interested in picking up a new client (new trainers are always eager for new blood, even if it is a less than ideal client). Plan a “sick day” or “vacation day” and let your client know that you will have a “sub” for them to workout with that day. Hopefully, during that session, the two kick it off, and you can easily encourage the client to work with the new trainer instead by suggesting “a change” in the schedule.
- Scheduling conflicts: If the client is a constant no show or late cancel and has a prime-time spot, let them know that you had a change to your availability and you will no longer have that spot available (whether that’s because you stop working then, or you give it to someone else). Let them know that you are happy to find another trainer who can work with them at that given time.
The same works if you no longer want to train at certain times during the time. Simply let the client know that your schedule has changed, and you will need to match them with a person who can work with them during that time.
- Change is good! Another way to say farewell to a client is simply suggesting to them they work with another trainer because you feel it would be good for them to “mix it up”. Sometimes clients are more than happy to change it up but don’t want to hurt a trainers feelings by suggesting it. Have a trainer in mind that you can suggest and go from there!
Have a plan and stick to it
Just like any relationship that has run its course, ending a trainer-client relationship can be challenging. However, it can be the best for everyone involved. Don’t let yourself get burnt-out or taken advantage of by clients by having these few policies in place from the beginning:
- 24-hour cancellation policy. Stand firm to this. Charge clients for not showing up to you. Enough lost sessions due to no-shows and the person will hopefully get the point.
- Late show policy. Mandate that the time of their session is from xx-xx. If they show up 15-minutes at that given time, then they will only receive the remaining time. This way they won’t show up late and expect you to still give them the full session time.
- Goal setting sessions. To ensure that you and your clients still have the same philosophies and goals, establish goal setting sessions on a regular basis. Use this as a time to get out of the gym, meet them at a coffee shop or on a walk, and really discuss how training is going.
- Only promise what you want to constantly deliver. If you’ve got a client who wants regular programming delivered to their inbox, needs daily check-ins with you, or has other demands, consider what you want to do for the long-term. If you start off producing weekly training plans for them, then they will grow to expect this, and thus you must maintain that. Consider instead if written out training plans are included in your price point, or if that is an extra charge for your services. Make sure you are respecting your time as well!
- Or you could go about it in good ol’ fashioned Donald Trump style and just tell them ‘You’re fired’!
Next time you want to bang your head against a wall because “Newman-No Show” didn’t come for the 5th time that month, create your exit strategy plan and end that toxic relationship!
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Summer created GXunited as the ultimate resource for GX instructors after she realized there was not one single place to go to get information about certifications, conferences, choreography ideas, or blogs specifically for GX instructors. She is excited to spread her love of GX with more people through this venture! Check it out at GXunited.com and follow us on social media @GXunited.
Summer holds both an MS and BS in Kinesiology from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, as well as a BA in Dance Studies. She has achieved many of the top industry certifications, including NSCA CSCS, ACSM EP-C, ACE & AFAA GFI-C, and holds many specialty certifications, including Balanced Body Pilates Reformer, YogaFit, Schwinn Indoor Cycling, and 7 Les Mills programs.
Currently, she is traveling the nation on a nomadic adventure with her hubby and 3 puppies, while discovering new and exciting exercise ventures. Join their journey on Instagram @ournomadicadventures.
Latest posts by Summer Sides
- Breaking Up With a Client - January 12, 2017
- 5 Tips for Improving Posture in Your Classes (and a little science fun!) - October 10, 2016
- Are you a martyr to life as a fitness professional? - July 18, 2016