By Carrie Myers
Q: “I recently opened a small fitness studio and have been billing the old-fashioned way—by hand. This is becoming cumbersome as my membership grows. What technology is out there that will help me streamline my billing process?”
A: Whether you’re an independent personal trainer or instructor, the owner of a large health club or run a small studio, the last thing you want to do is spend time working on paperwork when you could be working with your clients. Fortunately, there are many forms of technology that can give you back your time and lower your frustration level.
The great thing about today’s technology is that it is more convenient and affordable than ever—and can even be used with your smart phone. Enter PayPal’s “PayPal Here.” It’s a small blue triangular-shaped device that plugs into the headphone jack of your smart phone and allows you to swipe credit and debit cards for payment. While it’s not the first of its kind—Square is one of the original devices—it has a nice package of features that not all of the other brands offer yet. For instance, in addition to being able to swipe credit cards on the blue triangle, you can also take pictures on your phone of credit cards and checks and process them that way. PayPal Here, of course, accepts PayPal payments, as well. It can even electronically send your members invoices. Goodbye wasted paper.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of PayPal Here is the fact that it costs you nothing upfront for the blue triangle and accompanying app. PayPal makes its money by charging charges you a 2.7 percent fee on every transaction. While this fee is slightly lower than many of its competitors, you can knock it down even further by using the debit card PayPal provides to you, which gives you 1 percent cash back. In essence, this reduces your transaction charge for billing down to 1.7 percent.
Other companies that have card-swiping devices include Square, Intuit and VeriFone Systems. Thoroughly research each one and choose the company that is the best fit for your business.
Mobile devices are great for small- to mid-sized studio owners and for fitness pros on the go, teaching and training in various locations. But what if your business demands more?
There are many companies that offer software and programs made specifically for health clubs. These include MINDBODY, eFit Financial, iGo Figure and Motionsoft. While Motionsoft is primarily for billing, the others offer additional features, such as member check-in, scheduling and client-relationship tools, including one that sends members a “Happy Birthday” message on the appropriate day.
“We have used Mindbody Online since 2008 and we really like it,” says Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Wash. “We use it for everything from scheduling, billing, reporting, selling, event registration and so much more. It is a tool that works for almost anything and everything we need.”
But no program is perfect. “Once in a while we will run into something it can’t do and the customer-service team normally comes up with a work-around for us,” explains McMillan. “The online shopping cart isn’t the best because folks have to sign in and remember a password and enter too much info. For personal-training appointments this is fine, but for selling products it is not ideal.”
Before purchasing any program, request a free virtual tour of the software. Ask colleagues what they recommend, what they like about the program they use and what they don’t like. Make an informed decision before you buy into a program that you may find isn’t easy to manage, doesn’t offer what you need it to or offers way more features than you need.
Carrie Myers is owner of CarrieMichele Fitness, author of Squeezing Your Size 14 Self into a Size 6 World: A Real Woman’s Guide to Food, Fitness, and Self-Acceptance, and presents, teaches and trains in N.H. and Vt.