If you’re an independent health and fitness professional, you may be the only person who can give yourself a pay increase. Nobody wants to ask for more money, especially when you have to do it multiple times. If your schedule is full, your only other options for bettering your finances are to tighten your spending habits or create new streams of revenue.
Most people are fearful of raising their rates, but many do it successfully year after year. Keeping up with inflation and earning a decent living are perfectly reasonable reasons for requesting a pay raise. Most people expect it. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. If they like you and find what you do to be valuable, a slight change in fees won't be a problem. If it is, they’ll tell you.
Here are six steps to help you prepare for this exciting change:
1. Boost Confidence
Make a list of what qualifies you for a raise. Have you grown professionally this year? Have you obtained new certifications or attended workshops? Is your schedule full with a waiting list?
Write down client success stories and compliments you’ve received. Seeing your worth on paper is eye-opening. If you’ve been giving 100 percent to your clients, you’ve got a great foundation from which to start.
2. Survey the Area
Find out what health and fitness professionals in your neighborhood are charging for sessions. Consider your level of experience and education when investigating. You might be one of the higher-quality options in town with a waiting list or fall right in line with others. The only way to know is to explore. Also consider offering a bonus service, such as a free monthly workout or newsletter, to set yourself apart from others.
3. Examine the Numbers
If you raise your rates by $5/session and do 30 sessions/week, you’ll earn $150 more per week, which is $600 per month extra ($7,500 per year) before taxes and rent. This is exciting! Even if you lost a few clients as a result, you are unlikely to lose money.
Consider it from the client’s perspective. If you raise $5 x 2 sessions/week x 4 weeks/month, that’s $40/month extra for the client. This is not an unreasonable increase given the quality service you provide. Alter the numbers to fit both your situation and theirs, which will help give you perspective and prepare you for the conversations to come.
4. Practice Your Pitch
Write down what you’ll say and speak out loud in front of a mirror or with a friend. Ask them to respond in various challenging ways. Role-playing can help reveal that the worst thing someone could say to you isn’t so scary. You’ll feel more comfortable and confident after you’ve practiced, even if it feels silly at first. Avoid formal letters, which can come across as impersonal. Direct communication is more respectable in a people-centered business.
Here’s a sample script:
“Susie, I enjoy working with you and appreciate your business. I’ve decided to raise my rates $3 starting May 1st. You can buy session packages at the current rate until then. I hope you understand my need to earn more money, as the operating and life costs around me increase. Do you have any questions or concerns?”
5. Prepare to Negotiate
Many clients will agree to the change with ease. In the case of questions, be ready with your reasoning. Keep it short and to the point. Decide how much you’re willing to bargain and with whom. If you see several people in the same family, or the same client four times per week, you might offer them a volume-based deal, as opposed to someone you see once a week. If a client can’t afford the change, you could shorten his or her session by five to 10 minutes, switch them to a less-desirable time slot, or pair them up with another client for a double session.
You don’t need to raise your rates all on the same day. Pick the first day of a month and begin working on breaking the news two to three weeks prior. Start with the clients with whom you’re most comfortable, as this can help boost your confidence. Approach more intimidating clients later on in the process. You can also tell each person that the rates will increase with his or her next payment. Inform clients a few sessions before payment is due and say, “This will go into effect with your next payment.” And remember, assumptions are stories we make up in our heads. You will likely be surprised at how each person reacts to your rate increase.
Is your heart still pounding just thinking about raising your rates? You’re not alone. Most health and fitness professionals want to make more money, but are afraid of having the conversation or losing business. It’s O.K. to feel uncomfortable. Close your eyes and breathe. Visualize talking to each client and how they’ll respond. Then go through the steps again and put them into action. Soon enough, you’ll be looking back and wondering what all the fuss was about.