The first 6 months of being a self-employed fitness professional can be tough. Where do you find clients? How can you get feedback on your sessions? And how are you meant to use word of mouth to get recommendations when you haven’t got a client yet?
It’s a classic chicken and egg situation. You need clients to get testimonials and build a reputation, but you need a reputation to get clients. No wonder so many self-employed coaches and PTs give free sessions to friends and family.
How long you could offer free sessions for. A month? 3 months? Don’t wing it.
But is it the right thing to do? Let’s look at the pros and cons of offering freebies so you can choose for yourself.
If you're newly qualified and have found this blog whilst looking for answers, then before you read any further go and check out our free guide to getting started. It's comprehensive, practical and doesn't take all day to read: Getting Your Fitness Business Started
6 reasons to offer free fitness sessions to friends and family
- It’s a fast way to build a client base
- You’ll be able to test run your systems and programming
- You’ll be able to get testimonials and social proof
- It’s a valuable source of feedback about your sessions
- You’ll widen your network to future paying clients
- It will help build your confidence as a PT or coach
Why you might not offer freebies as a fitness professional
- You’re offering a valuable service which shouldn’t be free
- It will take more time to earn a living if you offer freebies
- It might be difficult to bring the freebie period to an end
- It could have a negative impact on relationships with friends and family
How to decide whether to offer free sessions
Now you’ve got a list of the most reasons for and against offering freebies, you need to decide whether it’s right for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Can I afford to offer free sessions?
Offering free sessions or class spaces will have an obvious impact on your income, in that you’re giving away spaces that you could be charging for. Make sure you can afford to do this.
When do I need to start earning?
Look at your outgoings (both personal and business) to assess how long you could offer free sessions for. A month? 3 months? Don’t wing it without a clear financial strategy that has a beginning and an end.
Can I afford not to offer freebies?
Offering free sessions isn’t all about lost potential income. There are valuable reasons behind offering freebies, like building your confidence, trialling your sessions, troubleshooting your systems, and getting feedback. Can you afford to go without these opportunities if you decide to start charging strangers straight away?
If you decide to offer free sessions or classes, get clear on what’s in it for you.
How to set boundaries around free sessions
If you decide to offer freebies to friends and family, you absolutely must ring fence the process. Don’t let it drag on, open-ended. Set boundaries around time (how long will you offer freebies for), energy (how much extra support and advice will you give), and capacity (how many people do you want to give freebies to)?
Am I equipped to have challenging conversations?
You’ll need to be very clear about your boundaries and expectations. Are you ready to have business-like conversations with friends and family? Think carefully about when and how you’ll have the necessary conversations, and consider backing them up with written communications.
What do I want to get out of it?
If you decide to offer free sessions or classes, get clear on what’s in it for you. Tell people up front what you need in return. Feedback on your coaching, programming, and people skills? Thoughts on timing and location of sessions? How easy your booking and payment software is for them? Testimonial at the end of your time together? Tags, shares, mentions on social media? Don’t be shy to ask for what you’re worth.
Finding clients isn't easy, which makes it all the more important to start on the right note when you do. Check out our blog How To Make A Great First Impression.