Business ManagementPricing and Payments Why a Strong Cancellation Policy is a MUST in Your Online Training Business

Just like with their doctor, physiotherapist, and other appointments, clients should understand that their personal trainer and studio classes will have a cancellation policy. As a younger trainer in the game when I was just starting my business, I was a lot more lenient on cancellation policy; however, it didn’t take me long to figure some things out.

Set and record policies up front

I always make sure I set the rules upfront with all new clients so that there is no confusion. I have learned that if you don’t set these rules initially at sign up, then some people will try to take advantage of you and your time, which is very frustrating. Let’s just say I have learned this the hard way over time, but I’m sharing these tips in hopes that you don’t have to learn as you go the way that I did.

It’s a standard across industries

People are used to it! For example, when they book a vacation or hotel room there is usually a cancellation window, if they buy clothes there is usually a return policy, if they make a doctor’s or hair dresser appointment there is often a strict cancellation policy… So, why can’t you have the same to make sure you still get paid for your time and effort?

Once they’re in place, you’ll rarely have to enforce

I have found that since putting all of these policies and contracts in place I rarely have to enforce my cancellation policies. Often if a client late cancels a session with me the message from them often includes this “so sorry to cancel last minute and obviously charge me for the session” because they know what it is. Now, with that being said sometimes I take things on a case by case basis, and client by client basis depending on the client etc. For example, I have clients that have been training with me for 6 + years and never cancel on me, but if they have a really good reason/medical emergency I occasionally let it slide because client loyalty means a lot to me and my business.

Your time is valuable

If it wasn’t already obvious, your time is valuable! Time lost is time that could have helped another client—and you can’t be adjusting your schedule every day due to constant changes. Plus, you can’t be monitoring your emails full-time to manage changes.

3 Policies I use in my Studio and Training Business

Private One-on-One Cancellation Policy

All sessions have a 24 hour cancellation policy or the session is lost.

This is discussed right at the time of sign up and I also have a digital contract in my studio software that clients have to sign when purchasing their session packages that again re-iterates the cancellation policy, return policy, and expiration dates.

As for the return policy, I have a no refund policy on the purchase of personal training sessions, but allow clients to transfer sessions to a friend or family member if they are no longer able to use their purchased sessions.

I also put expiration dates on all personal training session packages which are quite generous, but it prevents people from taking off for a year and them coming back like “hey I still have 2 sessions left from 2 years ago right?” (It has happened!).

I still use session packages because it works best in the structure of my business, but even if you offer monthly payments for personal training, you should still have some kind of cancellation and return policy in place to protect yourself.

Small Group Cancellation Policy

All sessions have a 12 hour cancellation policy or the session is lost.

Much like my private personal training I have very similar policies in place for clients coming to my small group training sessions at my studio. (I sell session passes not monthly memberships) because I feel that most people know by 7pm if they are going to head to a 7am class the next morning, right?

Again I have my software set up so that clients have to sign a contract at the time of purchase of session passes that discusses the cancellation policy, refund policy, and session pass expiry date.

I’ll be honest, many people don’t read contracts, but this has saved me quite a few times when people have disappeared for a few months and come back trying to use an old session pass from many months prior. All I had to do was send a screenshot of the contract they signed with their signature and there are usually no complaints.

Online Personal Training/Nutrition Coaching Cancellation Policy

All packages are a non-refundable 3 month commitment.

I have very similar policies in place in my online coaching business as well in order to protect myself and my business. I charge a monthly fee for my coaching services and require a 3 month (non-refundable) commitment to ensure they are completely committed to the process and not just in it for quick results.

I have a contract similar to the contract in my in-person training software that clients sign at the time or purchase that reiterates these policies so there is no confusion and clients can’t come back and say they didn’t know. I also have a note right on my website prior to purchasing that says my coaching packages are non-refundable to get the point across even further.

Consultation Call Cancellation Policy

No policy currently, as I have yet to have a client cancel on me.

I only do calls with clients at the beginning of their programs after they fill out their consultation form, prior to me creating their programs and then once a month for 15-minute check-ins. I have found that with all the policies in place people are very serious about their training and I find my clients are very excited for their calls and don’t cancel on me.

That is just me and what works in my business, but perhaps you should think about getting a booked call cancellation policy in place as well if that works best in your business.

I hope this was helpful in getting cancellation policies set up in your online and/or in person personal training business!

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Michelle Roots

Michelle is the resident fitness expert for Trainerize. She has 8 years’ experience in the fitness industry training clients through her own business including: professional and elite level athletes, celebrities, online clients, and average people with fitness and fat loss goals, to name a few. She holds a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA) and a certified level 1 Nutrition Coach. Michelle wakes up happy every day because she is able to do what she loves for a living.

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