Ever have one client at 6am and one at 6pm, three times per week? (with a lot of free time in between!?) This was my schedule when first starting out as a personal trainer. I took what I could get. I filled in any gap between those 12 hours with anyone. As my schedule filled up the large range between first and last appointment became problematic.
- The day became long and scattered when people were out of town or switched times.
- Sometimes my sessions were back to back for hours on end, with minimal breaks.
These two mistakes were hard to reverse once I had a flourishing business. I wanted to change my schedule, but how? And who to take off my schedule? If I could start over again here is what I would have considered.
Avoiding appointment alterations
Ideally your clients stick with you long term. But, this can be a double edged sword. Many clients get into a routine at the time and day(s) you initially start seeing them. Sometimes they’ll change and sometimes they won’t. They could stop coming to see you all together. Your preferences or schedule might change. You can’t predict change, but you can prepare for it.
Contemplate what you want your schedule to be like from the start. You don’t need to be available every hour of the day. Set general boundaries. If you’re desperate for money and need to take people whenever, try to fit them within your ideal schedule first. Don’t let them choose whatever time they want. In other words, tell them what you have available and go from there.
Then try this…
Setting boundaries beforehand
If a new client doesn’t fit into your ideal schedule, but you want to work with them then tell them that you don’t usually work that time/day. Offer a 6-8 week plan to be re-evaluated. Some people like this because it takes the long-term pressure off. They don’t feel like they have to commit to training with you forever. Maybe they’ll land up being a great client and it’ll be worth it to you. If they’re not then the expectations were laid out from the start and it’ll be easier to pass them along.
At one point in my career I stopped seeing evening clients. Several months into enjoying my free nights, I got referred a client who wanted to train three times a week in the evening. I told her “I don’t usually see clients in the evening but we could give it a try for a few weeks to see how it works out for each of us”. She was a triathlete and excited about my suggestion to exercise outdoors near my house at a park. This made it so I didn’t have to drive back to the gym for just one session. She landed up being one of my favorite clients of all time and I enjoyed working outside since I lived in California at the time.
Knowing your preferences and being honest is key. Communicate and set expectations from the start. Sometimes this works in your favor. People can smell desperation and they can sense healthy boundaries. The later is more attractive.
Leaving space in your schedule
I wish I would have left 10-15 minutes in between each session. My efficiency driven mind found it ideal to get the day done with and to schedule people on the hour. I believe I would have benefited from “interval training” instead of running a marathon every day. See what I’m saying?
Not having more than a few minutes if any at all between clients became exhausting and wore me out. I wasn’t putting my best foot forward. I think 45-50 minute sessions that started on the hour could have worked well for me. You could schedule hour long workouts at 9am, 10:15am, 11:30am, etc. Or schedule a half hour break after every two sessions. There are many ways to do it!
You’ve gotta make time for yourself, no one else will. Leaving 10-15 minutes between most sessions might have added an hour or two onto my day, but it would have helped me stay refreshed, provide a better service and ultimately attract more business.
It’s time to schedule yourself!
Get out a piece of paper and start crafting your ideal schedule now, it’s never too late. You may not be able to get exactly what you write down immediately, but you can work towards it. Think about your career longevity when scheduling.