Sliding scale fees, otherwise known as discount fees usually stem from the best intentions. Clients pay for services based upon their income range. The amount of money an individual earns determines their fee for personal training. People earn more pay more and people who earn less pay less. This is an option for personal trainers who set their own rates. There are pros, cons and ethical concerns involved.

Pros of sliding scale fees

It’s generous to charge people according to what they earn for a living. It seems like the right thing to do and a way to give back in your community to those who need fitness guidance. You could make a huge difference in someone’s life who wouldn’t normally be able to afford your services. You might also attract a niche of people that other personal trainers are missing out on. There’s something to be said for a busy schedule, regardless of how much you earn.

But, there’s the other side of it….

Cons of sliding scale fees

Can you earn enough money if you charge less than average for personal training? Most business experts advise against this method of payment. They point out the importance that you charge what you’re worth and offer the same price to every client you see. Imagine the person in front of you in line at a store getting a better deal on the same items. Grocery stores, clothing shops, doctors and lawyers charge everyone the same.

Consider how other personal trainers in your community might feel about your below average rates lowering the average local cost of personal training.

In addition, collecting information about income gets you involved in the clients financial life and could be crossing scope of practice boundaries. Does the client feel awkward sharing all of their health information plus finances also?


Advice if you do

*Make sliding scale available to all clients to avoid discrimination.
*Check local laws and regulations for any rules.
*Consult with your accountant and lawyer to set it up securely.

Others ways to give back if you don’t

*Teach group fitness classes so people have a lower cost option to work with you.
*Offer free or discounted sessions to those that need it, but make sure to have justification in case word gets around.
*Volunteer health coaching services at charity events, no strings attached.

What about donation based services?

Some fitness professionals teach a donation based bootcamp, yoga or exercise class. Participants get to decide whether to


contribute or not and how much. It’s a low pressure way to expose people to what you do and popular in many client-based professions. Christine Oakes, owner of Fun2BeFit in Silicon Valley, CA started a donation based yoga class when she was newly certified. It helped her gain experience and provide an affordable option for folks. It has it’s pros and cons. She says, “Some people sign-up and don’t show up. There is nothing for them to lose. However, I have brought in over $100 in donations for the hour sometimes. It’s a great way to fill in gaps in your schedule so you are making money and not sitting around.”

This is another conversation to have with your accountant to make sure you are cooperating with tax laws. Oakes does her own taxes and claims the donations as a server would their tips.

What’s your take on sliding scale fees and donation based services? Share with us on facebook!


Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.