Free Sessions as a PT

23 June 2022


As a new PT, you will most likely have to take new members through free sessions. This varies depending on whether or not you are employed or self-employed. If you are employed, then you will be paid an hourly rate to do these sessions; if you are self-employed, then this is seen as an opportunity for you to sell your services to prospective clients so usually you wouldn’t be paid for this.

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So, when would you have to work for free?

When a new member signs up, they are assigned a personal trainer to at least make sure they are safe to train, and at most give them some free time to learn how to use the gym. Depending on what gym you are with, you will be expected to give out a 30 – 60-minute free session, or a shorter consultation. You are bound by whatever is stated in your contract with the gym.

What do you do in a free session?

The free session is the time where you take a client through their pre-screening form, talk about injuries and illness, take blood pressure, etc. This is basically making sure they are safe to be in the gym. If you are expected to give out a longer session, then after taking tests and talking about goals, you will take the client into the gym and teach them how to use machines/weights/cardio equipment. Basically, anything that will help them reach their goals.

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How do you know what to prescribe the client?

When talking with the client, you will talk through their goals. This is a time to dig in and find out exactly what bought them into the gym. This can sometimes be quite personal, so building rapport beforehand is always a good thing to do. Asking open questions will help with retrieving information from the client. Closed-ended questions will shut the conversation down.

Focus on three goals, and adjust or build the program around them. For example, if the client wants to increase muscle size, you can give them five basic exercises, that are in the 3 sets of 8 – 12 rep range. If they want to build strength, you can focus on a 5 sets of 5 rep range program (depending on their experience.)

Having a basic plan of what you will give to a new member, and then adjusting it slightly to suit their goals, is a good place to start. It can be as simple as the photo displayed.

Usually, the gym members who come in for these free sessions will be inexperienced in the gym, which is why they are coming to see you. Occasionally, a member will come in who is very experienced. Having a more challenging program up your sleeve just in case is a good idea. Giving an experienced gym member a basic program won’t challenge them, meaning you may miss out on a potential client.

Selling your Services

Once you have spent time with the client in the gym, or once the consultation is over, you can take the member back to the consult room and talk through their options. Having a price presentation page printed out or on your iPad/tablet will help in this situation. As seen below, there are three options. When talking with the gym member, I would start at the most expensive option; they will probably say no, which is expected, and you can then go down to the next package. They might say yes to this as it is cheaper; if not, you can drop down to the next cheapest package.

They will hopefully say yes to this one. But if not, you can then offer the member one half-hour session every two weeks. Even though one half-hour session every two weeks isn’t a great option in terms of business, you can always upsell the client once they trust you and see the value in personal training. I would often upsell clients from fortnightly clients to weekly clients. You can’t win them all though, so don’t take it personally if someone says no to training with you. There are so many reasons that are out of your control that a member will decide not to go with a PT.

The reason that it is important to start with the most expensive option is that if you start with the cheapest option, they may just say yes - and you could miss out on signing them onto two hours per week. One important thing with sales is to never assume. You don’t know what the potential client can or cannot afford. 

One key to sales is making the client trust you. If the consultation or free session gives them confidence that you will be able to help them get results, they will be far more likely to invest in you. If they do not trust that you can get them results, then they will never train with you.

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How to avoid wasting time in these sessions

With this being a ‘free’ session, the new member won’t appreciate your time as much as if they were paying for it. I had so many times when a client would just not show up. This may have been free time for them, but for me it is a gap that I can’t fill. My advice is to let the member know in advance that it is valuable time, and if they can’t make it and they don’t let you know, you won’t rebook them.

Be careful not to give out too much free time, or too much value. Why would the member pay you for something if you give it to them for free? A mistake I often see is new PTs giving away valuable information and time for free.

In summary, free sessions are a great way to get your name out there, to help people and are important in building your business. Have a plan, listen to your client, build their trust, and give them a great first session: this will up your chance of making the sale.

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