Personal Trainers – What to Do When Clients Cancel

What to Do When Clients Cancel
Clients cancel.  They cancel last minute.  It’s tough as a personal trainer to know exactly what to do when clients cancel.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve found a method that is fair.  You get paid, the client doesn’t get mad, and everyone’s happy.

This post will explain what to do and what to say when you find yourself in this predicament…


Step 1 – Have a Policy & Announce It

First, you need to have a policy.  If you need 24 hours notice of a cancellation, then make that a policy.  Maybe you only need someone to cancel the night before, that’s fine too.

Whatever you decide is fair for you, and that you can live with, is a good policy.

But… be consistent.

You must have one policy for every client…

No Exceptions!

Now… here’s the really important part – you need to tell every client about your policy as soon as they sign up.  Period.

It should sound a little something like this:

“Hi Sandra.  I just want to tell you about my 24-hour cancellation policy really quick so you know.  If you forget a session, get busy, or forget you have an appointment, and you don’t give me 24-hour notice, I’ll need to charge you.  However, I have two exceptions: if you wake up sick, I won’t charge you, and if there’s a freak weather condition that makes it impossible to come, I also won’t charge you.  Are you ok with that?”

It’s very important that they tell you they’re ok with it.  If they aren’t, this is the time to discuss any changes… not after they cancel on you.


Step 2 – Offer One Freebie

Some of my clients show up like clockwork.  Some of them are chronic no-shows.

If you have a loyal client that rarely misses a session, and they forget one time.  Give them a freebie.


Make sure they know you are doing so.

The conversation should go like this:

“Hi Sandra.  I had you scheduled today.  Are you OK?  Well, you do know about my 24-hour cancellation policy, but you’ve never missed before, so I’m happy to give you a free pass.  Does that sound alright with you?  Awesome.  Thank you!”

Making it obvious makes sure you both know what’s happened so there are no unspoken expectations, regrets, or confusion.

But what if a client cancels a lot and you feel really uncomfortable talking to them about this?  Well, here’s the best solution I’ve found…


Step 3 – Having the Conversation When A Client Cancels

Learn this now.  You will be having the conversation at some point.  It’s inevitable.

When a client cancels, and you’ve done steps 1 & 2, they usually know they’re going to be charged and they’re OK with it.

However, there are some clients that still try to avoid getting charged.

This isn’t fair to you or your time!

So, you need to have a conversation ASAP.  And here’s how to have a conversation without causing any friction:

“Hi Sandra.  I had you scheduled yesterday, are you OK?  Did you have an emergency?  OK.  Do you remember my 24-hour cancellation policy?  Well, I never heard from you yesterday, what do you think we should do?”

First, you make sure they’re alright and there’s no emergency.  I’ve made mistakes of charging them, and they had a family emergency, or were in the hospital.  They were a bit frustrated, and I had to clear everything up.

Next, you ask if they remember the 24-hour policy so that all expectations are clear.  Maybe this client signed up and you forgot to tell them.  If they answer “no” then give them a free pass and tell them about the policy for future reference.

Finally, you ask them what they think.  In my experience, 90% of clients will tell you to charge them.  If there is a client that is adamant you don’t charge them, then you need to decide if one session is worth the client leaving you.

In my experience, the only time it’s worth losing a client is when they cancel all the time and they hurt you more than they help you.


I used to be very uncomfortable having cancellation conversations, but once I started using this method, everyone has been happy and I haven’t lost any clients or caused any confrontations.

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