Nobody likes to get cancelled on at the last minute. Especially when your career and livelihood depend on it. A cancellation policy is a form of written communication that prevents conversations about cancellations from being too awkward. This blog examines what you need to consider when crafting a cancellation policy and how to appropriate communicate your policy to your clients.

Here are two primary reasons a cancellation policy is valuable to you as a health and fitness pro:

  1. It gets you to consider your professional boundaries.
  2. It communicates those boundaries to your client in advance of a cancellation.

Before creating your own cancellation policy, answer the following questions on a piece of paper or on your computer. Clarify your thoughts further by talking your answers through with a colleague or mentor:

  • What are your expectations of your clients for accountability and attendance?
  • Do you allow one cancellation without charge as a courtesy?
  • How far in advance should your clients cancel to avoid charges? 24 hours? 48 hours?
  • Do you charge for a half or full session when your client cancels within the set window?
  • Do you have exceptions for canceling within the window? Illness? Emergency?
  • How many cancellations do you allow before you talk with the client about the issue?
  • What other thoughts do you have about cancellations?

Coping with a Chronic Canceler

Even with a policy on paper and clear boundaries in mind, there is usually one client who pushes the limits. You may have a client who constantly cancels within the window to avoid paying but leaves you with an empty appointment more often than you’d like. You might have a client who cancels and pays for the missed session, but isn’t getting results or making progress because of his or her lack of commitment.

Once you decide that a client’s cancellation habits are a problem for either of you, it’s time for a conversation. The cancellation policy itself won’t do the talking, but it is there as written back-up. Having a record of when the client canceled and why could be helpful to have on hand when you decide to talk about the issue with the person.

Conversations With Chronic Cancelers

Here are two examples of clients who cancel and what you could say to them. Calmly and confidently express your concerns and then pause to provide the client space to respond.

Scenario A: Max cancels frequently, but before the window. He follows your rules and never has to pay for the session, but you are left with an empty space and no pay.

“Max, I appreciate you honoring my cancelation policy and giving me as much notice as you can when you’re unable to make a session. I’m having trouble finding someone else to come in at the last minute and am left with unpaid time too often. I’m sure you realize that I only earn money when clients are paying. I enjoy having you as a client, but need to keep my schedule full to stay in business. Can we find a way to make this work for both of us?”

Scenario B: Julie cancels on the regular, but within the window and doesn’t seem to mind paying. She values your time and wants to keep her spot even if she can’t make it. However, she seems disappointed that she isn’t losing weight and always appears to be tired.

“Julie, I appreciate you compensating me when you can’t make your session. It’s nice that you respect my time. I’m concerned that you’re not meeting the goals you came to me with because we aren’t together consistently. How do you feel about your fitness goals and missing sessions?”

Consider how you would handle these two situations. A well-thought-out cancellation policy is a vital career component that creates a stable foundation for communication with clients. It’s also a self-awareness tool that aligns you with your career more consciously.