This post is dedicated to all the health, fitness, and wellness professionals who train clients in their homes. It is intended solely to express some of the day-to-day realities of a richly rewarding profession and work environment.
I am writing this as an examination of myself and wanting to share my experiences in hopes of helping another professional. It is not an indictment on my clients or a reflection on them at all. It is simply a means of catharsis to help me grow. These are some of of the real life challenges that can sneak up on you when you soften your professional boundary lines when you privately train clients from home. Periodically I have to sit back and measure the costs of my mistakes. I'd like to share that with you all and I hope you enjoy it.
I Personal Train Clients From My Home
I work in a helping profession. Like Joseph Pilates said, "it's okay I fix." That's basically the same way I view myself as a person who practices "movement architecture". I have a unique talent to help others get out of chronic pain by restoring their posture and functional movement patterns.
I am a teacher. I am fantastic at helping my students take complex biomechanical concepts and apply them to their bodies to bring about a positive change in mind, body and spirit.
I am a problem solver. I have a unique ability to isolate the "missing link" or root cause of what a person's original problem is that started the chain reaction of restricted mobility and pain.
I am a happy person. Cups half-full, lots of energy, and a positive outlook. Not to much phases me and I can help re-direct my clients sadness, frustration, despair and hopelessness in a way that they leave the studio feeling completely different about their situations.
I want to help. Because I feel that I am gifted in so many of these areas, I want to share it all with my clients. There's so much information! And I care. A lot! When a client is in chronic pain, and I can see the path out, I want to be there as much as I can for my clients.
Now, I don't say all that to self-promote, because I'm also the first to say that I'm not everyone's cup of tea. Of course there are times when I'm not the right trainer for a client, or my services or style of instruction doesn't meet their need. But for the most part, pretty much everyone gets better when they come in to Pain Free Posture MN and choose to partner and work with me.
And this is a blessing and a source of discouragement all at the same time. Some of my readers might not know that Pain Free Posture MN is a home based studio and that I, Deb Preachuk am a real human being.
Yep, that's right. I work from home. My website and on line presence may give an otherwise impression, but the real deal is I have a fully insured and equipped postural therapy, pilates and training studio in my basement.
Being able to work from home has brought numerous BLESSINGS to my life. For the most part, from a professional standpoint, I've been able to have my cake and eat it too. For example:
- The commute is great
- I've raised my kids without sacrificing time away from them past what was reasonable for me
- I can keep my training service fees lower than storefront studio prices
- The help is cheap!
- It forces me to clean way more often than I'd like to
- I've learned how to let a lot of things go that I can't control
For the amount of professional blessings, there have also been many personal sacrifices training from home. The biggest being our family "free space" is my work space. There's no room in our home to let it all go.
But honestly, for the most part even the sacrifices have all ended up being benefits too. Such as:
- Although the studio is located where my kids would have had sleep overs, and hang outs with friends, I am blessed with a family that understands that sacrificing that space has blessed our family in the long run. Because of my studio, we have had opportunities and experiences in life that otherwise would never have occurred.
- They've learned how to interact with adults, answer the phone and take messages. They have to keep the living space clear and tidy, and mind their manners when they have time off of school.
- They've learned the value of postural therapy, corrective exercise, pilates and other modalities, and know how to take care of their own bodies. My family practices what I preach and teach!
- They have met AMAZING people from every age, gender, race, religion and ethnicity. Everyone has something powerful to share with one another and we CAN all get along.
- They have learned compassion for those live with chronic pain and are desperate to get well.
So I try to keep it all in perspective. BUT.... there are some downsides to owning a home studio which specializes in the holistic health and wellness field. The reality is, I screw up sometimes.
I am a Real Human Being and I Make Mistakes
When you train people from you home, professional boundaries and policies are super important to implement and enforce. Otherwise, it's easy to forget that my home studio is still a business. Honestly, it doesn't occur that often, but when it does, it is usually due to small boundary lines I have not enforced that accumulate over time.
It can happens so easily. My husband and kids are welcoming and understand that they are just as important in my client's healing process. We all engage with our clients, have conversations to make you feel at ease and we do this naturally because we are a happy family. We know that it's not just me training clients.
I practice individualized attention. I believe that when I am with a client, at that time they are my primary focus and the most important thing in the world. I want my clients to feel this way. I am afterall a "fixer".
As a person who works with people with chronic pain, sometimes they can get into a pain flare up and they need some advice/encouragement. And the age of instant communication doesn't help. I do say "We're in this togehter and I am here to help". And that is true. I will do what I can to help.
Sadly, I've been accused of not holding up my part of the bargin, particularly when I've made the mistake of letting down some of my professional boundaries towards a client simply because I want to help them get better.
When this occurs I have to stop and reflect on my business practices. And when this happens I always come up with the same answer. The Problem is Me.
Professional Boundary No-No's. The Problem Really is Me!
I've done all sorts of no-nos when it comes to professional boundaries. I've:
- Not Established Work Hours | I've returned calls and emails outside of my regualr work hours. This can give my clients the impression that I am accessible 24/7 to which I have gotten phone calls and emails at all sorts of inapporpriate hours expecting an immediate response.
- Forgotten The Basics of Communication | Taken personal days off and forgotten to change my voice and email autoresponder to reflect that the studio is closed for the day. When clients call and the boundary line is already soft, this can cause a huge distress.
- Not Enforced Payment Policy | I've said it's okay when a client forgets to bring payment for a session, and out of generosity waived the Studio Policy for missed payment. You only have to do this once to train your client to think that it's okay to do it again. The only person that suffers in this instance is me (insert sad face)!
- Not Increased My Rates Often Enough | When I do not increase rates to match inflation, my clients may not connect to the value they are receiving by working with me in my home. The cost of training at a storefront studio comes with a price tag that is often double the rate I charge. Because I don't increase my rates as often as I should, my client can sometimes lose sight of the value I provide.
- Too Much Talking | I like my clients! I have engaged in friendly conversation after the session is completed. For the most part, all of my training sessions are one hour in length unless otherwise noted. As much as I love chatting and hanging out, when the session is over, it's over. If I engage in too much conversation after a session, I miss lunch, time to return calls/emails or my set aside personal study time.
- Overlook Late Cancels Without Penalty | I again out of wanting to be "nice" I've allowed my clients off the hook when they late cancel. Booking a weekly session and less than 24 hours late cancelling costs me a ton! When there is a no show, I am out financially and unable to help another person who is waiting for an open time slot. Now to be fair, I do practice reasonable, and this happens infrequently. I have 2 late cancels due to sudden illness per student/per calendar year.
- Offer Childcare | I have had clients bring their children into my home. Normally they ask ahead of time, and normally it isn't a problem when I know and agree to it. I do however expect that the child can mind his/her manners and stay within a particular area, and I do expect that a client will ask. If I don't tell my client it is unacceptable when the child becomes the focus of the session by constantly interrupting, the boundary line has been crossed. Again, I've allowed the problem to occur in the first place by agreeing to allow the child to come. The reality is, they can pay for a babysitter by hiring one of my kids when they are available, or simply reschedule.
- Not Charged For Extra Time Spent | Sometimes a session runs over the allotted time frame. I've frequently not charged for my time when a session goes over. I have done this because I want to help and I care, but, really it doesn't help anyone or create a sense of value. The only person that's out is me, and I've set my clients up to expect this is as normal.
These are just a few examples of me learning how to run my business while working from home. There's others, but these are kind of the big ones that creap up again every so often because I slack off.
When I realize that I have allowed my professional boundaries to become "blurred lines", and that I HAVE THE PROBLEM, the problem is I HAVE TO CORRECT IT. Do you know anybody that likes discipline?
Because I created a problem for myself, you have to know it isn't easy to fix them without dispruting both myself and others.
This is when re-establishing the boundaries means that some of my clients feel like I am "firing" them.
Of course it's not true, and for the most part, the majority of my clients totally get it and understand. But there are always a few that I'm going to disrupt. I'm not really firing them, but it gives the impression that all of a sudden I've switched. I no longer care, am instantly available or am concerned about them.
So periodically I have to audit my work practices and re-establish my professional work boundaries to remind my clients that I am a human being who just happens to work out of her home. It is still a business, with normal business hours.
Reviewing and re-setting professional boundaries helpt to set limits and clearly define my work and personal abilities.
I know that when I re-establish boundaries to my clientele base, it causes disruption. Let's face it, if you train 2x/week for many years, we become connected. We know each other and our families very well. And although our work relationship feels more like connecting with a friend, the reality is, I am still your instructor. Your personal trainer. Your coach. Your mentor.
I am friendly, but I AM NOT and CANNOT really be your friend inside of the studio. There I said it.
Maintaining boundaries keeps the training relationship in perspective and healthy. I like you, support you, and encourage you. But I am not your savior. I can't be there 24/7, simply because I am just a human being. I do care, I will help and promise to do my best to help withing a boudnary line.
Establishing professional boundaries is something I'm working at doing better each year my studio operates out of my home. I have to do it becasue:
- I have to protect and take care of myself so I can better serve my clients!
- I need to keep myself from burning out. If I didn't turn off the phone and email, I would never sleep or stop working.
- I must creat a safe and respectful enviroment that meets the needs of both my family and my clients.
So there you have it!. I am a fixer. I work from home. But please remember, I am a human being.
I'd love your feedback!
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Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Ruby and Roxy Photography
Deb Preachuk is a Chronic Pain Pain Relief, Posture Restoration and Athletic Performance Enhancement pro specializing in corrective exercise, applied biomechanics, STOTT Pilates and functional movement patterns.
Founder of Pain Free Posture MN, Deb helps real people transform real-world chronic pain challenges into achievable results. Deb infuses her teaching with an honest, open and down-to-earth mix of chronic pain relief therapeutic modalities training techniques to make the concepts of pain relief and body/mind transformation accessible and achievable!