For every 5 successful personal trainers, there are 500 unsuccessful ones.
I’ve been on both ends of the scale, so today I’m going to give you 4 tips that you can use to start (and grow) your personal training business in double-quick time.
And this isn’t the sort of thing they’ll teach you on the course.
Let me begin by saying that being a personal trainer isn’t exactly the myth that Hollywood portrays.
Be persistent and it’s an incredibly rewarding career, filled with interesting people and, yes, a pretty decent wage to match.
But in the early days, it’s tough.
Instead of the Lego movie awesome life the ads promised, most new personal trainers find themselves in a constant juggling act of trying to find new clients, replacing other clients who have dropped off, being offered $50 for a $500 job, and running around all day feeling flustered as they try to fit people in whenever they can…
If you can relate to that, then this post will help you.
So here are 4 things that my 13+ years in the personal training industry has taught me and I thoroughly believe that, if you get them in check, will ensure you are on the right path.
Rule 1: Be The Total Package
We all know a personal trainer who isn’t really a personal trainer.
You know, he’s that friend or relative who goes to the gym and has a fairly decent physique so, ergo, he starts personal training his pals.
He’s that friend you have, who feels the need to wipe his sweaty brow with his shirt whenever a girl walks by.
Equally as common, however, is the guy who sits at the opposite end of the spectrum – the trainer who doesn’t train.
He went through all of his qualifications and ticked the boxes, but he’s not really into the gym, it’s merely ‘a job’.
My advice here is for you to fall somewhere in between these two characters.
Because both of these guys make up about half of the unsuccessful PT’s you’ll encounter.
The first guy’s downfall is that once you’ve exhausted your social circle, it’s very hard to pick up clients if your only offering is “because abs, bro.” Nobody who has trained to intermediate status will give this personal trainer a second look, because all they are able to teach is how to put people through their own training routine.
(This could also be said of the string of Insta-famous “coaches” who push booty building ebooks.)
Instead, they’ll look to the second guy, who picked up the relevant qualifications and can show he (or she) is qualified to do what they do. But they’ll be put off this prospective trainer by the fact that they do not live the lifestyle that they prescribe to others.
Just as people won’t take the non-qualified person very seriously, they won’t take advice from anybody who doesn’t even train. This is an appearance-focused business, that’s just how it is.
So, does a personal trainer need to be ripped?
No. That’s like saying your driving instructor should have stood on a Grand Prix podium, or that Usain Bolt’s sprint coach needs to be faster than Usain Bolt (in which case he’d probably have stopped coaching him for a normal wage and pushed him out of the spotlight for a multi-million pound sponsorship deal!).
It’s important to remember that a PT is not a competitive bodybuilder or fitness model, after all. If they’re an in-demand coach then they probably don’t have the kind of spare time necessary to live the life of a bodybuilder or fitness model anyway.
But they should have a keen interest in maintaining at least a semi-decent shape.
Because while your driving instructor doesn’t need to have stood on a podium alongside Lewis Hamilton, they do at least need to know how to f**king drive.
2. People Skills
People skills are the most under-rated business-building asset you have.
Seriously, the fact that I am quite good at talking to people has allowed me to get further with my business than any other skill I may possess.
I’m quite a humble guy, and by no means the ‘world’s best personal trainer’. Hell, I’ve met tons of guys over the years who have more knowledge and better qualifications that I do.
So why did they struggle to build a good personal training client base?
Because many of them had the personality of a pineapple.
As a PT you are not judged on your knowledge, but on your ability to teach it.
If your sessions are filled with long, awkward silences or moments where the client is staring back at you as you spout off phrases they’d need a thesaurus to understand, there’s your biggest problem.
3. Find Your Thing
When you start out as a trainer, you may be tempted to make the same mistake I made back in the day.
“What mistake?”, I hear you ask.
Well, if someone had asked me for help losing weight, I’d jump at the chance. You’re probably thinking “Nothing wrong with that.” And you’d be right. The problem is that I’d also jump just as quickly at the chance if had they asked me for help getting stronger. Or bodybuilding. Or training for an outdoor event, like Tough Mudder.
Here’s a test for you to do right now – go read 100 personal trainers’ Twitter bio’s.
You’ll notice a trend.
The trend is that every trainer tries to be everything, to everyone.
No. No. No.
“I’m Russ. I’m a qualified personal trainer and I can help you with all areas of your health and fitness goals, including yoga, functional fitness, weight loss, bodybuilding, meal prep, strength training.”
Reading the bio above, even I don’t like Russ.
And I f**king am Russ.
But that is how I used to work. And it’s how I see tons of other trainers do it, too. You see, in trying to be everything, you end up sounding bland as f**k. This took me ages to figure out. But once I did, my business picked up.
All your customers care about is whether you can help them reach their end result or not. They don’t care whether you can help with weight loss, or the names of your different qualifications. If they want someone to help with training for an outdoor obstacle course, that’s literally all they care about. The rest is just wasted words.
By making yourself sound like a Jack of all trades, you get lost in the mix and can talk yourself out of a potential client.
Instead of trying to do a bit of everything and getting nowhere fast, you could be focusing on one specific area of fitness and absolutely dominating the scene in your local area.
And secondly, I don’t care what anybody says, no trainer is as strong in every different field across the board. Sure, we say it, because we want clients, but if someone pushed me back in the day for an answer I’d openly have to admit that I found my best asset was fat loss training.
But was I going to focus just on that one thing, and lose out on tons of potential clients who wanted other things?
I f**king should have.
Because for at least 2 years I tried to make myself as broad as possible to attract the widest range of clients and fill my books. All I really did was make myself sound as bland and unrelatable as possible. I was just another generic PT at the gym, in a gym full of generic PT’s!
Instead of making the same mistake thousands of other personal trainers have made, I want you to find your one thing and focus entirely on that.
For me, as I mentioned above, it’s fat loss training.
More specifically, it’s high intensity weight training, usually circuit-based, and I feel I’m best at training women.
Go look at how I brand my business nowadays.
I’m no longer “Russ the person who can do whatever you need”.
I’m simply “The Fat Loss Guy”.
Any worries I had about shrinking my potential audience were quashed once I realized that first of all this removes stress (as in the stress of taking on clients who want things you wouldn’t necessarily class as your best skills) and secondly, it actually helped me to pick up far more clients!
That’s right. Who’d have thought it.
This happened because I no longer sounded bland and forgettable.
My elevator pitch (how quickly you can get across what you do to a complete stranger) was short and effective.
When people see ‘The Fat Loss Guy’ they instantly know what I do, and to anyone who is looking specifically for what I do, I stand out far more than someone with a 30 word slogan that still gives no clues to their actual skill-set.
So if your thing is bodybuilding, or training pregnant women, or something incredibly specific like always doing sessions which last under 30 minutes, focus on building your business brand around your one unique thing.
While I used to think the more specific you got, the less clients you could potentially reach, it’s actually the other way around.
One final thing this new clarity did for me was to build my network with quality fitness professionals who were skilled in all the areas I considered my weaknesses.
Because in learning how to say no to a client that didn’t fit my business model, I would often refer them to other fitness pro’s who did possess a more appropriate skill-set to match what the client was looking for.
The benefits of this were twofold:
- They returned in kind when the situation arose with them, as well as helping me out with other aspects of my business that needed work, and
- When the client got results with the person I referred them to, I got a good rubdown of the praise as I set them on the right path, building my reputation as a trustworthy authority source in my niche.
Plus, it means I’m a nice god damn guy. And the fitness world needs more of those. Which brings me to my last point..
4. Thick F**king Skin
This is (by far) the most important thing on the list.
I even left it until last for dramatic effect.
The fitness world is full of bullshit, and along your way you will meet tons of other fitness professionals who are more than happy to stand on your head to get themselves up higher.
Which means you’ll hear colleagues slagging your methods off, trying to poach clients behind your back, and just generally being cockwombles in a bid to get themselves ahead.
If you’re not ready for it, that can be a real shock to the system.
So how should you deal with it?
Well, the trick is, you don’t.
To a customer, a game of “he said / she said” sounds unprofessional as f**k, and the jerks who operate in that way are already on a path of destruction which will see them burn every bridge they have.
Retain your focus on your goals, keep plugging away and do so with the class and dignity you want your customers to think of when they think about the service you provide.
And you’re golden!
Did you like my 4 tips for becoming a more successful personal trainer? Thanks! Give it a like, or drop a comment down blow if you’d like to add something to the conversation.
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