How To Become A Successful Personal Trainer
Well done, you achieved your personal trainer qualifications!
But don’t get too excited just yet, my friend.
Despite promising financial freedom and extreme job satisfaction, the fitness industry has notoriously high failure rates.
In fact, one survey claimed that over 90% of new personal trainers quit their business within the first year and filter off back into regular jobs.
That’s a bigger failure rate than Adam Sandler’s run with Netflix.
One of the main reasons for this (I believe) is the huge array of terrible business-building advice out there for new PT’s. It usually goes like this:
- Get qualified
- Add ‘FIT’ to Twitter handle.
- Wear compression pants all day and upload booty pics with motivational captions.
Surprisingly, this does not land you a client.
So today I’d like to get real with you.
In my 15+ years working as a personal trainer so far, I’ve been lucky enough to build quite a good name for myself. But along the way I’ve met countless people (some were incredibly talented) who have failed to make their business work for whatever reason. So today I’m going to give you my 5 golden tips on how to become a successful personal trainer.
These are the rules I built my own business upon, and if you enjoy reading them let me know which tip resonates the most with you.
1. Work Hard
The fact is most personal trainers are f**king lazy.
I see them standing in the corner of most gyms, bemoaning the fact that they have no clients, or dissing the methods of the PT who appears to be doing well.
The problem is they’re still stuck on the dream.
Oh, you don’t know the dream?
The dream is strolling into your gym at mid-day… training a couple of fit chicks… taking a few selfies for the ‘Gram (#onlinetrainer)… and maybe getting sponsored by a supplement company – you know, so you can ‘get paid to train all day’…
The majority of PT’s are hoping for a fast-track to an easy life because it is presented as such.
But if you’re a PT who’s stuck on this dream, be warned; there’s a trainer near you like me, who will outwork you to death and build a large client base while you’re still rooted to the spot.
When I first started my business I’d happily get up at 4am, go to bed at 12pm, and take no days off because I realize that the first few years of running your own business will be the hardest of your entire career.
See, many gym bro’s formulate “the dream” in their heads while they train themselves. It’s also the dream sold by many educational services as a means to hook people into buying their first course (i.e. quite your day job and live a life of luxury, charge whatever you want per hour, go home whenever you like).
But it’s total bulls**t.
You’re about to be self-employed, and you’ll need to be ready for it. Starting your own business is among the most challenging things anyone can do. After all, you wouldn’t become an electrician and then stand around posing in your overalls expecting clients to magically come to you.
So don’t set your alarm clock for 11 a.m. just yet, Slick.
2. Brains Vs Brawn
The fitness industry is littered with personal trainers aren’t even qualified.
Because it’s an appearance-based business.
The majority of people are looking to hire a trainer in order to look good, so if somebody already looks good it’s presumed they must know what they are talking about.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
I highlight the whole of Instagram as an example.
The problem is worsened by the fact that the fitness industry isn’t regulated strictly enough, and many gyms are guilty of hiring fitness instructors who lack basic qualifications.
It always makes me laugh how many guys think “I have abs” entitles them to a client base. Hang on mate, you keep posing and I’ll get Men’s Health on the phone for you, okay?!
In all seriousness, if you don’t own a recognized qualification, you are not a personal trainer.
Nor can you legally call yourself one.
And I believe that if you don’t respect your business enough to obtain the necessary qualifications, you are not going to survive long enough to reach your full potential.
That’s why these individuals usually end up training friends and family, and nothing more.
I’m not saying that achieving a qualification is going to make you awesome. But I am saying that it’s a damn start.
On the other end of the scale we have the trainers who can stack their qualifications from floor-to-ceiling, but have the physique of a walrus.
Should your personal trainer be ripped? No, of course not. But it’s unbelievable how many PT’s are just plain out of shape.
You are the first (sometimes the only) advertisement people see regarding whether your methods are effective or not.
After all, would you get in a driving instructor’s car if it had scrapes and bumps all over it?
My advice is to find the sweet spot between these two extreme measures. That’s how you’re going to get the most out of your business.
3. Accept What You Are
Most people start a personal training business with the wrong idea about what they actually are.
Reading this, maybe you don’t even realize what you are yet. So let’s get this straight.
You’re not a fitness model.
You’re not a transformation coach.
You’re a salesman.
And how much money you make in this industry depends more upon your ability as a salesman than your ability as a personal trainer.
Two great trainers will have shockingly different results if one of them knows how to correctly identify a problem and solve it, and the other one is simply a great trainer.
But marketing is an area that the majority of PT’s are terrified of.
Either they’re too scared of technology, or they’re afraid to charge what they want out of fear nobody will sign up (so they end up giving away too much for too little), or they never learn how to present themselves in a way that persuades clients to sign up…
You cannot learn how to become a successful personal trainer without learning about this stuff, so I find it odd that personal training courses completely fail to mention this side of the business.
It sets newbies up for immediate failure because they don’t know about branding.
So with regards to further education, I advise you to put additional fitness qualifications on hold temporarily and instead focus on learning how to run a business from a sales perspective. Lots of trainers have the personality of a flat tire, so that could also mean taking time to develop your people skills. Great ability as a trainer is useless if you can’t communicate with people.
Honestly, the moment I did that was the moment everything changed.
(Those PT’s who congregate in the corner of the gym will be slagging you off!)
4. Find Your Thing
Stemming from the last point, it’s time to identify your thing.
Everyone has one.
Sure, you probably know enough about a few different training styles to take on clients with a wide range of goals. But that’s where most PT’s go wrong – they try to be everything to everybody (in the hope of landing the most clients possible) and end up losing the customer’s interest.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a personal trainer. I specialize in strength training, weight loss advice, bodybuilding. My passion is helping clients increase their well-being and quality of life through my proven exercise programs and nutrition plans.”
This is your elevator pitch.
(You should be able to explain exactly what you do in 15 seconds or less.)
And the elevator pitch of most personal trainers absolutely sucks, because they turn it into a brag-a-thon and lose the customer’s interest.
I don’t care if you know about strength training. I don’t care if you can give weight loss advice.
I only want to know one thing – what can you do for me?
If I hadn’t fallen asleep reading that pitch, I can only presume he would have gone on to tell me his name is John Smith and his favourite colour is f**king beige. He could be a great personal trainer, but the customer can’t see the benefits of training with him versus training with someone else.
Remember step 3 about sales – the key to a successful business is not boasting about all you can do, it’s about identifying a problem and solving it.
I’m speaking from experience here.
Because that little conversation didn’t belong to a made up character called John Smith. It belonged to me when I first started!
Now try this conversation.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m the fat loss guy.”
Sure, you might be able to do all of those other things. But there will be one area you enjoy the most. I encourage you to focus on your one thing.
My mentor Derek Halpern taught me everything I know about blogging, and he once told a great story about how he went from being unknown at his office to being known as “the spreadsheet dude”, and used this new popularity and skill (which he refers to as his ‘Superpower Solution’) to further his career. Basically, he showed people how to make one little aspect of their business much easier via the use of a simple spreadsheet trick, and pretty soon everybody knew who he was, and he stood out from the crowd.
He believes that everybody has a ‘Superpower Solution’, and he’s dead right.
I found that my best skill as a trainer is delivering nightmarish, balls-to-the-wall fat loss training. And I also have a penchant for writing.
So I decided to focus on those skills alone.
I took courses to help develop my writing skills (nothing to do with fitness – but see step 3!) and I streamlined my marketing efforts.
This goes against how 90% of personal trainers market themselves, but it’s something I have found to be invaluable as I built my own business over the years!
Instead of taking on all-comers, I only took on clients who were looking for the type of training I love and my business model became incredibly clear. People instantly knew what I did.
Let’s face it, I stand out far more with those 5 words than someone using a 30 word slogan that still gives no clue to their actual skill-set.
Suddenly everyone in my area looking for fat loss training wanted to train with ‘the fat loss guy’, for obvious reasons, and despite shrinking my potential audience I quadrupled my client base.
So find your thing.
Love writing nutrition plans? Love bodybuilding? Love training people to achieve an action hero physique? It could literally be anything – the only thing it shouldn’t be is everything.
5. Don’t Take It Personally
It’s surprising how many personal trainers get their feelings hurt and work themselves up into a state over nonsense.
If a client suddenly cancels or switches to another gym, some PT’s take it personally and start acting like a d**k.
They forget that they are not the client’s “friend”, they are a luxury. And the client can choose to cancel that luxury any time they choose.
Instead of moaning, just get another client!
Heck, this is an industry that grows year-on-year. There is no shortage of work out there.
But that’s not all…
Other PT’s are going to try to poach your clients occasionally.
And other PT’s are going to openly slate your methods to gym customers, too.
How you handle this says a lot about how far your will go in the business world.
“Yeah, all the other trainers here are garbage… They haven’t got a clue what they’re doing… Who does he think he is?.. What’s are people signing up with him and not me?.. What’s so special about him?..”
If you’re being trash talked by other trainers, it should definitely be taken as a compliment.
Believe it or not, this is often just a marketing strategy (albeit a poor one) of someone who has failed to learn about sales. They believe the best way to make themselves look good is to trash someone else.
At times it can seem like the fitness industry is a very bitchy place to work, but that’s only because most PT’s are struggling to make it work. They’re not really angry at you, they are just taking out their frustration at their own lack of success. That’s all.
Plus, most customers can see straight through it.
The worst thing you can do is stoop to their level because it’ll make you look as unprofessional as they are, so please don’t take it personally.
It’ll only serve to make you look even better.
Let me tell you something – a busy trainer who is doing well has no time to badmouth other trainers. That’s all you need to know about those characters.
If you’ve enjoyed my article “How To Become A Successful Personal Trainer”, let me know in the comments which of my tips resonated the most with your current business model, and how you intend to apply it.