5 Things I Wish My Personal Training Courses Taught Me (… But They Didn’t)
Here’s a startling statistic for you…
Over 80% of personal trainers quit their business within a year.
Yes, despite the fact the fitness industry grows year on year, it also has one of the highest failure rates of any business sector.
And it’s easy to see why.
I remember my first day in the gym after achieving my personal training qualifications…
I was feeling really excited as I entered the gym, but I suddenly felt very small and lost once I got in there, as it dawned on me that I had none of the skills I would need to make a success of my new career.
You know why?
Because I had a piece of paper that said I knew what I was talking about.
Nobody gave a f**k.
To this day, almost twenty years on, I’ve never been asked how qualified I am. Clients didn’t care. I’d been focusing on the wrong thing.
Thankfully, many years later, I’ve done alright in the fitness world – but I did it by focusing on the stuff I wasn’t taught in the classroom…
So how do we stop you from being part of that 80% statistic?
Well, the bottom line is your personal trainer course won’t do a good job of preparing you for the reality of being a personal trainer. They make it seem like everything will be Lego Movie awesome, and it won’t be. There are 5 things I’d like to focus on that NEVER get taught on these f**king courses:
Only joking (but not really), I’m going to give you 5 actual things down below.
1. DON’T NEGOTIATE WITH “PRICE TERRORISTS”
My business mentor Derek Halpern once famously asked:
“Have you ever been offered $500 for a $5000 job?”
It’s a soul destroying feeling, knowing you’re selling yourself short just to have something.
But it happens to most personal trainers.
Sure, it would be foolish to set your hourly rate too high (unless you live in a trendy city where it’s the norm), but in my experience, most personal trainers actually face the opposite problem; charging too little.
They grossly undervalue themselves due to a lack of confidence, and their business suffers for it.
You start off with ambitions of £30 per hour. But when nobody takes up your offer, you drop the price to £20. Still no takers. Panic sets in, so you lower it to £15. Still nothing. Then £10. Then £8. Then two sessions for £12… whatever you can get… sound familiar?
But the WORST thing you can do is start lowering your prices in the hope that anything is better than nothing, because you will attract the wrong type of customers (the type who are always quitting, or dropping sessions at the last minute, and looking for ways to reduce your price even further).
Well, it goes hand-in-hand with the old classic quote:
“Give people an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”
I call these people “price terrorists”.
I can give you two first-hand examples of what I call “price terrorists”.
First, you wanna know why my app costs £6 per month?
Because I’ve poured thousands of hours into creating the killer workouts and nutrition plans inside it. It’ll get you in unreal shape, and it’s a steal at that price.
But here’s the thing…
I used to provide a similar service (not quite as good, though) via my website for free.
And you know what happened?
People took the f**king p**s.
Not satisfied with all the free content I provided, I’d receive emails like this on a daily basis:
“Write me a custom workout plan”… “monitor my eating every day”… “give me a list of supplements”… “create me a specific plan for when I’m training on holiday”…
I was spending all my time catering for people without any reward, and the same people would just quit at the drop of a hat.
Sure, by making some of my tools free I attracted a pretty large audience…
… but much of that audience was the wrong type of people.
It happens in the gym, too.
I had one guy try to convince me I should train him for £7 per hour (which was slightly below the UK minimum wage at the time). Not only that, but he wanted me to travel to his existing gym for it, and cover his membership as part of my deal…
At first, I thought he was joking. He was not.
The same guy then declared, “I can see your availability on your website but none of those times are good. But that’s not how this is supposed to work anyway. I tell you when I want to train, and you have to be there.”
See what I mean?
You cannot build your business with motherf**kers like that.
You will end up burning yourself out, running yourself into the ground for very little financial reward, and even less job satisfaction.
And that’s probably not why you became a personal trainer.
A personal trainer has a very unique skill-set. You’re in a position where you can literally change a client’s life for the better.
So do not undervalue yourself, ever.
2. THE SIDE HUSTLE TECHNIQUE
You know what causes most PT’s to go down the route I described in the last step?
They leave their personal trainer course and go “all in”.
Because courses make you feel like you’re gonna leave the classroom and walk right into a lucrative career on Muscle Beach.
So we pass those tests, then grab a big loan, pay a gym £400 per month “rent” (to work there), and hope to pick up enough clients before the end of the month arrives.
This is a terrible idea.
Instead, I encourage you to keep your job while you get the ball rolling on your PT business.
I found it considerably easier to build my fitness business when I removed the fear of worrying how I was going to pay the rent, the monthly bills, the kids’ activities, etc.
I patiently built my client base and established my reputation, then made the switch-over when the time was right.
This allows you to take a more serious and long-term approach, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of you hitting the panic button and suddenly dropping your prices in a mad scramble for any clients as the end of each month approaches.
3. WORK ON YOUR PEOPLE SKILLS
Here’s another quote for you:
“People don’t buy from businesses. They buy from people.”
I’m sure you’ve heard it.
If you’re self-employed, that means you are your brand.
I’ve known plenty of personal trainers with excellent ability who have struggled to pick up work because they had the people skills of a wet fish.
Well, the success of a personal trainer hinges NOT on their knowledge, but on their ability to teach it to others.
I once watched a PT over-explain the mechanics of a cycling workout to a bunch of 12 year old girls, and I could pinpoint the exact moment he lost them.
As their eyes glazed over, and they no doubt started thinking about what they were gonna have for dinner, he was explaining the different functions of the vasus medialis and the rectus femoris.
Of the many personal training courses I’ve attended, none explained the value in developing great people skills.
But I wish they did, because it’s crucial to success in any customer-facing business.
Take a look around the gym… there’s probably a PT who really excels at this. Notice how they find it much easier to pick up clients and keep them coming back.
With better people skills, you can communicate with your target audience, sell your services, and improve customer retention.
Because, make no mistake about it, if your personal training business is struggling it is NOT the fault of your potential customers. It’s YOUR fault. The buck stops with you in your business. They can’t see the value in working with you because you’re not doing a good enough job in presenting that value, to persuade them to hit that ‘Buy’ button.
For most people, this is a communication thing.
But the key is to find that weakness, and eliminate it.
Because here’s another thing…
That old saying about “people buying from people” is definitely true, but we can make it even better.
“People don’t buy from people they like, they buy from people they trust.“
If you are in shape, you are an advert for your business.
If you have credentials, you have proof of your expertise.
If you have good people skills, you can show others it can work for them, too.
In this line of work, these are the three best ways to make people trust you. This makes you the total package, and puts you light years ahead of PT’s who behave like self-important d**ks, as well as PT’s who “look the part” but didn’t think they needed to earn their qualifications.
(F**k you, Instagram.)
Before we move on, do you notice how this ties into the previous two points?
If you’re better at dealing with people, you’ll be able to fully display the benefits of working with you, and thereby charge what you’re worth.
4. FIND YOUR “ONE THING”
How many clients do you want?
All of them, right?
You want to be busting at the seems with customers trying to give you their cash in exchange for rock hard abs! Cuz money.
Actually, and this took me a while to learn, that may be a bad thing.
In a bid to be exposed to the widest possible market, we can dilute our skill-set to the point of irrelevance.
The first time I attended a networking event, I had to write a short bio explaining who I am and what I do.
It went something like this:
“I’m Russ. I’m a fully qualified fitness instructor, personal trainer, and kettlebell instructor. My goal is to help clients with their health and fitness needs; from bodybuilding, to strength training, functional fitness, weight loss, and optimizing nutrition.”
Can you see the problem?
It’s bland as f**k, right?
Reading the paragraph above, I don’t even like Russ…
… and I am him!
That’s honestly how I used to work. I’d try to sell all the different things I’m good at, in the hope it would bring me the largest possible client base.
It was a well-intentioned, yet ineffective tactic.
Because to my potential customers, it means nothing at all.
There’s one problem above; I’m speaking like a trainer, not like a salesperson.
Make no mistake, you are a salesperson. Your objective is to drive sales for your business.
“My goal” is to help clients with their fitness needs (etc)?!?!
Man, f**k my goals!
The customer doesn’t care! They care about their own goals, and whether I can give them what they want.
And the faster I can answer that question, the better.
So how did I get around this?
Well, a friend challenged me to come up with something called an elevator pitch.
The idea is to be able to explain your entire business as quickly as possible, preferably under 15 seconds, in a way your target customer can fully understand.
It’s actually harder than it sounds, because we love to show off all the different things we think we’re great at…
But it works a charm.
The next networking event, I wore my new elevator pitch on my t-shirt (because I was still working on my people skills!):
(drum roll please…)
“Russ Howe PTI: The Fat Loss Guy.”
I was the most popular guy in the f**king room.
Not because I was any better at my job, but because people instantly knew what I did. And they decided on the spot whether they wanted my service, because the benefits were super clear.
There was no hard-sell.
And to top it off, it f**king rhymes.
Girl at gym:
“I want to lose some weight. Who should I see?”
“The fat loss guy. Obviously.”
Sure, I had taken a risk by potentially limiting the people who would find my PT business attractive, by targeting fat loss customers, but I needn’t have worried…
You see, rather than getting less clients, I got more.
Because a good elevator pitch will clearly display the benefits of working with you (tying in to the previous points above), and the clearer you are about your target market, the more they’ll listen to you.
Let’s go deeper…
Why did I choose this tagline?
Not because it rhymed. And not even because I thought that’s where the most money was.
No, I chose it because I consider it my main skill.
I love bodybuilding. I love heavy deadlifts. I love sprinting, too. But HIIT and fat loss training are my s**t. They always have been.
And all the little sayings you see me use on social media (“Outwork Everyone”, “Build Your Best Body”, “Science Not Broscience”) are things I actually say in the gym. It all ties in, because it’s who I am.
A more modern example of people doing this poorly can be seen if you scroll through the social media bio’s of personal trainers.
Rather than using it as advertising space (which is exactly what it is), most PT’s try to cram as many boasts as they can into 160 characters or less.
And, exactly like my original bio above, they get lost in the shuffle because they’re too bland and their ideal customer cannot tell if they could benefit from the service or not.
So here’s what you should do…
Find your “one thing” and laser target your business towards it.
It could be anything; your approach to life, a rule you live by, a style of training, a mindset, a philosophy, the thing you aspire to… whatever it is, find it.
Then present it as directly as you can.
5. GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Let’s get back to that statistic from the article opener:
“Over 80% of personal trainers quit the fitness industry in less than one year.”
I got two things to say about this…
First, that sucks.
I never like to see people quit on their dreams. I kinda want everyone to be successful at something. So I encourage you to really go for this. DO NOT allow yourself to become part of that statistic.
And the second thing I say should help you do just that…
Because who the f**k is starting a business and throwing in the towel in under a year?!
Let’s get something straight here:
If you want to be your own boss, you’d do well to forget all the fake bulls**t you see on social media.
The pictures of laptops on the beach… doing no work… people living their #bestlife… etc.
This is an idiotic expectation right up there with those fools at the gym who believe they’re going to “just get sponsored by a supplement company and get paid to train all day”…
If you want an easy life, the WORST thing you can do is start your own business.
It’s up there with moving home, and having kids, as one of the most stressful things we can put ourselves through. If you are not totally ready for the challenge which lies ahead, you will likely fail.
I want you to treat your PT business with the same mentality you’d have if you opened brick and mortar business, like, say, a local store or a garage.
Minimum of three years.
You need to give yourself a fair chance to succeed.
How does this tie in with the other points? Well, keep your f**king job, take your time, and become better at selling to your target market.
You are trying to build an empire here, one which can hopefully provide a steady income for your family for many years to come.
Treat it as such.
5 Things I Wish My Personal Trainer Course Taught Me
So, there you have it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and if you are just getting started as a PT feel free to keep me updated on your progress by emailing the website. I love reading stuff like that when I’m doing my cardio.
If you haven’t already got my workout app, give yourself a slap!
Have I missed anything from the list you’d like to add? Leave me a comment below, and I’ll check it out.