The first time I set foot in a gym after achieving my personal trainer qualifications, I nearly s**t myself.
Because as I stood there all fresh faced in the middle of the weights room, that’s when I realized…
… I knew NOTHING!
Sure, I still had the words “you’ve passed!” ringing in my ears, and yeah, I could structure a solid weight lifting program – but I knew absolutely ZERO about running a business, and EVEN LESS about selling myself to strangers.
It turns out I wasn’t alone, because despite being one of the few industries to grow year after year, a whopping 80% of new personal trainers quit in less than 12 months.
That’s an insane statistic, and I believe a large part of the reason behind this is that personal trainer courses do NOT prepare you for the reality of being a personal trainer.
So today I want to give you some tips that I never got. This is my list of 5 things I wish my personal trainer courses taught me (but they didn’t).
I hope they can help you.
1. DEVELOP YOUR PEOPLE SKILLS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
The success of a personal trainer hinges NOT on your knowledge, but on your ability to teach it to others.
I’ve met THOUSANDS of coaches over the years who were highly skilled yet struggled to find clients because they had the personality of a wet f**king fish.
But think about this…
You are in a people-facing industry, and customer service skills are every bit as important here as they would be in a shop, a restaurant, etc.
As an example, there’s probably a trainer at your current gym who finds this stuff easy and it isn’t a coincidence they have plenty of clients. Good people skills will get you VERY FAR.
2. FIND YOUR THING
When I first started in the industry, I tried to appeal to absolutely everyone (cuz money).
This held me back WAY MORE than I realized.
Instead, I recommend zoning in on the one thing you’re great at.
For example, the first time I attended a networking event I used this as my ‘bio’:
“I’m Russ. Fully qualified fitness instructor, personal trainer, kettlebell instructor. I can help clients with their health and fitness needs including bodybuilding, strength training, functional fitness, weight loss, and leading a healthier lifestyle.”
It’s bland as f**k, right? You probably didn’t even read the full thing. Because by trying to appeal to everybody, I appealed to nobody.
To this day I see countless trainers making the same mistake on their social media profiles (trying to cram as many boasts as possible into 180 characters or less, rather than focusing on what they can do for the customer).
To get around this, a friend of mine told me to develop an elevator pitch for my business. The idea is that you can descibe the benefits of your business to your customer in as few words as possible – and it works a charm!
One year later I returned to the same venue and wore my elevator pitch on my t-shirt (because I was still working on those people skills!).
It read simply:
“Russ Howe PTI – The Fat Loss Guy.”
I was the most popular motherf**ker in the room!
Not because I was any better at my job, but because the benefits of working with me were super clear, so customers could instantly see whether I could help them – and it f**king rhymed!
Compared to what I had before, this was next level s**t.
Now, your “one thing” could literally be anything, it doesn’t have to be about fat loss or building muscle. It could be a reference to your favourite training style, a mindset, a philosophy or rule you live by, something you aspire to… anything at all!
We’ve seen classics in recent years that invoke body positivity, having fun while you train, being better than yesterday, etc. They all work.
Just find your “one thing” and then present it as directly as you can!
3. DON’T NEGOTIATE WITH C**TS
A lot of personal trainers grossly undervalue themselves due to a lack of confidence, and their business suffers for it.
There are people out there who will try to take advantage of that.
They’ll attempt to haggle over packages, and see if they can drive your prices as low as possible until you are working for next to nothing.
As my pal Derek Halpern puts it:
“One of the most soul-destroying feelings you will ever have as an entrepreneur is being offered $500 for a $5,000 job!”
It’s up to you to say “NO!”
When you’re new this is harder than it sounds, because it might seem like good idea to take SOMETHING rather than NOTHING, but all it does is eat away at your self-confidence and de-value your service to other potential customers.
And it’s incredibly common.
Heck, you’ve probably already seen personal trainers making this mistake at your local gym, or maybe even made it yourself.
They start out offering sessions for $30 per hour, but when nobody signs up they reduce the rate to $20.. then panic sets in and they drop it to $15… then two sessions for $10… whatever they can get.
But here’s the thing…
When people do not VALUE you, they either ignore you or take the p**s.
That means you’ll either attract zero customers, or you’ll attract the wrong type of customers (people who are always cancelling at the last minute, never following your advice, etc).
Do not EVER undervalue yourself. As a personal trainer you have the ability to improve somebody’s whole life. That’s a massive skill and you are BETTER than working for f**king free, so promise me this:
Set your price range (I like 2-3 simple packages) and then stick to it no matter what. No exceptions.
4. YOU’VE GOT TO LOOK THE PART
Hey, I wish it wasn’t this way… but it is.
Do you know how many people have trained with me because I’m highly qualified at what I do?
Seriously, it hurts my feelings.
Do you know how many people trained with me because I look the part?
I’ve lost count!
I’m not saying you don’t need qualifications, of course. You have to earn them in order to run your business, plus the more knowledge you can collect, the better you will be at your job.
I’m just saying that your clients don’t give a f**k about them.
Instead, they care about what you can do for them – and the quickest way to show them this is by practicing what you preach!
Even though I love the fitness industry, I’ll happily admit it’s shallow as f**k. You will find it 10x easier to pick up great clients if you look the part. This I guarantee.
5. THE SIDE HUSTLE METHOD
So how do you build your business if you haven’t got enough clients right now?
Well, I certainly don’t recommend lowering your prices.
Instead, use the side hustle method. That means go get a part-time job, something that fits around your fitness business, and KEEP IT until you are able to transition into full-time personal training.
One of the biggest mistakes new trainers make is to finish their qualifications and go “all in” at a commercial gym where they take out a bank loan to pay rent in the hope of making enough money by the end of the month to survive.
That’s a f**king stupid business plan.
When the end of the month creeps up, you’ll see all of the trainers who do this suddenly start offering special deals and de-valuing their business (while p**sing off the clients they already have).
By having a side hustle you remove the fear and give yourself a much better shot at building a solid business, because you don’t need to worry about paying the bills every day.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT!
Hopefully these 5 tips can help you avoid some of the mistakes I made when I was starting out.
The reason I picked these five things is because they are very specific to building a successful personal training business.
“People don’t buy from people they like – they buy from people they trust!”
There are certain TRIGGERS we can use to enhance that trust as quickly as possible, and they are contained within the five tips I’ve given you today.
- By earning your qualifications, you have proof of your knowledge.
- By being in good shape, you have proof that your methods are highly effective.
- By having better people skills, you can show others it can work for them.
That’s how you build trust. That’s how you build a successful business.
Remember, you are trying to build something which can provide a steady income for your family for many years to come. Treat it as such.
I wish you the best of luck.
Who Is Russ Howe PTI?
As featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 105,223 men and women receiving his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.
In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.
Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young lads.
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