If somebody had told me 4 years ago that I would train to be a personal trainer, I would have probably passed out from laughing. Not only was I extremely unhealthy, but I was carrying some timber, and NEVER went to the gym. My first ‘memory’ of the gym, was going with my best friend, and we had a programme to ‘follow’, which concluded with med ball sit up’s, toe to toe. I never really enjoyed it, but it was a social event for me at the time. I do however vividly remember often driving to the gym, sitting in my car and having a massive internal debate with myself about how much I REALLY needed to go. More often than not, I would leave without going in, and head to McDonald’s, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I was stuck in the viscous downward spiral of always starting the diet Monday. Why do we do that? It’s not like our bodies have any clue what day it is, it’s all a mental process. I knew how unhappy I was with my weight, and I knew exercise was always going to help, yet still I couldn’t shift my butt to the gym!
Fast forward 4 years and I’m now a personal trainer, working crazy long hours, covering 14+ classes per week, as well as fitting my own training in between. I absolutely LOVE how my life is right now. I spent so many years in the darkness, not knowing what to do to make my life better, to feel happy. I can’t imagine doing anything else now, and I want to pursue a career in the health and fitness industry.
I personally think that you are constantly learning as a personal trainer, not just in terms of exercises for clients, but even how to handle yourself as a business. Because that’s how you need to look at yourself, as a business. You work for yourself, you decide the rules and the hours, and the money is only going to come from working hard. The moment you go self employed you need to be prepared to put the hours in. Business isn’t just going to fall into your lap, you need to get yourself out there and work at it. When I first started out in the industry I didn’t know all that much about business, or even the best approach for PT, I had to learn on my feet. The first few months are tough, you need to be putting in the hours, getting to know customers at the gym, meeting the morning, middle and night time people, often resulting in 12 hour days. Just having your profile up on a board in the gym isn’t going to be enough to guarantee you clients. You need to get yourself out there, be approachable and friendly, and have a great knowledge of training.
The smallest of gestures will help plant the seeds in a potential clients head, and within a few weeks you may find them seeking you out for PT. I remember observing a lady who was incorrectly performing a tricep extension on the cable machine. I had seen her in a few of my classes, and I slowly approached and suggested a slight change in her form which would give her better results. She was really happy to have the free advice, and a few weeks later I found her coming up to me asking about personal training.
You can have various approaches to PT, some people prefer to be pushy, really enforcing the benefits of PT and the need for multiple sessions per week, but this is something I know I currently lack the confidence level for. I personally don’t believe that you want to come across as being too pushy with potential clients, as the results should be the main focus, not the guarantee of money.
I definitely made some school boy errors over my first few months. My first being not taking payment up front from my first client. We arranged for a block of 5 sessions, and she would pay me on the day, but the hour before the session was due to begin she cancelled. Needless to say, I always take the money up front now, and if they choose not to show then that is their own issue, not mine.
The consultation period with a client is where you really get a chance to sell yourself as a business. This is the part where you explain all about the benefits of having a personal trainer. When I first started out, I had a folder with my par-q forms, and a list of my prices and packages.
Don’t be afraid to be fussy with your clientele. What I mean is, you don’t have to take people on for the sake of it. Having clients is great, but if you don’t get any enjoyment from training them, or they have a huge goal fast approaching and they aren’t training with you more than once a week, and they never train alone, how much can you really help them? Personal training is about ensuring clients reach their goals. A client who only commits to training with you once per week, isn’t realistically going to achieve their goal, which ultimately means they won’t feel they benefitted from your services, they wouldn’t recommend you to their friends, and you’ll feel demotivated because your time was also wasted on the programming. I’ve slowly started to realise the importance of ensuring clients fully commit, and train 2/3 sessions per week with me. It’s not just about the money, it’s about guaranteeing results which is only going to aid you as a business.
You will have good days and bad days. I think every PT out there has fallen into that ‘lul’ at times, where you forget to plan your sessions, end up forgetting your clients goals, and not taking the time to put a plan in place. I’ve come to realise that’s all a natural part of the process. I found the best thing to do, was schedule in your working hours. Generally, your hours of work will be early mornings and evenings, leaving you a large chunk of the day free. Allocate a few hours during the day where you totally focus on your work. Plan your PT’s, evaluate their food plans, sort out your schedule etc. I really found a benefit when I started to do this, and I write myself check lists of things to complete within that hour. That way, you feel far more prepared when you next see your client, and you feel you’re delivering a better service.
Being self employed is a very scary experience. Although the money is extremely good, the nature of the work means it is never guaranteed. Make sure you set yourself up a business account, so you can really monitor your funds. Often when you have block bookings, intermingled with one off sessions, it’s hard to work out just how much money you are earning on a monthly basis. To begin with I would spend the money far too quickly, whereas in my previous job I had to wait for 4 weeks. It’s easy to forget that clients may not stay with you forever, so really keep an eye on your funds, and be sensible with your expenditure!
I’m still relatively new to the industry, and I really am learning new things on a weekly basis. If you are planning on taking a career in the PT industry, then I hope you found these points helpful. Don’t be fooled into thinking it will be easy money with minimal hours of work, the reality is very different. However, seeing your clients get results, and receiving positive feedback is the best feeling in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.