Having been directly involved with the personal training industry for a long time now, I’ve found it interesting how many people, including my own clients, have shown an interest in doing the job themselves.
The career of a personal trainer is often misconstrued as glamorous, highly paid, and even “sexed up”.
The truth is far from that, To make a full-time living out of personal training takes dedication, persistence and a tireless attitude towards work.
Here are six facts about the industry that are worth knowing from the get go.
I personally love the job but I only learned from MANY mistakes along the way, and it’s worth considering the following to avoid the mistakes I made.
1. Be prepared (especially at first) to work 24/7 to avoid the 9 to 5
This will ring true often, but especially when you start out.
You will need to put in exceptional effort, time, energy and money into advertising, equipment, networking and marketing to get your name out there.
People say, “It’s not what you know, but you who you know.”
The truth is, if you don’t know the right people, you should GET to know the right people.”
You need to make it happen. This is a full-time commitment. If you prefer a boss telling you what to do from 9 to 5, this is not a job for you.
Bottom line: You REALLY want your own business? You’ll need to put in the hours.
2. Don’t be a Jack of all trades and master of none
Choose a niche and develop it.
In the fitness industry, there’s an entire range of qualifications, certifications and credentials available.
No personal trainer can encompass being great at EVERY thing.
I chose to specialise on mainly clients of 40+ years old. My oldest is now 95.
My reasoning is that I find these clients are generally more reliable, more affluent, and they are also more realistic about the goals they want to achieve. This, coupled with the kind of ailments that older people tend to develop, makes the job more challenging. I have to exercise them appropriately.
In addition, this age group fits nicely into the schedule I’m looking for. Stick with something you’ll really enjoy and develop your market in that area.
Bottom line: Be a the master within the domain you love.
3. Passion does not pay the bills (but business know-how will)
A passion for the fitness, sport and exercise is the very thing that brings professionals into the industry. The industry is filled with motivated people who enjoy the fitness lifestyle. And they can be a real joy to be around, but, sadly, many of them fail and give up within the first year or two.
While this enthusiasm may be good as a starting place, it’s (trust me, really) NOT enough to succeed at running a successful personal training business.
And, with irony, the time you have to put into your own personal fitness will almost certainly suffer and take a hit , if you are to really “make it” in the industry.
Relating to point one, action plans, budgets, advertising, website development, programme design, developing your brand, negotiating with clients, five-year plans, keeping your accounts and discovery of hidden costs are all part of learning about YOUR business. And all of this takes time.
Time management is also important when running a business. If you are a sole trader, the truth is you’ll always have something that needs doing, and it won’t get done by magic.
Even at weekends you may find yourself writing up something that ends up on a website (like this article😀). Like I said, it won’t get done by magic.
Bottom line: It may take often take some of the weekend to achieve goals, often administrative stuff, but if it’s fun, it’s worth it.
4. Nobody ever got rich working 9 to 5
This old adage and cliche is only too true. There will have to be a spell when you are building your business and clientele that will involve the undertaking of many work hours.
You will find yourself working at a full-time job (and even still whilst studying), and earning minimal wage before you find the number of clients needed to branch out alone, and going freelance in a mobile gym (or involving yourself with a private studio).
This will inevitably require long hours, towing the line, for a good spell, before going “all out”.
Before I got my van (now nearly three years ago) I worked MANY hours, within two gyms, often doing a great deal of menial jobs, including cleaning, to make ends meet, and often at weekends. I would often work 11 days straight and, looking back, it was part of the process.
The kind of work that I REALLY enjoyed – working with my own found clients within their own homes – was often in the early hours before a shift, or in the later hours after a shift, and often at weekends.
This meant often working exceptionally long hours to fit everything into the working day.
There came a point I decided to take a risk, and made the jump to work for myself FULL-TIME.
The YEARS of groundwork that led to greater opportunities eventually led me to be in a position to choose my working hours and, eventually, never having to work weekends.
The upshot is, I now work a lot smarter for much more. In knowing what it took me to get to this point, I’m thankful I put in the work at first. It’s paid off now.
Bottom line: “Do what’s necessary”. At first you will need to put in a lot of hours to make your business take off. Get up early, and work until late. To meet your people and build a client base. It all pays off later.
5. There WILL be costs, and costs must be MANAGED.
Before you begin, a great first action is to figure out how much it will cost to run your business. The costs will consist of obvious ones, such as running your vehicle, uniform, maintenance and accountancy fees.
And MUCH LESS obvious ones such as cost of equipment, advertising overheads, gym hire, maintenance and general repairs.
A good idea is to tally your overall costs and compare it to the revenue you will be be expected to bring in from your sessions, to see what your profit should be.
The good thing about equipment is it lasts and, ultimately, pays for itself. (A good investment)
Most businesses are difficult to set up initially and involve spending more money, especially in the first and second year of running. By then you are well aware of most hidden costs, making business easier to project, and you are more established by then. You can actually often expect every third pound you earn to go back into the business in the first few years. But the good news here is that much of this cost is tax deductible.
Bottom line: Hidden costs are called hidden because that’s what they really are.
6. Find a balance and keep a lifeline.
The beauty of being a personal trainer is you get to work with people you really WANT to.
You can build a diary so full of regulars that you know, the moment you get up, how your day is laid out.
Being a PT can be unpredictable. I remember one January getting 30 cancellations! It was a seriously testing time. You need something regular to underpin your work, and account for the unexpected.
When I was setting up my business, my lifeline was picking up general gym shifts, and completing menial tasks such as cleaning, giving gym inductions to the general public and tidying up equipment.
A certain amount of repetitive work, and for minimum wage, which still paid the bills.
Luckily, there are a good number of extra qualifications out there that allow you to work in specialist areas involving larger groups of people.
With initiative, you also can develop your own exercise classes and, in the summer, when clients are holidaying, you can run a boot camp for a larger group of people.
My specialist areas include cardiac rehabilitation and falls prevention. And my class for over 40s, every Friday morning, has been running for years now and it’s great fun.
I do seven group exercise classes a week now, and it serves to supplement my income. In addition, it serves in bring in a new audience for personal training, and gives variety to my job.
This is well worth working for as it’s a fun and a lucrative way of earning regular income.
Bottom line: The chances of getting MANY singular 1:1 clients cancelling on you are unfortunately high. Higher than a PT wants to admit to. BUT, the chances of getting a whole class of people cancelling on you is far less likely.
I hope this may be of interest to anyone considering a career in the personal training industry. And if a client is reading this, maybe they can learn what it’s like to be on this side of the fence.