4 Secrets of Top Personal Trainers
I bet you're a great personal trainer.
But that's not enough to build a successful fitness career.
If you want to make more than $38k per year—the national average salary for personal trainers—you’ll have to do some things differently.
Problem is, most trainers don’t know where to start.
There are the obvious answers:
- Charge more for sessions
- Get more clients
But those are only symptoms of bigger changes that need to happen.
If you’re not making as much money as you want, I think I know what the problem is—because I experienced it, too.
You’re a great personal trainer — and a shitty fitpreneur.
Early in my career, my resume looked great, but my bank account looked terrible.
I was a great trainer. I had a bunch of certifications. I had happy clients who were reaching their goals and making huge progress. From the outside, it looked like I was killing it.
But I didn’t know how to turn my skills and client success stories into a business that actually made me money.
I was a shitty fitpreneur.
Looking back, I realize I made some huge business mistakes simply because I didn’t know any better. Now, I want to share what I learned, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
Here are 4 game-changing business practices used by top personal trainers. Start following them yourself to become a true fitpreneur.
1. Understand what you’re really selling.
When people hire you as their personal trainer, they’re not really buying your services. They’re buying a relationship with you.
If they like you, they’re more likely to refer you to a friend or family member.
According to Nielsen, a company that specializes in market and consumer research:
“The most credible form of advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. Eighty-three percent of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family...”
Your understanding of what you’re providing your customers plays more of a role in your success than you might think. A big part of what you provide is a personal relationship or a community.
Treat your clients like friends. Help them. Develop relationships with them. They’ll be more likely to tell their friends about you, and you’ll be more likely to make money. Because, while training is the service people pay for, what you’re really selling is a successful client-trainer relationship. Successful trainers understand this and make it an integral part of their business.
2. Invest in your business education.
Many successful gyms and fitness businesses are founded by two people—sometimes more.
Can you guess why?
Often, one person has the technical fitness expertise. She’s got the training certifications and the formal education. She handles all the programming and coaching aspects of the gym.
The other person is the business expert. While he may not have technical fitness expertise, he does have the knowledge to grow the business. He does all the marketing, crafts the business plan, and handles the administrative side.
As a solo fitpreneur, you have to be both of these people. As they say, “the chief cook and bottle washer.”
You must run your business, market it, and do everything in-between.
If you’re not well versed in business development, marketing, client acquisition, or any other relevant business skill, now is the time to learn. This process has to involve an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s how to do that:
Get a blank sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle. On one side, write “Strengths.” On the other, write “Weaknesses.” Flip the paper over. On the back, write “Next steps.”
Start with the “Strengths” column. What are you really good at? Maybe you are a programming expert. You can design programs to meet any client’s goal. Whatever you’re good at, write it here.
After that, move on to “Weaknesses.” What do you need help with? You might be a programming expert but have no idea how to market your services to new clients. That’s a clear weakness.
Next, flip the paper over. Anything you identified as a weakness should be listed under “Next Steps.” Leave some space between each item. For everything you wrote as a weakness, write 1-3 steps you could take to turn that weakness into a strength.
If you know nothing about marketing, one next step could be “Research marketing books and read 1 by the end of the month.” If you’re not into books, you could find a friend who knows more about marketing than you, take them to lunch, and ask for some tips.
The key with your “Next Steps” section is to write down things you will actually do. Small actions add up over time.
3. Talk to your clients and prospects about their problems.
That might sound weird, but hear me out.
I don’t mean you have to become your client’s therapist, what I mean is this:
You should always be talking to your clients about their fitness journey.
Here are some questions you could ask clients:
- What’s been challenging for you lately?
- How is your diet going? Is there anything that’s been exceptionally hard?
- What do you need the most help with right now?
Then, ask yourself this question:
How can I help?
If your clients experience problems that cause them physical, mental, or emotional pain, they want solutions. If those problems are serious enough, they’ll pay for solutions. Think about how this applies to your prospective clients out there.
You see, if you have the knowledge or skill to provide those solutions, you have a business opportunity.
If you have clients who consistently struggle with making healthy food choices, you could create and offer a nutrition guide as an add-on to your services.
If your clients travel often, you could offer online training so they can stay fit while they’re out of town. (Hint: Online training is something the most successful trainers use to grow their businesses).
Remember, you’re not just a trainer. You’re a problem-solver. And when people clearly understand that you have the solution to their problem, they’re happy to pay for it.
4. Create a plan. Write it down.
If you want to maximize your success, you can’t afford to set vague goals like:
“Yeah, I’d like to make more money this year.”
You have to think about what you really want to accomplish and how you plan to get there. This means setting SMART goals. Goals that are:
It also means understanding why you want to achieve your goals. You’ve probably observed this in clients, but if you’re not internally motivated to pursue your goals, you’re unlikely to persevere when things get hard.
After you decide what your goals are, create a plan. Break your goal down into the specific steps you must take to reach it. For example, if you have never stepped foot in a gym and your goal is to bench press 300 lbs, your plan should not look like this:
- Go into gym.
- Put 300 lbs on the bar.
- Bench press 300 lbs.
It should look a little more like this:
- Research most effective beginner strength programs.
- Buy a gym membership.
- Perform strength workout 3 times per week.
- Bench press 135 lbs by June 1.
- Bench press 205 lbs by October 1.
- Evaluate progress. Reschedule milestones if necessary.
- Bench press 250 lbs by February 1.
- Bench press 300 lbs by May 31.
This is obviously a simplistic example, but the point is this:
Setting goals ≠ Accomplishing goals
Setting goals does not equal accomplishing goals.
Saying you want to bench press 300 lbs doesn’t mean it will happen. But if you do your research and make a plan based on that research, you drastically increase your chances of success.
But don’t take my word for it. Check out this Harvard Business Study. Here’s the gist of it:
3% of new graduates from Harvard’s MBA program in 1979 “had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them.”
10 years later, that 3% of graduates was “earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.”
If you want to be a successful personal trainer, stop wishing. Identify your goals, and create a plan!
Becoming a more successful trainer
Understanding these 4 game-changing business practices is an essential step toward becoming a successful fitpreneur.
It’s not about changing every aspect of your business overnight. Look for your least developed skills in business and progressively take action on improving those.
It’s about doing what works and being willing to change the way you think about your business, so when you recognize what’s really important you can seize those opportunities to grow.