The Elephant in the Room…
For far too long, personal training has been considered a passion or hobbyist business.
Most personal trainers are empathetic people, we started this career because we had a passion for physical activity & wanted to help others.
As personal trainers, we love talking the scientific side of the gig & developing long lasting relationships with clients.
Also as personal trainers, too many of us despise talking pricing when it comes time to begin working with a new client.
Whether it’s a fear of feeling like a sleazy car salesman OR that perception that personal training is a passion project, as professionals we NEED to change the narrative.
I know that for myself & many others, personal training is a career, not a charity case. We have aspirations, goals, & bills to pay; Just like everyone else.
We have a desirable skill set & we deserve the opportunity to make a living doing something we enjoy. It’s a fact of life, you need to make money in order to survive in this world. Talking about your pricing does not have to feel sleazy.
I like to look at the process as more of a vetting process rather than a selling or soliciting process.
This article will equip you with the principles I used to build a full time business that sustains my lifestyle. These principles are not all encompassing & nay not fully apply to you. Use the principles as you see fit to you & your business!
Principle #1: Know your Niche!
It is important that you have a firm understanding of the demographic that you are trying to serve. This is often referred to as your “client avatar”, “niche”, or “specialty”.
A good way to know what your current niche is requires a quick look at your current roster of clients.
As an example, when I first began the process of narrowing down my niche, I realized that I was working with mostly middle aged professionals/business owners, who usually wanted to lose some weight.
“Narrowing down” and focusing on a niche may seem a little counter intuitive, as personal trainers are typically taught to be good generalists before specializing.
A common worry most trainers have when deciding on a niche is feeling as if they are limiting themselves to a specific population. We get worried that being too selective will turn away some potential clients & limit our earning capacity.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! When you get REALLY good at helping one population, people will assume you can help any population!
Principle #2: Market Specifically to your Niche!
If your niche is the general population & your content/marketing is using overly science-y industry terms, then you’re definitely missing out on potential clients.
I can’t stress enough the importance of having a clear message & communicating it to your niche in a way that THEY will understand.
Talking undulating periodization & glycolytic energy system will impress your peers & confuse your general population niche.
Create content/marketing/a philosophy that speaks exactly to your ideal client. Keep that message consistent & clear. It’s kinda like the law of attraction, if you put it out there, they will find you!
(Or the field of dreams. If you build it, they will come)
Principle #3: Set your Income Goals & Pick a Structure for Your Business
Time to talk most trainers least favorite topic: MONEY. If you’re serious about this & want it to be your career, you need to get comfortable talking money.
There are a few steps when setting an income goal, I’ll relate these steps to some nutrition principles to make it a little easier to understand:
- Know how much income you need to cover your basic living expenses.
- Think of this as your BMR or basal metabolic rate. The basic amount needed just to survive.
- Know how much money you want to save.
- Think of this as your “NEAT” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. The little stuff that compounds & builds to something greater over time.
- Know how much expendable income you’d like to have.
- This is your spending money, ya know, the stuff you need to enjoy vacations & other non-necessities.
- Think of this as your exercise activity thermogenesis!
How you achieve this income goal is up to you. There a few different business models or pricing models we can use & there are pro’s & con’s to each.
Remember that these business model’s exist on a spectrum. For simplicity, I will list the three basic types.
Pricing is also market dependent. Personal training is more expensive in NYC than it is in Madison Wisconsin…
The “three” main business models:
Low cost, lots of clients– With this model you have a lower fee which makes you accessible to more people. This will require more of your time training in person. It is much easier to weather the storm if you lose a client but the quality of the client/trainer relationships tend to be of a lesser quality.
Competitive pricing, moderate amount of clients– charging a more competitive price allows you to buy some of your time back relative to someone charging a lower fee. This can be great if you’re looking to spend more time doing other things you enjoy outside of training clients. If you lose a client or 2 due to an injury/vacation/life, it’s not a huge hit in terms of achieving your income goals.
High end pricing, least amount of clients– If you want to have more free time to live your life outside of training clients, this is the way to go! In terms of achieving your income goals, this option requires the least amount of clientele. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, these kind of big ticket clients are hard to come by. Also, if you lose a client for whatever reason, it can be a large portion of your income & effect your life style tremendously.
Principle #4: Over Deliver on Your Value
As I’m sure you already know, personal training is much more than just the one hour you spend with your client.
Continue to deliver value outside of your sessions & check in with your clients often. How often will vary based on clients.
It doesn’t have to be all about their goals or workouts. Remembering something as simple as their child’s birthday or wishing them a good time on their weekend plans is a great way to show client’s how much you actually care about them.
It is a great idea to be a good generalist. Being able to provide assistance in a few different areas (nutrition, habit formation, strength, mobility, etc.) is a great value ad for your clientele.
It is important to know when to refer out as well. Having a network of professionals (PT’s, OT’s, Registered Dietitian, psychologists, orthopedists, etc.) you trust & can refer to clients to is pivotal.
Principle #5- “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”
It’s called “PERSONAL” Training for a reason.
Being personable is probably the most important trait for a trainer to have, especially if you’re looking to retain clients!
Be likable! That means being genuinely curious about your clients life. Ask them lots of questions, rather than constantly venting to them about your problems.
Don’t scare them with your knowledge. There is no need to validate your certification/degree. Your client is there for a training session, not a B.S. in Exercise Science.
Again, check in OFTEN. People love talking about themselves!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about things other than fitness. You may find that you have many common interests with your client!
Principle #6: BE ORGANIZED
Getting & staying organized can be a very tedious task, but when done properly, saves you a lot of time & stress.
Before even meeting with a client, it’s important that you have a standardized intake process. (Send them a contract with pricing & cancellation policy, as well as an intake form where you collect basic info, vitals, goals, habits, hobbys, etc).
This is a pivotal step in the vetting process, someone who can’t take ten mins out of their day to fill out an intake form most likely won’t do the little things they need to do in order to achieve their goals.
Not only does this show a certain degree of professionalism, it also saves you a bunch of time collecting information & gives you more time to actually train when you finally meet.
Keep a calendar & get as many clients on a recurring schedule as you can. A consistent training time is better for every body involved.
If you are self employed & don’t receive tax forms at the end of the year, don’t be the guy scrambling to do 12 months of earnings in two days.
Track your income WEEKLY, or at the very least monthly. Keep a spread sheet with how many sessions each client does as well as how much money you make each session.
If you can, have a monthly pricing model rather than a per session/package pricing model. This will make tracking income much easier & also increase the consistency of your clientele!
Principle #7: Be the First Personal Trainer Everyone Knows
When someone thinks of a personal trainer, you want to be the first person that pops in their head.
Someone has a fitness related questions? Why not give them a portion of your time & knowledge for free, obviously too a point.
(There’s a difference between answering a quick question & giving someone a full blown course on exercise physiology.)
Think of this as a form of delayed gratification. They might not be your client now but when they decide they need a trainer, they’ll think of you.
They may never decide they need a personal trainer! That doesn’t mean they don’t have family/friends/co-workers that might express interest in the services of a trainer!
A major key to any career personal trainers business is referrals. The best form of marketing is when a client gets great results & runs to tell all of their friends about how awesome you are!
A referral incentive where current clients get a free session/merch for every referral turned into client they send your way is a an awesome way to help build your business & reward loyal clients!
Principle #8: Start Slowly & Progress Appropriately.
People have lives, kids, work, hobby’s. DON’T kill them the first session! If its WAYYYY too hard they won’t stick with it. Find the sweet spot where you’re challenging them to go just a little bit outside of their comfort zone.
Injuries happen when we bite off WAY more than we can chew. The key to progress is gradual exposure to a more challenging stimulus.
Part of being a coach/trainer is managing egos & guiding clients toward better long term decisions. For example, probably not a good idea to go for a Bench Press PR if your client has been complaining of shoulder pain the last two weeks.
Principle #9: BE PATIENT
Building a strong business takes time, and a lot of it. Realize that behind every overnight success is years of hard work & struggle.
The same way your clients hard work compounds over time & manifests in them crushing their goals, you can’t just tap a screen & have 15 awesome dedicated & extremely coachable clients delivered by amazon prime right to your door step.
This business is all about building genuine relationships. That takes consistent & persistent effort.
Patience, especially when times get rough, is pivotal to longevity in this industry.
Principle #10: This is a Vetting Process, NOT a Selling Process
In my experience, if you have to work extremely hard to sell or convince someone that they need your services, you guys may not be compatible.
As trainers, we must be able to communicate with people based on their communication style. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re just not speaking the same language as a prospective client (literally & figuratively).
Not all prospects will fit in with culture you are working to cultivate.
Your philosophy/approach to fitness may not resonate with a prospect.
Screen for clients with the proper attitude that fits your philosophy/culture.
When in doubt, know when to refer out!
Building your business like a professional takes persistence, consistency, and patience.
Anything that lasts long, takes effort… Don’t feel discouraged if your business doesn’t explode with high quality clients after a few Instagram posts.
Do your best to avoid unnecessary click funnels & free 28 day challenges. Focus on being an authentically good person who actually gives a fuck about their clients, do this & I can guarantee you the business referrals will come!
I wish you the best of luck. Please use these 10 principles for business as they apply to you & your business!