8 Business Tips for Personal Trainers
What defines success in the field of personal training?
In our dreams when we were aspiring trainers, it was probably just guiding clients through tough, satisfying workouts and consistently knocking down goals. But if you’re someone who works in this field and particularly one who must make a living as a trainer, you know that what’s done in the weight room is only half of the job.
To really thrive as a personal trainer, one must also be in the business of training, being part salesperson, part marketer, and part strategist on top of your knowledge of exercise and nutrition.
Let’s face it, personal training is a profession with an extremely high turnover rate. In my experience as a gym manager and now as a gym owner, most of that attrition is not because trainers lose their love for the work, it’s because they just can’t find a way to make ends meet and eventually settle for a typical 9 to 5.
The solution? Start thinking of your training as a business with you as the CEO. Whether you work for a corporate gym, as an independent contractor, or already own a private training business, the 10 Business Coaching Tips found in this article will serve you in building a satisfying and profitable career in personal training.
Something that is essential for a trainer looking to grow their business is a business management software platform that will allow them to manage their clients and run their training business effectively. Request a demo of our All-in-One Fitness Business Management Software to learn more today.
1) Determine Your Identity/Specialty
Differentiate yourself. Ask yourself what makes you different from other trainers. There are thousands of good PTs out there, so why would someone want to train with you? Is it your experience? Your qualifications? Your personality?
Those who are new to training or coaching should be in no hurry to specialize, they should remain generalists and experiment with many tools and training styles to find what they like and, over time, develop a personal style.
However, when you’ve reached the point of committing to a career in fitness and are ready to grow your business and make your mark, one of the best things you can do is identify your special skillset and promote it consistently. To make an impression on potential clients or to have an impact on the broader industry, people need to be able to identify you as an expert of something.
Think about it from the client’s perspective; they almost always have a particular goal and will lean strongly toward signing on with the person with the most credibility and knowledge on that particular thing, not the “Jack-of-all-trades.”
Become known for something. Whether it’s powerlifting, fat loss, or triathlon training, work to position yourself as the go-to guy or gal in your market and distinguish yourself from the dime-a-dozen trainer.
Coaches like Kellie Davis (Fit Thrive) and Mike Boyle (Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning) have built their incredible careers on finding their niche and attracting clientele which fits their specialty. Both use Exercise.com to design and deliver their training programs to clients anywhere in the world, greatly enhancing their reach and reputation.
2) Keep a Consistent Message in Marketing
I knew I had something amazing, I knew I wanted to share it with people, so I dug in my heels and kept moving forward.
When I opened my doors on January 1, 2017, I was elated. All my hard work had come to fruition! Looking back, I wish someone had told me how hard it was going to be and how many sleepless nights I would have. . . .
When you put your heart and soul into something, and you believe in what you’re doing there really are no limitations to what you can accomplish!
Your identity and specialty becomes your brand identity and must remain consistent if you’re to leverage it into business growth.
When potential clients can identify what you do best and see a history of dedication to that thing, they are much more likely to recognize you as an expert and retain you as their trainer. Conversely, if your marketing message and identity are always in flux and you seem subject to the prevailing wind of what’s trendy, you will not look credible or trustworthy.
Given how vast the differences can be in different types of training, bodybuilding vs. marathon running vs. speed and agility training, you can’t be all things to all people and shouldn’t try to be.
If you’re new to training or just trying to get a business off the ground, there can be intense pressure to sell your service as the solution for everyone. In the short term, this yes-man style may indeed net a handful of clients, but it hurts you in the long run by muddying the waters of your marketing and making it hard for customers to identify what it is that you do.
Do you wish to be the trainer for competitive athletes? If your Instagram and website are filled with content on weight loss and wellness, don’t be mad when the star running back overlooks you in favor of a coach whose persona and message better align with his goals.
Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com
3) Make Your Pricing Clear and Simple
Nothing confounds the start of a good business relationship like prices that are shrouded in secrecy or are so confusing the customer needs an accountant to decipher them. Check out the video below for a quick lesson in how to create personal training packages:
The market now demands that pricing is transparent and accessible. In other words, the modern consumer is used to having easy access to information, mostly online, and will not jump through hoops anymore to hunt down the price of your service. There are so many options out there in the in-person and online training spaces that prospective clients will quickly shift their attention upon encountering any obstacle that gets in the way of what they’re looking for.
If you have a website for your service, which you should, show prices clearly. The same goes for print advertising and even face-to-face conversation; the more transparent you are, the more confident you appear in the quality of your training. Compare that to a trainer who hides things in fine print or skirts around direct questions about price; they appear unsure of themselves or maybe even sneaky.
Beyond transparency, make your pricing model easy to understand.
Complex price tiers are the norm in many commercial gyms with the price of sessions depending on numerous variables like session frequency, trainer experience level, and in some cases, appointment time. After all of the numbers are crunched, the client (or any reasonable person) is left thinking, “Wait, what’s the training actually worth?”
As the trainer, it places you in a very uncomfortable situation when a member on the floor asks what it costs to have you train them and you have to get the manager!
For your sake and the client’s, stay away from complex price structures. Simply determine the value of your time and charge that price under all circumstances. Give consideration to what you need to make a profit and what’s fair to the client based on your capability to deliver results. To be sustainable, the relationship needs to feel like a win-win.
4) Maintain Price Integrity
I also should have been stricter with cancellation policies. It seems small but when you are essentially running your own business, time is absolutely money when you are commission-based. . . . Start smart and work with faithful clients.
Price integrity means two things:
Holding true to the value of what you offer and every client that’s receiving the same service pays the same price.
All too often in the personal training business, these are violated at the expense of both the customer and the reputation for ethics in the whole training industry.
Undercutting your price often happens in the context of a promotion or special. Let’s say my typical per-session rate is $60 but in an effort to drum up business I run a promotion in which I drop the price to $40. In addition to the temporary problem of getting paid less for my work, I’d have created a long-term problem for my business:
In essence, I would be telling existing clients and the public, my service is worth $40. If that’s what I’ll accept for it, regardless of timing and circumstances, that is its value. This will potentially cause grievances from clients who have been paying more and may make it impossible to increase the rate for clients who signed up under the promotion without them canceling.
That also speaks to the next point about price integrity: keeping prices equal for all clients.
Unfortunately, it’s common practice for gym managers and trainers to let their hunger for the sale override their sense of fairness and many companies support the practice of charging full price for some members and discounting for others. For both moral and practical reasons, this is bad business.
When members know they’re not being charged equitably, it drastically reduces their respect for and trust in your business. In turn, they won’t recommend you to anyone they know and likely won’t stay on as a client for the long haul.
What’s more, it is incredibly taxing and stressful to keep secrets about the different prices people are paying. You will be much happier and more satisfied in an environment where there are no secret deals and you can openly answer any question that arises concerning price.
5) Employ Systems That Streamline Your Business
It helps to be able to learn and put a system in place to say ‘We have this issue with the shoulder or this elbow pain, this hip internal rotation issue’ and we’ve gone through it with 25 other guys. We’ve had good success with 24 of them so we have a game plan in place.
The flip side is if you get stuck in a rut and your systems don’t work and are not scalable you’re just like why isn’t this working. You can’t see outside the box at all. Systems help eliminate problems.
For your training business to operate efficiently, management software is a non-negotiable necessity. Without a platform that tracks client billing and scheduling, you will waste precious hours every week just doing all of the manual record-keeping and payment processing.
Fortunately, business management software has become sophisticated enough that you can do far more than the bare minimum of billing and membership sales. All-in-one software, like the software offered by combines everything you need to operate your business from a financial standpoint with specialty fitness features like workout creation and remote delivery.
Are you logging workouts in composition books and furiously flipping pages to find the records you need? Upgrade to what the top in-person and online trainers are using to perform assessments, track workouts, and sell services online.
Our software isn’t just behind the scenes helping you run your business. We provide you with an amazing custom-branded app that puts all of the features in an impressive platform with your brand front-and-center.
fully customizes your app from top to bottom. Just like quality personalized coaching, we begin with the client’s needs and build a solution from there, not just giving everyone the same old template.
6) Compete Professionally
If you’re in the personal training business, like it or not you are in a competition. There are other career trainers as well as fit people who call themselves coaches to get attention; and they all want the same client that you do! How you handle this situation will say a lot about your character and will influence the reputation and long-term success of your business.
Strategies for competition in any field usually diverge into two distinct forms:
- Beat the competition by being better
- Beat the competition by undercutting and/or defaming them
The professional seeks to constantly improve, to master their specialty, and make their name by achieving results for their clients. They pay little attention to competitors as they go about advancing their business. They take personal responsibility for their business success.
If only these characteristics represented a greater segment of the industry; unfortunately, they do not.
You will encounter many trainers and gym owners who compete with underhanded tactics; methods which seem to say “I don’t have the work ethic to get better so I’ll just try to hurt those who do.”
Examples of these tactics in fitness include:
- Giving other businesses fake negative reviews online
- Secret shopping and ripping off marketing or sales methods
- Defacing or removing signage and promotional material
- Flagging/reporting competitor ads on social sites to get them removed
- Spreading false information about competitor services or pricing
- Directly contacting competitor’s clients to seek information or lure them away
Some of these practices will benefit the unscrupulous trainer in the short term but just as in physical training, trying to take the easy way never pays in the long run. Unethical, unprofessional business practices catch up with you and hurt your own reputation with current and potential clients.
Remember, you’re not really successful if you have to cheat to win. Stay on the right side and your diligence and character will be rewarded.
7) Client Testimonials — You Have to Ask!
Your best form of advertising is the success of your current clients. When it comes down to it, the ability to show prospects proof of results is more meaningful than your promises. They are much more likely to trust your clients’ words than your own.
Here’s an example of a great client testimonial from my gym which we’ve been able to use effectively in our marketing:
Trainers love testimonials but many go wrong in how they get them by either leaving it to chance or by thinking their clients are always talking about them outside of the gym and naturally spreading the word. This is not so!
To reap the benefits of client feedback, you have to be intentional and direct the process. You have to tell clients what you want from them and ask for their help.
There are two methods for reliably getting great testimonials to use on your website or social media:
1. Spur of the moment, organic – During the normal course of training a client, they give you some very positive feedback about their clothes fitting better, getting compliments from friends, or doing some physical task they couldn’t do before. Along with congratulating them and reinforcing how proud they feel, ask them if you can share their success with others. Here’s how:
“That’s awesome! I’d love for other people to see what they could accomplish if they get dedicated to training. Could we share that on my page?” They will almost always respond positively and will be more than happy to help you out because they’re excited about how you’ve helped them.
2. Ongoing, strategic – Implement a system of client check-ups; consultations with an existing client where you ask questions to find out about their progress, their outside life, and their overall satisfaction with training.
To be consistent and to make sure no client slips through the cracks, you should have a pre-planned schedule for when check-ups take place and set up a reminder or mark your calendar for when each member will have one. For instance, you could set one to be 60 days after they join, then every six months afterward for the duration of their training.
During your check-up with a member, if they are enthusiastic and report being very satisfied, ask them in a natural way if they’d leave you a review on Google, Facebook, etc. You may say, for example, “That’s awesome! I’m glad things are going well for you. Would you be willing to share that story as a review online? When people see a 5-star review it goes a long way to helping us grow our community.”
The client who’s excited about the gym and grateful for your help will be happy to return the favor by taking a few minutes to give you a good rating. Also, note the mention of 5 stars; you’ve implied that’s what you need without awkwardly asking, “Will you give us 5 stars?”
In the event that the client you see for a check-up isn’t very happy with their progress or excited about training, of course, you will not yet ask them for a review. Instead, take their feedback and try to improve their experience between now and the next conversation so that you can get the great review then. Just taking the time to ask and pay attention to how they feel will already put them on the road to a better experience!
8) Don’t Be Stingy With Your Knowledge
You’re a knowledgeable professional in your field and deserve to get paid for your effort. You have every right to insist that others respect your time, but don’t take it too far.
Many trainers hoard knowledge and refuse to give any advice they aren’t getting directly paid for. They worry so much about their value that they come across as arrogant or even paranoid when they say, “You’ll need to sign up with me if you want my help.”
The irony of this overly defensive behavior is that they’re placing self-imposed limits on their training business. They are preventing many opportunities for building relationships and acquiring new clients. Being generous with your expertise can benefit you in several ways:
- You give a gym member advice that helps them solve a problem, and then they look to you when they’re ready to invest in training.
- You give someone valuable advice and, even though they don’t become a client, they send a friend your way who does.
- You release a free program online that gets a following and builds your reputation.
- You write high-quality, informative articles for your website which help drive traffic and get new inquiries.
When you provide expert knowledge, helping someone on one facet of training, it doesn’t devalue your expertise. On the contrary, people will usually think, “If this is what he gives for free, the service he charges for must be amazing!”
Think of the most respected coaches in the field that you look up to; nearly everyone who has built a large following and successful career gives away tons of valuable content. They understand that it’s an investment and that it doesn’t pay you immediately, but it comes back around when you gain the respect of your peers and the admiration of the people you help.
Embracing the business side of personal training is a must for those who want to make a sustainable career in this field. To really reach your full potential, take on the challenge of business management with the same energy and dedication you’ve applied to the profession of fitness training.
To learn more about how Exercise.com is helping personal training businesses like yours grow and provide quality service, schedule a demo with our team today.
Colton Tessener is a Strength & Conditioning Coach and gym owner from North Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from UNC-Wilmington and has 10 years of hands-on experience in coaching clients of all types on improving physical performance. His gym, Arise Athletics, has been recognized locally as Small Business of the Year and named one of the Best Gyms in Wake County (Raleigh, NC).