The personal training industry is growing fast. Marketing experts say that they can teach you how to make $100,000 per year as a personal trainer. The problem is that unless you’re working independently, that figure isn’t an ideal goal to shoot for.
In many cases, the area you live in could be a deciding factor in how easily you hit that number. It would be difficult to charge $100 an hour if the average family is only making a combined income of $45,000-$65,000.
Let’s assume money isn’t an issue — these marketers fail to mention the hardships that come with attempting this career, especially when first getting started.
The list below will address what you need to consider before getting involved in the industry. These are all things I wish I knew when I started. They would have saved me a lot of time and frustration. (To speed up your learning curve even more, check out Fitness Marketing Monthly, our new service designed to help fit pros like you make more money, work less, and achieve the life you really want.)
Employed at a Commercial Gym
Working at a commercial gym is where most trainers gain their footing and get started in the industry. It can be a great experience, but also has its drawbacks.
|Employee Benefits||Prices are Set For You|
|Help Obtaining Clients||Usually Goal-Oriented Sales|
|Wider Range of Equipment Available||May Have to Follow a Set System|
|Very Little Overhead||Decisions are Not Yours|
|Lack of Admin Responsibilities||Hard to Create a Training Community|
With these pros and cons being taken into consideration, the experience is usually very positive. But I’ve heard some horror stories as well. This career path is definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re a very independent person.
Employee at a Private Facility
Working for a private facility is a more coveted position. Often they hire directly from their internship programs, so you need to either be accepted into their internship programs (which in most cases is extremely competitive) or compete with the best of the best looking to break into the private facilities when a job opening becomes available.
This environment can be extremely beneficial, especially if you land a job at a top-end facility like Cressey Sports Performance, Mike Boyle’s, EXOS, Results Fitness, etc. This type of job pairs you with an industry leader — talk about taking a typical learning curve and drastically cutting it in half, if not more.
This environment usually allows for a little more personal growth of your own name compared to some commercial gyms. Many employees are able to build their own personal name under the bigger name of the company they work for. This also has potential to open up a lot of other doors in the industry, i.e. writing gigs, photo shoots, speaking at seminars, etc.
This can be a very rewarding option but not easy for many just getting started. You have two options: rent space from a commercial gym that doesn’t have personal training already, or rent/buy your own equipment and space. Usually renting or buying your own facility off the hop is impossible since you don’t have a client-base or income rolling in.
This may ultimately be your best bet further down the road because you can be your own boss. Just realize that most of the pros of the commercial gym now no longer apply, and you also have a lot more responsibilities, which means that you’re not solely just focusing on training.
Part 1: Long Hours
When you first start out in a personal training career you will be working a lot. That is if you want to be successful. Your busy hours will always be when everyone else is not working. Once you become more successful you’ll find that you have clients during the “off hours” as well.
The really busy times at most facilities are early morning before everyone goes to work (as early as 5am), lunch time, and from 4-7pm at night. When first building a client base, don’t be picky on what times you want to train clients; that luxury comes with time. If the idea of working long hours when first getting started doesn’t appeal to you, this job may not be a good fit as a full-time career.
Part 2: Fluctuating Hours
Planning for fluctuating hours also needs to be taken into consideration, especially when first getting started. Let’s say someone is bringing in $104,000 at a “regular” job — that means they’re making $2000 a week before taxes.
They can guarantee that every single week they’re making $2000. In the personal training industry your paycheck will vary week-to-week; this makes budgeting one of the most miserable things in the world.
During the summer you’ll typically see a drop in clients, as most people are “going to workout outside.” Don’t worry, you’ll see most of them again come fall – they’ll have had moderate to little success and some may even have.
Also you need to take school vacations into consideration if your client has children and business trips. Being sick or having a life will also happen. When I was first getting started I had about 20 hours of clients — suddenly 3 clients went on vacation, 2 on a business trip, and one was really sick. I lost 11 of my 20 hours of clients for the week. Lucky I had money saved but that was a serious hit to my bank account. You need to plan for this.
This may be one of the most frustrating aspects of getting started in the fitness industry. Depending on the facility you work for, you may get some clients pushed your way by membership. However, most of the time, you do the marketing – it’s on you to reach out to people, ask for referrals from current clients, etc. Typically you won’t just have members come up to you and be like “I want to train with you, let’s train 3x/week.”
Marketing is a topic that could be covered in an entire university course, but as a rule, figure out what works and roll with it. My two best ways of obtaining clients has been marketing via social media, my website, and my Facebook business page, as well as asking for referrals from current clients. There are plenty of other strategies, use what works for you. Social media can be your best friend as it can easily get you in front of a lot of people very quickly.
Every person should be using referrals as a major way of getting new clients. What better group of people to have on your side than your clients who already think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread?
This aspect of the career scared me the most. Coming from the poorest county east of the Mississippi River, where you’re lucky if you’re making above $10 an hour, the idea that people would pay $69 for a single hour of my time confused the hell out of me. I couldn’t figure out how I was worth that much money. It took me awhile to realize my worth as far as the service I was providing and also to figure out how much money many people in this area make on a yearly basis.
Sales is more about confidence in your ability to help people reach their goal. If you can do that, the price is only a small concern. Your ability to help change their lives is worth more to them than they will ever be able to truly place into words.
If your client is continuously getting the results they’re looking for then they’ll never leave you, unless you leave the area. Yes, there will be a couple who have to stop training due to finances or life reasons, but for most if you’re helping them get results, they’re yours for life.
The same can easily be said about clients not reaching their goals. Even if it isn’t your fault, there’s a solid chance that the client may not be around for long.
I’ve had a couple clients over the years that stayed far past what I expected but owned up to the lack of progress being their own lack of commitment. Each client eventually got committed and hit their goals.
Realize that each person isn’t going to be a straightforward, linear case of “do this and you will have the results you seek.” You will run into issues and it will be a game of give and take. But there’s not better feeling than when that client finally fully hops on board and hits their goal.
This will differ from trainer to trainer, but you need to determine what types of boundaries to set with your clients in order for you to help them meet their goals. I had a lot of trouble with this when I was getting started. I was allowing texts to be sent at pretty much all hours of the day and night, even on Sunday, a day I wasn’t typically working.
Setting boundaries helps to show a common understanding and trust between both client and trainer. It helps both parties understand what will and will not be tolerated. It also maintains a much smoother working relationship, and allows you both to focus on what’s really important — the client’s goals.
Lots of Hats to Wear
So you have decided you want to be a personal trainer. Realize that along with the title of personal trainer, you’ve also volunteered to have about 20 more hats placed upon your head. With an increased level of trust, clients will begin to tell you issues that they are having at home ranging from their in-laws to problems with their kids, even their sex life.
Of course your job isn’t to diagnose what the underlying issues are but rather just listen to your client and provide insight (if applicable). Normally just listening enough and your client will be thrilled to have someone to talk to.
You’re a personal trainer, but you’re also a life coach – you’ll need to help your client with behavior changes outside of the gym. It’s not just about the 1-4 hours they’re working out with you a week. Don’t spread yourself too thin, but making your client sweat/workout is just step 1.
While I am on the extreme side of things when it comes to continued education, spending well over $10,000 a year, this is an aspect that’s underappreciated. Too many trainers look at continued education courses as a burden because it means they’ll have to spend money and take them away from their clients. This thought process needs to change.
Going to a seminar and learning will drastically increase your income over the years. The first year in this industry I believe I made $35,000. It was a rough year, I’m now just finishing my 5th year in this industry and making over $150,000.
I’m not saying this to brag but rather to impress upon you the difference that continued education can have on your ability as a trainer, and earn more money. If you’re still doing the exact same things that you were doing a year or two ago then you’re likely not doing the best you can for your clients.
Ask any successful person how they make money and they’ll say that you need to SPEND money in order to MAKE money. It’s as simple as that. You shouldn’t be going to a continued education course in order to meet your required CEU credits for the year. You should be spending that money on yourself because you are INVESTING in yourself.
Click the link below to download or stream an audio lesson from Jonathan Goodman that discusses the best way to study and get better every day:
–> On Getting Better Every Day
Regret 6: Not Making a Living From My Passion
Building Your Personal Brand
It used to be nearly impossible to make a living off of personal training, at least enough to make it your life long career choice. With how things have progressed and how widely accepted the idea of having a personal trainer is these days (which you can see by the 10,000 “become a certified personal trainer” certifications out there) it’s now possible.
That said, many of us need to look at ways of creating income aside from 1 on 1 training. You’re not going to want to be doing 1 on 1 for the rest of your life, this is where building your personal brand can come into play.
Building a name for yourself outside of the small inner-circle of individuals that you train will allow you to tap into a lot of different sources of income. You want to be able to have some type of passive income, money that you can make from other work you have done, such as fitness products, supplement sales, whatever it may be.
But while you’re creating a reputation for yourself, be wary of the Multi-Level Marketing schemes, etc. You don’t want to ruin your name for a quick buck, which at the end of the day is all that crap really is.
MLM is getting people to adhere to some form of guided nutrition; it’s not a miracle. Of course people will lose weight, they would have lost weight if you educated them on proper nutrition as well. Plus you would’ve saved them hundreds of dollars.
The personal training industry is an amazing career to be a part of, but there’s a lot of work involved if you want to be successful and make this a long-term career.
Be ready to put in the work, because at the end of the day getting an email or text from a client saying how much you have changed their lives is absolutely priceless and worth every long hour and stressful situation.