Working as a Personal Trainer

As an avid fan of The Allrounder, you’ll probably have already read our previous post on training to become a personal trainer. If you haven’t, go and read it now. It’s right here. Ruddy interesting in fact.

Alas, the journey to being a fitness professional doesn’t end when you qualify. In fact, like so many professions, your career has only just begun. Luckily, our pal Matt Bowen over at TRAINFITNESS was more than happy to give us the lowdown on the various options open to newly qualified PTs.

You’ve qualified to become a personal trainer. You have the certificate. What’s the next step for people wanting to set up their career?

Hopefully you will have already decided if you will either run your own business outside of commercial fitness facilities or become part of the PT team at a club. In either case, the next step is getting clients.

If you’re going to run your own business, the best place to get your first clients is by asking friends and family. To get the word out, you may have to do a few sessions for free, which is a great way to advertise your services. Once you show people you can get them results word will begin to spread. It’s the “word-of-mouth” marketing strategy that is going to bring you in the most clients.

Further along, once you have a steadier stream of clients you can look to utilise social media to expand your business. Posting client case studies and results, writing compelling and interesting blog posts, discussing latest trends, sharing your advice on training and nutrition. This is how you become an authority on fitness and training and how you spread your services across a wider audience.

If you’ve decided to work in a club, then teaching classes is a great way to meet potential new clients. Chatting to members before and after class gives you the opportunity to talk to them about their fitness goals and you can offer your services to help them achieve their goals. Remember to have your business cards at the ready.

What are the various options available to people with a personal training qualification?

Personal trainers have many different options available to them. The option that will suit you most will depend on how entrepreneurial you are.

The safest and most secure is of course becoming a personal trainer, on staff in a commercial health and fitness facility. You will be put on a rota, receive a salary that is independent of the number of clients you train, be given a uniform and have to do a variety of tasks apart from training clients e.g. reception, teach classes, clean equipment and any other reasonable request of your employer. Your income will be limited to your salary, but you will get holiday and sick pay. The number of “employed” positions in the industry is declining as many health clubs move towards a rental model.

With a rental model, you pay the health club a monthly rental fee which allows you to train clients in the club. You’re allowed to talk to the members and sell your services in the club. After paying your rent, the money you earn from the PT sessions is yours.

Some clubs offer a hybrid model of the above two. The club may pay you to work a small number of hours instead of paying a rental fee, and you can train members in the club. The club may take a cut of the PT fees you collect.

If you are more entrepreneurial, you might want to set up your own business outside of clubs. If you have a good network of friends and acquaintances in your local area, being a “mobile” personal trainer is a business model that gives you freedom and total control over everything you do. The money you earn is all yours and you have no rental fees to pay. Of course, the challenge here is getting clients; your network is therefore your greatest asset.

And finally, if you have the funds, drive and inclination, setting up your own PT studio is the ultimate entrepreneurial venture. While the initial outlay can be large, having your own studio gives you the potential to not only earn when training your own clients, but you could take on additional personal trainers who can also train clients in your facility, greatly increasing your earning potential.

Don’t feel you have to pick one or the other. I know many trainers who do some clients in clubs, train some at their home and even train some clients online.

Is there anything new personal trainers need to do in order to work in the industry?

In terms of legal requirement, no. But if you are a professional, you will need to have insurance and first aid. To register with REPs and to work in most clubs, you would need to have these two things.

If they only wanted to train people in parks and outdoors, are there any requirements for a trainer?

A trainer definitely must have insurance and first aid, but a qualification in Outdoor Fitness will also give you the required knowledge to put together workouts that can be done in parks etc. with little to no equipment.

You will also need to check with the local council to see if you need a permit to train clients in public parks. Failure to have any required permits may result in a hefty fine.

Do they need do any further qualifications or will the level 3 personal training qualification be enough?

The Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training is the minimum requirement for someone to work as a personal trainer in most health clubs and leisure centres. It is also highly recommended PTs also have a First Aid certificate. However, the more CPD courses and qualifications a PT has, the more skills they have. The more skills they have, the better personal trainer they will be and the better equipped they are to deal with a larger variety of clients. For example, there is a Level 2 Award in Adopting Gym-based Programmes for Adolescence. This would give a PT the skills required to train teenagers in the gym. There are courses for training kids, people suffering with obesity and diabetes and a whole range of other medical conditions. By having these qualification, your potential client base greatly increases.

Is there anything people can do to ensure that they’re doing as much as possible to be a successful personal trainer?

Continue to study. Fitness and exercise is a relatively new area of study and new research is coming out all the time. Being ahead of the curve and knowing your subject means you will be training clients in the latest training methodologies and be able to get them the results they want in the fastest possible time in the safest possible way.

Staying up to date also shows your clients you know what you’re talking about. If they’re asked by anyone if they would recommend you as a trainer, they are more likely to say “yes” if they know you continually study.

Train yourself. You are a billboard for your services and therefore, you need to train as well. It shows you have a belief in the services you provide – you practice what you preach. This does not mean you must have a god-like body; if members in the club see you training, it reinforces your professionalism. When they then think about hiring a personal trainer, they are more likely to think of the PT that trains the way they would like to train, rather than the one sitting in the corner eating crisps.

Can personal trainers register anywhere to get new clients?

It all depends on where you have decided to run your personal training business. If you aren’t working in a facility, there are many apps available which advertise your services to potential clients. Many of these apps can also manage your bookings, process the payments, and track different aspects of the training sessions with your clients.

If you are working in a club or leisure facility, making friends with reception and sales staff will help. As new members come in, it’s generally the reception or sales staff that are asked about personal trainers. If you’re friendly with your colleagues in these departments, they are more likely to think of you when asked.

It’s also a good idea to register with REPs (The Register of Exercise Professionals). By doing so, potential new clients have the ability to check your qualifications are valid and that you stay up to date by undertaking ongoing training in the form of Continued Professional Develop (CPD) courses.

Is there any advice you can give to people just starting out in the business?

Work on your soft skills i.e. communication and interaction. You can have all the knowledge in the world however if you’re not able communicate and relate to people, you won’t be able to get and keep clients.

Having the knowledge is essential. But clients stay with their trainers because they “like” them. The time the client spends with their trainer is not all about the workout programme and the exercises. There is a degree of social interaction and you have to be good at talking about things other than the exercises. You have to be able to relate to your clients on different levels at different times depending on what’s going on in their life. Personal trainers that don’t succeed are more often than not, lacking this skill.

What are the common problems or concerns you find people have when trying to start a personal training career?

The number one concern is getting clients. I have seen people do the course, get the qualification and start working in a gym. But because they don’t have the skills, personality and drive to go up to strangers and talk to them, they struggle to get the number of clients they need to survive.

Another is the expectation that you can have it all at once. PTs start with no clients, becoming a successful PT takes time and dedication. You may not get many clients in your first few months, but the more work you put in behind the scenes, the greater your chance of success. Basically, the more you put in, the more you get out.

So, if you want your career to be a successful one, talk to people, work on your social profile, work on yourself and keep studying. Take opportunities when they come up, don’t be afraid to move around and try different venues, keep grinding away. Lastly, remember, you are working for your client. They are your primary focus. The better they feel about working with you, the better you are doing as a PT.

For more information on TRAINFITNESS and the courses they offer. Head over to the website here.

Picture Credits: TRAINFITNESS

Published by Tom Wheatley

All round web chap. Editor of The Allrounder and Get Sweat Go. Loves a pizza, Howard Hawks films, fitness and old British sitcoms. Not a fan of cucumbers. Level 3 Personal Trainer and massively mediocre runner. Recently launched The Run Testers video channel.

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