The Simple Start To A Successful Personal Training Career

There comes a time in most trainers’ careers where they become fed up with the industry’s rat race, high turnover, low pay, corporate gym culture (or lack thereof) and 5 AM to 9 PM shifts every day, including Sundays. Although this overwhelming feeling of frustration and burn-out strikes different trainers at different points in their careers, it’s inevitable that if you’re in this for the long haul, you will one day reach your tipping point mentally and physically. I was there. I worked the 16-hour days back to back to back. I felt the sales pressure regardless of how well I had done the month previously. I took on clients that I probably shouldn’t have simply to please management and make ends meet. I struggled to say ‘NO’ because I was worried about whether my next pay cheque would reflect all the effort I was putting forth. Eventually I decided to make a change and I’m assuming that if you’re reading this blog, you too are feeling the urge for a dramatic mindset and lifestyle shift as a fitness coach.


You might be considering a few options. The possibilities are endless. From a position at a boutique, high-end studio, transitioning to a specialized facility, travelling the world while working purely online with clients (here's a link to the ONLY course I used to start building my online coaching business) or possibly taking the leap and opening your very own location, you’ve decided that it’s time to take the next big career step for you and strive progressively towards your true potential as a fitness pro! But - where the heck do you start? Although there is A LOT of thinking that you’re going to have to do over the next several weeks / months, it’s best to start with one of the most basic prerequisites to a successful, sustainable and rewarding career. You need to decide what direction you want to take as a coach.


As previously mentioned, there are multiple avenues to pursue which can be inspiring and overwhelming at the same time. Remember, you can’t do it all and you don’t have to. Make certain you choose things that you’re going to look forward to and enjoy as you develop your professional career. You can of course, make changes as you go but it helps A LOT to build off of a strong foundation.


**Side note – there are fitness professionals that make 6 and 7 figures running boot camps. There are fitness professionals that make 6 & 7 figures as high-end ‘1-2-1’ coaches. There are fitness professionals that make 6 & 7 figures as online coaches who live on the beach somewhere exotic. There are fitness professionals that make 6 & 7 figures doing nothing other than writing and producing information products. What is my point in all of this? Don’t set your career path based on an online ad you saw about how to get 350 leads a day for your boot camp if you absolutely despise running boot camps. Be honest with yourself and clearly identify what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about. You’ll be amazed at how quickly it will build and progress from there. Choosing a direction based on a potential dollar amount will make your work turn to drudgery in the blink of an eye. True success and happiness will always seem just outside of your reach.


Who Is Your Ideal Client?


If you don’t know who your target market / ideal clientele is, it’s going to prove quite challenging to answer the questions that follow. Although you might not have a definitive answer this early in your career, you can at least start narrowing your vision and carving out your niche. You can start by considering the current clients that you work with. Think of the personalities, training preferences, goals and other factors of the clients that you look forward to working with most. Review these same factors for clients that you look forward to training least. Run this against what areas of the industry you find your passion runs strongest for and where you seem to excel in the results arena and you’ll have a much stronger aim in the developmental stages.


What “guy” or “girl” will you become in your community?


As many of you may already know, I’m a huge fan of Jon Goodman’s work. One of the points he often stresses is the importance of –


a) doing a great job and

b) making certain that EVERYONE knows about it.

The best part about this strategy? It works better than any funnel, landing page, or sales tactic that you could ever employ. The reality is that your long term success is determined primarily by how great you are at getting people results NOT how great you are at driving people into a seductive sales funnel. When people sign up with you regardless of which mode brought them your way, they expect an outcome and if you can't deliver the market will eventually snap you back to reality. Jon actually covers this EXACT topic in his blog CONFUSING THE GASOLINE FOR FIRE. You might want to click that link and read it if you've been frustrated by all of the "right" ways to market online.

Let’s say your ideal clients are 50+ women who want to increase energy, lose a few extra pounds and increase full body strength and mobility. One of your primary aims should be to ensure that when people in your community inquire about goals related to your expertise, that YOU are top of mind. Whether it’s at the salon, local restaurant or on Facebook, if a 57-year-old woman looks for advice on losing 10 to 15 pounds and how to get stronger, you want anyone and everyone to immediately send them in your direction. With the above two points covered, you can begin answering the next 3 questions that combined with the above, will start shaping the foundation for your future branding as a fitness professional.


What Type of Facility Do You Want to Work In?


Considering the type of facility in which you want to work is extremely important when considering your long-term success and sustainability of clientele. One of the first points is location and gym culture. Aiming to coach business owners and mature adults might not be a good mix if you’re renting space out of a hardcore powerlifting gym that also doesn’t happen to have showers and change rooms. Furthermore, coaching high school athletes in a facility located outside of the city and without adequate space would prove a challenge for clients to get to you and then further, to have an effective training session.


Further facility-related ideas to consider:


What amenities will be offered (e.g., towel service, smoothies, showers, etc.)?

What equipment do you need to best serve your ideal clients?

How convenient is your location to your target market?

Do you prefer renting from another gym owner or owning the facility outright?

What level of cleanliness is expected by your ideal client?

What type of music will you regularly play?

What hours of operation will you maintain?


Once you’ve determined the answers to most of the facility related questions, it’s time to begin focusing on your coaching attire. Always remember the statement – DRESS HOW YOU WANT TO BE ADDRESSED. This of course, doesn’t mean you need to wear a $5,000.00 suit with gold cuff links and a Rolex on your wrist, BUT this is exactly why, as mentioned earlier, clarification of your target market is essential! Do you reach your target market best wearing track shorts and a plain, white t-shirt? Maybe a golf shirt / shorts communicates your level of professionalism best if you work with business owners and mature adults. Should you wear a belt and tuck your shirt in, or does a little more casual look fit the bill? If you work with kids’ boot camps wearing something colourful or funny might assist with developing rapport and improved attention! There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but it could make a world of difference to your long-term branding.




Define Your Coaching Communication Approach


Finally, it’s imperative that you define your coaching communication approach. Are you more the quiet, assertive type? Are you the “rah-rah” cheerleader coach? Are you the drill sergeant style of coach? Make sure that the approach with which you feel most comfortable, will be received positively by the clientele to whom you are aiming to be of service. Yelling and screaming at a 70-year-old woman to not quit, telling her to stay disciplined and squat until she drops… this probably is not going to prove progressive to your client – just one, poor example of ‘coach relationship’.


To be clear, don’t expect to have all the answers to the above questions right away. It took me months to answer them well. Even as I continue moving forward and growing on so many levels in my own professional career, I am constantly referring, tweaking, improving and correcting missteps and lacking in varying areas along the way. Hopefully, this blog will provide you with a foundation with which you can begin structuring your future branding as a fitness professional in your beginnings of setting yourself apart from the rest. Before you get overwhelmed and frustrated, just remember: the simple fact that you’re reading this and motivated to improve, shows that you’re a cut above the rest. Maintain your forward momentum and continue to cultivate your passion!


P.S.: Please share this with a fellow fitness professional of whom you feel would benefit as well. There are a lot of great coaches questioning whether they can withstand the ups and downs of this challenging industry. I feel they deserve to be armed with the necessary tools to build a strong foundation for a lasting and rewarding career!


Next Week’s Topic: ‘Should Your Body Be Your Business Card’?




Ben Graham