When you graduate from a personal trainer certification course, you’re on Cloud 9. I know I certainly was. You’ve been passionate about fitness for a long time and now, finally, you’ve disciplined yourself to do the study and achieve the piece of paper that will open the door to a career in the fitness industry.
You are qualified!
But what now.
How are you going to find clients when you haven’t got any experience and you’re competing with veteran trainers? What if you can’t find a gym to take you on? And, if you decide to go out on your own, how do you even get started?
In this article, I’ll lay out 3 essential tips from in the trenches to help you get your personal training career off to an awesome start.
Decide on Your Business Model
As a new personal trainer, you should investigate the range of opportunities that are available to you. Your main options are …
- Working in a big box gym, either as a salaried employee, a self-employed contractor, or a retainer/commission employee
- Taking a position with a one-off gym, a small franchise operation, or a dungeon gym
- Working at a boutique gym
- Running your own home-based personal training business, either where you go to the client’s home, they come to you, or a combination of the two
- Starting an online training business
- Running a Bootcamp business
- Working for a medical facility as a rehab trainer or a preventative care specialist
Research the pros and cons of each of these options. If you can, talk to other trainers who work under each of the models. Then decide which of the models best matches your skills, personality, and preferences.
Here are ten questions to help you narrow down your options:
- Are you more comfortable in a large, busy gym environment, or a smaller, more intimate boutique facility?
- Are you wanting to work alongside mentors to guide you or are you confident stepping out on your own from day one?
- Are you able to take direction?
- Can you handle management pressure to meet sales targets?
- Do you need the support of a strong management structure, or do you operate best with a looser system?
- What equipment are you expecting to be working with – are you good at making do with limited training resources or would you prefer to have a fully equipped gym on hand at all times?
- Will you feel comfortable and in control in another person’s environment (I’m thinking of in-home personal training)
- Do you need the company of other trainers and gym staff or are you able to thrive as a lone wolf?
- Do you – honestly – have what it takes to run your own business?
- Where do you want to be in 10 years? Will this job model get you there?
Define Your Niche
If you enter the personal training market offering the same thing as everyone else, you are going to struggle to establish a foothold. Why should a person go with you when there are plenty of other trainers, who can exhibit screeds of testimonials and before and after pictures of the clients they’ve helped transform?
This is an aspect that many new trainers ignore. As a result, they jump into the water, becoming a small fish in an ocean full of sharks – and struggle to attract any attention at all.
Doesn’t it make a lot more sense to, rather than offering to train all comers and enter a huge market that is fiercely competitive, to set yourself up as a specialist in a particular area in a smaller market where you can stand out?
Your decision should begin with your passion. What type of people do you absolutely love to work with? Is it bodybuilders, new mothers, or men in their 60s who need to focus on balance and coordination? What about sportspeople – basketball, soccer, or football players? Or could you become a chronic lower back pain specialist?
How knowledgeable are you about the niche? How can you upskill yourself about it? Is the market accessible to you – with the example of the basketball players, you’ve likely got dozens of teams in your local community. If you’re involved as a social league player, even the better.
Once you’ve identified the niche area that you’re naturally drawn toward, analyze the size of the opportunity that it presents. Here are four questions that you need to ask about the niche . . .
- What is the size of the niche?
- Is there any competition?
- Do the people who constitute the niche have the money to afford your services?
- Will those people identify their problem as something they will pay money to fix?
Ideally, your target niche will be sizable, there will be no one marketing directly to it, people will be financially able, and they will be motivated to have their problem fixed.
To find out if your identified market niche will actually pay for your services, you need to ask them. That means conducting a survey.
Let’s say you’ve decided to focus on basketball players as your niche. Think about the athletic skills that a basketball player needs to excel at the game – vertical jump, speed, agility, cardiovascular endurance, and power. Now create a simple questionnaire that you can use to survey teams in your local area.
Ask such questions as . . .
(1) On a scale of 1-5, rate how important it is to you to improve your
- Vertical Jump
- Cardio Endurance
- Lower Body Strength
(2) Would you be interested in a specialist training service that was specifically designed to improve those areas of your game?
(3) How likely would you be to sign up for such a coaching program if it was available for $25 per 30-minute session?
Conduct your survey with 50-75 players and you will have a good idea of whether the market niche is viable.
You’ve now got a 3-step roadmap to identifying your personal trainer business model, narrowing down your market niche, and assessing whether there is a demand for your services. Once you’ve done that, it’s simply a matter of marketing to that niche and delivering awesome service. Do that and you’ll soon have a thriving personal training business.
Sam is a functional movement coach, ex-collegiate rower, and writer at Start Rowing, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for health and exercise and loves being able to help others move more freely.
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