The life and schedule of a personal trainer are not like that of the average person working the usual Monday to Friday 9-5 grind. Personal trainers who own (or are in the process of building) their own business, whether it be an in-person or online training business, can often find themselves working almost around the clock 7 days a week if their time is not managed effectively.
Building a business or managing a successful business is going to take a lot of hard work and although most trainers setting out on this path are ready and motivated to put in the work, finding a work-life balance is still very important. I speak from experience, as I have been running my own personal training business for the past 10 years and over those 10 years I have had many “questioning my life choices” moments.
What I’ve learned in my 10+ years as a personal trainer and business owner
The main thing I learned over the past ten years is that if you want to actually manage your time it is extremely important to say “no” sometimes! We all get into the business to help people and because we really enjoy what we do, so working an extra hour here and there doesn’t seem like a huge deal. Until you find yourself missing out on family gatherings, time with friends, not being able to fit in your own workouts, and/or not having time to cook your own healthy meals and sleep.
When you are clocking 10-12 hour days as a personal trainer, yes the money is great; however, this comes at a cost and it’s not something you can keep up long-term. Sure, I did many years of 10-12 hour days in order to build my business, but I found myself very drained both mentally and physically.
I discovered that working at this pace and level left me enjoying my job less than I used to because I was so tired of always thinking about how many more clients I had to train before I could go home and sleep. Then I started writing for magazines, blogging, and doing online training, which involved more of my personal time before clients, between clients, evenings, and weekends. Yes, these long hours helped me get my business to where it is today and I have a lot more free time now that I’ve put in the hard work; however, I feel I could have been more efficient with my time management when starting out.
So, I’m passing along my knowledge and advice so that you can avoid making the same mistakes I did.
1. Create your schedule and stick to it—do not let client dictate your schedule!
Sit down and look at your week. What are the hours that the majority of your clients like to train at? This will give you a sense of the key times when you’ll allow clients to book in-person sessions. Normally, this is in the morning or the evening (before and after standard work hours), which leaves a large block of free time in the afternoon.
Next, based around the peak hours you’ve identified for in-person training, create a “training hours” schedule for yourself based on how many clients you want to train per week and how many days per week you want to train. Now here’s the important part: stick to it! Clients are always going to tell you the times that work best for them to train, but I have found that if they really want to train with you they will accommodate your schedule and are often willing to nudge their workout a few hours or even a day or two to make it happen. Manage your time the way you want.
Apart from in-person training hours, you should also set out other times of the week to work on your online personal training clients, business development, social media scheduling, blogging, emails, professional development, and then of course personal time. Scheduling personal time for sleep, personal workouts, and time with friends and family is just as important as work.
I remember when I was waking up at 4:00 am every day of the week to train early morning clients and work all day, then one day I decided to take every Thursday morning off because I could feel myself getting burned out. Yes, I lost a few clients, but it was the BEST DECISION I ever made. I was able to meet friends for dinner on Wednesday nights because I wasn’t worried about having to wake up so early on Thursday mornings. I got a few extra hours of sleep and would call Thursday mornings my “office hours”. I always had a plan for what I was going to accomplish in this extra time, which of course included my own workout and business development.
Long story short, these few extra “non-training” hours on Thursday mornings resulted in more business growth and in-turn, more money. This was the first time I learned how to say “no” and stick to my guns about not working on Thursday mornings (people were still asking) and I haven’t looked back since!
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2. Prioritize, manage your time wisely, and charge what you are worth
When you set out to become a personal trainer the main objectives are to help people and, of course, to make money. The success of a personal trainer is not based on how many clients they have and how many hours they are training per day. A trainer could have a whole bunch of training clients (both in person or online) and be training many hours per day, but if they are not charging enough for their services they could be actually making less than someone who is only training a select few clients.
The key is to make sure you charge what you are worth! You will be better off in the long run to charge more for your services and have a select few clients who are willing to pay a premium to train with you, than hundreds of clients paying next to nothing for training.
This especially goes for online training clients. Finding the perfect price point might take some trial and error, but it’s important to decide how much of your time and expertise these clients are going to need and set your pricing accordingly. Clients willing to pay more for your services will be more serious about their training and because you are not training hundreds of other clients, you will be able to provide them a better service.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
As mentioned above, clients are always going to ask you to train them in the hours that work best for them. I have found that clients sometimes forget that even though we are trainers and we love what we do, we actually do have lives outside of work. This is why you need to be strict with clients about your training hours and do not budge on them. I found that I’ve even had to lie (just little white lies!) to some clients and say that I already had clients booked in for the hours they were requesting if they didn’t fit into my training hours. Especially if they were requesting an appointment during the time I had set out to do my own workout.
As mentioned in number 2 above, prioritizing your time is important and I believe that getting my own personal workout is a priority. This goes for online personal training too. It is important to lay out the rules right when they begin training with you, based on your rates and services. How much access do they have to you? Perhaps you notify them that if they send you a message you will get back to them within 12 hours? 24 hours? Or perhaps you are offering access to you 24/7 as part of your service. This is what you have to decide on your own based on your prioritized and organized weekly schedule. If you do phone calls or skype check-ins with clients, set aside certain times of the week that you will do all of the calls at once and do not budge from these times.
Yes, maybe some clients or trainers out there will think I sound like a jerk, but I’ve been in this game so long, have given up so much of my own personal time, and have learned so much about time management that I truly believe in sticking to your guns. This industry can use and abuse you if you are not strategic in your time management and if you want to survive, you need to learn when to say “no”.