More often than not, personal trainers get into the business of personal training because they love helping people… not because they love business! Their desire to change peoples’ lives and improve the health of their communities leads them to dive into business without really knowing what to expect when it comes to running a business, or even understanding business basics.
In my six years as a personal trainer, I’ve seen so many talented trainers and coaches give up on their dreams because they don’t understand how to actually run a fitness business. They’re great at what they do and they’re ultra-inspiring, yet they don’t know how to communicate that through their marketing. Their passion for service leads them to work all hours of the morning and night, which usually results in burnout. And their lack of understanding of finances leads them struggling on the months where no one renews their package.
Within my local community, I’ve made it my mission to help talented trainers understand the business basics so they can continue to show up for the people who need them the most. And today I’m going to help you do that as well! Be sure to set aside some time to work through the action items I’ve provided below, and you’ll be well on your way to building the impactful personal training business of your dreams.
Define your ideal business lifestyle
It’s no secret that personal trainers work long days. If you’re hoping for a typical 9-5 schedule, you’re in the wrong industry. At least in the early stages of your business, you’re probably going to have to put in your time and work the split shifts that are so common in the training industry. Despite this, it’s still beneficial to have an idea of what you want your schedule to look like in the future.
Before you look at scheduling, determine your ideal monthly revenue. How much do you want to be generating from your training each month? Then decide how many hours per week you want to be working. Do you want to be doing any in-person training sessions at all? Or do you want to look at bringing your training business online?
Once you have an idea of how much money you want to be generating each month and how many hours you want to be working, you can begin to look at how you’ll have to adjust your rates or your offers. For example, if you want to be earning $10k per month but you only want to be training 5 hours per week, you’re either going to have to have a hefty hourly rate (and obviously, a service that justifies that rate) or you’ll need to figure out a way to scale your business another way, maybe through online training or group training.
It’s essential that you work towards building a business that suits your desired lifestyle because a burned-out trainer is not an inspiring trainer, and unfortunately, it’s a very common sight in our industry. So while you may need to pull the 6am-8pm days in the early stages of your business, have a plan that sets you up for creating a sustainable schedule that contributes to your well-being.
Action item: Determine your desired monthly revenue.
Then determine how many hours per week you want to be working, what hours you want to be working, and whether you want to be working in person, online, or a combination of both. Now get creative with offers and programs that will help you reach your desired monthly revenue and schedule.
Define your niche
There’s a lot of pressure in the business world to have your niche clearly defined. Even if you can help everyone, it doesn’t mean you have to!
However, defining your niche is made all the more simple once you’ve started to gain experience in working with a variety of people. You may start out thinking you want to help moms lose weight, only to realize you actually love the athletic performance side of things.
When you’re just starting out and don’t have your ultra-clear niche, spend some time thinking about who you’d like to work with. Still not sure? Who don’t you want to work with? Being clear on the types of clients you don’t want to support or don’t feel as though you can support will lead you closer to establishing who you do want to work with.
As you gain more experience, you’ll begin to find your sweet spot: the types of clients who you both love to work with, and feel totally-equipped to serve. Once you’ve narrowed in on this demographic, specialize! Becoming a specialist makes business basics much less intimidating! You’ll know who to market to and what to say in your marketing, which will help people know right away whether you’re the trainer for them or not. It’ll also make it easier to decide where to spend your money when it comes to continuing education.
Action item: Brainstorm the types of clients you’d like to work with.
What are they struggling with? How can you help them? What types of programs and services would suit them best? If you’re unsure about the answers to these questions, get clear on who you don’t want to work with first, and then work backwards from there!
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Craft your offer
Contrary to popular belief, your offer isn’t “personal training.” People aren’t actually buying personal training. They’re buying the transformation you’re going to deliver!
So what are you really giving them? Greater confidence? More energy to play with their kids? The ability to stay mobile and independent for the long-term? Put yourself in your ideal client’s shoes. What are they struggling with and what solution are they looking for?
Most people aren’t laying in bed at night thinking “if only I had a 12-week strength and conditioning program that would also help me improve my mobility…” They’re probably thinking something along the lines of “I wish I wasn’t feeling so tired all the time…” “I really want to run around with my kids, but my back just won’t stop hurting…”
Action item: Brainstorm the benefits your programs provide.
What transformation are you delivering? And how can you tie that into your marketing?
This is the fun part! And it’s a lot easier if you at least have a general idea of who you’d like to work with. Marketing is all about getting your message in front of the right people in the right place at the right time.
By knowing where your ideal clients are searching for solutions to their problems, you’ll be able to narrow down which marketing efforts will be worth your time. So many trainers turn to social media to build their businesses, but if you want to help busy corporate professionals, is Instagram really where you need to be?
Consider both the online and offline channels you can use to reach your target audience. What networking groups can you go to where you could meet individuals who would know your ideal clients?
And most importantly, how can you infuse more of yourself into your marketing? What can you do to stand out in an incredibly saturated market? Are there any unique aspects to your approach? Your vibe? Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine in your marketing. Being controversial can also be of benefit. Think about what you stand for! What will you not accept? Are there things in your industry that drive you crazy? What’s your solution?
Action item: Determine where your ideal clients hang out.
Both online and offline! Look for the gatekeepers—individuals who would know your ideal client and who could become referral partners. Then combine your gatekeepers with your unique approach to create your marketing messages.
Create a sales process
“Sales” is the word that most trainers dread. But if you want to help the people who need you, you need to understand how to sell.
A beneficial starting point is to shift your mindset around sales. Rather than looking at it as pushing someone or taking their money, can you view it as holding space for them to invest in their well-being?
Change is scary and people will easily talk themselves out of something they really want to do. Your sales process can help them! So rather than taking the “if you want to work with me, give me a call!” approach, craft a sales process that aligns with your values and vibe.
I used to assume people who didn’t ask about my services didn’t want to work with me. I’ve learned that some people need outreach. Once I get on a phone call, I hear that people are interested! If I didn’t reach out, they likely would have just continued to wonder if this whole training thing could ever work them.
Action item: Craft a pitch that aligns with your niche and values.
Do you want to offer a complimentary consultation on the phone? An assessment in the gym? How will you transition from the free offer to the invitation to work with you on a deeper level? What systems will you have in place for following up with people who once expressed interest and then disappeared?
As business owners, it’s easy to get caught up in all the little details. We have people telling us we need fancy logos, the right colours for our websites, or the perfect email marketing provider. But none of that matters if you don’t have the proper foundation in place. If you don’t know what your offer is, who you’re talking to, or how to convert followers into clients, there’s no point focusing on building your website or social media presence.
Before you do anything else to establish your business basics and grow your revenue, work through the action items listed above. If you think you know the answers, go through them anyway and write everything down. There’s no need to overthink things. You can always adjust your niche or your offer as you gain more experience. But in order to gain that experience, you need clarity on where you’re starting.