Vacation pay? Paid days off? These are things that a self-employed personal trainer hears their friends worry about each year but is not likely to experience themselves. I used to cringe as I heard friends say, “Wow, I have so many paid vacation days left I have to take 2 weeks off work before the end of the year or I’ll get in trouble!”
As a self-employed personal trainer who has literally worked and hustled for every dollar I’ve ever made, I just couldn’t understand what they were complaining about—nor did I sympathize with them. I wasn’t bitter because I would never trade working for yourself (It’s truly worth all the hard work) but when it comes to vacations, sick time, mat leave, etc, things can definitely get a little get tricky.
Does that mean you can never take a vacation? Absolutely not.
taking time off as a fitness professional is definitely possible!
It just requires a few extra steps and a little bit of organization. Let me walk you through it.
Ditch the Guilt
Do you ever think it’s funny that your clients have no problem letting you know they are going to miss a couple sessions because they are going on vacation, but then if you ever have to tell them the same thing you get scared they are going to drop you for another trainer?
I used to think like that too, but that was before I learned my value, the power of my positive relationships, and that vacations are absolutely necessary for everyone and your clients will understand.
As trainers, we feel like we always have to be there for our clients. We can’t let them down. We can’t go AWOL. It’s like we think we’re their lifeline! But that’s all just guilt creeping in and clouding our judgment. You can be an amazing trainer and take vacations. The two are not mutually exclusive. If you’re doing your job and teaching your clients rather than just telling them what to do, they’ll survive without you for a little bit. I promise.
Another thing that helped me ditch that guilt and get over my fear of leaving clients was learning the power of residual income (I’ll talk more about this later) and hiring staff! This is the major key and major milestone I took in my business to give myself a little bit of freedom from working 12 hour days, take a few vacations here and there and even enable myself to take approximately 5 months off work (PAID!) after having my beautiful baby boy.
My business is now to the point where I can book a trip just 1 week in advance and I have such an amazing team that they can just adapt to my absence and keep everything running smoothly while I’m gone!
The sky’s the limit with online personal training.
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Long before I was running my studio with a team of trainers and doing online training, I was doing one-on-one personal training around different gyms. Because I was on my own, it was much more difficult to take vacations; however, that didn’t make it impossible. I found that if I planned it out properly it wasn’t a problem and, actually, it didn’t even affect my income. How can you do the same?
First, start a special “vacation” fund (in the bank or under your mattress—whichever you prefer) and use it to stash away money dedicated to a vacation for you. I always put part of my income each month into a savings account that is strictly for fun stuff (vacations, concerts, nights out with friends, etc.). That way when it comes time to book, it won’t feel like you’re taking money away from bills or overhead costs you need to pay.
Trust me when I say this will not only be less of a shock on your savings but, putting aside that money bit by bit will also help build up the anticipation for your trip.
Second, make sure you inform your clients as soon as you can. Don’t worry, they will survive without you! I used to always be so scared to tell them, but most of them were happy to hear I was getting away because they know how hard I work for them and all my other clients. I always left them with programs to do while I was gone and I’ll tell you, I never lost a client due to one of my vacations.
Third, if you don’t already, start thinking of ways to create residual income for yourself. This means finding a way to make money without having to trade your time.
This could be hiring a trainer to work under you who you contract to cover your clients. They train your clients while you’re gone for a cut of your regular training fees. You won’t be making as much money as if you were training them yourself, but some is definitely better than none.
You could also find residual income by creating a hands-off online training program or e-book that you can sell online and to clients.
If you’re offering online training or even hybrid training, you’re already hitting the residual income jackpot as those clients will be able to continue training easily without you. If you schedule things right (slot in their in-person sessions around your vacation time), hybrid clients might not even notice you’re gone.
Step 1) Add online personal training to your business.
Step 2) Take the vacation of your dreams.
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While it might seem a bit redundant to make one of the steps in taking vacations as a fitness professional to “Take Vacations”. Especially when it’s written in all caps.
But I’m being deliberately obvious here. In order to take vacations, you have to make yourself physically stop going to work and go be someplace else. A vacation isn’t just working from home or a new remote location. It’s taking time off from your job and leaving your responsibilities behind. Plan to do exactly that and then stick to that plan. No sneaky phone calls or emails. Take the time off.
At the very bare minimum, you should be taking one vacation per year no matter what you do for a living. It doesn’t have to be somewhere far or extravagant. Maybe it’s just a staycation but unplugged away from work.
As fitness professionals, we are a hard-working bunch, and as entrepreneurs, it’s often hard to shut the brain down and unplug. If you are like me—or how I used to be—you probably think you don’t need vacations and that you’re fine because you love your job. WRONG! I thought that too, but once I started taking more vacations and time off, I found I got even better at my job, had more energy, and my business actually got better. I realized the importance of vacations (even short ones) every few months. Even now as a busy “mompreneur” I still make sure to take time away because it’s good for my mind as I always come back refreshed and ready to dominate the world!
Learn to Unplug
This is a rule that I create for myself. While on vacations, I unplug from social media, check email only once a day to ensure there is nothing important I’m missing, and check text messages a maximum of 1-2 times per day.
I am running a business, so although it was tough at first I have learned to put my full trust in my team to handle things while I’m away. I have learned not to panic and check in on things 24/7. As I have often told myself, there is nothing I can do about it anyway.
I find checking email once a day while I’m on vacation is fine so long as I only respond to messages that are immediately urgent. If it’s not something that requires an instant reply, I usually wait until I’m at the airport on the way home or until I actually get home before I respond. Same goes for texts and definitely social media.
If you find this hard, try leaving your cell phone in the hotel or giving it your partner or any friends you’re traveling with. Let them control your access until you’re able to let loose and forget about notifications and messages. Trust me it pays off big time in your mindset and boosts your desire to absolutely crush it when you get home from vacation!
The main take away from this post is to always remember to take care of yourself. It’s very easy for us trainers to get burnt out—and more often than not, we don’t even realize it’s happening! The life of an entrepreneur is the best, but also very hard on the mind because we seem to never stop inventing or thinking of ways to make more money. Just as everyone else is forced to take vacation time by their employers (poor them, ha!), as our own bosses we need to do the same.