How to be a successful personal trainer

September 7, 2023

If you’re wanting to be a successful personal trainer, you’re probably wondering how the leaders in your field have reached the heights they have. In the vast majority of cases, it comes down to hard work, diligence and good decision-making rather than luck or natural talent. There are certain things that they focus on which helps them stand out from the crowd, get better jobs, attract more lucrative clients and drive themselves forward.

This guide highlights some of the most important attributes you’ll need to be the most successful personal trainer you can be. We’ll highlight some of the most sought-after qualities of a personal trainer, why the human touch is just as important as your fitness knowledge, and why you shouldn’t neglect the need for business acumen.

Get the right qualifications and skills

It’s absolutely critical that you have the right credentials for the personal training services you want to deliver. Without them, you will find it almost impossible to get a job as a full-time employed trainer, and it will be very difficult to attract a decent client base if you’re operating on a self-employed basis. The basic level you should aim for is the level 3 personal trainer qualification accredited by CIMSPA, as this is what employers and discerning customers will be looking for. Ideally, you should then explore level 4 qualifications so that you can specialise your skills.

Sharpen your business skills

Personal training isn’t just about fitness and achieving goals – the most successful people in the trade will have excellent business skills as well. They’ll know how to create session plans and nutrition schedules that really resonate with customers; they’ll know how to market themselves and build relationships with clients; and they’ll keep themselves abreast of industry changes and new opportunities. If you feel that these are areas where you’re lacking, then make sure you find some time to upskill your admin and business know-how.

Look for a niche market

You’ll no doubt be aware that the market for personal trainers is fairly saturated in most parts of the UK. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t career opportunities in the trade – it just means that you’ll have to be a bit more creative to take advantage of them. Instead of pushing yourself as a fairly standard personal trainer, it may be better to set your stall out focusing on a particular area of fitness or a certain demographic. For example, you could concentrate on performance training such as athletes and bodybuilders, aim to help older people and couples keep fit, or incorporate nutrition advice to help those who want to lose weight.

Listen to your clients

When people come to a personal trainer, they’re coming for expert advice and support with whatever they’re trying to achieve. It’s unlikely that they’re coming to you to be told what to do, or to have their feelings and concerns ignored. The best personal trainers know exactly what they need to do to build a rapport with each of their clients, and enable two-way communication both inside and outside of training sessions. That way, clients feel more valued and develop a greater sense that their trainer has their best interest in mind.

Adapt your techniques

Connected to the previous point, that two-way communication is just as important for you as it is for your clients. If you understand what a client’s feelings and preferences are, then you’re in a far better position to adapt your techniques and training sessions to generate the best response, and therefore the best results. For example, if you know that someone responds well to tough love, then you can set them harder and more ambitious targets. But on the other hand, someone who prefers a softly softly approach will feel better if the targets they’re set are less challenging and feel a stronger sense of satisfaction by achieving them.

Maintain client contact out of hours

You may think that personal training starts and ends with the hour that your clients have booked with you. Technically that’s correct, but if you really want to succeed, then you’ll need to go the extra mile. It’s the PTs that make the effort to stay in touch with their clients outside of training times that are most likely to keep them as clients long-term. It could be something training-related, like a gentle reminder to eat healthily, or an off-topic conversation about family or hobbies. Either way, it’s a vital part of strengthening those all-important bonds.

Learn from senior leaders

Wherever you work and whatever your contact base, there are always going to be fellow professionals who have more experience and expertise than you in certain areas. These are people that you will always be able to learn from, and get the insights that can help you take your career further. Rest assured that they did exactly the same to progress their own careers, so take an effort to tap into their knowledge, whether in person at the gym or online through LinkedIn.

Lead and inspire by example

Just as you can learn from and be inspired by senior leaders in your own career, so your clients will want to get the same things from you. That’s why you should be proactive in pushing forward with your own fitness and training goals, so that your clients can follow in your footsteps. If you’ve ever wanted to run a marathon in under four hours, cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or climb Ben Nevis, here’s your chance to do it – and drive business advantage in the process.

Work from a gym when you can

While you may feel happier doing your own thing and working on your own, there’s always value in working from a gym when you can, even if you’re self-employed. That’s because there are always new things to learn, new trends to spot and new people to meet. If you’re constantly working alone, then you’ll find yourself out of the loop, and potentially will miss out on future business opportunities. Being in the gym environment is therefore one of the best ways to make, maintain and cultivate contacts.

Take advantage of technology

Never forget to take full advantage of all of the technology available to you as a personal trainer, because it can make your job far easier and more efficient. For example, there are countless apps you can use to create session plans and create training schedules for clients, incorporating a wide range of exercises and techniques. Behind the scenes, you can also use technology to manage your wider business, whether it’s your own timetable, your invoicing or your business expenses.

Be as flexible as you can

It’s the personal trainers who want to make it a nine-to-five job as much as possible that tend not to get very far. If you’re able to be flexible and work unsociable hours, especially weekday evenings and Saturday mornings, then you’re far more likely to get the client base and senior positions you want. Those are the times that clients will want to book you for if you’re self employed, while if you’re trying to work your way up within a gym, going the extra mile will put you in pole position for a promotion.

Maximise your social media presence

Social media is a vital part of modern business, and the personal training trade is certainly no exception. If you’re self employed, it’s a core tool for engaging new clients and marketing your services. And if you’re employed by someone else, then it’s vital for networking and finding new opportunities. Either way, make sure you post and add new contacts regularly, and make the most of platforms that aren’t costing you anything to use.

Never stop learning

Just because you’ve been doing the job for years and have high-level qualifications doesn’t mean you’re the best you can be. That’s because the personal training industry is always changing: there are new trends and techniques, and different business models and opportunities, emerging all the time. You should always be open-minded to new concepts, and how you can incorporate them into your training sessions or business offering.

Get personal trainer insurance with Protectivity

A key part of being a successful personal trainer is to make sure you have best suited insurance cover in place. That’s because you never know what might happen, whether it’s an accident or injury to a client, an injury that prevents you from working, or loss, theft or damage to your equipment. Even the most successful and experienced personal trainers suffer from unforeseen circumstances sometimes, and it’s thanks to insurance that they don’t end up out of pocket.

Protectivity has years of experience insuring personal trainers just like you. Our cover includes personal injury, equipment cover, public liability, and employer’s insurance if you run a business that employs other people. With our affordable, flexible policies, you can take your business to the next level with confidence that you aren’t at risk of long-term financial stress.

Take two minutes today to have a closer look at our affordable, flexible personal trainer insurance policies.


This blog has been created as general information and should not be taken as advice. Make sure you have the correct level of insurance for your requirements and always review policy documentation.