My First Years as a Personal Trainer – Guest Blog

Protectivity invited Ode2Fitness blogger Rachel O’Donnell to write a special guest blog on her top tips for those considering a career change and deciding to become a Personal Trainer.

rachel o'donnellSetting up your own business is tough, starting with little or no money; praying for your first booking or paid client. Desperate to be a success but feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do. There are bound to be days when you wonder if it is worth it but 2 years down the line with a successful PT business, I promise you it is. If you are reading this the likelihood is you are looking to make the move into Personal Training, or you already have a Personal Training business but want to get more out of it, hopefully, I can help! I want to be honest about my journey from where I started to where I am now and by telling you, I hope you can find something in it that can help you on yours!

I decided to train as a Personal Trainer after losing quite a large amount of weight and finding a passion for fitness and exercise I never knew I had! I thought if I could do it anyone could. I completely changed my lifestyle, from pizza loving binge drinking lazy bum to health food loving, gym bunny and I loved it. I still do and I think that is so important. I love helping people get into exercise and enjoy it! Personal Training is not a glamorous job; it involves early mornings, late nights, long days and possibly weekends. You need to be flexible to work with your clients at a time that suits them. This tends to mean that the usual 9 to 5ers want before or after work! It follows, therefore, that this has to be something you really want to do and are willing to put the time in.

I made the decision to give up my steady, reliable Monday-Friday job and took the leap to self-employed personal trainer in a gym. This is where I started and where I still run my business from. I think the gym is a great place to start; it gives you immediate access to members who want to get fit and allows you to work with like-minded people. Yes, you will have competition but in my experience, a little friendly competition never hurt anyone! But with this in mind, I think how you market yourself and your price structure becomes really important. Usually, gyms have a price structure you have to stay between so look into this, and if not have a look at other Personal Trainers in your facility then try to stay in line with them. You don’t want to undersell your services, but you also don’t want to price yourself out of the market. Some people may believe the most expensive is the best, but if someone with similar qualifications and experience as you is £5 per session cheaper they are likely to win that business. Be careful here though as you don’t want to undercut the competition and work for nothing.

The next step is getting clients, and this is where it can get tough. I really struggled at first; I was overwhelmed with the task ahead. By setting myself mini targets I slowly built up a solid base and worked from there. Firstly, you need to work out how many sessions per week you need to be on to break even, to pay all your bills and have no debt. This needs to be your first target! Once you have this number in mind it will give you focus. This can then form the basis of your mini targets for each day, week or month. For me the mini targets I set myself involved speaking to a certain number of people per day in the gym, getting a certain number of taster sessions/consultations booked in, and converting a percentage of those. When speaking to people, don’t go straight in for the kill. Build a relationship with that person, help with their training, answer any questions they have and show off your expertise! They will approach you for Personal Training should they ever choose they want it! In terms of clients for me, one of the biggest tips I can give you gets yourself seen. You will have time on your hands – use this to publicise yourself. It is so important, you may not have paying clients so free taster sessions can be a big help. If people like what they see they will contact you. This is especially important if you are in a gym, if people don’t see you around they won’t know you exist. Always try and be around at the times you want/need clients.

personal trainingOnce you have your client base the next thing is retention. Make sure your clients love their sessions and are getting results. Always check back to their targets and work with them to help them achieve them. To this end, keeping up to date with new research and training methods is so important. Not only for CPD (Continuing Professional Development) but it makes you a better Personal Trainer and keeps you from going stale. Read free articles, a book on courses, do whatever you can and keep learning! You cannot and will not know it all of your PT course, the more strings you have to your bow the better!

I think one of the most important lessons I learned from the first couple of months of Personal Training is that it can mean more to you than it does to your clients. Clients will cancel at the last minute, they will fail to turn up for consultations/taster sessions and it can become very frustrating. This is one of the biggest things that used to get me down, but there are things you can do to help avoid it. Firstly for anyone that books in for a taster or consultation, get their number. Reconfirm any appointments the day before, giving potential clients the opportunity to cancel. This is the same for clients, mistakes happen, they may forget or have the wrong time. Get into the habit of dropping your clients a quick text the day before a session to limit the number of no-shows. Finally, have a cancellation policy! For me this is 24 hours, all my clients sign a contract confirming that they will give me 24 hours’ notice to cancel a session or they forfeit that session. Clients will cancel, and this is your livelihood, so protect it.

As I mentioned earlier, Personal Training is not a 9 to 5 job, and there can be a lot of pressure on you to work every hour of the day. Whilst I agree it is important to be flexible, it is also important to look after yourself. Yes, your clients are important and pay your bills BUT you can’t help them if you are overworked, tired or ill. Allow yourself time to relax, and recuperate so you can give your clients the best. There is a tendency to say yes to any client requests at first, and I do think it is important but try and dedicate time to you, at least one day a week just for you. You don’t offer sessions on this day, see your friends, visit family or just dedicate it as a sofa day! For me, in the beginning, this was just a Sunday. After two years, it is Sunday and Monday.

Hopefully, this gives you an insight into what Personal Training is really like, and a few tips to help you when setting up. It is worth it, Good Luck.

You can read more from Rachel on her blog and follow her on twitter @ode2fitness.

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