Reality is very rarely like your dreams.
I started personal training with optimism and hope and rented space at a gym. For the first six weeks, new trainers didn’t have to pay any rent. Instead, we worked hours on the gym floor, cleaning, making maintenance checks and running inductions.
A year and a half later I hadn’t made much progress and was still struggling to make ends meet. My savings were dwindling and I started to second guess my career.
The mistakes I made helped me to become a better trainer and businessperson. While I think it’s important for everybody to mess up on their road to success I want to help you avoid the mistakes I made. It all comes down to your personal trainer marketing!
Rookie Personal Trainer Mistake #1 – Not focusing enough on people
Getting clients is a numbers game for new trainers. The guys at my gym who were doing well would talk to everyone. And I mean, everyone – even the people who you could tell wouldn’t sign up for sessions if you paid them. They knew that clients want to train and be seen with the popular trainer so they made themselves the most popular people in the gym.
Make sure everybody at the gym knows your name and learn theirs. Look at them in the eyes and smile. When you’re finished talking write down their name on a piece of paper and one or two details about them that they mentioned to you.
The people that I did get to know would often come to me and ask for advice on exercise technique, programming, nutrition, etc. Not all of them converted to fully paid sessions. What it did do was help me to become the expert in my gym. It also made me the most popular trainer. Others started to notice that people were asking me for advice and were intrigued.
Rookie Personal Trainer Mistake #2 – Not putting the hours in
You’ll hear top trainers and coaches talking about how they might do three or four sessions every morning, spend the afternoons writing and doing business development and take evenings and weekends off to spend time with the family.
In a couple years time you will hopefully have built your reputation. Once you’re in demand clients will work around your schedule and you can charge enough to only have to work a couple hours a day.
I used to get to the gym fairly early and stay for a few hours before heading home for the middle of the day. After spending the day daydreaming and watching Gilmore Girls (don’t judge me) I would come back to train a few more clients at night. [Editors note: I tried really hard to ignore this line and not make fun of Mike. But seriously dude? Gilmore Girls?]
I figured that my getting up early and going back to the gym at night allowed me the freedom to veg in the middle of the day. This is the time when I should have been working on my personal trainer business plan, walking the gym floor, following up leads, writing articles, and generally being productive. Instead, I chilled out.
If that means taking your sleeping bag to the gym and staying there for your first few months then so be it. Put in the time now, and you’ll reap the rewards later.
Rookie Personal Trainer Mistake #3 – Not distinguishing yourself
In the gym I worked at, all the trainers wore black. Black shorts or sweat pants and a black tee shirt or polo shirt with a lime green stripe on the sleeve. From a distance, we looked no different to the members, and to them, they probably didn’t have a clue that we worked as independent trainers. In their eyes, we were gym employees, and one trainer was as good as the next.
At my gym we were allowed to wear our own uniform as we were officially independent trainers. After a couple of months I decided to get my own shirts and business cards made up to stand out. I was different and better and wanted to convey it.
In addition to this I attempted to specialize in everything. One of the trainers at my club listed his specialties as:
– Fat Loss
– Weight Management
– Muscle Building
– Stretching and Flexibility
– Pre and Post Natal Training
– Sports Conditioning
Dude, you must have been in school for a long time.
To stand out I listed my one specialty as female fat loss. This was the biggest market in my club and by listing it as my only attribute I was considered the foremost expert in the area.
Rookie Personal Trainer Mistake #4 – Not following through with your ideas
I had hundreds of great personal trainer marketing ideas throughout my time in the gym:
– Start a class meshing Crossfit methods and strength training.
– Develop a foam rolling workshop.
– Offer weekly nutrition lectures.
– Start a gym challenge, such as a triathlon, mini Olympics, or a powerlifting competition.
– Develop and implement A six week transformation challenge.
– Make a running club so the long lines of people waiting for the treadmills can meet each other and enjoy the beautiful area the gym is located in .
I didn’t implement one of these ideas. They only exist as an idea in a notepad.
Find something that’s missing in your gym, and fill the gap. If it doesn’t work, what have you lost? Perhaps a few hours of your time and the tiny cost of producing some posters and leaflets, but the potential business you can generate far outweighs the risks. Pick one thing and do it better than anybody else.
Rookie Personal Trainer Mistake #5 – Not selling Yourself
Sales always freaked me out and was one of the major reasons I couldn’t drum up any business. The gym I worked at was competitive and if I didn’t sell a client right away there was another trainer more than willing to scoop them up.
To quote Jon from Ignite the Fire:
“[...]selling doesn’t mean tricking someone into buying an overpriced product. Selling means getting a client to want to work with me—in other words, I am the product!
I was selling myself, and I wasn’t overpriced. I knew I offered value. Selling consisted of educating the client on that value.”
Understanding that I had value was the first step to learning how to sell. Instead of focusing on tricking clients I started to focus on how I could help them. This meant listening intently to their needs and responding back with a solution.
Clients aren’t buying sessions, they are buying a solution. – Click to Tweet
When you’re discussing how training works with someone, don’t spend ages going on about what you’ll do in a warm-up, how many reps they’ll be performing, what methods of periodization you’ll use, or how you’ll be implementing all the latest training tricks you picked up in the recent issue of Muscle & Fitness.
They have a problem and you must present the solution. The steps come later.