I get tons of questions all the time. Rather than just hitting reply and having it exist as an email response that only one person could see, I want to share my fully thought-out responses with you, the wider The PTDC community. And so, I present to you The PTDC Mailbag, a monthly feature where I'll throw together a mixed bag of your questions and answer them more in-depth.

In this month's The PTDC Mailbag, I answer the following questions:

  • What are the best steps I can take to challenge those fears of leaving a stable job for something less "stable"?
  • How do I make myself more appealing than all of the other trainers in my area to build my clientele?
  • What was your biggest challenge as a trainer? And how did you overcome it?

Without further ado, here we go!

1. I'm struggling to step away from my part time job that gives me stability and a biweekly paycheck that I know and expect. What are the best steps I can take to challenge those fears I have bubbling in my head of leaving this job for something less "stable"?

- Lisette D.

Hey, Lisette. In this scenario, I can't tell you what to do, but I am happy to share what I did in the hopes that it gives you some guidance.

Fear--what you're feeling now--is not a logical reaction to a series of events. Fear most commonly stems from the unknown. The way to fight fear is to make the unknown known. You're feeling it because you don't know how much money you need each month, and so leaving the job you have is a scary proposition.

"If you wish to put off all worry, assume that what you fear may happen is certainly going to happen." - Seneca


I'm going to share with you an equation that was passed on to me by my mentor Tom. I call it the "Freedom Number" equation. The purpose of this equation is to put fear aside. Its basic premise will help you figure out how much money you actually need each month to live and ensure your dependents are looked after.

I've taught this equation to thousands of students in the Online Trainer Academy, which teaches people how to build an efficient and scalable online training business. It's helped countless people travel the world, spend more time with family, volunteer more, and make more.

Freedom Number = The amount of money each month you need

Freedom number = (Rent + food + extravagance + money to support dependents) - money made from enjoyable activities

Be honest with yourself, but figure it out. Give it a monthly number.

When I originally did this, my number was $2,600. It was low because I was young, single, and my family was looked after. Yours may be higher. That's fine, just figure it out.

Now that you have the number--let's say yours is $4,000 each month--I want you to subtract it from the money you make from doing the things that you'd do for the rest of your life, even if nobody paid you. Maybe there's a number there, maybe not.

What you end up with is your Freedom Number. Now you can figure out what it would take to step back from your job:

  1. If you have money in a bank account, how many months can you survive building up a business without making a cent?
  2. If you want to step back slowly, what can you afford to give away and still be looked after? Maybe you can eliminate 10 hours at your part-time job tomorrow. Do it and take those extra 10 hours to begin building up your clientele. As you gain more clients, you can give up more hours and make the transition.

None of the above is to say that I know your situation, Lisette. It's simply my process for taking back control of my financial life and personal freedom to do what I desire to do. Hope it helps with yours.

2. How do I make myself more appealing than all of the other trainers in my area to build my clientele?

- Matt J.

Hey, Matt, becoming the local expert takes a bit of legwork and can be done a few different ways.

I'll go over two, but consider a couple of things first:


They will affect all steps you take moving forward. You can't become the go-to trainer for every client with every goal in your area. Let's say you know your ideal client is a 35-year-old male lawyer with a bit of chronic back pain and who used to be an athlete in college but has let things slide a bit.

Now you can figure out where those clients exist, how they talk, and the reasons why they would buy a trainer's services. Then you can design flyers that appeal specifically to them and put them up in the stores, places around town, and communities where you know they hang out. Maybe the community is a volunteer group, a Toastmasters, or a local business networking group.

I can't lay out an exact plan for you, but the steps are as follows:

  • Identify your ideal client in as much detail as you can.
  • Find people who fit into the mold of your ideal client and interview them. You want to know how they speak (what language they use, for example, is important because it's the language that you should use), where they hang out, what they care about, who they care about, and what their goals (you must meet them where they are at initially, even if it's not the best goal for them).
  • Prepare your promotional materials with all of the information you gathered. Join the same communities, if possible. Sponsor events that they care about. Write articles about what they might be suffering with and place these articles in places where your potential clients will see them.

The final element is to create an intangible element or quality about yourself.

To illustrate this, watch the video below:

Hilarious, but Blendtec's famous "Will it blend" campaign highlighted a quality about their blenders but not unique to their blenders and still made it theirs. Many high-power blenders will blend anything, but Blendtec's demonstration of their blenders being able to blend anything was enough to skew the buying decision. That was their intangible element.

You need an intangible element. It doesn't have to be unique to you. You just need to make it yours. This thing--whatever it is--that you choose will help a client feel like he or she can justify their buying decision both before and after the purchase to others.

A few examples:

  • "Matt's got an exercise science degree so he really knows the physiology of how my body changes."
  • "Matt's the guy quoted in magazines like Men's Health. Even websites for trainer education like the Personal Trainer Development Center, go to him for advice to educate the industry."
  • "I was worried about getting hurt while training, but Matt attended workshops all about low back pain."

These are just a few examples, but they reflect what goes through a client's mind. All you need is have something in your back pocket that allows a customer to feel like he or she can justify a buying decision.

3. What was your biggest challenge as a trainer? And how did you overcome it?

- Jesse H.

My first client was a 15-year-old skinny dude who wanted to put on muscle. Cool, I could do that, I thought. That was my background, after all.

My second client was a 67-year-old woman with arthritic fingers and was recovering from an ACL surgery. What? How the heck do I train this woman?

That's the reality of training: you're just thrown into the fire.

My biggest challenge was always in new clients whom I knew nothing about training. The process of dealing with them is similar to how I overcome business stuff these days: do things without turning back.

I call it the "big red button" system.

red button

Visualize a big red button in the middle of a room. When you press it, a series of events will begin that cannot be stopped. You want to push the button, but you know pushing the button is scary. Because once you push the button, you cannot turn back.

When you finally work up the confidence to say "Screw it!" and push the button, you've entered uncharted territory, and the only thing to do is to figure it out.

I create big red buttons for everything that I do.

Back when I trained clients, it involved a series of automated events that all started with one action. I would spend a lot of time doing research for the client, procrastinating calling them back, and writing different types of workouts. When that client did come in, the handshake and hello was the big red button. There she was in front of me--the 67-year-old client I'll call Kim--asking me what we were going to do that day. I pushed the red button, and Kim stayed as my client for six years.

At some point, it just takes the guts to throw yourself into the fire and see what happens.

All trainers go through periods when we feel like we aren't good enough. The only solution I know is to accept that this is the case and throw ourselves into it head first, knowing that the worst case scenario is never as bad as the one we make up in our mind.

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