First, let me give you a little of my history. Some quick stats:
- Started personal training full-time with a kinesiology degree and three years of experience working at the campus gym
- Got a job at a fantastic boutique studio with lots of support
- Offered $26 per hour
My goal was to save $30,000 and get out of my parents’ basement.
I decided to work my butt off and make that $30,000 as quickly as possible. I made myself available to clients seven days a week, any hour of the day. I worked with anybody who wanted a trainer, at any time they wanted to train.
I thought I’d get rich on $26 an hour.
Within a couple months, I was training about 160 client hours a month, which corresponds to about 65 hours a week in the gym. My coworkers joked that I could replace the receptionists because I was typically the first one in the gym and the last one out.
Any experienced trainer reading this can grasp the realities of training that many sessions:
- It’s impossible to plan effectively for that many clients
- You don’t have the energy to motivate clients
- You have no time or energy for your own workouts
- Your home life suffers
- Your social life is nonexistent
The first two are the most important. Your performance suffers, and you experience a high rate of attrition. That means you have to spend more time on the phone or in the neighborhood trying to land new clients to replace the ones you lost because you were too busy to prepare and too tired to give them a good training experience.
Here’s how much I could’ve made in a year if I’d continued to train 160 sessions a month at $26 per hour: $49,920. After taxes and it’s perhaps $35,000 a year.
But of course nobody trains the same number of sessions every single month. Holidays happen. Clients get sick, travel for business, or go on vacation. You have to take time off every now and then, no matter how committed you are.
Now you’re looking at perhaps $30,000 a year. After killing myself for two years, I realized there had to be a better way to make a good living.
My solution: the Block System
The Block System helped me condense my schedule to a consistent 120 training hours a month. I explain it in Ignite the Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career.
- Create three categories of clients: consistent clients, wishy-washy clients, program design (the ones who like to train on their own, and only come to you when they need a new program).
- Look at your schedule and identify the patterns.
- Choose blocks of time you want to work. Each block should be five to six hours long. If you’re a morning person, your blocks could be 6 a.m. to noon. Or if you’re a night owl like me, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. works well.
- Approach your consistent clients first. If their sessions aren’t already inside your blocks, give them the first chance to take those slots.
- Offer the remaining spots to the wishy-washy clients. But only the ones you wish to keep. This is your chance to drop the ones who make your life miserable.
- Place program design clients into any openings you have left.
It’s fine to book somebody outside of a block, if it’s a really good client and you make it clear that’s why you’re doing it. Just don’t do it consistently. If you do, you’ll be right back where you started—working too many hours, and not giving your clients the level of training they deserve.
How it worked for me
After I successfully implemented the Block System, cutting back to 120 training hours per month, I not only provided a much better service to my clients, I made good use of the extra time by reading, writing, and studying.
As a result, I got promoted to senior trainer at my club, and my hourly wage almost doubled. I generated more referrals than I could handle, so I got commissions on each client I passed on to another trainer.
While the raw math saw I should’ve made a lot less money by working fewer hours, in reality my salary more than doubled. It increased every year after that until I stopped training clients in person so I could focus on this site.
Another consequence of the Block System: better retention. My clients were more committed. Here’s what my schedule looked like the week I originally wrote this post. Keep in mind it was the middle of August, a time when personal trainers generally struggle.
Time is everything to a personal trainer. If I hadn’t broken up my schedule into blocks, I’d still be making $30,000 a year while struggling to retain clients. I’d still be exhausted and unhappy, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the time to set up the PTDC or write a book.