by Phill Wright
If you’ve got even the slightest interest in health and fitness, how can you not be tempted by the opportunity of making a living from helping other people achieve their fitness goals. Just think of it, become your own boss, manage your own time, make good money, incredible job satisfaction, build a great reputation for yourself, get heaps of time to train yourself…the list goes on. It was all enough to pull me out of a very stable, well-paid job with fantastic career prospects ahead of me. 10 years on and I run my own training company, own an incredible gym and a number of bootcamps, I’m certainly not looking back. However, it’s not been an easy journey and I’ve learnt plenty of lessons the hard way. My intention is not to put you off, quite the opposite in fact but I would like to make you aware of some of the realities of working in the fitness industry:
1. Don’t expect clients to be queuing up! Unless you’re a celebrity or an established trainer, clients aren’t going to come to you in those early days. You need to be prepared to spend time building relationships, getting to know people, understand their goals and build up trust. I remember when I first set up as a trainer, I was religiously in the gym first thing every midweek morning at 6am and stayed there for a good 8/10 hours. I never wanted to work evenings which probably made my life a little more difficult as this is often the busiest time for gyms but this leads to a very important point; make sure you have sacred time for yourself in your week, the last thing you want to do is burn out. I’ve seen so many trainers put every hour under the sun into those early days and whilst it can be tempting, it’s not sustainable. Back to my original point though, turning up at 6am every morning I made it my job to learn people’s names, get to know them genuinely, learn their likes and dislikes, their goals, take an interest in what they were doing and help out if I could. In an environment where there are lots of personal trainers, I didn’t want to just go in like a bull and try and sell to people, it becomes tiring and can put people off fitness if every time they step into a gym they’re being hounded. This worked for me and I managed to build up a substantial client base quickly. And 8 years down the line, I still have friendships with quite a number of my clients from those first days, still write programmes and train them from time to time. So the lesson that I would draw from my experience is listen to people, get to know them and make it about them, not you!
2. Be savvy! Whilst most clients are fantastic and the buzz you get from working with them and seeing progress is just priceless, the chances are that you are going to be let down by some clients, be stood up and potentially strung along. Always always always make sure that you have a good set of terms and conditions between yourself and your client that are signed before you start spending time writing programmes or booking them into your diary. There are plenty of good templates out there and make sure you tailor what you use to be really clear regarding payment, cancellations, expectations etc. Getting this right from the start will save you a lot of time and energy. I’ve personally been guilty of being complacent on these very points and I’ve paid the price. When it comes to client’s not turning up, see it as an opportunity. If you’ve got your T’s and C’s nailed on then that’s their loss if they don’t turn up. Use unexpected free time to be productive, speak to new prospects, write a blog, get active on social media, just do something. Time is and will always be the most valuable asset you have so don’t be surprised if spending 30 minutes bemoaning a no-show doesn’t get you anywhere.
3. Grow as a trainer and your success will grow. It’s quite tough sat here trying to strip down the bits of advice I’d give to a new trainer to just 3 things. However, based on my own successes and the successes of the people who I’ve seen do brilliantly, this is certainly one common thread. Keeping your journey moving will keep you interested and excited, it will feed the hunger of your clients and most importantly, it will mean that the service you provide is on a constant path of improvement. Commit to your own development, seek new skills and knowledge and get yourself onto further courses. Of course I’m going to say this, I run a training company but it’s so so important and there’s a lot more than simply attending courses that will be pivotal in your growth:
• Set goals. Just as you do with clients, have your own SMART goals and be accountable for them.
• Read, research and speak to other trainers. This is critical for your development and will broaden your knowledge. Don’t believe everything you hear or read as there’s plenty of tripe out there but take what fits for you.
• Surround yourself with people that you can grow from. Someone much wiser than myself once said that individually, we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Now, I’m not sure how accurate this is but I can certainly see the sense in it as we’re all impressionable, influenced and human. If you spend all your time with people who have little ambition or drive, is this going to help you? I’m not saying ditch your friends at all but make sure that within your circles, there are people who you feel you can really learn from and grow as a result. Having people from diverse backgrounds will help balance your influences. I’ve personally learnt a lot through my clients, building relationships with other trainers and through having a mentor.
Before I end I have one final question for you…what are you going to do today towards your future career?