Personal training is an attractive industry, especially if you are health-centric, and it is a microcosm for applications leading to success in the business world. The pay can be great (if you like never being "off the clock", the hours can be flexible (if you like sunrises) and if fitness truly is a lifestyle, you should love what you do (unless it's just a convenient hashtag). There are varying degrees of quality of trainers (from dangerously bad to amazing), and one thing I can say with certainty is that successful trainers all exhibit similar tendencies. Here's what makes them successful:
Stay within your current knowledge base and perfect those exercises.
- Do not experiment on clients and do not give clients exercises that they cannot perform properly and safely. This has two important implications: 1) Your client will not get hurt from an exercise that you've never even performed yourself, have never been educated on, or just made up, 2) You wont look like a bad trainer. If it's an exercise your client is not capable of doing or that they look out of control on, it reflects badly on YOU.
- Create programs with a purpose. A 65 year old doing snatches, a 14 year old doing 3 RM deadlifts, a 30 year old doing overhead squats on a BOSU ball. Why? I'm not saying don't do them, I'm saying stop and think for a second how the program you create jives with your client's abilities, and relate to your client's goals. If a program is truly personalized, you need to take everything in to account and weigh both the benefits and risks. They are trusting you, not only with their health and fitness, but with their safety.
It's ok to say "I don't know"
- It's an opportunity to learn. Tell them you will go look it up in a book, tell them you will take a CEC course on it next month, tell them to consult a professional who does know, but don't make up some bullsh*t and try to sound knowledgeable by using words like functional, dynamic, and metabolic. A blind man could smell your lies. If you don't know, don't say you do. Further, one of the greatest successes a trainer can have is gaining a client's trust. This is not given easily. Most people who have never exercised seriously are terrified of it. They are scared they'll look stupid, they are scared they will be judged, and they are scared they will be laughed at. Once you have gone though the sacred and often lengthy steps of gaining trust, losing it on a lie is ridiculous.
Always be ON
- A coffee in hand, browsing on your cell-phone, chatting off-handedly with other people in the gym, says something about you. It says you don't give a flying f*ck about your client. I don't care if you've been training them for 10 years or 10 minutes and if you've established a buddy-buddy relationship where your client "doesn't mind" if you check your messages (they do, by the way), if I am a potential client, interested in your services, and I see you doing things unrelated to what your client has paid you for, you won't get my money, EVER.
Look like a trainer/Act like a trainer
- Practice what you preach. Fitness comes in different sizes and packages. People want to see that you not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. This doesn't mean you have to have abs and guns out (when the sun's out), this means that, in public anyways, you should exercise with purpose, practice proper nutrition, and generally be the role model that have to be.
- Look like the clients you want to attract. I cannot stress this enough. If you want to attract body builders, BE a body builder (big muscles, tank tops, high tops, etc), if you want to attract athletes, BE an athlete (compression clothing, cross trainers, athletic build, etc.), if you want to attract weight-loss clients, BE a weight loss professional (body-builder or athlete types can be intimidating, and quite honestly, not everyone wants to look that way). Like it or not, YOU are a role-model, and you will attract the clients who want to look like you.
- Dress professionally. The number of trainers that wear sweats and a casual t-shirt or tank top (cut off sleeves, worn and frayed, etc) blows my mind. Dress sharp. Unless you have so many clients that you don't need anymore, or that your reputation precedes you and your rags are your shtick, have a clean, well-fitting top with your logo or an identifying feature on it, and athletic shorts or pants that you might wear for your own workout. If people aren't sure if you are a trainer or a know-it-all workout buddy, they are less likely to approach your for your services.
Don't bad mouth other trainers, exercisers, methods
- Negativity, ANY negativity doesn't belong in the gym. If you criticize other people or methods in the gym, not only do you come across as a judgmental douche, but you bring a storm cloud of pessimism with you. CrossFit is dangerous...everyone knows that, but it has its merits too. When you speak about training styles, exercises, or trainers that you may not believe in, always be sure to present them with a balanced approach. If you see a newbie in the gym and want to approach them to offer assistance (also known as prospecting), lead with a positive, before a correction, for example, "I love that you are including deadlifts in your workout. It is one of the most important lifts to master. May I offer a suggestion...?"
Do not discount your prices
- Value yourself enough not to go on sale. This is one of the most common mistakes for trainers starting out. They want clients, and because they are not confident of their abilities or the service they offer, they drop their prices. But once you drop your rates, it is extremely difficult to raise them without losing those clients. Make no mistake, people are buying YOU. You end up attracting clients who want you because you are cheap, not because your knowledge is valuable. Value yourself, and clients will value you. If you want to attract new business, offer a complimentary session instead. And not a "half session" either where you try to sell them during the last half hour in a "consultation", give them a real taste of you and your style.
Yes, the tips above are specific to personal training, but they can also be applied to every aspect of your current job so maximize your value as well as your earnings. Personal training is a cut-throat business. Only the strong survive. If you come with professionalism and enthusiasm, your road to a full roster will be smoother. I always say, look not at the number of clients a trainer has, but at the number of years they have been training their current clients (I don't usually use the term "look not" when I say it, but it sounds more poetic that way). Rather than focusing on your next marketing pitch, focus on your own skills and presentation. They are watching you.