How to Become a Successful Fitness Professional

Expert Opinion

With Guest Blogger, Andrew Stern

For many years, personal training and instructing group fitness classes have been only lucrative side jobs, but now, more and more professionals are turning these jobs into their full-time careers. Personal trainers are even becoming micro-celebrities. They have big social media followings, are making deals with brands, and have lineups of people hoping to train with them. However, if you are just beginning, you may be unsure of where to start and how to turn your passion for fitness into a career.

The first question I always ask a trainer when they are looking for career advice is, “why do you want this job and how much are you willing to sacrifice?” Becoming a full-time personal trainer, like many other career options, takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and time. It is important that you are truly passionate about this career choice and are willing to take the necessary steps in order to help people with their fitness journeys.

I can only speak from my own experience, and every trainer I know has had a different trajectory, but a few key pieces were consistent amongst the successful ones.

Get Educated

Once a trainer makes the decision to take on this profession, they should seek education. There are dozens of certifications out there, but a couple of the bigger names are more credible and could help you land a job faster. NASM and ACE are two of the more popular organizations who have extensive amounts of certifications. While some may run you $400+ for a certification, remember that it is a necessary investment in your career. You are taking on a big responsibility when you train individuals. Your clients must be able to trust that the exercises you put them through are not only effective, but more importantly safe.

I also want to stress that education does not stop. Once you are certified, continuous education ensures you are up to date on the latest research and refreshed on exercises, programs, movement patterns, etc. In order to excel in this career, it is important to be constantly learning and striving to deliver a continuously better service to your clients.

Know your Worth

The bigger name certifications will help you get a foot in the door at these big box gyms or small studios, but that is only the beginning. The next question I like to ask up-and-coming trainers is, “how much do you want to earn?” When you are first starting out, if you are working privately, it's common to be unsure of how much to charge. My answer is always simple: how much is your time worth? There are several factors that go into determining your rates. For example, are you traveling to the client’s home? Do you have to bring the equipment? Is it one client, two clients, or small groups? How often is the client looking to train?

A great suggestion is to create a package to sell. For example, you could offer 10 sessions for X amount. The pack of sessions creates a commitment with the client. Typically, I like to do the first session for a lower price and let them “test it out.” Then I over deliver an amazing workout with exercises that won’t discourage them but leave them wanting more sessions.

Switch to a Business Mindset

In order to excel in this career, you need to be aware that you are creating a business. Instead of treating it like a hobby, take the necessary steps to learn how to run a business, whether that is taking an online business course, learning from other business professionals, or making google your best friend.

As a trainer, you need to be able to close deals. You are selling a service and once you make one sale, you can use that client to help you get another one. Create a referral program or offer to train him or her with a friend. Charge a slightly higher fee for both of them, but cheaper than it would be if they were paying individually. You are now working smarter, not harder and making more per hour than you would training these clients individually.

Additionally, it is important to let your clients know about a cancellation policy because no matter how committed they may seem at first, things come up and they will late cancel. It is important to recognize that there is a lost opportunity to train, and therefore make money, when a client late cancels and does not leave you the necessary time to book another client for their spot.

Be Social

Marketing yourself on social media has become an amazing way for trainers to pick up clients, connect with fitness brands, and build a personal franchise. Use social media to show potential clients how you can help make their lives better. A website with all of your services, short videos, and of course a bio of who you are is also a great place to not only educate and attract customers, but you can also make it a point of sale. And finally, allowing potential clients to sign up for an email newsletter will provide you with the opportunity to create a distribution list and a network. The more they see your name and offerings, the more likely they are to book a session.

Just Start

The last and biggest piece of advice I can give is to start. We all had to start somewhere and if you keep putting it off or waiting for the “new year,” you will never get started. Once you start, keep going and be prepared to have early mornings, late nights, and weekends booked. “Busy” is good in this business!