17 Tips for A Successful Personal Trainer Business

If you are entering the profession of personal training, right now is a time of growth and opportunity. Awareness of the benefits of personal training has been expanding for over a decade, as has the client market.

This increased opportunity is accompanied by a huge influx of new personal trainers into the industry, which means increased competition.

You can run a successful personal training business if you follow these 17 tips!

1. Think Like a Business Owner

Think about these questions as you’re refining your business model:

  • Will personal training be a part-time or full-time career for you?
  • What type of Personal Trainer Certification will you choose?
  • Will you be required to have professional liability insurance?
  • What resources will you need to start your business?
  • What are your start-up costs, and how will you cover those?
  • Do you have systems in place for handling scheduling, taxes, expense recording, and other paperwork?

Fitness may be your passion, but you also have to get into the mindset of a small business owner and consultant. Put as much into place as possible before you have your first client, rather than trying to build the systems you need as you go.

2. Consider Where You Will Train

Places of training include in clients’ homes, outdoors, and at private studios, parks, recreation centers, corporate offices, and health clubs. Consider the geography of your city or town and any special limitations you might have. If you live in a densely populated city, in-home training makes managing your travel time much easier.

Sometimes, training in a condominium or apartment complex can maximize your training time, allowing you to train several clients in close proximity without traveling. If you live in rural area or a less populated city, you will still want to look for opportunities to train several clients in the same proximity.

Look for areas where you will have the greatest number of clients available in as small an area as possible. You might consider targeting a health club, community center, or park district to work at with your clients. For a new trainer, significant travel time between clients can be expensive and inefficient.

Training your clients at an existing exercise facility makes a lot of sense. You have a pool of prospective clients to draw from and a more targeted group to focus on.

3. Areas of Specialization

Think about whether you’re interested in specializing in a specific population for your client base. This doesn’t mean you have to take on only clients who fit the description, but it helps you create a strong focus area that can generate referrals.

A sure road to success as a personal trainer is the ability to identify a population you are qualified to work with and that you enjoy and relate to.

A few examples of groups for specialization include:

  • Prenatal and postnatal clients
  • Young athletes
  • Seniors
  • Weight loss (fat loss)
  • Bodybuilding
  • Women
  • Physically impaired

When targeting an area of specialization, you must have the skill and knowledge of proper program design, implementation, and limitations, and be able to offer services and expertise that other trainers cannot. Specializing will also encourage you to focus your efforts on keeping up to date on any developments in the field of health, wellness, and exercise programs for the benefit of your specific clients.

4. Personal Training as a Full- or Part-Time Career

Personal trainers have the advantage of being able to determine their own schedules. As with any other vocation, when you commit yourself entirely to the profession, you will be more likely to succeed. Consistent income from personal training takes time to develop, therefore it would be wise to have an additional job with a steady income (for example, working in a gym or health club, part-time, as a staff or floor trainer).

This will give you the opportunity to relate to potential clients, observe other trainers, and use the exercise equipment. If you can get employment selling health club memberships or related services, you will enhance your personal training sales skills. Use this opportunity to learn out the interests of members. If you are looking to make your personal training full-time, determine the amount of income you need to generate on a monthly basis in order to meet your living expenses. Here is an important thing you need to factor into your income: inconsistent clients.

Most clients will take vacation at one time or another. Find out how often they will be unavailable for training. Plan clients’ schedules realistically. Allow for a 10 percent turnover in your client base. Clients move, change careers, change lifestyles. You need to account for all of these situations in your planning.

5. Avoid Personal Trainer Burnout Syndrome and Take Time Off for Yourself

A successful personal trainer needs to allow time for their own workouts and personal interests, as well as an occasional week off. You need to be able to give 100 percent to your clients! You also need time for yourself to rejuvenate your mind and body. This often will mean getting totally away from the people with whom you work and the environment in which you work. Also, most likely you will experience some type of winter illness. Allow at least one week of sick time for yourself each year.

6. Certification and Education

Many successful personal trainers do not have degrees in exercise physiology or a strong background in exercise science. Trainers can get certifications from organizations that specifically certify personal trainers, such as the American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA).

AFPA not only offers personal trainer certifications, but also many specialty certification programs in nutrition, fitness, yoga, and Pilates.

In addition to your personal trainer certification, you should be CPR-certified through the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association. There are workshops and lectures held around the country every month that provide trainers with new information and material to update their skills. Also, most certifications require that you update through continuing education on an ongoing basis.

7. Professional Liability Insurance

This is critical for any personal trainer. AFPA has examined many insurance organizations and has compiled a list of organizations that offer reasonable rates with excellent coverage. Professional liability insurance organizations are listed here.

8. Personal Trainer Business Materials and Planning

Oftentimes, prospective clients will see your business materials before you meet them and have a chance to sell yourself in person. Printed material may be in the form of a brochure, letter, ad, or business card. It’s also worth focusing on digital assets like a website and social media presence. For example, you can create a business page on Facebook or start a professional Instagram account. Unlike printed materials, digital assets are easy to change and update. Just be sure to make posting a regular occurrence in order to keep your content fresh.

If your business materials do not prompt prospective clients to contact or respond to an ad, they are not effective.

Business Cards

  • Keep them simple. Do not list all of the things that you can do (for example: weight loss, nutrition, strength training, and so on). You will confuse potential clients and dilute your effectiveness. Include your full name and an abbreviation of your education and certifications.
  • Be honest and straightforward. Tell them exactly who you are, a personal fitness trainer; strength and conditioning specialist; nutrition and wellness consultant; children’s fitness specialist, and so on.
  • Make graphics sharp and clear.
  • If you are trying to attract both male and female clients, avoid overly feminine colors or icons that are overly masculine.

Brochures and Marketing Pieces

In terms of what you should include in your brochure, here are some basics:

  • Let your writing reflect yourself and your services/skills in a realistic manner. If the information you are conveying truly reflects what you can do with clients, it will speak to those who read the piece.
  • Tell prospective clients more about your background, philosophy, and the services you offer. Be concise, clear, and honest. Too often, new trainers try to cram as much information as possible into a marketing piece in order to cover all bases and attract as diverse a client base as possible.
  • Short biography on yourself and your fitness philosophy.
  • Brief description of the services you offer.
  • A clarification of your location.
  • How to reach you.
  • What sort of consultation, if any, you offer.

Use the highest quality material that your budget will allow. Keep in mind that you are trying to appeal to more than just a few people, and a simple, professional approach will ensure that your piece gets attention.

If you know someone in graphic design or the printing business, consider doing a trade of personal training for design and production of your business materials. If you approve the work this person does, your training efforts will be well spent. Be sure that you ask for samples of their work before you agree to use a designer’s services.

Telephone Availability

  • Be available for new client inquiries. Set up your voicemail so it is reflective of your business. If at all possible, try to have a separate line for your business calls. It will create a much more business-like perception for your business. On your outgoing message, use your full name or professional name. Advise callers to leave specific information and tell them that you will promptly return their calls.
  • Electronic voicemail is also an option that does not necessarily require a second phone line and can be less expensive than installing another line. A professional answering service is run through a company that you pay to use. It is managed electronically through a computer and will relay your messages via text or email immediately.
  • Remember, if someone is looking for your service and you do not respond quickly, they may find it elsewhere. And, remember to turn off your cell phone and/or beeper during sessions with clients.

Letter of Introduction

Prospective clients will call and want information about you and your services before they decide to begin. Try to set up a personal meeting with them. Put together a form letter to send to all clients that introduces you and your services. Include your business card and brochure, if you have one.

Digital Marketing

Whatever you put online, make sure it’s professional and on brand with your training business. That means avoiding hot-button topics like politics, controversial news stories, religion, or anything else that could be divisive. If you have very strong opinions about a political issue, think about whether voicing them will fit your training business objectives.

When you present yourself online in digital marketing, such as YouTube videos, Facebook or Instagram posts, or blog posts, give your readers information they can use that reflects well on you as a knowledgeable trainer.


9. A Successful Personal Trainer Do’s and Keep Doing List

  • Thanking prospective clients for contacting you. Reiterate your qualifications and experience. Give your personal training clients/potential clients an idea of how you work. In other words, explain the particulars of your initial consultation, if you have one, and how the training sessions will progress from there.
  • Telling them to call you if they have any further questions. End the conversation by telling them you look forward to having them as a client.
  • Marking your calendar and call them within a week to set up an appointment.
  • All the work you have up to this point leads up to this.
  • Getting started with a client is only the beginning of the relationship.
  • Continue to serve your clients in order to keep their business.

10. Find Creative Ways to Get People to Know About You

Offer limited time, free mini workouts in a community center or park district gym. Limit these sessions to half an hour, and focus on the clients’ immediate interests.

Social media and other online resources can be a boon when it comes to making potential clients feel more connected to you. For example, you could start a training tip series of YouTube videos so clients can see your training style, or you might do a Facebook live session that gives a real-time look at your workout. People will get a sense of your personality, and that will make them more comfortable about contacting you for the first time.

11. Initial Consultation

Your first meeting with a potential client is critical. In this meeting, you want to create the best possible impression. It also sets the tone for your client/trainer relationship. This meeting will also determine how committed the client will be to training with you, including frequency and longevity. It is also an opportunity for you to establish your standards regarding cancellations and billing.

12. Attire

Be aware that you must appeal to a broad group of clients. Leave the excessive jewelry and overly trendy fitness outfit at home. If you are a male, be sure you are shaven and your hair is clean and combed. For either sex, if you have been exercising, be sure you have showered. Your clothing, including your shoes, should be clean. It may help to keep a pair of new athletic shoes in your closet specifically  for these initial meetings.

13. Listen to the Client

Listen to the clients tell you what they want. All the clients you meet will have different goals and needs. You just have to let them tell you what they are. Make consistent eye contact while you’re listening. Acknowledge every piece of information your client provides. Ask them what they expect from a program, and describe how you plan to help them accomplish their goals. Be specific about how you will work with them. Let them know what type of testing and feedback you will provide and how you will support them and their progress.

14. Scheduling

It is important to get your clients committed to a consistent schedule, both for the benefit of their progress and to help make your training week more efficient. Work hard to get the client committed to specific training times in that first meeting.

15. Cancellation Policy

Determine a cancellation policy and stick to it. Many trainers adhere to a policy that states that if a client cancels within 24 hours of a scheduled appointment, they will be charged a partial or full amount of a training session fee. Illness and family emergencies must be taken into consideration as acceptable excuses. Use your own discretion. The policy means nothing unless you are able to enforce it. Your time is valuable, and you need to account for those hours that you leave open for clients. Explain the policy fully before you accept a client. Have them sign a form that tells you they understand this policy.

Client illness and other priorities guarantee that you will experience some weekly cancellations. Expect an average of at least two cancellations of one-hour sessions in a weekly schedule of 25 scheduled hours of training. This includes canceled sessions that you are able to reschedule later in the week.

16. Billing

Have your clients prepay. Most trainers are now using this policy, and it will help your cash flow and cancellation policy tremendously. At the very least, ask them to prepay for a week of training at a time. Establish this understanding during the initial consultation. You might be surprised to know that most clients will find it convenient to write one check or set up one direct deposit or charge per month instead of paying every time they have a session.

If clients require an invoice, you can use a printed receipt or emailed receipt. Even if you do not feel comfortable with a prepay system, get payment for each session before the session begins.

17. 5 Steps To A Sale

1. Warm-Up Questions

This is where you will ask some questions, and then really pay attention to what the client is telling you. Let the client tell you exactly what he/she would like to accomplish. Keep quiet, be observant, and take notes. Don’t interrupt.

Some suggestions for questions:

  • What do you hope to accomplish with a fitness program (or in working with a personal trainer)?
  • What are your goals for your fitness program?
  • How do you plan to reach your goals?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • You will usually have no problem discovering a client’s needs, but occasionally you will need to ask a client for more information. Ask him/her to be more specific. This step is also called establishing the client’s needs.

2. Affirm the Client

Restate the goals and needs of the client, as you understood them. This is your first opportunity to explain the importance of a complete program.

3. Help the Client Establish Realistic Goals

At this step, you will take into account a client’s initial goals and needs, and clarify them. You will explain a realistic time frame for safe weight loss. You will also be planting the value of a personal trainer in the client’s mind. Explain exactly how you will help them reach their specific goal,, wwhether it is weight loss, gaining muscular bodyweight, or another goal.

4. Give the Client a Sample of Your Services

This one lends itself to your own creativity. If you can, show your potential client a copy of a nutritional program that you used with another client who successfully lost weight. If a client has low back pain or tight hamstrings, demonstrate some hands-on stretches so the person can see the value of your work. You may, at this point, want to conduct a mini evaluation, perhaps a body composition or blood pressure check. Remember, this should not take the place of a complete health screening and evaluation. Also, you do not want to exercise with a client at this point. Just offer a sample of what it will be like. Continue to establish your value by helping the client reach each anticipated fitness goal.

5. Closing

You have established and restated their needs. You have helped them make those needs more realistic, while continually reaffirming the importance of working with a trainer. Now you must simply ask for their business. If you have not used this introductory process before, try practicing it with friends in a role-playing situation to get comfortable. Remember, asking for someone’s business is not easy at first for anyone. Take a deep breath, and try it a few times. Do all of this and you’re bound to acquire some new clients.  

Overcoming Objections

One important thing to remember is to acknowledge the client’s objections. Respond directly to each objection, and let the person know that the complaint is valid and may even be common. After you have responded, you must once again ask for the person’s business.

How to Handle Objections:

  • Acknowledge the objection
  • Indicate your understanding
  • Ask why they have a particular objection

Personal Trainer Business: Marketing Outline

  1. Identify your market. Example: How many trainers have bodybuilding clients? So why do your business cards have only one type of service on it?
  2. Be congruent. Walk your talk, and talk your walk.
  3. Be consistent in your message and literature.
  4. Be caring. If you are caring, your clients will refer you to the world. Send thank you notes!
  5. Be consistent with your marketing literature so other people will see it.
  6. Provide quality service. All of your services and literature should demonstrate quality.
  7. Mass distribution. Everybody loves T-shirts.
  8. Traffic. Use your nice, clean vehicle, and think about advertising your business on your license 
  9. Business cards. Match your letterhead and be easy to understand. (Avoid clutter.)

Check out this blog post on DIY SEO for Personal Trainers if you have an online business or want to create one.

Last but Not Least…

How to make a difference to a new client:

  1. Identify what makes you better than other personal trainers. Is it your price, availability, experience, and/or qualifications?
  2. Avoid bashing the competition. Present your strengths, not your competitor’s weaknesses.
  3. Testimonials are strong. Use them when appropriate. Be sure they are real; avoid ones that sound like they were ghostwritten.
  4. Remember to use your name, logo, and phone number on all of your marketing assets.
  5. Remember to state clearly what services you provide and your ability to help potential clients reach their goals.

We hope that after reading this article, you learned a simple process of how to make a successful personal training business. People need to know what you offer as a personal trainer, and why they should spend their money on you and not someone else. Good luck in building your successful personal training business!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2014 and has been revamped and updated for comprehensiveness.


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