Business & Management

The Business of Being a Personal Trainer

You are entering the profession of personal fitness training at a time of growth and opportunity. Awareness of the benefits of personal training is expanding, as is the client market.

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

The Foundation

To begin, as a personal trainer one decision you need to make is what kind of training you want to have and what type of clientele are you going to service.

This decision contains several elements including:

1. Where you’re going to do your training
2. Area of specialization
3. Full or part time training
4. Certification/education
5. Professional liability insurance
6. Where to Train Clients This is a key decision that you should make as a new personal trainer.

There are as many opportunities as there are places to exercise. Places of training include in-home, corporate/office, 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 is done more easily done, as your travel time and convenience of settings is much more manageable. Sometimes, training in a condominium or apartment complex can maximize your training time allowing you to train, several clients without traveling.

If you live in rural area, or a less populated city, you still want to look for opportunities where several clients within the same proximity can be trained. Look for areas where you will have the greatest number of clients available in as small an area as possible.

You might want to consider targeting a health club, community center, or park district to work with your clients. For a new trainer significant travel time between clients can be expensive and inefficient.

Working out of an already existing exercise facility can make a great deal of sense. You have a pool of prospective clients from which to draw and a more targeted group in which to focus on.

Areas of Specialization

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

A few examples of groups for specialization include:

1. Pre/post pregnant clients
2. Athletes
3. Seniors
4. Weight loss (fat loss)
5. Body building
6. Women
7. Physically impaired When targeting your area of specialization, you must have skill and knowledge in that area, and be able to offer services and expertise that other trainers cannot.

Specializing will also enable you to focus your efforts on keeping updated of developments for the benefit of your clients.

Full or Part-Time?

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 be helping to enhance your personal training sales skills.

Use this opportunity to find 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 are some important things you need to factor into your income:

Non-Consistent 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% turnover in your client base. Clients move, change careers, change lifestyles. Y

ou need to account for all these situations in your planning. Time off for yourself Allow time for your own workouts and personal interests, as well as an occasional week off.

You need to be able to give 100% 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 and the environment in which you work. Personal Illness Allow one week of sick time for yourself during a year’s time.


Have your clients be committed to their program with you from the start. Client illness and other priorities will assuredly mean that you will experience some weekly cancellations.

Expect an average of at least 2-one hour session cancellations in a weekly schedule that contains 25 scheduled hours of training. This includes canceled sessions that you are able to re-schedule later in week.


Many 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.

There are many certifying organizations but consider the content and quality of the certification.

Many organizations travel around the country holding workshops and certification seminar in most large cities. You should send away for information on, as many organizations as you can and closely investigate the curriculum that will be used in the certification process. Choose one that will address your needs you have as a trainer.

In addition, you should be CPR certified through the American Red Cross. 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. Professional Liability Insurance This is critical for any personal trainer. Many of the certifying organizations have relationships with insurance companies that insure personal trainers.

Business Materials and Planning

Often times, prospective clients will see your business materials before you meet them and have a chance to sell yourself. This material may be in the form of a brochure, letter, ad, or business card. If your business materials do not prompt a prospective client to contact or respond to an ad they are obviously not effective.

Business Cards  

Keep it simple. Do not list all the things that you can do, for example: weight loss, nutrition, strength training etc. You will confuse a client and dilute your effectiveness. Include your full name and abbreviation of your education and certifications. Be honest and straightforward. Tell them exactly who you are, a Personal Fitness Trainer.

Keep graphics sharp, clear, and ‘gender’ generic. Keep in mind that if you are trying to attract both male and female clients, avoid overly feminine colors, or icons that are overly masculine.

Brochures/Marketing Pieces

Tell prospective clients more about your background, philosophy and the services you offer. Be careful here to be concise, clear and honest. Too often new trainers will 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.

If there is too much to read, it will not get read. View yourself and your services/skills and let your writing reflect those qualities 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.

In terms of what you should include in your brochure, here are some basics:
1. Short biography on yourself and philosophy.
2. A brief description of the services you offer.
3. A clarification of your location. How to reach you.
4. What sort of consultation, if any, do 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 do, and a simple, professional approach will assure that your piece gets attention.

If you know someone in graphic design or printing business, consider doing a “trade-out” 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 and Voice Mail

Be available for new client inquiries. You will need some sort of answering device. 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 state that you will promptly return their calls. Electronic voice mail is also an option that does not necessarily require a second phone line and can be less expensive than installing another line.

Voice mail is a service that is run through a company that you pay to use. It is managed electronically through a computer, so it will not break down, as answering machines often will.

Remember, if someone is looking for your service and you do not respond quickly, they may find it elsewhere. If you must use a beeper, turn it off during sessions with clients.

Letter of Introduction Prospective clients will call and want information about you and your services before they deciding to begin. Try to set up a personal meeting with them. Have a form letter that you send to all clients, introducing you and your services. Include your business card and brochure, if you have one.

Must Do’s 

1. Thank prospective clients for contacting you. Reiterate your qualifications and experience. Give them 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.
Tell them to call you if they have any further questions.
2. End the letter by telling them you look forward to having them as a client, and let them know you will follow your letter up with a phone call. Mark your calendar, and call them within a week to set up an appointment.
3. Acquiring clients is at the heart of your business.

All the work you have up to this point leads up to this. Getting started with a client is only the beginning of relationship. You must also continue to service your clients in many ways to keep their continued business. Find creative ways to get people to know about you.

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

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 the extent of the commitment the client is willing to make to training with you, including frequency and longevity. It is also an opportunity for you to establish your boundaries regarding cancellations and billing.


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 that 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 just for these initial meetings. Listen to the Client Listen to what the clients tell you they want.

All the clients you meet will have different goals and needs. You just have to let them tell you. Make consistent eye contact while listening to a particular client. 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.

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 try to get the client committed to specific training times in that first meeting.

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. Billing Have your clients pre-pay.

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 pre-pay for a week of training.

Establish this understanding during the initial consultation. You might be surprised to know that most clients will find it convenience to write one check per month instead of one every time they have a session. If clients require an invoice, you can use a receipt book. Many of these have a carbon copy that you can also keep for your records. Even if you do not feel comfortable with a pre-pay system, get payment for each session.

Five Steps To A Sale 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 and observant and take notes.

Don’t interrupt. Some suggestions for questions:

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

Affirm 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.

Help 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 implanting the value of a personal trainer in the client’s mind. Explain exactly how you will help in reaching their specific goal. Whether it is weight-loss, or gaining muscular bodyweight, etc.

Give the Client a Sample of Your Services
This one lends itself to your own creativity. If you can, show another client a copy of a nutritional program that you used with a 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 offer a physical service. 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 to reach anticipate goals.

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. I will be very surprised if you don’t acquire some new clients.

Overcoming Objections

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


1. Acknowledge the objection
2. Indicate your understanding
3. Ask why, what is their reason or reasons for the objection

Personal Trainers Marketing Outline

1. Key to Marketing: What is your market? Example, how many trainers have bodybuilding clients? Yet 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 thankyou notes!
5. Be Continuous: With your marketing literature so other people will see it.
6. Quality: All services and literature should reflect quality.
7. Mass Distribution: Everybody loves T-shirts
8. Traffic: Use your nice clean vehicle and think about advertising your business on your license plate.
9. Business Cards: Match your letterhead and be easy to understand. (Avoid clutter.)
10. Letterhead: Use professional and matching envelopes and cards.
11. Envelopes: Be professional and inviting enough to open. 12. Volunteer: Warm up a 10k race, be a radio guest, write columns for a local paper, etc.
13. Birthday Cards: That’s Right! And make sure you send them early so they arrive before anyone else’s.
14. Press Releases: Should be sent out two to three times per year along with a follow-up phone call.
15. Brochures: Should be neat, professionally printed and catchy, not tacky. Be confident, not cocky!

Question: What is the most important thing you have to do today?

Answer: Make a New Customer.


People need to know what you offer as a personal trainer, and why they should spend their money with you and not someone else.

Things to do to make a difference to make a new client:

1. Identify what makes you better than another trainer. Is it your price, availability, your experience and qualifications?

2. Avoid bashing the competition. Present your strengths, not your competitors weaknesses.

3. Testimonials are strong. Use them when appropriate. Be sure they are real; avoid ones that sound like they were ghost written.

4. Remember to use your name, logo, and phone number.

5. Remember to state clearly what you are selling; it is you and your ability to help potential clients reach their goals.


Copyright 2005 American Fitness Professionals & Associates. All rights reserved.

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