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How Do I Start a Successful Personal Training Business?

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Personal Fitness Trainer Business Fundamentals

As you start your career as a personal fitness trainer, we encourage you to explore the benefits of setting a strong foundation. This will help by preparing you to make sound decisions about your career, based on having a clear sense of who you are, what your strengths are, and what you hope to accomplish. Specifically, for personal fitness trainers, ways to increase your self-awareness and your knowledge of yourself are good ways to begin the process of building strong business foundations. Many times, people who choose a career as a personal fitness trainer don’t enjoy the business aspects and therefore don’t take the time to learn what is needed to be successful. Unfortunately, this sort of attitude rarely will lead to career growth for the trainer. On the other hand, trainers who take the time to master basic business knowledge and skills will build solid careers while enjoying a smooth road to success. 

To apply the skills that you learn with clients, it is crucial to develop the business skills that give you the knowledge, tools, and insights that are needed to make informed career choices. It is always best when we make choices that support both financial and professional growth goals. It is important to remember why you chose personal fitness training as a profession and to stay grounded in the experience as you transform people and improve their health. 

One of the most important traits that successful trainers have in common is dedication to knowledge. Self-awareness, part of this knowledge, is the foundation and the beginning point for all trainers. This type of personal assessment should include a list of your personal major accomplishments. To also highlight your strengths, list your talents and abilities, as well as the three things that you do best. After completing this exercise, make a list of your major challenges, and any obstacles or barriers that you have overcome. This part of the personal assessment may be more reflective in nature. Try to list three things that you do the least well and three things for which you want to be remembered. Finish your personal assessment by writing or listing how you would like others to describe you, and three things that you want to accomplish in your life. 

Think now about your career goals. Making a separate list, include the three attributes of your service that you are the proudest of and be sure to also include a list of items that work well on your service or business; and then be sure to include items that do not work as well in your business or service (if applicable). If you could change anything in your career right now, what would be? How would you want others to speak of your business? If you are new to the trade, construct your answers as if they were active goals and elements of your business vision. 

Most personal fitness trainers love what they do. One fact that is not mentioned as often or known about personal fitness trainers is the high percentage of trainers who have failed to become successful in their careers. Although the reasons vary, most failures are rooted in a lack of business knowledge. At first, you might think that acquiring technical skills and a high degree of expertise will ensure your success, but this is only one part of the whole situation. Other key factors include strong interpersonal communication skills, paired with business and marketing skills or strategies. 

For personal fitness trainers, interpersonal skills include creating rapport, building relationships with prospective clients, developing an inspirational manner within your client setting and operating with appropriate personal and professional boundaries, and creating a safe space for clients. It is important to develop an awareness of empathy to complement high standards of professionalism. These skills will help you greatly, whether you run your own business as a contractor or if you work for someone else.

Employment Avenues for Personal Fitness Trainers

The two primary career tracks for personal fitness trainers are to work for a club, gym or company or to be self-employed. Within those two paths are several possibilities. Some trainers kickstart their careers by working at a fitness club, while others take part-time jobs to train to augment an existing private practice. Some trainers choose a private business model right from the start, and then there are those who prefer to only work as an employee for someone else. You will need to consider the amount of time that you want to work. Some people want to work full-time as a trainer while others will choose to permanently stay within a particular field or specialty and then use personal fitness training as a means of enhancing their business model. 

Benefits of Working as a Club-based Personal Trainer

Working as an employee provides some potential benefits for the trainer. This includes the possibility of obtaining a full client load with very little marketing and providing a larger scope of services for clients who you train. When a trainer works for someone else or as part of a company, they typically will start out with a ready-made professional image and will typically experience less paperwork than an independent contractor. This may have the added benefit of allowing the trainer to focus more on the hands-on work done with clients. A personal fitness trainer who is an employee works for a club or other organization that typically supplies the location, equipment, and most or all client prospects. Having access to better and more varied equipment is also a great benefit to working for someone else. 

Benefits of Self-Employment

Having your own personal fitness training business is the most profitable option for a personal fitness trainer, although not everyone is well suited for this type of enterprise. It takes a certain personality type to be truly successful in one’s own business. The most successful personal fitness trainers are inventive and follow through with their plans. They respect money. They possess considerable expertise in a particular career field and have broad experience in several others. They have very good verbal and written communication skills and are normally considered to be very personable. Successful business owners tend to be positive thinkers, determined, self-disciplined, service-oriented, and persistent. Remember, most personal fitness trainers operating small businesses that don’t succeed are examples of talent without proper business skills. 

The advantages of being self-employed include having a flexible schedule, independence, being your own boss, and the possibility of receiving tax advantages. Most often, personal fitness trainers are more creative, and experience increased personal satisfaction and a greater sense of achievement when they are self-employed. 

The disadvantages of being self-employed include long hours, usually 10 to 14 hours per day. This can include 6 to 7 days a week of work. When personal fitness trainer is also business owner they not only work with their clients but are also required to actively market and manage their practice. 

Therefore, in the beginning, new trainers may need to devote 2 to 3 hours for business promotion and development for every hour of client interaction. Sometimes the startup costs can be greater than what has been anticipated. Initially, income is usually not steady and there are financial risks. But most personal fitness trainers agree that the benefits of being self-employed outweigh both the perceived and real risks. 

An independent contractor (IC) is a professional who works for themselves. The IC can choose whether to accept in-home clients in the presence of the client’s own home or the home of the personal fitness trainer. The IC can choose to rent space in a studio or gym, or even own their own studio or gym. As well, the IC can train multiple clients at one time to increase profits while increasing camaraderie between clients with similar goals and abilities. 

For self-employed trainers, the two most prevalent reasons for failure are mismanagement and money (capital). Mismanagement is generally a result of poor planning, not realistically evaluating strengths and weaknesses, failing to anticipate obstacles, improper budgeting, and lacking the necessary business skills to prevent failures. 

In general, if you are comfortable making the leap into marketing yourself as a trainer in your own business, you can expect more job satisfaction and freedom to operate as you please, but not all new trainers have this knowledge or skill. Once a client base is built, a professional trainer may want to consider transitioning to private practice – but only after weighing both sides of the situation. 

We’ve just covered the very basics, so you have a point of reference.

THE GOOD NEWS:  You have endless employment options.  And, you have countless ways to make a very good living as an entrepreneur or independent contractor.  Of course, there are other options as well.  You will learn more about all of this in your studies with NESTA.

How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer

If you are ready to add exercise psychology to your fitness career, the NESTA Personal Fitness Trainer Course is a great addition.

Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. NESTA is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.

There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.

NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.

That’s it for now.

Take action!

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