Becoming a Personal Trainer (Part Two)

In part one of this series, I dispelled some myths about what it means to be a personal trainer. If you’re not disillusioned after reading that, here is my advice on how to get started.

Make it Personal
Anyone can stand there while someone does squats and push-ups; what sets me apart from other trainers in my personality. If you want to be a personal trainer, remember that your product is YOU. If you’re a nice guy, don’t try to be a drill sergeant. And if you’re a stone-cold bitch, there will be people who’ll need you to get in their face in order to push themselves. Nobody is the best trainer for everyone – embrace who you are and you’ll attract clients that you’ll click with.

Give ‘Em What They Want
When I started out in the fitness industry, I thought I needed to look like a bodybuilder in order to be taken seriously. I soon found out, however, that most personal training clients aren’t interested in putting on mass. In fact, they’re usually much more interested in losing weight. As absurd as it seems in retrospect, before I entered the world of personal training, I was hardly even aware that simply being thin could be a desirable body type. It took working for a commercial gym to realize that my fitness goals weren’t the same as those of the general public.

Workin’ for the Man
I’m happy not to be working for a chain gym now, but I’m glad I did for almost seven years. In fact, I think every new trainer would benefit from working at a commercial facility (though not necessarily for as long as I did) before working independently.

Sure you’ll have to deal with a few knuckleheads and the usual bureaucratic bullshit, but the benefits of working for a big-box gym are many. For starters, you’ll get to be around lots of other trainers with more experience, so you’ll get to see firsthand what works and what doesn’t. That’s not to say you should try to copycat the top trainers at your gym, but rather develop your own style based on what you observe to be effective.

In addition, working at a gym will allow you to pitch your services to people who are already interested. After all, if they are in a gym, chances are they want to improve their fitness!

Talk is Cheap
New trainers always like to tell me about how they just got a new client, but when I ask them how many sessions the client purchased or when their first session is, I often get a response like, “Oh, well they didn’t actually sign up yet, but they told me they are going to.” Truth is, potential clients will want to chat you up about your services, but most of them aren’t actually serious about hiring a trainer. Some people will continually tell you (and themselves) that they are going to start next week or next month, but in reality they are wasting your time (and theirs).

Don’t Sell Yourself Short
There is nothing wrong with offering a prospective client a complimentary or discounted first workout so they can try out your services, but don’t allow your clients to take advantage of you. The satisfaction you’ll feel from helping someone develop their body is a huge part of what makes personal training worthwhile, but it won’t pay the bills. While it’s reasonable to keep your rates relatively low until business picks up, remember that a trainer who charges substantially less than the competition is devaluing themselves and will appear amateurish in the eyes of others.

Introduce Yourself
A lot of people are intimidated by personal trainers, especially if they feel out of shape. These people need the help of a trainer the most, yet they will often be the least likely to ask for it. Be friendly and introduce yourself to everyone in your gym. When they have a question, they’ll remember that you were kind and approachable.

Give it Time
Just like getting in great shape takes patience and dedication, establishing a reputation as a quality personal trainer takes years. If you think personal training is going to make you lots of money without having to work hard, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. However, if you are genuinely passionate about health and fitness, personal training can be a very rewarding career.

Check out my brother Danny’s new book, Everybody Needs Training for more proven success secrets for fitness professionals!

21 thoughts on “Becoming a Personal Trainer (Part Two)

  • By John -

    It’s so hard to find the right personal trainer. This is a great article and you do practice what you preach. I am one of the clients that thought all I wanted to do was lose weight. After working out and feeling a substantial difference in my body, mind, outlook and attitude; losing weight was good but actually building some real muscle was more exciting. I think an article helping clients find the right trainer would be good.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, John! My advice on how to find a trainer is in my book, but I think you’ve read it already. 🙂

    • By INFOFIT -

      Before you hire a personal trainer: http://ow.ly/3RKra

  • By INFOFIT -

    Great article!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks!

  • By dogg -

    very nice! loved it! inspiring and gives a great and very nice and friendly insight into the PT sector. shows how tough it can be, but you also bring in some nice personal emotions that make it a lovely article!

    5*!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, dogg!

  • By JFK Parking -

    I have to agree, the first time I got my personal trainer, I feel intimidated and felt that I shouldn’t be there. Thanks to my trainer who was not just after my money but in building my self confidence as well.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Sounds like you’ve got a good trainer!

      • By JFK Parking -

        Yes, I am lucky my trainer is dedicated to his craft. That’s why I can’t help but comment with your blog. Keep it up!

  • By Brooke -

    Thanks for writing both parts… I just got into training/coaching and this is so insightful.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Brooke – Glad you found this helpful! Best of luck with your training career!

  • By Dan -

    Good Advice, I’ve been thinking about going into this field simply because I’m passionate about fitness and nutrition. I am worried I won’t be taken seriously because I don’t “look” the part but maybe that would be a plus since I wouldn’t intimidate clients as much as Joe six-pack. Getting started at a chain gym would be hard since they expect you to be a salesperson and get your own clients… I think I would fail at that part.

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Dan. Appearance really doesn’t matter that much in the world of personal training – I’ve known successful trainers who definitely did not look the part.

      However, much to the dismay of many trainers, selling your service is a huge part of being successful, regardless of if you work for a chain gym or not.

  • By Stefan -

    Thanks again Al for writing both parts. I’m seriously considering going into the PT business this year. I have one question for you:

    In the first post you mention that certification doesn’t matter as far as skills go… But do they matter when it comes to getting clients?

    Thanks!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Hey Stefan – Certifications are necessary if you want to be a personal trainer since most gyms will not hire you without one. However, different gyms will often want you to have a specific cert and not all credentials are recognized by everyone, but the NSCA, ACE and NASM certs are accepted in most situations. Most clients, on the other hand, won’t even think about it one way or the other. Think of it like this, have you ever asked your dentist to see his diploma?

      • By Stefan -

        Thanks! Although the dentist analogy makes me scared of ever seeing a dentist again!

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  • By Fyture -

    Hi Al!
    I’m 17 years old. But I’ve had the mindset since I was 15, that I’m going to be a personal trainer full time. I have a job at a gym as a maintenance guy, and the owners like me enough to hire me as a trainer if I get certified I’m sure (its locally owned and operated), but my question to you is… Will people take me seriously? I’m just a kid, and not a very big one at that. However I’d like to think I’m in excellent shape! I’m 5’7 130 lbs and 6% body fat. So I’m an extremely muscular 130. But when people (some people, not all) find out that I want to be a PT, they’re like “Shouldn’t you be a littler bigger?”… Will my weight affect my ability to get clients? I’m sure I could at this gym, because most of the members know who I am, and constantly ask me questions about certain exercises/machines, but what about another gym? Like if I switched over to a chain gym, would I be able to get clients well enough? Also, what are fair rates for a brand new personal trainer?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      I’ve known a few successful trainers who were around your size.  If you know your stuff and can interact with people in a professional manner you’ll probably do just fine.  As for pay rates, the spectrum is quite large. A lot depends on where you live and what type of gym you train at.

      • By Fyture -

        Thanks!!

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