National Council on Strength & Fitness
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Selling Yourself as a Personal Trainer

One of the most difficult tasks for a qualified personal trainer starting out in the fitness industry is establishing a client base. Many individuals just beginning their careers in personal training believe that the programming and actual training of clients will be their most troublesome undertaking. However, the requirements of a competent trainer such as screening and evaluation, the development of an exercise prescription, and the implementation and monitoring of an exercise program cannot be completed without clients. The following information is designed to present a few key business concepts that can be applied to personal training and more specifically to the recruitment of new clients.


The most integral thing to keep in mind as a new trainer is a belief in your abilities and the fact that what you are selling – your services – will benefit those who are hiring you. If you have completed your education and training and have become certified, you have demonstrated that you met the competency level to practice as a personal trainer. The individuals who are seeking your services are doing so for a variety of reasons, most notably the fact that you know more about exercise and fitness than they do and are willing to motivate them to participate in appropriate programming and behavior modifications. If you strongly believe in your abilities, and are enthusiastic about working with a new client, they too will believe in your expertise.


Perhaps just as important as believing in yourself and your abilities as a trainer, is having a good understanding of what you are good at, and focusing your energies toward a particular niche market. A common error among newer trainers is the belief that they can be everything for everyone. Of course a qualified, competent trainer will understand exercise programming considerations for all populations; children, older adults, athletes, overweight individuals, etc. However, if you enjoy working with one type of client or see that you get particularly positive feedback from a certain range of clients; you may want to focus your efforts toward that population. One example, would be a trainer who works specifically with an older adult population. Generally these niche markets have similar concerns and training programs. For instance, functional improvements through strength, balance, and coordination activities will be consistent components of an exercise program for older adults.


Once you have decided who you wish to work with and have determined your training strategy with regard to locations, times, etc. You should begin to recruit clients. At this point, the power of referrals comes into play. It has been estimated that nearly 80% of new clients come from word-of-mouth referrals. If you can establish yourself as a competent trainer, even with a small number of clients, before you know it, the word will spread of your services. Never underestimate the power of referrals. If your clients appreciate the time and effort you dedicate to their training, they will talk to their friends, family, and coworkers and will speak highly of their “great, new personal trainer.” This referral system works very well within a specific niche market. Think about the likelihood of recruiting older adults for your services if you train a large number of older adults. These clients’ friends within the community are most likely in a similar age range and probably have similar physical capabilities. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Inform your clients that you are available and are looking to take on additional clients. When word gets out that you are good at what you do, and have available appointments, your current clients will most likely be able to provide you with more qualified leads than you can handle. Place yourself or some form of advertising in the areas that are common to your niche market. Learn through survey inquiries and other casual research methods where your market can be effectively reached. Using professional recruitment activities will help keep a full client roster.


Developing a sound financial strategy is also a key component to being a successful trainer. This entails understanding what you, as a business person, expect to take from your job as a personal trainer. Oftentimes it can be difficult for a new trainer to understand concepts such as cash flow, expensing, etc. If you know approximately how much your expenses will be and can work backward from what you need to make in order to be successful, you will prevent a lot of headaches and stress. For example, if you would like to make $50,000 for the year, and you plan on charging $50/training session, it is clear that you will need to have approximately 1,000 sessions per year, or roughly 18-20 training sessions per week. Knowing how much you need to train on a weekly basis will help you budget your time and money. This will also assist you with monitoring cash flow and keep you focused on recruiting new clients if you start to get into a slower time of year, or if you can scale back a bit when doing very well.


These are just a few of the key business concepts to keep in mind as you begin your career in personal training or look to expand your presence in a particular market. These ideas are especially important as the New Year approaches. Many individuals will be looking to hire a personal trainer as the holidays wind down and New Year’s resolutions are fresh in everyone’s minds. You will want to ensure maximum visibility during this time and ready yourself for the influx of clients that will hopefully be coming your way in the New Year.