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Top Tips for New Personal Trainers

Top Tips for New Personal Trainers to Build and Grow Your Business

Reading Time: 10 minutes


DATE: 2024-04-22

Personal training is both a career and a business. A good gym workout or weight loss routine may be your passion and hobby now, but if you want to earn a living in the fitness biz by teaching your own training sessions, it's time to get serious.

You'll learn so much as you go, but it doesn't hurt to have a little help too. Here are some of our best tips to help you succeed as a fitness instructor.

Training and Education-Related Personal Trainer Tips

First, let's start at the very beginning—our apologies if you're an instructor who's already opened your doors (we'll get to you in a minute).

Get Your Personal Trainer Certification

If you haven't done it yet, become a certified personal trainer. Competition for clients can be fierce. Without the appropriate training and certification, you'll have a tough time landing new clients. Think of your education as an investment in your career success. It costs money upfront but will pay off in the end.

Not all certification programs for personal trainers are the same. Look for one that's accredited and backed by fitness professionals in the exercise field. Start with the essential personal trainer certification. This is the program that will give you the foundational education you need to be a successful trainer.

Make Continuing Education a Priority

You don't need to have a degree in sports medicine or exercise science to be a personal fitness trainer as long as you have the right certification and keep up with fitness requirements imposed by the strength and conditioning community. That said, fitness industry trends change and exercise science advances, so trainers need to keep up. 

It's important to have long-term goals, and continuing education in the fitness field should be one of them. While these courses are needed to retain your certification, they also boost your expertise as a fitness professional. You can also use these courses as opportunities to add specialty certifications to your personal training resume.

Stay Up to Date on Fitness Industry News 

Getting a basic personal training certification and pursuing continuing education classes are great. To stay even more “in the know” about fitness industry happenings, attend conferences and conventions for personal trainers. Also, keep reading industry magazines, books, and journals.

Don't forget to learn what your clients want to learn. Many will be reading popular magazines and blogs, so don't just focus on your own exercise industry materials. Consider what they may be reading too.

Continue to Build Your Personal Trainer Skills

Constantly strive to grow your skill set. A successful personal trainer should have a resume that shows both versatility—listing online personal trainer experience, for instance—and specialty certifications, such as additional training in nutritional consulting or senior fitness. 

Competition for new clients can be serious. If you have one or more specialty certifications, a potential client will see you have more to offer them.

Invest In the Right Personal Training Equipment

First, you'll need tools to track your clients' physical activity and progress throughout their fitness journey. To do this, you’ll want a clipboard, timer, forms to track results, and a tape measure. 

You also want to purchase the equipment clients will need when working out with you. At a minimum, your initial exercise equipment should probably include resistance bands for strength training, an exercise mat, foam rollers, and a jump rope.

Business Tips for New Personal Trainers

Being a successful personal trainer means being a successful businessperson. So, a new personal trainer needs to understand the ins and outs of running a business. Even if you are an employee in a gym, you need to understand basic business principles to be successful. 

From marketing to managing appointments, personal training is a business. And it's always tough to start a business. Here are a few tips to help.

Decide How Much You’ll Charge Personal Training Clients

If you're not working for a commercial gym, it's up to you to set your pricing structure. First, take your education and experience into account. Then, look at prices in the area. Check out a few websites of other fitness professionals to see what they charge. 

You might choose hourly pricing, pay-per-session pricing, or subscription pricing by week, month, or longer. However, be willing to volunteer some time to get started. Offer your services at the local high school or community center, or give a free training session to a few potential new clients who may be on the fence. In return, ask for honest reviews to post on social media. This will help make it worth your time.

Consider Other Training Model Options

Another option is to use a membership model instead of a pay-as-you-go system. You can offer different memberships for different lengths of time and set up client payment through auto-debit for an agreed term.

For clients who can't afford one-on-one training, think about offering a group boot camp. On the other hand, some people like the convenience of training at home, so you might offer in-home training sessions for an added fee.

Purchase Insurance to Cover Yourself as a Fitness Professional

All personal trainers, whether established or new, should have insurance to protect their interests, reputation, and business. More than that, personal trainer insurance also gives you peace of mind, knowing that should an accident happen during a session or if a client makes a claim, you have a team of experts and the right insurance coverage protecting your interests. 

The policy you want is called general and professional liability protection. It’s designed to protect you if someone is injured in a facility or claims they were hurt under your training. 

Choose an Insurance Provider Who Understands the Fitness Industry

You also want to choose an insurance provider who knows the fitness industry. They should have a proven record of providing coverage, legal expertise, and representation when it’s needed. 

ISSA has partnered with API Fitness, a leading insurance provider, to offer certified personal trainers the comprehensive coverage they need. The cost for the first-year, full-coverage policy with API Fitness is just $60, a 50% reduction for ISSA members. For more information and to apply, visit the API Fitness website.

Promote Your Services as a Certified Personal Trainer

Without clients, you're a trainer in theory versus practice. This makes it important to not only acquire new clients but also retain those you get. To do this:

  • Be your own best promotional tool. As a certified personal trainer, you live and breathe fitness, right? Always be prepared to talk about fitness, and when asked how you know so much, you may have a new client on the hook. Also, wear gear that promotes your brand. Be a walking billboard for your personal training services.

  • Build relationships. Retaining clients is all about developing good relationships. Don't focus only on training programs and reps. Let them know you care about them as a person; that they’re not “just another client.”

  • Use social media. Set up pages on all the major platforms for your personal training business. Post regularly with tips, offers, fitness news, and other related content to keep followers interested.

  • Build a website and keep it fresh. Most consumers research businesses online. Make sure you have a strong and professional presence. Pages that have updated content rank better, so make regular blog posts about fitness and training. Blog posts also give a prospective client a glimpse of who you are. It helps them begin to like, know, and trust you—three keys to marketing success.

  • Learn how to network. Networking is essential for small-business owners, especially those in an industry like fitness that relies so much on word of mouth. Knowing people can help you get clients. Go to fitness expos and conventions, local recreation areas, community events, marathons, and any type of local business event. Start introducing yourself to others in the community. Bring business cards, of course.

Prepare for the Ongoing Expenses of a Personal Training Business

One of the best things about a personal trainer business is minimal ongoing expenses. Your regular payments are generally just the monthly contribution toward insurance, any fuel costs for traveling to clients, and the cost of the equipment that you buy. You might also consider paying for continuing education in exercise science or sports medicine.

Also Prepare for Challenging Clients

You won't get along with every client. Some will be more fun to work with than others, and certain clients may find it harder to develop an immediate rapport with you. Decide in advance how you will handle challenging clients. The more prepared you are, the easier it becomes to respond professionally.

Be Professional But Personable Too

You do need to be professional with clients, but no one wants to work out with a machine. So, be yourself. Don't be afraid to laugh and converse during workout sessions. Ask your clients about their lives and their work. Offer some of your own stories in return while always remaining professional, of course.

Put the Work in When Creating a Personalized Training Program 

There is no one best workout plan for everyone, but there are lots of excellent options depending on your client's starting point and fitness goals. Do your research, agree on a plan with your client, and do your best to get them to stick with it. Training sessions may be difficult, especially at the beginning. Try to focus your client on outcomes.

Be Flexible

A good personal trainer is flexible with clients. Clients have options when choosing a trainer, and they have lives outside the gym. If your client has to cancel at the last minute sometimes, roll with it. Certainly, if it happens all the time, you may need to take action. But a little flexibility can go a long way in keeping a strong client list.

Keep Your Client List Manageable

As your business grows, so will your client list. Keep this list manageable so you’re able to give the necessary attention to everyone you train.

How many clients should a personal trainer have? The answer depends on whether you are a full- or part-time trainer. Full-time trainers typically have around fifteen to twenty-five clients, training 30 to 40 hours per week. Part-time trainers, on the other hand, may only have five to ten clients a week.

Strive to Provide Each Client the Most Value Possible

Your clients come to you as the expert. If you don't have an immediate answer to their question, research it. Then when you find the answer, let them know. Educate the client so they understand the various aspects of fitness and why they are important.

This is where continuing education comes into play. Staying current in the field makes you more valuable and helpful to clients. The more you know, the more you can share.

Tips for Keeping Personal Training Clients Motivated

Some of your clients will be highly motivated. We call these dream clients. But most need some pushing. This is part of your job as a certified personal trainer because if your clients don't get to their goals, they probably won't come back for more training sessions. Here are a few motivational tips.

Create a Workout Program that Aligns with Their Fitness Goals 

In setting fitness goals, design programs for the client, not for you. This may sound obvious, but as you get into training, you'll discover how easy it is to create a training program based on the goals you think the client should have. But creating a program with your goals versus theirs isn’t likely to keep their motivation stoked.

Ask what they hope to accomplish with personal training. Are they after weight management or loss? Maybe they want to build lean muscle mass or improve sports performance. Ask what they hope to accomplish, then design an exercise program with that goal in mind.

Work With Them to Create SMART Goals

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely—all of which are important in reaching fitness goals. SMART goals can help keep clients on track and remind them of their priorities, so they're able to follow through with every workout you have planned.

Figure out the Client’s ‘Why’

Get into the head of your client. Figure out what motivates them. Do they want to get into better shape to get off medication, or do they want to be able to play with their children or grandchildren more easily? Maybe they want to become a better athlete and crush their previous records. Get to the heart of the client’s desire to change and keep their ‘why’ in the forefront of their mind.

Consider the Client’s Preferences

It’s also important to know under what conditions the client works best and what kind of workout they are most likely to do. If you create a program heavy in strength training, for instance, but the client enjoys cardio more, they may not stick with your program long-term. While there are several components to a comprehensive exercise program, giving them a plan they aren’t likely to stick with won’t help them reach their goals.

Challenge Clients with Care

Just getting regular physical activity is a big step for many clients. Be prepared to challenge them, but do so with both empathy and care. Being a bully or saying mean or belittling things isn’t going to motivate them. In fact, it’s likely to demotivate them. Challenge clients in a positive way by pushing them a little further than they think they can go. Let them know that this is how you hit goals.

Create Ways to Reinforce Their Progress

Always take “before” measurements and do a fitness analysis. Showing your clients how far they’ve come is a big motivator. Only two pounds of weight loss? That can be demotivating. But your client may have also lost two inches from their waist. Now that's a big deal.

Successful personal trainers help clients to see a workout as not just exercise for exercise's sake but as a step on the path toward their long-term goals. Taking regular measurements so clients can see their progress can be immensely motivating. Positive reinforcement from you during exercise sessions can also help your clients push harder than they thought they could.

Regularly Seek Client Feedback

You may think you’re doing everything right as a personal trainer, yet your client still doesn’t seem motivated to exercise. Asking for their feedback regularly allows them to tell you what isn’t working for them. Address their problem areas or challenges and this can help motivate them to continue to advance their fitness level.

Keep Clients Engaged Outside the Personal Training Session

Giving a client something to do between exercise sessions helps extend the session and gets them closer to their long-term goals. So, don’t be afraid to give them homework. Also, let clients make some decisions about workouts and programs to give them ownership. Have good options ready so they can choose.

If you're not yet certified as a personal trainer but are ready to help people build healthier lives, sign up for the ISSA’s online personal trainer certification course. This course provides the information you need to be a successful personal trainer and a respected professional in the fitness industry.

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