The Business of Personal Training – Your Very Own Fitness Business

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Time and again, I find myself talking with trainers who work for a gym, and are planning on “going independent”, or “taking their client’s private”.

Sounds great doesn’t it, but it’s always important to start with the end in mind, so I have to ask; Do you mean “make a little extra money and have a little more freedom” or do you mean “build a business from the ground up that can support the achievement of my life’s greatest ambitions”?

Obviously, there is a big difference between these two answers, and chances are you fall somewhere in the middle. But I want to encourage you to dream big and meditate on the possibility of achieving something much greater then “a little more money and freedom”. There are too many who need our help and too many societal and environmental factors that are working against them; we trainers need to start thinking big. Real big.

I am talking about complete freedom. I am talking about REAL money, not a little extra. I am talking about helping more people, in less time, with less physical effort and a little more mental effort.If you are really serious about pushing our industry forward and redefining what it means to be a trainer, 1-on-1 training is only the beginning. Now that’s what I am talking about!

So the question changes, from “When should I go private?” to “How do I build a Successful Fitness Business?” Remember, a better quality question will lead to a better quality answer. Always. If you can answer the latter question, you’ll already know when to go private, how to raise rates, how to define your ideal client and attract them, how to manage and grow your business etc…

Don’t fall into the “PRIVATE TRAINER TRAP”. For the love of god, please.

There are way too many trainers who are content to run around the city chasing money and burning them out doing 8+ sessions/day 6 days/week, instead of building a business, attracting money, and working smarter. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE, especially in the quality of life you will have.

If you can’t be completely healthy for your client, a living and breathing example of what a balanced lifestyle can achieve, well rested, focused, and in control, then what the hell is the point anyway?

Here are some of the basics you will need to address, so that you can hit the ground running with your business.

The alternative is to run all around town training at 5 different places, teaching classes here and there, with no exit strategy and no understanding that all that travel time and lack of direction cuts directly into your profit per hour and the growth of your business. At the same time, these “private trainers” are developing poor habits that will create more inertia that will need to be overcome when they finally decide to take the next step.

I am serious. If you are at least aware of all of the questions below and can honestly give a good answer to half of them, you are already ahead of the curve. So read on and don’t fall into the “PRIVATE TRAINER TRAP”.

Shift Perspective- There are two central tenets that should form the foundation of every decision you make in regards to your job as a personal training. Everything else is secondary.

#1) You own a training business.

If you just think of yourself as just a trainer, you are limiting yourself. How many times have you been at a party, introduced yourself as a trainer, and met with this response? “Oh, wow, really what exercise can I do to lose my stomach?” This person usually will not have the money or real desire to commit to a trainer, so they probably are not a great prospect for a “trainer”. But they probably are a great prospect for fitness entrepreneur who sells a $10 PDF titled “The biggest factor for a Flat Stomach” being sold on his website.

If you own a business, you can have multiple price points for various services, which means even the person at the party with the belly and the martini glass can be a “client”. Sell to everyone! That way, as a fitness entrepreneur, you can say “I have just the thing, go to my website and get this product” and be done with it, instead of wasting your time at a party explaining why cardio and diet is more important for having a toned stomach then any one exercise.

#2) Your clients are your product.

Cultivating a successful and empowered roster of clients is critical to attracting quality opportunities and the foundation of a solid business model. There are 3 major competencies- ways to grow your business, expand your sphere of influence, and make shit happen. Each has several sub-competencies. You don’t have to be a master at all of them, in fact, you should focus on what you are great at and enjoy, and outsource everything else. You should, at least, be aware of all of them so you can account for them one way (doing it yourself) or another (outsourcing to someone else).

A great exercise is to give yourself a grade from 1-10 for each of these competencies, a self-assesment based on how well your business model can account for each of these 18 sub-competencies. Grade yourself hard and layout a plan to emphasize strengths and address weaknesses!!!

#1) Business Skills

A) Branding – What is your brand? Who is your market? What niche do you fill? Who are the high quality clients that you want to attract? What kind of client to you enjoys the most? What distinguishes them? What are there goals?

B) Marketing -How will you penetrate your market and get leads? What relationships have you built with experts in complimentary industries? What is your web strategy? What PR/media contacts have you established?

C) Prospecting Skills – What is your elevator pitch? What is your 30 second commercial? Can you adapt and improvise your pitch to the individual prospects needs? What are your qualifying and disqualifying questions?

D) Sales Skills – Do you know how to uncover the emotional needs of your prospect and close every qualifying client? What other revenue streams have you created? Do you up sell, cross sell, or down sell your clients to other services? Do you have a network of health professionals you can work with as a team to achieve optimal health for your clients? How will you collect payment and keep track of packages?

E) Policy Development/Business Model – When are you going to incorporate?What is your referral system? How and when will you raise your rates? What is your self-investment strategy and educational path for creating more value for your clients? How many hours a week will you schedule to work ON your business? What is your budget and time commitment each month to continuing education? How will you organize your business into a automated system, so that it can run on its own? How will you keep track of client information, workouts, and programs? What sheets and/or software will you use?

F) Advisory Board – What other professionals and business owners are on your advisory board? Do you have an accountant, lawyer, business mentor, computer programmer, etc? How many people do you know that are successful, trustworthy, and willing to listen to your business ideas and give you valuable feedback?

#2) Interpersonal/Customer Service Skills

A) Personality/Compassion/Communication- How good are you at building strong relationships using these 3 qualities?

B) Leadership/Accountability/Education- How good are you at teaching your client new information that they will retain? Will they be more knowledgeable after they stop training with you? Do they consistently workout intelligently on their own? Do they follow your lead or take control of the relationship? Do you give them exercise Homework, and follow up with them to make sure they did it, so that you teach them to be self-accountable and empowered?

C) Motivational/Psychological Skills – How good are you at unlocking the motivation inside the client? Do you know how to utilize their psychological frame of reference and personality to ignite their drive?

D) Response Time/Attentiveness – How fast do you return phone calls and emails? How good are you at focusing your undivided attention on the client when you are with them? Are you always ready for the workout, with a workout already designed, and the gym floor set up to meet your needs?

E) Exercise Experience – How will you balance what the client needs with what the client wants? How do you use creativity to keep the client engaged, stimulated, and having fun?

#3) Exercise Knowledge-

You do not have to master all of these, but A, B, C, and D are essential. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, but it is a great start. If you have no personal interest in something in particular, like nutrition, then don’t focus on it, just find a nutritionist to work with.

A) Exercise Mechanics and Bio Mechanics

B) Physiology

C) Anatomy

D) Program Design

E) Nutrition

F) Psychology

G) Energy Medicine

So are you ready to build a business much bigger then you or your clients, and make a real difference? Are you ready to attract money and opportunities?

Or are you going to choose to be just another “private trainer”, running around the city chasing money? Again, you don’t need to answer all of these questions before you get started, but you should keep them in mind and continually work on them, so that you don’t fall into the “PRIVATE TRAINER TRAP!”

If you can’t answer at least half of these questions, It may be more productive to continue working for someone else, while you develop an evolved business model, test different policies and referral systems, develop some media contacts etc etc. It may seem like you are ready, but look at these questions for an answer to how ready you are.

Don’t get excited by all the trainers out there charging $150 running around the city. Fight the urge to jump into the fray if you don’t feel confident about the answers to the preceding questions. I promise you, in 3 yrs, most of those trainer will still be charging $150, and/or will be burnt out and switching industry’s. When they look back they will say, “Yeah, training was fun, and it seemed like good money at the time, but man was it hard running around, I just could do it anymore”.

No one can keep that pace for long, but it is not the only way, it’s just the easiest way, the path of least resistance. We all know, what is easiest is rarely, if ever, what is best for us.

Be honest with yourself. Think bigger. Develop these different skill sets on someone else’s dime (in other words, stay at your gym and work on your business), so you don’t have to lose money when it is time to implement them in your business. Yes, no matter what, you will and should make mistakes. But jumping into the fray without a plan is not a recipe for success. I had to say something, I am getting tired of watching trainers sell themselves short and develop bad business habits that will limit their future. Do you know how to utilize their psychological frame of reference and personality to ignite their drive?

I had to say something, I am getting tired of watching trainers sell themselves short and develop bad business habits that will limit their future.

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