by Tyler Valencia, MS, PES, PFT
When we all start our first personal training job we are bright-eyed and ready to train some clients. Building a client list might come easy to some, but typically getting your first client and learning the tricks of the trade come with time. Don’t get me wrong, personal training can be a great career, but it’s a grind. Waking up at 4:30am to train morning clients and/or coming back to hit the evening crowd is not for everyone. BUT with consistent hard work, your client list will grow and you can make upwards of $60,000+. Follow these five tips and get a head start on your first day.
- “Trying” to create a separation between work and home life.
I will admit that this was one of the mistakes that I made when I first started working as a personal trainer. Despite sounding like good advice in general, you have to have a steady stream of income to start to be able to create the work-home barrier. If you try to create barriers between you and potential clients before you even have your first client, you can turn away future business or even hurt your status at the gym.
The trainer who had given me this advice was a seasoned veteran, and was considered the top trainer at the gym. Her client list was full and she easily made over 100k, but what I didn’t realize was how her accomplishments were achieved. This trainer after years of tough hours, teaching group exercise and staying consistent, grew her client list and was always requested. The best thing to do is to ask for tips at a new gym and apply them to your style of personal training and selling personal training.
- Not working out at your gym.
When you work at a gym, staying at the gym any longer than needed often feels like you live there, but by making this mistake you are missing the chance to advertise yourself. Don’t forget you are always on display at the gym. Potential clients want to see that you are fit and that your style of training is something that would help them reach their goals.
To my knowledge, some gyms might even pay their trainers to workout in their down time because it will increase their exposure. The hardest part of starting out as a personal trainer is making a new client believe in your training philosophy, but showcasing these first hand can potentially eliminate the awkward first sales pitch and expedite you to selling your first personal training package.
- Not teaching group exercise.
This tip is one that I can’t stress enough. You have to eliminate any negative stigma you might have about group exercise and realize that it is the fast-track to more clients and a bigger paycheck. First of all, you will get paid to teach a class. Second, with all the different formats available these days you can find one that caters to your skillset. You don’t have to know how to choreograph or cue in order to teach group exercise. As a matter of fact, I typically train Olympic lifts and powerlifts, but can teach bootcamps or HIIT classes because there is great crossover.
Teaching group exercise is an opportunity to showcase your skills in-front of regular gym members, and also a way to get to know more members. People who attend group exercise classes and want further help with their goals will most likely come to you first.
Check out this past KIPS blog post about why you should teach group exercise – CLICK HERE
- To play gym politics or not.
There is no denying that every gym has a culture, and there are current employees that can help you grow your client list. For starters, befriending the membership sales counselors is an easy first step that gives you a direct link to new members within your gym.
This might sound like an obvious one, but being friends (professional friends) with your fitness manager is a must. If your fitness manager believes that you have what it takes to be a successful personal trainer, you will be one of the first trainers that he/she comes to with future leads are pre-bought session clients. Also, in gyms that have 30-40 personal trainers, there is only so much business to go around. Make sure that you are available to your fitness manager, and make sure that he/she knows you want to grow within your role. The fitness manager most likely is a seasoned personal trainer and can be a great source for knowledge.
- Thinking your personal trainer certification is enough education.
Having worked on three different accreditation applications for two different personal training certification agencies, I can tell you from experience that each exam is entry level. In fact, that is the purpose statement written into each exam application, and typically in the introduction of each manual. With that said, it’s important that you build on your education in the niche market that suits your skillset. Finding online courses, certifications, workshops or even internships that interest you will help you build your knowledge level and help you build the “product” that you sell (yourself!).
Having the educational background in one area doesn’t mean you can’t crossover into different niche clientele. Despite having a Masters focus in Sport Performance, I find myself training women because of the consistency that it affords. I do train athletes because that is where I am most knowledgeable, but there is always the option to train others. Starting out you don’t want to limit yourself to just special populations or just athletes, ideally you will be able to train several populations and get the experience of working and talking with them. It’s no secret that personal training is not just about being educated. There is a large component that revolves around social interactions and creating a connection. At the end of the day, clients purchase packages because of YOU and not because of the gym.
Getting your first client as an entry level trainer is a major milestone and can sometimes be stressful. Doing floor shifts to meet gym members can be a great start to growing your list of clients, but make sure to follow the five tips stated above. Entry level personal trainers typically have a lifespan of 2 years, but grinding through the beginning stages can help you turn it into a long, fruitful and rewarding career.
If you are an experienced personal trainer, please share your tips for future entry level trainers!
Tyler Valencia is the President of KIPS. While working for a Southern California online education company he started his first business, Time 2 Train Fitness which specialized in bootcamp and personal training. Time 2 Train Fitness went on to receive the distinction of 3X Best Bootcamp and 2X Best Personal Trainer with the Long Beach Press Telegram. Before founding KIPS, Tyler was the Vice President of the National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT) & Smart Fitness.