by Aaron Tandem, ISSA CFT, FMS, NKT, Pn
“What do you do when you’re 18 years old and want to be a personal trainer?”
Let’s get right to the point.
You’re young, you’re passionate, and you’re ready to make an impact on not just other’s lives, but on the entire world as well. However, most everyone that’ll be potentially paying you for your expertise is going to be saying something along these lines:
“You’re how old?! My grandson is older than you.”
Age is simply a fact. It’s also something you simply can’t overcome until you’ve made a few more trips around the sun.
And, unfortunately, you are going to be viewed in a negative light because of how young you are.
So, what are you going to do? Give up on your dreams?
No! Instead, follow these guidelines and you’ll be making it as a personal trainer sooner than you’d think.
- Get Educated
If you want someone to pay you, you need to get them to trust you. Trust requires credibility. Thus, if that someone views you as just another teenager with big ideas, you have almost no credibility.
This where certification(s) can be useful.
Unless you have vast stores of truthful testimonials of past clients and their fantastic results, you need something else to vouch for you. A certification shows that you were able to study some standardized curriculum, absorb applicable information, and pass the relevant tests.
Why is this important?
Well, for one, just because you can get yourself into remarkable shape, doesn’t mean you can do it for others. Specific education in the field of personal training will help you delve into at least the basics of human physiology, anatomy, psychology, along with the basic principles behind exercise related adaptations.
The more education you have, the better you’ll be able to serve others, and the more credibility you’ll have to overcome your young age.
Do some research. Many certification agencies only require you to have a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years old to sit for their certifying exam.
Bonus points if you’re pursuing related higher education as well. (Exercise science, kinesiology, athletic training, etc.)
Personal Blurb: Just before I graduated high school, I had received my Certified Fitness Trainer diploma through the International Sports Science Association, and went on that Summer to earn two more certs, one to use the Functional Movement Screen, and the other as a MovNat Certified Trainer. This gave me quite a bit of “clout” when leveraging business opportunities, since I wasn’t just some random fit dude.
- Get Support
Now that you’re educated, your knowledge and understanding is vouched for. But, ideally, you now want vouchers for you as a person.
For understandable reasons, these recommendations shouldn’t come from your relatives. These people already think you’re great and are at least a little biased.
What should this support look like?
No, it doesn’t need to be an actual letter of recommendation, although that can work.
It simply means that members of your community, especially the more prominent ones, should know who you are, know what you do, and, above all, actually like and recommend you. Walk downtown and strike up a conversation with a small business owner; maybe ask how you can help. Talk with anyone and everyone; especially the ones you’re scared to speak with.
Why does this matter?
Well, because people don’t buy training!
They buy trainers.
Your clients aren’t paying for push ups, sled sprints, and yogalates. They’re paying to work with you explicitly, because they like you.
Even in this day and age of online dominance, word-of-mouth is still super powerful.
Personal Blurb: When I went to college, I tried to get my business started at our on-campus recreation center. After a series of “jumping through hoops,” my idea was shot down. But, in the process, I made great connections and friendships with our university director of recreation, vice president of administration and finance, as well as my organic chemistry professor. These relationships were directly responsible for getting my first job as a trainer at another facility, as well as landing my first long-term client, my professor’s son.
- Get Results
I hope this isn’t a newsflash to you, but on the scale of things, it’s remarkably easy to be in great shape when you’re a teenager.
And, you’ll be constantly fighting an uphill battle against the ubiquitous phrases, “Everything changes once you hit 40,” and, “You’ll find out when you’re my age.”
One of the best ways to establish credibility in this field is showing the results that you’ve helped others achieve. The only problem is that you’re likely so young and inexperienced, you haven’t gotten anyone results yet!
Fix this by doing what all trainers dread:
Doing it for free.
At least for a few individuals.
Many times these individuals are friends and family. This is okay! Results are results and will shine brightly on your capabilities, especially if the results you’ve helped someone achieve are relevant to the population you’re looking to serve.
Bonus points if you can do this for a well-known, well-respected, and well-acquainted member of the community you’re in.
Potential Client: “I’m a 46 year old dad, divorced, and raising three kids all on my own. What can you possibly know about that?”
You: “Personally? Absolutely nothing. However, I’ve worked with many individuals like you who are busy at work and overstressed at home. One was my college economics professor who had two kids he was raising himself, but still hosted many other educational opportunities outside of his job description. With my help, he was able to implement an exercise program and nutrition plan that wasn’t overwhelming, but still helped him to lose 47lbs. Now, he feels much healthier and energetic, and feels like he’s a much better father to his kids.”
Potential Client: “Oh! Now, that’s something else. How can we get started?”
For obvious reasons, your conversations may not go as smoothly as the above example, but with enough practice you’ll get something close. Especially if you do have some previous results to back it up!
But, once you do get your first paying client, don’t hold back! Give it everything you got and go way beyond the call of duty to help him or her. This will pay you back more than you know.
Personal Blurb: My first “client” was my dad, who I helped lose over 40lbs. Then, some of my friends, one of which in particular credited my helping him get stronger to his newfound courage of auditioning for a theatre performance. I even trained a few of my professors, from where a few of my most consistent clients were referred. Any experience is a good experience.
- Learn to Write and Speak Good
Learn to write and speak well.
Superman does good. You do well.
To many, simple typos don’t matter. But, you need every possible reason for your potential clients to not think you’re just a dumb, buff kid.
If you can’t communicate your ideas and points well across these two mediums, you’re going to be missing out on a heck of a bunch of potential business.
The goal is to not sound your age.
If at the point of ever revealing your age to someone, they are surprised, maybe even in disbelief, then you’ve done very, very well. Because, for whatever reason, being able to speak in complete, concise, and easily understood sentences, is a sign of maturity and intelligence.
This can take a lot of practice, but it’s likely going to be your greatest asset.
How do you practice?
By getting in front of as many people as possible.
Join clubs, go to meet-ups, volunteer at events, create a speaking occasion, or simply be bold and initiate conversation wherever with whoever.
Read as much as possible. Then, read some more. And, when you get sick of reading, find something else to read. The best speakers and writers tend to be the ones who read the most, as the written word and the spoken word share a very intimate relationship.
Lastly, when it comes to writing, do so as much as you can. Start a website or newsletter and blog regularly, keep a journal, and try to get some of your better works published in various mediums, whether online or not. Or, just use your social media profile to do it all. Much of what you produce at first won’t be all that great, but it will get better the longer you stick with it.
Personal Blurb: I actually don’t like writing all that much. But, I do like talking! I don’t think I’m a chatterbox (although I could be wrong), I just enjoy the process of verbally communicating my thoughts to others. So, when I write, I do so in the exact manner that I speak. If you ever talk to me in-person, you’ll notice this to be true. Is it the best method? In all honesty, probably not. Is it a good method? Yes, I do think so, and it may allow you to break past that mental barrier that keeps you from putting words on paper.
- Show Professionalism
Treat this like a career.
You are at the frontlines in the battle of preventative healthcare. This is a very worthwhile endeavor.
Show up early. Be prepared. Speak clearly. Fake it ‘til you make it if you must, but make it seem like you know what you are doing.
You’re the expert in this arena. Show it by being ready, being knowledgeable, being on time, and, super importantly, being dressed for the part. It really can’t be stressed enough, especially when you’re younger, how important that last part is.
Think about it:
If you happen to be an older, working, family-focused adult, and two young guys (gender neutral) tell you that they’re personal trainers, who do you pay more attention to, the one in raggedy shorts and a torn-up sleeveless shirt, still full of sweat and grime from his last workout? Or, the one who’s clean, in a nice pair of pants, clipboard at the ready, and a high quality shirt with his own training business logo on it?
You will most definitely be taken much more seriously if you put forth the effort to show that you take this very seriously.
Personal Blurb: No matter the situation, even when I’d do stuff for free, I had a “uniform” that I wore with pride to distinguish myself. It doesn’t even need to have a professionally done logo, it could just be a collared shirt that says “First Name Last Name Training.” If you really want a logo, get one done on Fiverr for cheap and you can get a shirt made for less than $50 easy from online or at a local business.
- Final Point: Be Who You Are!
I’d like to leave you with a little bit of an oxymoron.
As long as you’re following all of the above guidelines, you’ve got one last thing to understand:
Your greatest weakness, is also your greatest strength.
You’re young, so that makes you unseasoned in life in general.
However, being young, you’re likely super energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate about what you do. Those character traits can be very infectious. And, well, it’s why youth is such an attractive and coveted thing to have.
Like I said, as long as you’re doing everything else already stated, don’t downplay who you are!
People don’t buy training, they buy trainers.
Yet, the one thing that makes people continuously, consecutively, and happily buy into the process over and over again is the experience.
Are you fun to be around? Can you make the process enjoyable? Is the time between sets of exercises filled with jokes and laughter? Are you approachable and relatable?
It’s called personal training for a reason. You can’t take the personal and personable part out of it and expect to get very far.
Now, go forth and conquer!
Aaron began his personal training career at the tender age of 18 years old and quickly discovered that his part-time job in college was becoming his full-time calling and vocation. His favorite individuals to work with are those who find strength training to be extremely intimidating because it’s awesome to see these people learn just how strong they actually are. If you can’t find him devising new ways to challenge himself in and out of his gym, Empowered Strength, he’s usually playing Dungeons & Dragons, watching anime with his wife, or practicing the piano.