Personal training is a tough industry, it’s great fun, and if you’re successful, you might end up making a lot of money as a PT.
The truth is that most trainers don’t make it, but how many personal trainers quit in their first year after qualifying, and why are the turnover rates so drastically high?
In this article, I will be breaking down the real numbers and explaining why this happens so you don’t have to become one of the statistics.
476.1 trainers quit in the UK each year. This value is taken from 529 trainers qualifying each year, with 90% quitting within that first year. These numbers are taken from the average numbers of trainers qualifying each year with industry growth at 2.3% taken into account.
I’ll admit that those statistics did nearly put me off becoming a personal trainer, but I read up on why so many trainers were failing so that I could make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes as them, that’s the awesome thing about the internet I guess.
I don’t want you to be put off by these stats, because becoming a fitness coach was one of the highlights of my life (so far at least, I’m not that old).
Anyway, I’m going to explain why I think the industry has such a crazily high dropout rate and what you can do to prevent yourself from being one of the many personal trainers that leave the industry in their first year.
How long do personal trainers last?
This is a very difficult question to answer accurately, as there is little to no research that has been done on the subject. However, using the 90% turnover statistics of trainers quitting in their first year, I would make an educated guess that most new trainers would leave the industry within the first six to eight months.
The reason I say this is because when you start out working in a commercial gym, most of them give you a chance to build up your client base by giving you three months where you pay only a portion of your gym rent. It’s usually after those three months are up, and you’re paying full rent that the fear really kicks in if you don’t have the sessions to cover it.
I’d say most people will be able to get by for at least three months or so with a few clients paying and maybe dipping into their savings a little to cover gym rent, but once that carries on for several more months, people start to get fed up pretty quickly.
Around the six-month mark is where it really becomes a make-or-break scenario. If a trainer manages to pick up a few more clients, they could stay in the industry for several more months, or maybe start to become much busier, but if they don’t manage to significantly increase their paying clients in that time, it’s probably game over.
Why do so many personal trainers fail?
- They don’t listen to their clients
- They don’t target the right people
- They lack people skills
- They aren’t organised
- They get scared by gym rents
- They undercharge
- They can’t sell
- They lack confidence
- They are unrealistic
- They aren’t using the correct training styles
- They didn’t do any research
- They don’t build rapport
- They listen to other trainers
- They didn’t organise their finances
- They give up
They don’t listen to their clients
If a new client comes to you and during your initial consultation they tell you they hate certain exercises, don’t make them do those exercises just because you know they are good for them.
There has to be a compromise between giving your clients what they want and what they need. You might know that squats will get results faster, but if they flat out tell you they hate them, they aren’t going to carry on training with you if you insist they do them.
Work around people’s preferences and make sure they are getting the best of both worlds, some things they enjoy with a little of what they don’t, but need. I used to make deals with my clients where if they did one of my exercises that they didn’t like, they could choose an exercise they liked doing.
It’s not the fastest route to achieving their goals, but remember, in order for you to succeed as a trainer, you need to get paid, which means keeping your clients happy.
They don’t target the right people
Decide who your client base should be.
If you are a 6ft 5 powerlifter, you might struggle to get a 45-year-old man who just wants help getting fit so he can play with his kids. Likewise, if you are a 5ft medium build trainer, you’ll probably struggle to be taken seriously by the types of people who want to train this way, even if you have taken a course on powerlifting.
It’s not always the case of course, but a lot of the time, people do judge books by their covers, so play to your strengths and try to get clients that are able to relate to you in terms of size and weight. If you are of medium build go for people that are looking to lose weight and shape up, they will trust you, if you have been strength and power training for years, go for the larger clients that can see you know your stuff in that area.
Play to your strengths, don’t try and convert everyone into a client because you need to pay the rent, it won’t work and you’ll get frustrated.
They lack people skills
I’m going to go out on a whim here and say if you don’t have decent people skills, you are going to struggle to be a personal trainer in every way.
If you thought that being a great PT was all about helping people lift weights and eat right, then you are very mistaken. Teaching how to lift correctly is one of the smaller parts of the role, helping people to enjoy exercise, gain confidence, and trust you are far larger parts of the role.
These were also facts that were almost certainly left out of your training qualifications!
Everyone can get better at building their social skills, it’s really just a matter of practice. Small talk is a big part of being a trainer, so learning how to be comfortable talking to a stranger (at least when you first start training someone) is a really important skill to master.
Work on your people skills and it’ll make you more money than any strength and conditioning course you take.
They aren’t organised
Double booking or forgetting sessions, losing clients’ exercise programs, forgetting how many sets their client has finished or what exercise is next, are all common situations that new trainers find themselves in.
You’ve gotta get organized if you want to be successful as a PT, can you imagine how angry you’d be if you booked an early lunch, got to the gym for your session only to find that your trainer is working with someone else?
You’ve probably got one chance left after that happens, if it happens again, you’ll probably lose that client, and I wouldn’t blame them.
Get yourself organized, if you don’t, you’re going to look unprofessional (because you have been), and people aren’t going to want to train with you. Personal training is your business and your income, you should treat it seriously.
For some great tips to stay organized whilst working as a personal trainer, check out the article I wrote below.
They get scared by gym rents
You’re not alone if you gulped the first time you heard what the gym was going to be charging you each month in rent. I certainly did.
For some people, knowing they owe hundreds of pounds each month in rent can cause all kinds of anxiety, which can lead to desperation when picking up clients, which in turn makes it much less likely that you will convert them.
No one wants to train with someone who is clearly panicked by their financial situation and acting desperately or nervously.
Instead, don’t look at it as a lump sum, break it up into how many sessions you need to complete to cover it. If your gym rent is £800 per month and you are charging £50 an hour, that’s only 16 sessions a month, or 4 a week!
Looking at it this way really isn’t quite so scary.
For a complete insight into the expenses of working as a personal trainer, check out the article I wrote below.
I can totally understand why people make this mistake.
You are in a gym, you are trying to sell sessions, but everyone keeps telling you they can’t afford a trainer, so what’s the next most logical step?
Reducing your hourly rate of course!
Except, it’s really not a good idea at all, you’re always going to come across people who would love to train with you but simply can’t afford it. By reducing your prices to accommodate these clients, you make it ten times harder to make a living.
By charging less, you might (emphasis on “might” because you won’t always) pick up clients, but you’ll have to train way more people in order to gain the same amount of income. Work smart and not hard. Don’t undercut other trainers in the gym either, because trust me, there will be plenty of problems that come with doing this.
For further information on how to sell sessions, even to people who can’t afford them, click the link below to be taken to another of my articles.
They can’t sell
This point really frustrates me, because even the way that it reads in this list makes it sound like it’s the trainer’s fault that they don’t know how to sell their sessions, and it’s really not at all.
In all of the training courses I took, there was never a single module about how to sell sessions. I have no idea why this is left out of training courses because you could possibly argue that knowing how to do this effectively is more important than understanding how exercises work.
I’ve seen some pretty terrible trainers who really didn’t have a clue what they were doing or why they were doing it, but they were great at selling. These people made crazy money and had a ton of clients!
Take courses, read books, watch videos, do anything you can to learn what you need to do to sell personal training sessions, it’s not as easy as asking people if they’d like to train and them saying yes.
You weren’t taught it in your certification courses, so you’ll have to learn it yourself.
They lack confidence
Not many people go into a brand new industry beaming with confidence, it takes time, and that’s kind of the point.
New trainers are told to go into a gym, speak to loads of strangers, get them to like you, give them a consultation session and then be convincing enough to get them to part with hundreds of pounds. That’s not an easy task for even the most experienced trainers, so in the early days, you are possibly going to struggle with your confidence.
Unfortunately, lacking confidence is one of the most common reasons why people won’t even want to spend time talking to you. If you don’t look like you know what you are talking about, gym members are just going to think you are trying to sell them something rather than being genuinely able to help them with their training.
This is purely a matter of experience and time, keep talking to people, keep training them and learn from every mistake. Stick with it, confidence comes with time, don’t quit before you give yourself the chance to experience it.
They are unrealistic
I’m not really sure who’s to blame for this one, but I see more and more trainers coming into the industry thinking they are going to be making £50,000 – £100,000 a year.
Now, this is possible, as you can read in my article How To Easily Earn 100K A Year As A Personal Trainer, but it is certainly the exception and not the rule. It’s probably down to all the social media where personal trainers are seen driving Ferraris and living incredible lifestyles, not to mention the fact that if you are earning £50 an hour, you can easily make £4-5K a month right?
Well, yes you can, but you won’t always make that much because you’ll get new clients and lose clients, you’ll miss sessions, your clients will miss sessions and you’ll have to pay hundreds of pounds of rent each month too.
All things considered, on paper, it’s kind of easy to make a ton of cash, but in reality, it’s a lot harder.
When you’re starting, set your bar pretty low, aim to cover your costs for the first few months and work on slowly building your client base. Once you have an established client base that you are confident will stay with you for the foreseeable future, start to increase the number of sessions you complete each week so you can start to make a decent income from it.
This is now your job, not a get-rich-quick scheme, don’t stress yourself out by trying to get fifty clients in your first few weeks.
They aren’t using the correct training styles
This ones’ kind of up to you as a trainer, but I think it’s really important to decide on training styles that will fit your clients, whilst still enabling maximum progress.
For most clients, I would use periodized training programs that consisted of endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power cycles. Most of my clients got a lot out of this style of training, but I also had clients who were either too injured to consider doing a power phase or were too old and would possibly get injured if I tried to complete it with them.
Just going through the motions and giving everyone the same style of training isn’t really what being a coach or personal trainer is all about, the idea is that it’s personal, tailored to them.
If your client says they have cruciate ligament damage but still want to train, you are going to need to change your training styles to accommodate them.
I hope this is obvious, but it’s crazy how many times I’ve seen trainers in gyms making people train in styles that they clearly weren’t ready for or just plain hated doing.
They didn’t do any research
I’m totally guilty of making this mistake myself, which is why I couldn’t leave it off this list.
When I first moved from being an employed trainer to going freelance, I was so excited to be finally running my own business with my own rules and income, that I really didn’t pay any attention to the location or types of members in the gym I was moving to.
I ended up moving to a gym that had only been open for a few weeks (a positive I initially thought) that also ended up being primarily used by the students in the large apartment complex that had been built above it.
Students who not only didn’t want a personal trainer but also couldn’t afford one even if they did. I lasted about six months in that place before I realized I needed to get out quick if I was ever going to stand a chance of making an income.
The moral of this story? Research the location of the gym you’re interested in to see if there are people in that area that can afford and want a trainer. If there’s nothing around but students, maybe find somewhere else.
Learn from my mistake!
They don’t build rapport
Ok, so I’ve already said that you need to develop your people skills to become a decent trainer that doesn’t end up being one of the 90% that quit in their first year, but how is building rapport different from improving people skills?
Building rapport with someone is so much more than standard people skills. When you build rapport with a person, you are gaining their trust, understanding, and most importantly, their friendship.
Clients don’t train with people they don’t like and trust me, and they certainly won’t buy from you if they can’t trust you.
Learning how to build rapport with gym members that allow you to approach them for training, then learning how to develop that rapport even further whilst they are training with you will make it easy for you to keep clients training with you for years.
I’m still friends with several of my clients who I trained over a decade ago, so it goes to show that learning this skill is vital if you want to succeed in the business, and learning how to make friends is a life skill that you will always be able to benefit from.
They listen to other trainers
There’s always that one trainer (or in some cases, several trainers) who are going to really enjoy telling you just how much the gym you have just started your business in sucks!
They will tell you that there aren’t any clients, no one can afford to train and there are no new members coming in.
But, there will also always be a few trainers in that gym that have full diaries and are making a ton of cash, so how can this make sense?
It doesn’t, they probably just suck at selling or they were terrible trainers. Once they’ve been turned down a few times, they lose faith and start to think it’s all the gym’s fault they are failing.
Look around you, see if there are successful trainers in your gym, if there are, talk to those guys and ignore the naysayers. Don’t let other people discourage you, especially if you have just started somewhere new.
They didn’t organise their finances
Ok, so you might know what your gym rent is going to cost you, but what about all your other expenses?
If you don’t make sure you can cover your gym rent, your travel costs, your insurance, house rent, and any other expenses you can very quickly find yourself in hot water.
I know how it feels when you start paying rent, it’s pretty scary, and adding all your other expenses to this figure only makes things worse. However, this is all part of running your own business.
Making sure you can cover all your costs and still have enough to make a profit is a vital part of running any business, but it’s something that newer trainers forget, or don’t even realize they need to do.
Again, what you are running as a personal trainer is a business, but being a PT is often not thought of in this way. You would never dream of opening up a shop or a restaurant without making sure you had all your figures correct, so why would you with a fitness business?
They give up
The final, but most important point, is that young trainers give up too easily.
It’s very easy to see why with all the points listed above trainers new to the industry don’t last more than a year, there is so much to take into account and so much potential stress and concern from starting a business.
I really think the main reason there are approx. 476.1 trainers quitting the industry each year is because they are simply unprepared for what they are getting themselves into.
How many 18-year-olds do you hear of starting their own businesses and being successful? Not many right? So why would we expect anything different with personal training businesses?
The training providers have a lot to answer for here, and I really think if they put more effort into teaching their students about how to successfully run a business, or at least explaining the importance of researching business practices, we would not have the 90% dropout rate that we do in the fitness industry.
Don’t let this be the reason you quit personal training, put in the research, you can succeed, and you will if you treat it as the business it is!
476.1 trainers quit in the UK each year, this is a stat that could very easily be lowered considerably by reading the tips I have mentioned in this article, making sure you put the advice into practice and most importantly do lots of research before starting your personal training the business, or any business for that matter.
I’m confident that you won’t become part of this statistic, and hopefully, by the very fact you have read this article, you should now be armed with the advice you need to make sure you can succeed as a personal trainer.
Go get ’em!
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