Passing your exams and gaining your certification is just the first step into the world of personal training, one of the most important things for you to learn next is how to get more personal training clients!
Picking up your first customer certainly gives you a buzz, but if you want to be a success, you’re going to want to get your diary filled up asap. In this article, I will be listing out 24 options, so you can start making some serious income.
Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll be covering in this article
- How walking the gym floor can be a potential gold mine
- How teaching classes can land you dozens of new customers
- How to leverage social media to fill your books
- How to use your current customer base to help make you more money
This is only a very small glimpse into what we will be covering today. There are a full 20 additional tips you can use to get a ton of personal training customers working with you and paying you a substantial income. There’s so much more to learn, so keep reading!
1. Walking the gym floor
Walking the gym floor is first on the list because it is, without a doubt, the most effective way of finding personal training clients fast in any fitness facility.
It is unfortunately probably the most intimidating for most trainers, especially those new to the career.
Don’t worry about this, there are plenty of people that you will talk to that have no idea what they are doing and are practically begging someone to come and help them.
You will need to talk to a lot of people in a day to make sure you can fill up your diary with complimentary sessions, so I suggest being in the gym from the moment it opens to the second the doors shut for the first few weeks.
You won’t be doing this all the time, or you will get burnt out, but you will need to be talking to people all day if you want to pick up those personal training customers.
I found it helpful to give myself a target of the number of people I had spoken to each day before I would allow myself to leave the gym.
When I first started, I wouldn’t let myself leave the gym until I had spoken to at least 50 people per day.
2. Training the sales staff
No one has better access to new members than the sales staff (apart from the fitness team), and yes, this may be a bit of a sneaky way to get clients but trust me, it’s worked in every gym I have started in as a new trainer.
There are plenty of people that want a personal trainer as soon as they join the gym, so who do they go to?
Well, all leads should go to the personal training manager to be handed out to trainers, usually, the newer ones that need a helping hand.
This doesn’t always happen though (I won’t get into gym politics), so why not cut out the middle-man and take the leads directly from the sales staff before the PT manager even hears about them?
You can’t just ask the sales staff to give you the leads, especially if you are new, because they probably have a good rapport with the PTs that have been working there.
You will need to “grease the wheels” a little by offering to train them.
From my experience, sales staff seem to really like being trained by PTs, perhaps because they know they are getting a premium service for free.
Either way, give them a great workout and explain that you will keep training them for free in exchange for leads.
It’s great, it works and it’s super easy.
3. Market yourself properly
As soon as you join a new gym as a trainer, the company will almost certainly insist that you have photos taken for your profile board.
They will also ask you about your areas of expertise and qualifications etc, this is a standard part of personal training marketing offered in gyms.
My first piece of advice here is to try and make your board stand out amongst all the other fitness professionals in your facility.
Saying that you specialize in weight loss and muscle building is a bit of a waste of time because every other board up there will say the same thing.
Even if you do mostly want to train those types of clientele, do your best to find a way of wording your profile that makes it stand out. So, instead of “Weight loss” as an area of expertise, how about “Accelerated body fat loss systems“?
It just sounds so much more interesting and will grab people’s attention far better than the standard boring fitness stuff most trainers will use.
The second piece of advice is to not rely on your profile board, at all!
The suggestion above will help, but please do not rely on your board, it is very rare that you will get anyone coming up to you because of it.
Instead, create your own board that you can place in the changing rooms with your business cards (more on these later) in a holder next to it.
Explain what you can do, and if you have any experience, put that on there too.
You need to really sell yourself as a trainer, and people are much more likely to read your profile board if it’s in a nice quiet changing room than on a busy gym floor.
4. Volunteer to teach classes
Let’s be clear about this, I do not mean that you should start teaching Bodypump classes, etc, as that’s an entirely different aspect of the fitness industry.
Instead, I want you to ask your managers if you are allowed to teach classes on the gym floor at peak times of the day.
My first suggestion would be abs classes, everyone loves abs classes, and you are sure to get a decent turnout for these if people are made aware of them.
Plan your area out on the gym floor, preferably in a place where lots of people will see the class, this class is effectively acting as an advert for your services as a trainer, so you want as many people to see it as possible.
Go to the speaker system and announce to the whole gym that there will be a twenty-minute abs class on the gym floor at whatever time you set it for.
Five minutes before the class is set to begin, remind everyone again to maximize your class turnout.
So, here’s where it gets interesting!
Just teaching a fitness class is not good enough, the members will say thanks and walk away. We don’t want that!
So, give them a twenty-minute class that is brutal, really makes them feel it in their abs, and doesn’t go easy on them at all. Tell them if they need to take a break they can, but otherwise, just keep going.
Then, at the end of the class, you take out a big stack of your business cards and hand them out to everyone in the class. Let them know that if they liked your class and would like any more advice on anything, to give you an email or a phone call.
This works SO well, as long as your class is great, within a few weeks of doing your classes at the same time each day/week, you will create a following and become almost famous.
You will get inquiries about personal training from this if you do it right, it’s something that is usually carried out by the fitness team but grab onto it as it’s a great opportunity to meet members.
5. Build rapport with gym members
This tip involves playing the long game, as it might not get you personal training customers instantly, but over time, you’ll see it makes picking them up much easier.
You should make it your mission to ensure that every member in the gym knows you by name. You can do this by saying hi to people as they come into the gym and introduce yourself, walking the gym floor and sparking up conversations without asking for anything in return, and announcing yourself at the start and end of classes.
The point is, you want to be the first name that comes to mind when any gym member even starts to consider talking to a personal trainer about anything at all.
Whilst it might be tempting to try to turn each of these events into an opportunity to gain some consultation sessions, I urge you not to. Gym members will be pleasantly surprised that you weren’t pushy, and genuinely wanted to help them or have a conversation with them.
Sit back, make friends with everybody, and you can wait for them to start coming to you, which I can assure you, is an awesome feeling.
6. Be available but look busy
There’s a tricky balancing act to this point in your career.
Nobody wants to train with a quiet trainer, just like no one wants to eat at a quiet restaurant. So, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to be seen standing on the gym floor or fitness center looking around or on your phone.
If you are walking the gym floor, walk it, speak to people, and get away from the floor for a while. Don’t let people see you walking around aimlessly, or it makes it obvious you are a new or quiet trainer.
In your gym diary, (or your phone most likely) you should have some fake names written into your diary.
Book these false sessions into time slots that are very unpopular, 9:30 am to 3 pm, etc. This way, when you are booking a member into a complimentary session, you will not open your diary to completely blank spaces. This would not look good and might put off the member from even attending.
There’s nothing wrong with doing this, it’s the same thing that buskers do in city centers.
No one wants to be the first one to put money into a busker’s hat or bucket, it’s just a strange social issue we all have. So, they put a few coins in the hat or bucket to show that others have done it before you (even if they haven’t really).
Putting a few false names in your diary gives you the appearance of being busy and that other people trust in you enough to be paying for sessions, but also shows that you are available enough to be able to take them through a complimentary session.
7. Do not use your gym’s personal trainer business cards
This is going to be a short point, but an important one.
Do not use the business cards that your gym hands out to you when you become a PT there.
It may sound like a great part of the package when you sign up as a trainer in a particular gym, but remember what I said about not using the same information as everyone else on the profile boards?
The business cards I have been given by gyms have always been generic, uninspiring, and more importantly, more of an advert for the gym than my services.
There is very rarely anything stopping you from using your own business cards, so do some research, and get yourself some clean, minimal, and most of all professional-looking business cards so that you can stand out against all the other PTs using the same boring cards.
Every little helps!
8. Create a fantastic personal trainer website
From what I have seen, it appears that some fitness trainers think that as long as they have a website that says their name and has a contact form, their work is done.
Creating a boring website with no content and just a picture of yourself and one testimonial is going to achieve nothing.
Instead, you should stump up some cash and pay for a professional to make your website for you unless you are incredibly proficient in website design.
Your site needs to have plenty of testimonials, and pages explaining what you do as a trainer and where you can offer your services.
It will be worthwhile looking into something called local SEO in order to make sure all your efforts in promoting yourself are directed towards your local area and not the entire country.
Seeing you have a few thousand hits per day to your site may be great for your ego, but what is the point in selling your services to someone that lives 600 miles away?
Focus on your local area and make sure everyone that is looking for a PT that lives near you sees you as their first option. You can focus on learning about something called “Google My Business“, which allows you to set up your business page online and show people in your local area your site.
Show your prices!!
Every trainer’s website I see has a tab that says “Prices”, you click on this page only to read that to see the prices you need to email them directly.
Great stuff, you’ve just lost a customer, and why? Because if you say “Message for prices” you appear to be hiding something, this makes people think your prices must be high and that the trainer is ashamed or scared to show them.
Instead, be completely transparent about how much your sessions cost by showing the training packages you offer. This way, people who can’t afford you will leave your site, but people that can contact you, it just doesn’t make any sense to me to hide your prices.
Using a restaurant as an example, would you be nervous to walk into one that doesn’t show the prices on the menus outside or on their site? I know I would be, and I almost certainly wouldn’t go there in case I got stuck with a £600 bill at the end of my meal.
Using social media can be a great option in the same way that using Google my business is.
A quick caveat to social media usage is that it can be both very fruitful and entirely pointless at the same time.
For example, you will see plenty of resources saying that building up a following on Instagram is a great way to get your face out there and your fitness brand recognized. That’s great, and I have no doubt that if you want to get your face recognized and be on people’s screens, then Instagram is a great way to do it.
If instead, you want to get personal training customers, I would suggest using social media as advertising platforms for your business.
Facebook ads let you be laser focussed on the types and locations of people you target for your adverting campaigns, which means no wasted money advertising yourself to people who would never be interested in training.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire someone else to do it for you
I will be the first to admit that I am not a massive social media junky, and I also know that younger generations go crazy for it. If you are in your early twenties, chances are you are probably fantastic at managing your social media accounts, and followers and are probably posting tons of content each day.
If instead you are more like me and wouldn’t really know where to start (apart from Facebook ads, which are great btw), then I would really recommend hiring a social media manager to do it all for you.
Let an expert do what they do best. Have a chat with them and discuss what your ambitions are for your business, and they can discuss how they will be able to help you with outreach and advertising.
Don’t waste months and months of your time trying to learn how to be great at something when you can simply pay someone who is already a master at it. They will probably end up doing a much better job of the work anyway.
10. Create a personal referral network
You don’t ask, you don’t get!
Sitting back and waiting for your customers to refer their friends or family to you is going to result in precisely zero results, it just doesn’t happen.
Instead, create a referral network by making it very clear to your current client base that you have a referral policy where if they refer someone to you, and they sign up for sessions, they will get a reduction on their session prices, a free training session, or whatever you think makes for an appealing offer.
This is an easy sell, as your customers will be doing it for you entirely. They will want some free stuff and if they like the way you are training them, they will be more than happy to sing your praises, which means you’re going into the complimentary session with a seriously warm lead.
11. Submit your fitness business to personal training directories
An old-school method yes and are there tons and tons of people looking through these directories for personal trainers? Maybe not, but when you are trying to find yourself a client base, you need to give yourself every opportunity you can.
Personal training directories are very easy to sign up for, and everyone listed has the chance of being called by someone looking for a trainer.
As I say, they are a little old school, but people of a certain age range might still use them, and remember, middle-aged people tend to be the type of people that can usually afford a personal trainer, so it could be more lucrative than you would initially imagine.
12. Speak to local health-based businesses
In order to be completely transparent, I did this when I first started in the fitness industry as a freelance PT and it landed me around three clients.
However, the ones that I gained all worked for the same company next to the physiotherapist that I had left my business cards in. After a few months, I managed to get several more referrals from these people, and they trained with me for a long time, so it was worth doing which is why I have listed it here.
My advice here would be to spend a little time on this, but not to go too crazy on it.
Focus on maybe three of four businesses near when you train, for example, local physiotherapists or chiropractors, and discuss with them how you can work together to help their clients out.
Explain that you can send customers that require further attention to see them, and in exchange, if they have their own clientele where weight loss or gaining muscle would help to improve their condition, they would send them to you.
It would be a mutually beneficial situation that would assist both businesses.
13. Offer free group workshops
Next time you are in the gym, take a look around at the equipment that’s being used. Are the vibration plates being used by anyone? the sandbags? or how about the Kettlebells?
At any given point, you will see a whole lot of really interesting pieces of equipment being used by no one. Many gym members will stick to machines, and maybe free weights if they know how to use them, but stuff gets ignored because most people have no idea how to use it and they are embarrassed to ask someone for a demo.
You can be that someone!
Offer free workshops on some of the lesser used kit and advertise them around the gym floor and reception area. You can either have the sessions as quick ten-minute demos where you can show how to use it and answer questions, or, you can set up 15-20 min workout sessions to get people using the kit themselves.
The benefit to you that comes from this is that you will be one of the only PTs in the gym doing this, which means you are offering something no one else does. It’s also a perfect opportunity for you to introduce yourself to a whole bunch of new people.
From that point on, you will always be the guy or girl who they learned how to use a kettlebell from (for example), and sticking in people’s minds is a great thing.
14. Get GP referral qualifications and speak to local doctors
A little underused tip here is to get your qualifications to enable you to take GP referrals.
Approach local GP surgeries and suggest that if they come across patients that are facing health issues due to being overweight or even obese, they can send them your way to get training sessions.
Since 2010, the government has made funds available to cover the costs of improving people’s health with prescribed exercise.
When a GP refers a patient to a trainer for exercise, the NHS will usually cover the costs of the training. You may not be paid as much as you would in private sessions from other members of the public, however, the number of sessions coming your way is nothing to be sniffed at.
It isn’t just weight loss that can bring clientele your way from exercise referral schemes either.
Some of the most common ailments that require exercise referrals are:
- Weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Postural correction
- High cholesterol
As you can see from this list, there is a host of ailments that are very common that can lead a GP to refer a patient of theirs to your services.
This is a qualification that is underused, and discussing your abilities with local GP surgeries is an excellent way to have a steady stream of clientele fed to you.
15. Tell local businesses about what you can offer to a client as a trainer
Different from the point above about contacting local health businesses, this tip is encouraging you to discuss with local companies about your services.
Look at the local businesses in your area and find their phone numbers or email addresses. Contact them to let them know that you run group fitness classes and individual 1-2-1 sessions that could benefit their staff.
It could be worthwhile creating a package that you could send to them that explains why they should consider hiring you to train their staff detailing the benefits that a healthy lifestyle can have on the morale and energy levels of staff, along with the mental health benefits that exercise can offer.
Explain in detail how healthy staff are more productive staff with fewer sick days and how increased energy levels lead to more productive days.
You will really need to sell yourself in these communications, but if you can secure a deal with the owners of the companies, you may just find yourself with a steady flow of either group classes or 1-2-1 sessions with the staff and even the managers themselves.
This is by no means unheard of in the city, and the gyms I used to work with were always giving free classes and health assessments to large companies in order to secure them as members of their gyms. Why not take the initiative and see if you can get them to hire you as the company’s personal trainer?
You might even get invited to the Christmas party if they really like you.
16. Take your business online
Just because you are expanding your reach by becoming an online coach and you have the entire world at your fingertips, doesn’t mean you should start trying to get the entire world to train with you.
You will have a crazy amount of competition from others in the online fitness industry who have probably already got their names out there and have a huge client base. This is going to be pretty tough to compete with.
So, instead, if you are new to being an online trainer, I would recommend that you focus almost entirely on your local area to target to build up your base.
This is much easier as you will reduce your competition and be able to use tools such as “Google my business” to make sure that you are the first thing that appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for people in your local area that are looking for an online training coach.
After you have built up a good client base and have some great reviews and some fantastic testimonials, it may be time to start looking at branching out a little further and maybe starting to focus on your country for a few months or years before expanding once again.
Gently building up your business is much less intimidating than trying to launch yourself worldwide from the start. Advertising yourself with no reviews and an empty client base is going about things very much the wrong way.
If you have already launched your online training business and are struggling to build up a base, why not try scaling things back a little bit?
Take your site back to focus on your local area and use Google my business to build up your credibility and then start to slowly expand again. This will help you build up your credibility.
17. Reach out to every past client
So, maybe one of your customers decided they had enough training and said they needed to stop training with you. So that’s it right? They’re gone forever.
No, don’t let previous clientele disappear, give them a few months, and get back in touch to see how their training is coming along. You’ll be surprised at how many people have fallen back into bad habits and have started to put weight back on or lost the shape you helped them get.
Why not have a discussion with these people to see if they’d like to come back and start training with you again? You could start them off slowly with one session a week, or even only half-hour sessions to help get them back into the rhythm of things.
They trained with you in the past, so there’s nothing to say they won’t do it again.
18. Scout your competition
A surefire way of limiting people’s interest in your services is to price yourself out of a market.
As you are setting up your business, take a look around to scout out who you are competing against.
If your competition is a trainer who has 100,000 followers on Instagram and has been coaching online for five or ten years already, you are going to struggle to compete against them in the same niche or for the same price.
Look around and try to find a gap in the market. Is there something that you think you can offer that no one you have seen is offering?
If you find after your scouting sessions that you are putting yourself into a very large and very competitive market that you are not confident in, I would heavily recommend that you take the advice above and narrow down either the market size you are competing in or find a more specific niche to focus on.
As long as you reduce the competition for yourself, you will have a much easier time picking up new personal training customers.
Once you have gained the reviews, customer base, and experience, you can scout your competition again and see where you are currently at. If you are to the point where you have a good following, you may be able to increase your prices to match your competition.
19. Retain each client you already have
Picking up new clients is much harder than keeping the ones you already have. It’s also a complete nightmare to be forever chasing new prospects to make up for the ones that have recently left you.
Instead, focus on retention methods to keep them training with you for longer. Retention methods can include:
- Using periodized training to keep the workouts fresh and interesting
- Ensure your customers are seeing progress towards their fitness goals
- Building a strong rapport
- Using new and interesting equipment
- Developing training programs that require your instruction and assistance
The list of ways you can keep clients training with you is huge, these are just a few off the top of my head. Making sure you are retaining the people you have will help you reach a full diary much more quickly and will have you bringing in the big bucks.
20. Develop a content marketing strategy
Having a great site is one thing, but you will need to get seriously good at content marketing if you want to get people signing up for online training sessions with you or to find local prospects for your 1-2-1 training.
So, what is content marketing?
Content marketing is writing content around questions people are asking in order to get them to visit your site. Whilst they are on your site, you can advertise your services to them, and they may well sign up if your sales copy is good enough and your prices are competitive enough.
How you go about finding the topics you write about and how to do it successfully is a big topic and one I certainly can’t fully explain in this article, however, my mentors are a couple of guys who call themselves “Income School”, and they have taught me a great deal about writing articles.
I really suggest that you watch some of their videos on YouTube. They will teach you how to find topics, assess your competition, and how to format your articles.
The reason it is so important to write good quality content is that most of your competition won’t be doing it. Yes, it does take a little longer, but the amount of traffic you will get to your site will certainly make it worth the effort. The more people that visit your site, the more chances you have of selling your services.
If you are not a natural writer, do not worry, you will be writing about subjects you are interested in and I am confident that after a little practice, you will be able to get some seriously great content written.
You will need to stump up a little cash in order to get these ads going and also put in the effort and time to build up your followers or build the likes on your Facebook pages, but it can really be worth it.
You will need to be posting frequently, so with Instagram, you might need to be posting 4-5 videos per day and on Facebook, you might need to be adding content at least several times per week to keep your viewers engaged.
Like I suggested in the points above if you want to get clients from social media but are a total technophobe or even just don’t think you have the time or patience, I suggest again that you hire an account manager to do a lot of the hard work for you.
You will still need to make videos and write some content I’m afraid, (there is no escaping that), but a lot of the more tiresome side of things can be handled by someone else, and if you have the resources, why not allow yourself to focus on the more interesting aspects of your marketing campaigns?
22. Copy the greats
Since school, you have had it drilled into you that copying people is wrong or bad.
In a test environment, I would totally agree with this, but from a business point of view, it makes absolute sense to look at your competitors, see what they are doing well and copy that.
I should make it clear that I am not saying that you should copy everything they are doing word for word, that’s a terrible idea and would probably result in a lawsuit. What I am saying, is that you should look to see what has been working for them and see if you can replicate that in your own business.
For example, if you see that they have certain price points between packages they offer or styles of training, these must be what’s working well for them.
If they are well-established trainers, they may have tried several variations of what packages they offer, and even how they deliver their sessions. They may have made tons of mistakes to get where they are today, so why not make sure you don’t make the same mistakes by copying what’s working for them now?
It’s not cheating, I promise, just make sure you just using the same ideas and not outrightly copying someone, that is not what I’m suggesting.
23. Sell the benefits, not the features of your training
People buy on the strength of the benefits they get from a product, not what features it has.
Beefing up the copy for your training packages makes them a lot more exciting and more likely to be bought into.
Instead of offering monthly sessions for £45, state that by signing up for monthly sessions, you will be getting the best value for money package available which means they will be saving x amount of money each month compared to buying bocks of sessions.
Long and short of this point, tell people why buying your products or signing up for your services will benefit them, don’t just tell them how many sessions they get each month.
24. Add an incentive to your training
Sometimes, you’ve just got to grease the wheels a little to get sales, especially when you are first starting out.
Offer something that other trainers don’t, do something that makes you stand out from a sea of other trainers, so if a customer is browsing the web and sees that with your training packages, they get free add-ons, they may be more likely to choose you over your competition.
It can be something small like a resistance band set or the kit they would need to perform their own fitness assessments (tape measures etc). People love a freebie, so a small gesture from yourself can be the difference between making the sale or losing it. Simply stating that if they train with you they will reach their fitness goals is not enough to persuade some people, so give them a little something extra.
So, there you go, that should give you a few ideas on how to pick up personal training clients.
These are the tips that I’ve chosen to add to the list specifically because I know they work. I’ve put a lot of these tips into practice over my career, and I happen to know that they have a pretty good track record of putting sessions in your diary.
I really hope that you can employ these techniques as either a brand-new trainer, or a seasoned one, and whilst working in a gym, freelance, or online.
Go get ’em!
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