Personal training is a young person’s game, right? You’ll need to be fit and healthy and work fifteen hours each day in a full-time job just to make ends meet, so you can’t do that forever, at some you’ll have to quit and get a “real” job.
The above is nonsense, I want you to know this before we start. In this article, I will be directly addressing the question, “Is personal training a long-term career?“, and I’ll show you exactly how you can carry on being a PT well into your sixties and into retirement age!
As a general rule, personal training can be a long-term career. You’ll need to focus on client retention, become a master at your craft, and change location and training style when required. You may also wish to work as a training consultant if you have less energy in your later years.
We all know the score, you walk into a big commercial box gym and what do you see? fifteen to twenty personal trainers, and not a single one of them looking a day over 30.
So what does this mean? Where are all the older PTs and fitness instructors? Surely they must exist, or do trainers all have to quit and do something different when they start to get towards 40?
Well, the good news is that you can carry on being a trainer well into your sixties, but your venue and client type may need to change just a little.
So, below are (In no particular order) some of my top tips on how you can enjoy a long-term and importantly, a great career as a personal trainer and help people achieve their goals well into your eighties.
How to have a long career as a personal trainer
- Focus on client retention
- Work hard whilst you’re young
- Slow things down when you’re older
- Save for retirement
- Pay yourself first
- Become an expert in your training style
- Train people in your age bracket
- Change location when required
- Make use of passive income
- Become a training consultant
- Become a master salesperson
- Encourage monthly contracts
Focus on client retention
What’s the easiest way of keeping a consistent income from personal training? Keeping the clients you’ve already got!
Focus on getting your clients used to the idea of training with you for several months at a time. It’s tricky to get people to commit to several years, but convincing them that need to train for several months to see maximal results is easier than you would imagine.
By training the same clients for longer, they will achieve better results, give you better reviews and give you more referrals. You’re also better able to take better stock of your finances, and if you are considering continuing your personal training career into retirement age, you’ll want to be able to predict what’s coming in and going out month by month.
Keeping your clients for as long as possible also makes your job as a PT a lot less stressful, as you won’t have to spend a quarter of each day walking the gym floor trying to fill up empty session slots. Of course, you will need to give them pretty great results so they want to continue with you, and I’m sure you will.
Work hard whilst you’re young
Getting up at 4am and working 12 hour days is seriously hard no matter what your age. However, I can guarantee it’s much easier to do in your 20’s than it is in your forties, fifties, or even sixties.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you’re still going to have to work hard in your later years, but don’t waste the money you can be making preparing for your retirement in your younger years. Work hard, smash out as many sessions as you can (within reason, don’t make yourself ill), and put that money away.
Later on in life, you are going to need to slow down and complete fewer sessions each week, so whilst you have the energy, you should work as hard as you can without burning out to take advantage of all that youthful energy you have.
It’s really important to note here that you should make sure you have a fun life too. Set aside some “fun money” so that you can enjoy your youth, you only get one of them, but remember that you need to be very sensible if you are planning on doing this role for your whole life.
Slow things down when you’re older
Slowing things down might sound like I’m telling you to make less money, after all, the more sessions you deliver the more money you make right?
Well, not necessarily. As I previously said, as you get older you really won’t be able to wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning for dawn training sessions with your clients. That’s not to say that you can’t deliver fewer sessions and charge a lot more for them!
With age, you gain experience, and people are going to be much more willing to pay more for a trainer with years and years of experience over a younger person who only passed their certification course the previous weekend.
By the time you get to a point where you feel the need to deliver fewer sessions each week, you will probably have become very well established in the community you have been working in.
Shifting your diary around so that you’re working fewer hours, starting later in the day and finishing earlier is actually pretty easy if people understand that you are a seasoned and very experienced trainer, they’ll do whatever they can to change their own dairies so you can train them.
Having age and experience on your side when working in a career that is commonly filled with young people gives you a rather strong advantage.
Save for retirement
If you are working as a self-employed personal trainer, it’s seriously important that you remember that you need to be putting away money each and every month to use as your pension when you’re finally done with training people.
When you’re employed by a company, they automatically deduct part of your monthly wages to put into your pension pot. When you’re self-employed, you’ll need to do this yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in enjoying your money whilst you have it, but make sure you are budgeting carefully and putting away as much extra cash into a retirement fund as you can afford each month.
Despite the fact that personal training can be a long career if you follow the tips in this article, you still may need to retire earlier than people working a desk job, simply down to the physical requirements of the job. It’s much easier to show up to work each day and sit down for ten hours than it is to teach people how to squat and deadlift!
Pay yourself first
Leading on from the previous tip, setting up automatic direct debits that take a specific figure out of your main account and put it straight into a savings account each month is probably the easiest way of keeping track of your finances and making sure you have something saved up for a rainy day.
Some of you reading this might be fantastically organized and great with your finances, others, not so much. If you fall into the second band, I seriously suggest taking on a mindset that is known as “paying yourself first”.
By having money taken out of your account and stored away as soon as you get it, you can relax and know that everything else that you see in your main account for the remainder of the month can be used on food, rent, bills, and fun stuff too.
Become an expert in your training style
Ok, so here’s a great tip on how you are going to keep picking up new clients way into your fifties and sixties, and even better, they will be coming to you instead of you having to “floor walk” for several hours a day.
You need to become a complete master at whatever your style of training is, for example, if you’re into your strength and conditioning, you need to study it constantly, keep up with every major and minor advancement in the field. By doing this, you will become known as the number one trainer in your area for that particular discipline.
Your knowledge in your particular area will make people want to travel for miles around to have you as their coach, and they are going to be more willing to pay more money for your training sessions.
You’ve probably seen in films and tv shows coaches that are in their fifties and sixties training much younger people the techniques involved in the sport, (think boxing and Olympic wrestling coaches).
It may feel strange to be teaching younger people how to exercise, but if you have become a master coach at your chosen discipline, your age and experience become your main selling point, and there’s no reason why you can’t carry on teaching people well up into your eighties.
Train people in your age bracket
Despite the fact that you can become a master of your craft and happily train people several decades younger than you, you may find it more comfortable to train people that are within your own age bracket.
When you’re starting out, you are in all likelihood going to be training people that are ten years or so older than you. People in their thirties and forties are more likely to be able to afford the help of a trainer than a twenty-year-old.
When you get to around forty, you might want to start looking for the older clients in the gym or your local community to train. The reason for this is that they will feel more comfortable and happy to train with someone in their own age bracket than a much younger person.
This is primarily down to the fact that you will be more relatable to your clients. As you age, you will understand the limitations and struggles of older people much better than someone that is several decades younger. An older client may be worried that a younger person wouldn’t understand their issues, and would push them too far or overwork them.
Change location when required
Now, you may get seriously lucky in your career and be able to find one particular location or gym where you can happily train people for as long as you want.
I think this would be pretty rare though, and there’s a very good possibility that you might need to move around a little to find better locations for your training as your career progresses.
For example, if you are working in the city, you might find that the clients you see are mostly in their thirties to forties, which is fine, but when you start to get a little older, you might want to move into visiting peoples homes and training them there.
Remember, most people will retire in their 60’s, so if you carry on working in the city whilst you’re in your sixties yourself, you might find your clients start to dwindle. Being able to visit people’s homes will make them feel far more comfortable, so you may need to consider changing locations at some point.
Of course, you don’t have to move into home visits if this doesn’t sound like something you’d like to do, you can move around the town or city you’re in to find out where the older populations might be exercising.
Make use of passive income
This tip isn’t 100% exclusive to working a long career as a personal trainer, I believe it should be something that every self-employed (or even employed) person should do to supplement their income.
Passive income is money that you make without needing to dedicate any additional time or effort, sounds pretty great right?
Well, it is, it’s awesome!
A very simple way of generating passive income is to buy shares that pay dividends. Each time you get paid your dividends, you re-invest that money and buy more shares so that the next time you get paid, you’ll be paid more, then you re-invest that money, and so on.
As a personal trainer, your income can and will fluctuate, there will be both good and bad times, so preparing yourself for this eventuality is the best way to ensure that you can have a long career without money troubles.
There are other methods of passive income out there, give it a search and you’ll find thousands of ideas, but remember, you should always seek advice from a professional before making any investments. The main takeaway here is that by using passive income, you can reduce your stress and help to keep that pension pot filing up even in the tough times.
Become a training consultant
Here’s an option for you if you still love exercise and fitness, but would rather move away from the irregular hours, and unreliable income. By becoming a training consultant, you can use your years of experience in the fitness industry to teach the next generation of trainers exactly how to be as successful as you’ve been.
Much as you may not have the same feeling of accomplishment that you got from seeing your clients making progress from your training, you can still get the same feeling by teaching people how to succeed and enjoy a long career in a field that you have been passionate about all of your life.
There is a 90% dropout rate of newly qualified trainers each and every year, and making it your goal to reduce that number and teach people how they can enjoy a long career as a personal trainer would be incredibly satisfying.
Become a master salesperson
Like it or not, if you want to succeed as a personal trainer in the long term, you are going to need to get very comfortable asking people for money. It’s not something we usually feel comfortable doing, but if you are offering your expert advice and helping people to make hugely positive changes to their lives, you should never feel bad about asking them for money.
The good news is, the more often you ask for money the less awkward it will feel, and asking for it with confidence will put your clients at ease and will actually make it a lot easier to pick up new clients. People will not feel comfortable paying someone who looks or sounds nervous asking for it, because it makes them seem untrustworthy.
Your age and experience will again play to your advantage later in life as a PT because people will assume that as you have been in the industry for such a long time, you must be good, and will be far more willing to pay for your expertise than a less experienced, younger trainer.
In the early days of your career as a PT, I would advise you to study as much as you can about sales and creating a perfect sales pitch for your training services. Once you have your sales patter down and it’s converting people into clients on a regular basis, you can stick with it for potentially years to come.
You never know, you may even find yourself with a whole new side career teaching trainers how to become expert salespeople!
Encourage monthly contracts
Remember early on in this article when I said that you should encourage people to get used to the idea of training with you for months at a time?
Well, the best way I have found to do this is to stop selling blocks of sessions.
A block of ten or even twenty sessions is finite and means you will either lose the client after the block is complete, or you will have to again go into a sales pitch to keep them. This is no way to conduct your business in the long term.
Instead, you should sell monthly direct debit training that automatically renews each month. This way, the client feels no pressure to stump up a huge chunk of cash, they get used to the outgoings as part of their monthly expenses, and they will continue to train with you for months or years (as long as you can show them great results of course).
Some people will always want to buy blocks of sessions, and there’s not much you can do about that, but I can assure you from my own experience, waking up on the first of the month and seeing that the vast majority of your clients have paid for that month’s training is the least stressful way of running a business I ever experienced.
Make your direct debit sessions ever so slightly cheaper than your block sessions to grease the wheels a little and get more people signing up to them.
So there you have it, personal training can indeed be a long-term career, you certainly don’t have to quit once you reach your forties to start looking for a new one.
If you love the industry you are working in, there’s no reason why you can’t continue it for as long as you want, but you may have to make a few small changes.
I hope this article has answered any questions you had and shown that you can very easily work for pretty much as long as you want in the personal training business.
Have a great day!
Go get ’em!
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