How to Be a Personal Trainer – The Costs, the Benefits, and Getting and Keeping Clients
Web Md says the hottest trend in fitness in 2013 was to have an educated, qualified, certified personal trainer. Granted, that was quite a few years ago, but it is still relevant today. With increased attention being put on the positive effects of physical activity on the body and the mind, more and more people are turning to personal trainers to meet their physical fitness goals.
Skills of a Successful Personal Trainer
There are both hard and soft skills involved in becoming an effective personal trainer. It’s not just about being in top shape, although that does help, of course. You also need customer service skills as well as some intuition regarding how to relate to your clients. They are putting themselves in your hands for the duration of their workout and trusting you to get the results they want and understand the best way to get there.
Most people do not like exercising. They have fitness goals for their own reasons, and it is up to you to help them healthily achieve those goals. Below I’ve broken down some of the most desired qualities of a personal trainer.
One of the most important qualities of a personal trainer or fitness trainer is empathy. Can you relate to your clients? Are you going to push them to their limits or what you think should be their limits? As a personal trainer, you will be meeting all types of clients, not just those who are fit and/or injury-free.
Potential clients will generally respond much better to a trainer who understands not just the what of their physical fitness condition but also the why. Knowing when to be tough and knowing when to back off and be gentle is important.
It will directly lead to your fitness clients not only enjoying working out with you but also trusting you as they will see that you truly understand them and won’t let them get hurt during the workout.
There are many gyms and health clubs that take this issue seriously and demand that their trainers and coaches also do.
Chances are, if you’re looking at becoming a personal trainer, you are passionate about fitness and have made it a huge part of your life. You don’t need to be an elite athlete but practicing what you preach is a huge part of motivating your clients.
Also, having a history of being fit for a long time will give you the experiential knowledge necessary to give your clients sound advice. Walking the walk will make your clients trust in your ability to transfer your knowledge to them.
The ability to meet your own fitness goals shows potential clients that you can get results. Having enthusiasm about those goals and what it takes to get there will make the training process more enjoyable for both your client and you.
Knowledge and Education
This is important. A reputable certification program with an exam by a trusted certifying body will show that you are dedicated to your craft. Clients want to know that you know to really get the results they want, without injuring them.
Knowing your way around exercise physiology combined with a solid history of reaching your own fitness goals will really give you the skills you need to be a successful personal trainer.
The skills and education a qualified personal fitness trainer needs are specialized. Understanding how the body works and modifying the workout routine accordingly is one of the most important skill sets a personal trainer can possess.
In order to do this, you will need to find the program that suits what area of fitness training you want to target. Group fitness and one-on-one fitness programs will usually be taught separately, so you will need to research your program and make sure you are paying for the one that will allow you to reach your goals.
Although technically, you don’t need a background in health or fitness education or even certification as a personal trainer to work as one, it will definitely give you that competitive edge when it comes to getting a job. Many gyms and health clubs require it, and if you would prefer to start your own personal fitness training business, it will help you attract clients and lower your insurance rates.
Certification to become a fitness trainer can be highly specialized, with particular programs focusing on group fitness, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Depending on the program you choose, different elements will be addressed, such as nutrition, injury prevention, and communication with your clients. There will be studios, clubs, and gyms that will only accept particular types of certification, so be sure to research what, exactly, the course you are looking at is offering.
Besides a certification in the type of fitness training you are interested in practicing, many employers will be impressed with fitness-related post-secondary education. Education in fields such as kinesiology, fitness and health promotion, nutrition science, and sports management will definitely give you a leg up and show your dedication and enrich your knowledge and ability to help potential clients.
You will also want to make sure you are CPR and First Aid certified and trained and certified to use an automatic external defibrillator or AED. This will give you an edge when applying for personal training jobs, and many gyms will not hire a personal trainer without these safety qualifications.
Certain accreditation bodies are more readily accepted than others. For instance, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA), National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) are the three that are preferred by most gyms and health clubs.
These are most trusted as they have the best reputation for turning out fitness trainers who have been proven to have the body of knowledge necessary to properly teach and motivate fitness clients while also having sufficient familiarity with musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems.
Be sure that you will get the most out of the program you choose by making sure you pick one that is certified by one of the above bodies.
As mentioned above, there are many different types of fitness training programs designed for the many different types of fitness training. Because of this, there is no short answer to the question, “what does a fitness trainer course entail?”
What Kind of Job Will Fitness Training Certification Help Me Find?
As a fitness trainer, you can expect to be employable in many different settings, as long as you have the right qualifications. For instance, many yoga and pilates studios will only take a trainer who has been through certification specific to that practice.
If you are looking to be employed at a gym or health club, you may be able to teach yoga or Pilates classes as well as group fitness classes or weight training without having those particular certifications, as long as you can demonstrate that you are proficient in those areas and possess the knowledge that will allow you to teach clients safely.
Job opportunities will vary depending on your education and experience. For instance, you can use your early personal fitness training career as a springboard to earning a Ph.D. in Sports Administration, which will take you out of the gym and into the boardroom, analyzing and creating policy on such topics as diversity in sports, marketing, staffing, and team dynamics.
There are many different exciting career paths you could take after earning your personal trainer certification. As mentioned above, post-secondary degrees in nutrition, kinesiology, fitness, and health promotion, and other areas of study all tie into fitness training and enrich your ability to be a comprehensive fitness trainer and open doors to later career paths.
How To Build Your Clientele
This will depend on what kind of training you have and what you want to offer to your clientele. Yes, you will need to advertise. You may be a fitness nut who loves to help people and have the ideal fitness education, but you won’t be making any money if you can’t attract clientele.
Step 1: Know What You Offer
What, exactly, is your education? What are you trained in? What is your specialty? Are you able to offer diet and nutrition advice along with planning a fitness routine for your clients? You need to find a way to show that you can benefit your client’s lives and help them reach their goals.
Step 2: Know Your Target Audience
As stated above, you need empathy and experience to be a successful personal trainer. Knowing the ins and outs of the clients you wish to train is an integral part of this. There are many groups of specialized fitness clients out there: pregnant women and postpartum clients, senior’s movement, children’s classes, and then you will also have specialized movements such as Zumba, aerobic exercise, yoga, Pilates, and strength training. Many of these groupings will require a deep, specialized knowledge as well as particular certification.
Step 3: Stay True To Your Brand
Yes, it’s exciting to learn new skills, and continued education can be a valuable asset. However, if you want to build a loyal clientele, you’ve got to develop a program or programs to build your reputation.
Lots of trainers get new clients by word of mouth. If you’ve created a niche market, stick with it. It’s okay to branch out once you’ve got your business going, to test the waters and see if you can build your business even more, but don’t forget who your core clientele are.
Is Getting My Personal Trainer Certification Worth It?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect to take home around $40,000 per year as a personal fitness trainer. Job growth is projected at 15% from 2019 to 2029, which is a much faster growth rate than the median.
Additional post-secondary education aside, getting certified costs anywhere between $300 – $800, which means that you stand to make your investment back within the first month.
According to personal trainer and coach Eric C. Stevens, getting hired by a gym or health club isn’t the issue, as he says: “The barriers to entry for becoming a trainer are few compared to other professions that require years of education and experience.
Also, companies have to invest little to hire personal trainers. These jobs are almost universally part-time and mostly without benefits. Additionally and significantly, like 100% commission sales jobs, companies don’t have to pay trainers unless they sell their services. Many gyms continue to add trainers in droves at little cost to themselves.”
This means that you will have to work as a trainer and as a sales rep for your personal training skills. Once you’ve signed on at a gym or club, you will need to start getting clients. Your hours will depend on not just the gym’s hours but also your clients’ hours. Expect to work weekends, evenings, and early mornings.
Owning Your Own Personal Training Business
Another option is starting your own business as a personal trainer. This can have many benefits, as you can make your own hours, rules, and goals, and you will have no one to answer to but your clients and yourself. It is an increased responsibility, however, with many elements to consider, such as:
- Owning/renting a space or using an already existing gym or studio
- Marketing to attract clientele to your business
- Hiring additional trainers and other employees
There are additional elements to consider. Aside from certification, which gives your clients peace of mind and confidence that you know what you are doing, you will need to protect yourself with insurance. This may seem like something that is an “extra,” but it is actually very important. You wouldn’t suggest that a client start working out without protecting themselves by warming up first, don’t start your business without protecting yourself by getting insured first.
The Best Insurance for a Personal Training Business
There are many reasons why you could need insurance as a personal trainer. Damage to your equipment, an injured client, an injured employee, or even a client who is not satisfied with the service you supplied and wants their money back. All of these are worst-case scenarios, but if you own your own business, you need to protect your investment.
In some states, you may be required to have insurance to maintain your license. It is best to have both general and liability insurance, as you will want to protect both yourself and your business from any and all contingencies.
The cost of your insurance will vary depending on what type of fitness business you are running, whether or not you have employees, if you own your own location or if you are running your business out of someone else’s gym.
General Liability Insurance
This type of insurance will cover you if there is a claim of bodily injury against you and your company. You, of course, will have waivers that your clients will need to sign before you begin training them, but you will also need insurance in case a client becomes injured and decides to pursue a lawsuit against your company. A client could potentially sue for coverage of medical costs and even lost wages, and you will need to be prepared for this.
Professional Liability Insurance
Does it seem excessive if you already have general liability insurance? It’s not. This type of insurance is sometimes called errors and omissions coverage and can protect you from being sued for something you should have or shouldn’t have done.
Online Personal Training
This is the latest trend in fitness training. And the reasons are these:
- If you’re a personal trainer and become injured, you could be wiping out your earning potential while healing.
- Life is getting busier and busier. Fitness clients have less time to go to the gym, and more and more people are choosing to work out at home but still need the guidance of a trainer.
- Being online gives you the potential to reach clients all over the world.
- With software and pre-recorded workouts, you could potentially be in two places at once: training a client in-person, as well as training clients online.
As mentioned above, you need to find a niche market. What can you give your clients that no one else can? What is going to make you stand out from the crowd of other online personal trainers that are also seeking to make money from clients who could potentially be your own?
This is going to depend on your training, certification, and experience, but here is a quick list of ideas:
- Prenatal and/or Postpartum
- Postpartum with diastasis recti
- Those with a physical disability
- Injury rehab
- Kids’ fitness
You can also take a look at what your clients’ goals are. Fat loss, gaining strength, general health, and sports performance are the four sub-groups you can divide potential clients into. Figure out what you will gain the most satisfaction out of offering.
If you love training athletes and have the experience and qualifications to help rehab athletes and get them back into top shape after an injury, make that your niche market. If you have children yourself and can help moms stay healthy during pregnancy and after, that is a huge market you can tap into.
It’s not necessary to whittle your specialization down so far that you are alienating potential clients, but clients will want to feel confident that you are the answer to their fitness issues. Most people will have specific goals, and if you represent yourself as having the ability to help them achieve those specific fitness goals, you will be able to start to attract clients successfully.
After you’ve decided on your niche market, you then need to market yourself. Sales may not be your thing, but if you want to make money as a personal trainer, you will need to sell your services. Again, simplicity is the best way to go. Focus on who your target audience is, and make sure your marketing campaign is attractive to them.
You will then need a program that is easy to follow. As mentioned above, most of your fitness clients will not love exercising, It will be a small part of their lives, and they will need your help to make it quick, simple, and as easy to access and fun as possible. You will need software and a formula to help your clients achieve their fitness goals.
Is Getting My Personal Trainer Certification Worth It?
Short answer: yes. Not all gyms, studios, or health clubs require certification, but most do, and it will show potential clientele that you are serious enough and passionate enough about the job that you pursued certification. Not only that, it will give both employers and clients more confidence in your ability to successfully guide clients to their fitness goals, injury-free.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
The gold standard in fitness certification are courses accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA), the National Board of Fitness Examiners (NBFE), and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). Be sure that it is accredited by one of the above bodies when you invest in a fitness or personal training certification course. It also helps to have post-secondary education in sports, health, or fitness-related field, but it is not necessary.
How Much Does a Personal Trainer Make?
According to the BLS, personal trainers make an average of around $40,000 per year. You can make much more or much less than this, as the amount you make is directly dependent on where you work and how many clients you have.
Is Being a Personal Trainer Worth It?
Depending on which certification course you take, becoming a personal trainer can cost anywhere between $300-$800. You also have to look at retesting costs and continued learning. Insurance, rent if you own your own business, and costs of equipment, software, and paying employees are all things to consider.
What Hours Does a Personal Trainer Work?
Most of your clients will have weekday jobs, so that means if you want to become a personal trainer, you will be working when they are not. Weekends, evenings, and early mornings are your time to shine.
If your focus is online training, this can mean that your hours are whenever you want them to be, as you will be able to pre-record workouts and examples of how to safely work out but be aware that you will probably not be able to enjoy every weekend and evening to yourself.
How Can I Become an Online Personal Trainer?
Becoming an online personal trainer is not so different from training clients at a gym, studio, or health club. You need to market yourself as a capable and effective personal trainer. What are your qualifications? What are you really good at?
Make sure you highlight those skills and target your audience. Don’t reach too widely, People want to know that you can target specific concerns, such as injury rehab, strength building, or fat loss.
How Do Personal Trainers Attract Clients?
To attract and keep clients as a personal trainer or fitness instructor, you will need to focus on a niche market. Most clients fall into four basic categories: Weight loss, muscle gain, athletic training, or injury rehabilitation. Find what you’re best at and focus on that. Then figure out what kind of clientele you want to attract.
Some parents want to whittle down their mom-and-dad bods, those with limited movement abilities, seniors, kids, all sorts of groups. Once you find your niche market, you will need to sell your abilities to those people.
In the end, if fitness and helping people are your passions, pursuing a career in personal fitness training could be a good choice for you.
Because of the variety of places you could end up working, including in your own home or online, there is a huge difference in the amount of money personal trainers make, when they work, how much they work, and what kind of work they do.
Find the type of fitness you have a passion for and what type of potential client you want to help to reach their fitness goals. Good luck!