“Would you please stop talking for a minute and just…finish…one…set…of…pull ups?” I remembered begging my client. The hour was flying by, and we hadn’t even finished a third of the exercises I’d planned for that day. I was worried that my client would blame me when the hour was up and he didn’t feel like he’d had a hard workout. If I didn’t shut him up and put him to work, pronto, he wouldn’t see results. If he didn’t see results, he wouldn’t continue training with me, and I would lose a substantial chunk of change.
“Sometimes it’s not about the exercise, Sarah,” he said, “Sometimes it’s about spending time with Sarah.”
Ah. So it is.
Trainers and instructors can have extensive knowledge of exercises/routines/tricks, love to work out, and be the most enthusiastic person on the team. But if you don’t learn some of the key elements of the business of training, you’ll be one of the many trainers who struggle to earn a living. According to the University of Texas – Pan American, the average career life of a trainer is a mere two years. Here are some tips to not only beat the odds, but thrive in this growing profession:
- Showcase your personal brand. I despise the term “personal brand” for its overuse in society; people now talk of their personal brand in everything from the shoes they wear, coffee they drink, and what they name their children and pets. However, in the case of fitness careers, your personal brand is a very valid and important concept.
You are the living and breathing embodiment of your fitness philosophy. Whenever a client asks me, “So am I your best client?” my answer is always the same, “No. I’m my best client.” I never (well, almost never) miss a session with me, I stick to a nutritional and sustainable diet (including the occasional cookie), I don’t complain (much) about my workouts, and I never make excuses as to why I can’t work out.
You are not only trying to get people to do something they hate – exercise – but you’re asking them to pay you to do it. If you can’t motivate yourself to exercise and eat right, you can’t expect to motivate anyone else to do it either. Be consistent in your words and actions.
- Tend your flock. Stop spending the bulk of your time trying to get new clients, and focus on the clients you have. According to a study by the Harvard business school (“The Economics of E-loyalty” Harvard Business Review. 07/10/2000), a 5% increase in customer retention rates will, on average, increase profits by 25% – 95%.
Once you have established a client roster, or potential client roster, maintain communication above and beyond the gym/studio walls. Don’t think of your clients as your nine o’clock or your “Tuesday nighter.” Everyone wants to feel important, memorable, and special. It doesn’t take much time or effort to forward an article to a client, send a motivational email, or ask people about their weekend, kids, or event they mentioned. One of my colleagues has a special handshake for each of this clients. That might sound cheesy, but it makes each of his clients feel unique and special. Bottom line, if you show you care about the person more than just the money they’re paying for the session/class, you will create greater client retention and loyalty.
- Always remember this is a business. This career probably stemmed from a hobby. You started lifting weights, Spinning, pole dancing, or running. Perhaps you hired a trainer. One of the great things about the fitness industry is that most people enter it because it has touched their lives and sparked a passion.
Passion, however, does not necessarily lead to good business practices, and most trainers/instructors who fail to thrive in the fitness industry do so not because they’re bad at training/teaching, but because they’re bad at the business of training. As with every business, you need to establish work hours, look and behave in a professional manner, be educated about all aspects of your product, create a marketing strategy, develop a sales pitch, have first rate customer service, and update products or unveil new products (new exercises/workout equipment/certifications). Don’t limit yourself to reading health and fitness articles and journals. Some of the best information I’ve gleaned about the training industry has come from business magazines such as “Entrepreneur,” “Forbes,” and “Inc.”
The fitness industry is an exciting, growing industry. Statistics indicate that the jobs in the fitness industry will increase approximately 23% in the next decade. Personal trainer and instructor jobs are the main reason behind this increase. These jobs are expected to grow almost 32% in the next 15 years (http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_109.htm). By merging your passion for fitness and good business sense, you can create a career/business that will not only survive, but thrive, in a very competitive industry.