Tips to make it as a trainer

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So, you just received your shiny, new certificate from __________.

Yay! Clients are about to flock and you’re gonna make this career successful!

If you recall the article about the career span of the average trainer, the hours worked weekly vs the income, this fast growing industry also carries a high rate of turn-over. Trainers don’t last, because while that may be the meat of the sandwich, you still need the trimmings to make sure it doesn’t fall apart! I recently polled some of my peers also to get their input as to what made their own careers as trainers last: passion, overdelivering, servicing all populations, continuing education were at the top of their lists.

Compiled is a non-exhaustive list of tips to keep your training successful, with bullet points you ought to explore. More practical than idealistic, business oriented tips for newbies. Feel free to add and comment!

1) ABC: Always Be Closing.

While this one sounds like a car salesman’s approach to training, cold, sneaky, it really isn’t. You can’t make a living without getting paid for your services. Now, I have never “sold” a client by promising things I cannot deliver. Reputation is key, it’s a results-oriented business. But my passion and knowledge, as well as rapport-building makes the prospect comfortable with investing in themselves and my services. Don’t be shy about offering the training pack, the transaction, because you are entitled to pay your bills, it’s not a favor.

2) Retention is the new acquisition.

Don’t be like those cell phone companies that only offer a good deal to their new clients, or those gym membership salespeople who only see you on your first day, then forget about you once they have you in a contract. Keeping a client is better than constantly getting new ones. What are you doing that they’re not staying with you, by the way? As a trainer, you keep extending yourself to your clients and make them feel appreciated, genuinely, and your focus is on them, their goals, and you’re here to support them no matter what. Don’t think of it for sales purposes. You’re doing this also because you love your job and you want to make this enjoyable and beneficial mutually, with reciprocity.

3) Know your boundaries.

As a trainer, our duty is to provide a service. It’s an invitation to an exclusive club (your brain, your knowledge, your skills). You’re there to give your clients your honest best so they can achieve theirs. But you’re not there “at their service”. Clients come to you because you’re supposed to be an expert and have some authority in how to best provide for them. Why is it that a doctor’s office can charge a cancelation fee and it’s not argued but too many trainers still are afraid of that? Last minute changes affect not just you, but other clients as well. Help your clients with some homework if they miss a session, so you are still keeping them accountable, even if last minute, but have confidence that you are just as important, if not more, than a doctor’s appointment, a car service or a tax audit!

4) Know your numbers.

This is one of the most important aspects of training. You can’t sustain a business if you don’t know your numbers. What are those numbers? It’s about your nut: to pay your bills, home or gym rental, paying off equipment, your overhead, your profit. How many sessions do you need to cover your overhead, then to be profitable, then to allocate for slow times vs busy times, for expansion, education, marketing, etc? You’re dead in the water if you avoid those. Also, know your prices, offering sliding scales and rewards. There will always be a trainer that charges less, one that charges more. Know where you stand, what you’re comfortable with and be confident in your skills. Otherwise, your prospective client will not be confident that you’re the right person for the job. They come to you with trust.

5) Marketing.

You can be the best trainer in town, but if no one knows about you, you’re not going to be sustainable. There are many ways to get one client, not one way to get many clients. Some work, some don’t and you won’t know until you try them. Word of mouth, referral incentives, free sessions or intro classes… Working for a box gym vs independent also has its pros and cons (built-in foot traffic vs giving up a larger cut of your earnings, or higher risk & higher reward).

6) Differentiate.

What makes you the better choice than Trainer X? Know your competition. Research the best in a non-competing geographical location, ask, learn, implement. Observe the direct competition and offer something different. It’s called a Unique Selling Proposition.

7) Listen.

Don’t be the trainers that knows everything better than the client. I once learned an acronym when I was doing some security work: LEAP. Listen, Empathize, Anticipate, Proceed. Listen to your clients’ needs, Empathize by relating to their goals or problems (empathy by using examples among your clients, not always sympathy unless you have experienced the same), Anticipate by having a flexible but goal-driven plan of action (which can include anticipating concerns, clients do come to you for help) and Proceed (ask for the business, transact and put the plan in effect by setting up the session).


There are of course other aspects to building a successful business, and this is merely an overview. However, operating a training business without any of these in place will not lead to success, and unless you’re independently wealthy or just doing this as a hobby, pure passion doesn’t last without a solid foundation, like any relationship.

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