Having grown from being an independent operator running my own personal training business through a commercial gym for many years and then bringing on my first trainer in 2011, I have been fortunate to now grow my business to having over 20 staff, my own performance centre and another club in the works for later in 2014. During this time I have learned a lot of tricks along the way that have served me well.
One of the most common questions I get asked every week either online via Facebook or in person is, “Daine, what is your number one tip for running a successful personal training business?” Now this is not an easy question to answer with just one response as I believe there are several attributes a personal trainer must have or master in order to run a successful personal training business as either an independent operator or as a gym owner.
All to often I see people give advice on this topic whom are not qualified to do so, meaning they have never actually grown or run a successful personal training business which of course frustrates me to no end! So I decided I would impart three gems to the personal training community which have served me well over the years whilst building up my own personal business and that of my company.
Keep in mind that things such as being prepared to sacrifice and practicing what you preach are in my opinion mandatory to success and as such don’t need to be mentioned as they should be just like drinking water and showering… Part of your daily routine!
So without further adieu here they are…
1. People are interested in your results… Not your qualifications!
I recall my first shift in a big chain commercial gym back in early in 2005, I was 30 minutes into my ‘floor’ duty when a member came up to me and asked “Hey mate, what exercises have you done to get legs like that?” ten minutes later he had signed up with me five times per week.
Now why did he sign up with me? Well at the time I was 97kg and 7-8% body fat with big muscular legs. So I knew how to get results on myself, which led to him approaching me. Little did he know that I also had a degree and two diplomas but that was not the deciding factor in why he signed up with me.
Over time with experience and further practical application I was able to duplicate those results on myself with numerous clients thus building my reputation and client retention to the point where my own physique and qualifications were completely irrelevant. So people would come to me because I could get them in shape, not because of how I looked or due to my degree.
Recently I had a trainer tell me that due to his extensive qualifications he should be paid more than any of my trainers at Clean Health but not only that, many others worldwide! Clouded by arrogance and a huge unfounded ego what this trainer failed to see was that the greater public does not care what qualifications you have done in general, they just want to know that you can get them in shape and see evidence of you having done this.
This particular trainer did not have a track record of results having not been in the industry that long, as such his retention rate with clients was poor and charge out rate was capped to that of a slightly above average Sydney city based trainer. In my opinion as a trainer or coach you should be able to get your clients into better shape or achieve greater things than you have, that is a sign that you know what you are doing.
Remember just because you hold a national or world record in a strength sport or are an IFBB pro bodybuilder doesn’t mean much if you have not been able to replicate similar results with people other than yourself which is what I see with many a trainer out there today time and time again as a means of justifying they know what they are talking about.
Moral of the story is if you can’t practically apply your knowledge then you will forever be capped with your earning potential! So remember it takes time – years to become an expert – so earning your stripes in the trenches is one of the best ways to do that!
2. Continued education is paramount!
Now after reading the above post this probably reads as a contradiction, however whilst one must not rely purely on qualifications and courses to bring people through the door to keep them there one must always continue to educate themselves to stay at the forefront of the industry. One of my mentors Charles Poliquin told me a very important thing many years ago, which was “Learn more to earn more”, this is sound advice and one I agree with completely.
Many of the best coaches I know from around Australia and the world such as Rachel Guy, Stefan Ianev, Sebastian Oreb, Rawdon Dubois, Cato Rutherford, Ben Siong, Kelly Martinovich, Marty Williams (All Australia), Wolfgang Unsold (Germany), Juan Carlos Simo, Tony Parra (Dominican Republic) Mike Demeter, Eric Falstrault, Christian Maurice, Francine Savard (Canada), Nick Mitchell, Tom Brazier and Phil Learney (UK) I constantly see at courses or creating content to teach others themselves despite the fact that the majority of them have degrees or have been in the industry over ten years!
Meaning they never rest on their laurels and are devoid of ego, always open to learning from others and accepting nothing as an absolute!
All too often I see trainers relying on the fact that they lift heavy or look like a bodybuilder as the sole means of getting a client through the door. Yes practicing what you preach is an essential part of personal trainer success however relying solely on that and never reinvesting any of your time and capital into personal development is a sure fire way to long-term business failure.
This is one of the reasons why I created our in house Clean Health level 1 and level 2 personal trainer internship program, as a way of helping trainers from around Australia and worldwide learn how to practically apply theory to maximise their client results.
So what should you look for when choosing continuing education to invest on? My three golden rules are:
- Have they achieved consistent results with people other than themselves?
- Do they specialise in an area or demographic your business is based upon and are they a role model themselves? E.g. learning from an overweight nutritionist on how to design and structure fat loss nutrition plans for clients would not be advised!
- Do they carry testimonials from other industry professionals carrying testament to being able to deliver content that your colleagues were able to take away and apply the next day with their clients?
Personally, I couldn’t care less about what qualification or initial a course leaves me beside my name; I care only on whether or not it can help me maximize results with my clientele. This is why some of my best learning experiences have actually been in private consults with industry leaders like those whom I mentioned above.
Remember in any business there is one common denominator and that is you must reinvest into the business to ensure it grows. You as a personal trainer are the vehicle for your own success, as such you must reinvest into yourself mentally and not just physically. Buying a new gym toy like a barbell so that you can deadlift or power clean a greater weight is not what I consider reinvesting into yourself but merely boosting your own ego.
3. Be professional offline and online!
In days past in our industry our level of professionalism was measured via how you presented yourself (well groomed etc), if you turned up on time to your client, if you got your training program out to them via email on time and much more. Now these markers definitely still do exist… For example, texting on your phone whilst eating food to hit your calorie target for the day because you are prepping for a bodybuilding show after rocking up 15 minutes late to a client who is paying $100-$200 per session is not acceptable, but sadly something I have witnessed many times over the years!
These days a big area that many trainers utilize to try and boost their profile is Facebook. Now let me be clear… Posting photos of yourself and ranting on about other colleagues or people in the industry to draw attention to yourself and leverage of another’s profile is not a professional way to go about promoting your image as a professional personal trainer! I am not saying the occasional ‘selfie’ or display of athleticism is not acceptable, as it is, provided you are not doing it in a way where you are trying to prop yourself up at the expense of others.
However if you jump on Facebook at anytime of the day you will no doubt see numerous examples of ego fueled narcissism from many within our industry. Just today I jumped on to see at least three cases of personal trainers doing this… Surprisingly enough all three of these trainers I know first hand struggle to fill their client books and have poor client retention.
Many of my clients and mentors run extremely successful multi-million dollar business in their own right, the common theme I get from all of them is that when they choose a trainer (or anyone to work with) they research them. For those that are clients the big reason they have come on board with me and paid top dollar to do so is apart from the results it is the professionalism they are after and the fact that unlike many other trainers they had researched I had not come across with conduct unbecoming of a professional… i.e.; airing my dirty laundry on Facebook or instigating childish bickering online.
Summary, if you want to attract high end clients you need to be weary of what you post online as once it is up it is up there for good. If you want to attract professionals be one yourself which means conducting yourself like one online and offline.
If you want to attract kids and drug fueled idiots who can barely afford your services then continue to post ego-filled, narcissistic comments and photos of yourself at the expense of ridiculing others to leverage of their success. Posting transformations, testimonials and progress of clients whether it is for body composition or strength purposes is fine… But doing it in a way where you are bagging out other trainers or others in general comes across as childish and insecure.
In closing there are of course many other tips I could impart (which I do individually with trainers from around the world in person or via Skype with my business consulting service) however if you follow these three rules plus the essentials such as practicing what you preach and being prepared to sixty plus hours per week you too can find business success as a personal trainer!
Yours in health,
Daine McDonald – Personal Trainer, Nutritionist & Health Educator | Founder & Owner Of The Clean Health Performance Centre
(B.Sc.HM, Adv.Dip.NutMed, Dip.Fit, Dip.SC)
Daine is the founder and head trainer of Clean Health; Australia’s leading results based personal training company. With over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry, a background in the military and martial arts, he is known for his no-nonsense approach to helping his clients achieve rapid health and fitness goals whether it be fat loss, muscle building or athletic performance.
Over the course of his career he has been able to bring about lifelong changes and peak performance for not just competitive athletes but also the recreational gym enthusiast alike. He has created Australian champions in raw powerlifting, natural fitness/sports model, mogul skiing, and boxing along with having coached professional NRL and ARU players as well.
He is also an accomplished writer who contributes to numerous publications including Australian Women’s Health & Fitness, Oxygen Magazine, The Australian Biggest Loser Club and Fitness First Magazine.
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