Top Tips For New Personal Trainers

Adam Petford, 20/05/2024

Becoming a top personal trainer is a great journey, but let’s face it, the first year can be daunting. It’s like diving into the deep end of a pool – exhilarating yet nerve-wracking. If you can get through this initial phase, you’re on your way to a great lifestyle. However, you need to earn it, and that often means hustling harder than ever before.

If you’re like me, starting out with limited finances and diving headfirst into a big-box commercial gym, you know the pressure of needing clients fast before your bank account hits rock bottom. But fear not, I’ve been there, made all the mistakes and learned a few invaluable lessons in return that can help you get through your first year.

First and foremost, learn to sell. Selling yourself and your services is non-negotiable in this tough industry. If you haven’t already, dive into my previous article on how to sell personal training. And take my advice please, I used to be sales trainer! it will help you!

My Top Tips for New Personal Trainers

Know the Value of RETENTION!

Learning how to Retain clients will be critical to your success. Time is money. Let’s crunch some numbers.

Assuming your primary method of acquiring clients is by contacting leads provided by your gym, which can range from hot prospects to those who are lukewarm or completely cold. Regardless of their temperature, it takes persistence to convert them into paying clients. Let’s break it down:

Out of 20 calls made to members:

  • 10 might be unavailable or for various reasons,
  • 5 will not be interested
  • 1-2 will be open to a trial session

However, chances are 1 won’t show up, leaving you with just 1 opportunity to convert a client. In my first year I had a conversion rate of around 1 in 4-5 free sessions (because I wasn’t very good!) So if you’re similar you will likely need to make about 100 calls to get a new client. That’s a significant effort, but let’s see how it pays off.

Assuming you charge $80 per session and train them once a week:

  • In one week, you earn $80
  • Over four weeks, that’s $320
  • Across 26 weeks, it’s $2,080
  • And over a year, a decent $4,160

So, if you can retain a client for six months, you will earn $2,080, well worth the initial effort of all those calls. But if you lose a client after just a couple of sessions, you’re back to square one, spending too much time making those calls.

The real value of client retention, however is experience. Just like learning to drive, you don’t truly master personal training until you’ve clocked in enough hours with real clients.

Here are my best tips for retaining clients

Tips for personal trainers - Training together

Don’t Train Them Too Hard!

Yes you read that right! I learnt this one the hard way! While it’s tempting to want to impress them by pushing them beyond their limits. In most cases its not necessary, leads to injuries and back fires on you. Most of your clients will view exercise as a necessary chore rather than a passion, and pushing them too hard can lead to them dreading your sessions.

As a trainer, your job is to find the balance between challenging your clients and ensuring enjoy or at least tolerate the process. Pay attention to their feedback both mentally and physically and adjust the intensity accordingly. Remember,

It’s their fitness journey, not yours.

I was very lucky in my first year as I had the best (and worst) client ever, my girlfriend Tiana – I learned a lot from her after 3 years. She still is my client but I would have lost her several times over if she was just another client. Mainly because I was pushing her too hard.

Forget Cardio Sessions

Not that cardio is bad, just don’t be the trainer who programs a 45-minute cardio session and then stands there like a plum watching them as they struggle through it. They can do cardio on their own without you. It’s not difficult, so don’t charge them for it. Even if they ask for it steer them away!

Be Super kind and flexible

Clients will let you down! They will txt you 5 mins before their session with a limp excuse, they will be times when they just don’t want to see you! So get over yourself, your replaceable and not that import to them.

But remember this! before you go charging them for missed sessions and breaches of contract

It’s easier to keep a client than to find a new one

(unless you love making those 100 calls). I’m going against the standard advice again! When a client ducks me, my first response is to believe them (regardless of the excuse) make sure they are okay and then to rebook their session with me free of charge! Yes, you read that right!

I always keep Sunday mornings available to rebook clients who’ve missed their sessions that week. While it might cost an extra hour or so, what I get in return is a client who really appreciates me and likely a long-term relationship.

The choice is yours: be too rigid and a stickler for charging your clients for not showing up and spend most of your time making more calls, or invest a few extra hours in training (where you get more experience) and build a list of clients who will stick with you.

I’ve always followed this, and none of my clients have ever taken me for granted.

Tips for personal trainers Training Clients

Add in Extras (Free of Charge)

I run two 45-minute HIIT sessions per week: 6 PM on Tuesday and 6 AM on Friday, and they are free to attend for all my paying clients. I don’t watch them train. We do the sessions together.

So, I get two great HIIT workouts a week (which I need) and great loyal clients too! Yes, I could charge an extra $50 for a HIIT Training pack! But I’d far rather have a list of long-term clients, and you know the reasons why!

I also run sessions on Bank Holidays in the local park

That’s me and my clients after a HIIT session Together

Tips for personal trainers - Group Sessions

Be like an Audi or a BMW

If you agreed to meet a financial advisor at a coffee shop and they show up in a beat-up old car, would you take them seriously? While they don’t need to arrive in a Ferrari, a nice-looking Audi or BMW will do just great.

Same for you! Don’t be that trainer who is out of shape and looking like crap while preaching the importance of exercise and diet! Fall in love with exercise its your passion and let your clients see you train like a warrior.

Focus on Strength

Last but definitely not least for my top tips for personal trainers is Building strength is the best way (in my opinion) to help clients:

  • Lose body fat
  • Gain weight
  • Build muscle
  • Move better
  • Be happier in life
  • Overcome injuries/adversity
  • Look better
  • Feel better

Strength is the first adaptation of resistance training. When the body gets stronger, it:

  • Burns more calories
  • Releases youth-promoting and feel-good hormones
  • Builds a better immune system
  • Moves better

If a client is overweight, focusing on building strength initially is crucial. Otherwise, if they restrict too soon they risk losing muscle mass and slowing down their metabolism.

It’s much better to invest time in building strength than trying to burn an extra 200-300 calories, which is a nominal figure and more likely to be put back on the minute they walk out of the gym and get an extra sandwich because they earned it.


Top Tips for New Personal Trainers

Starting out as a personal trainer can be daunting, especially in the first year. With imposter syndrome always around to keep you company the temptation to quit can be strong. If you can get through your first year it gets much better trust me.

To give yourself the best chance you can learn from my mistakes! So remember to know the real value of client retention, be flexible and kind, offer some extras, practice what you preach and get them a little stronger first. (and take those f**king head phones off!!) Good luck I hope you make it because people need you.

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