How To Become A Personal Trainer: An Ultimate Guide To Personal Training As A Career

Being a personal trainer isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding.

 

Independence, flexibility, and diversity are one of the most important benefits of being your own boss. At the same time, when working as a personal trainer in a gym, you gain the possibility to improve your skills and knowledge on a regular basis, train people with many different needs, socialize with other like-minded fitness professionals.

In both cases, if you want to start your careers as a successful fitness instructor, you need to be ready to work an unusual schedule with long hours and you will most likely put in extra hours on your days off. However, all this extra work pays off as you can be an entrepreneur and build a business for yourself that stands in line with your passion for active and healthy living.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of fitness trainers and instructors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

 

So you’re interested in becoming a certified personal trainer, what next? This article will walk you through the process of becoming a certified personal trainer in 5 easy steps.

 

STEP 1: FIND A CERTIFICATION COMPANY THAT MATCHES YOUR NICHE AND TAKE THEIR EXAM

 

Becoming a personal trainer is actually quite simple. There are two major routes to becoming a personal trainer. The first is the academic route, in which you can work toward a degree in Kinesiology. The second is the non-academic route where there are many full-time, part-time, and online options available for becoming certified in personal training. Some companies offer online and part-time programs for those who are more independent learners or have limited time. Moreover, many organizations offer very comprehensive full-time, in-person fitness trainer certification programs.

 

Most personal training certifications consist of a written and a practical exam. The length of the written exams can vary, but the tests generally cover basic anatomy, physiology, and physical training theory. You may be asked to create a periodized fitness program based on a case study. In the practical exam, you can expect to demonstrate basic exercises and stretches, along with providing modifications and substitute exercises for those with injuries.

 

The cost for a personal trainer certification program and exam can vary depending on the school. Some personal training programs can be as inexpensive as $300. But some organizations cost upwards of $5,000 for a more comprehensive fitness trainer certification.

 

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STEP 2: FIGURE OUT YOUR EMPLOYMENT TYPE

 

Being a personal trainer is one of the most entrepreneurial careers someone can take on. There are many pros and cons to different employment opportunities as a professional fitness coach. Each option can change your work-life balance drastically.

 

For example, the average personal trainer salary in USA is $65,000 per year but some make as high as $92,000 per year, according to Neuvoo.

 

However, this does not tell you if these high-salary trainers are gym personal trainers, privately contracted personal trainers, or self-employed trainers.

 

Here is a short list of the different employment types for personal trainers:

 

GYM CONTRACTOR

 

Working as gym contractor means you are technically self-employed but hired by a company to train clients. Some personal trainers pay rent to a gym to bring in their own clients, while some gym contractors are hired to train members of the gym as well.

 

PROS:

 

You may not be bound to one facility or company

You can choose and charge your own hourly rates

You don’t need to meet a sales quota

You can build your brand as a trainer

You have a chance to gain more skills and experience

 

CONS:

 

You have less job security

You have to get your own clients most of the time

You have more expenses

You might get tired of working at multiple locations

You might have a higher cost to travel to multiple locations

 

How To Become A Personal Trainer An Ultimate Guide To Personal Training As A Career TheTide

 

GYM EMPLOYEE

 

Being a gym employee means you are hired by a gym as one of their staff. This can be helpful when you’re getting started as a trainer because you have a pool of members to pitch your services to. You work with other fitness professionals, being able to gain more specialized skills and experience what will be beneficial for your career.

 

PROS:

 

You might have more job security

You might have the gym give you clients

You might get free advertising from your employer for your services

You get a base wage and benefits (can vary from gym to gym)

You have a chance to improve your skills while working with other fitness professionals

You gain experience working with various clients

 

CONS:

 

You don’t decide your hours

You might have other job duties

You don’t always decide your hourly rate

You have a sales quota

You pay-out a large portion of your profits to the gym

You might have a “Do Not Compete” contract

 

SELF EMPLOYED

 

Being a self-employed personal trainer is very rewarding but for some may be also daunting. If you pursue this type of employment, you are running your own business, finding your own clients, processing your own bills and so much more. This is the responsibility of wearing a few different hats, and successfully coping with all of them. However, if you're self-motivated, if you can easily set up goals for yourself, and effectively reach them, you gain the most benefits. You become independent, you work on projects you want to be involved in, you can travel, and might also have an opportunity to conduct classes and lessons in many different places. You're actively building your own brand as a personal trainer, and your audience becomes your loyal clients. This style of employment is usually the goal of experienced personal trainers and has the most benefit.

 

PROS:

 

You are your own boss

You have a lot of flexibility regarding projects

You can conduct classes in various locations

You can choose and charge your own rates

You keep all of your profit

You have a lot of tax write-offs

You can outsource clients and work less

 

CONS:

 

You have less job security

You might work longer hours

You have to find your own clients

You have to know how to retain customers

You have more expenses related to your business (including equipment, space rental or traveling cost if you’re conducting classes in your client’s place)

 

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STEP 3:  LEARN AND KNOW YOUR NICHE

 

To be successful in the fitness industry, it is important to know your niche. As a personal trainer, unless you have a specific sports background or education background, specialization takes time. Every year, you need to take continuing education classes to maintain your credentials. This process allows for personal trainers to specialize as the years progress. But this can be sped up if you already love and live in a niche of fitness.

 

For example, if you love Crossfit, and have become a Crossfit personal trainer. This gives you a benefit because you already know your market, clients, and network very well. As a Crossfit enthusiast, you enjoy what you do, at the same time staying up to date with all the news, trends, and industry insights on a regular basis. It’s a great advantage over the competitors.

 

Once you know and have worked in your niche for a while, it is important to keep educating yourself and furthering your knowledge. As mentioned before, every trainer must take continuing education classes to maintain their credentials. Taking more classes than the recommended 1 a year will help you become an expert in your niche and to keep up with changing fitness trends.

 

STEP 4: GET YOUR FIRST JOB

 

Like most jobs today, personal training jobs can be found online. If you have an idea which gym chain you would like to work at, go check out their website and see if they’re hiring.

 

Also, you might want to try to apply to small, local gyms first. These smaller gyms generally have lower sales quotas, less stressful work environments, and a bigger opportunity to learn and grow as a trainer. It’s a great beginning for those who take the very first steps in their fitness careers.

 

There is also the route of being an independent contractor or self-employed from the very beginning. If you have developed a bit of a following, or already have a clientele that is ready to be trained, approach a gym and offer them the opportunity to host your training programs.

 

STEP 5: GET SOME CLIENTS

 

When it comes to working as a personal trainer, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. You can have any certification or education in the world but if you have no clients, you have no business. Here are 3 tips to get clients:

 

Get on social media:

 

Post regularly on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites to build a following. Provide valuable insights to your audience, and build your own brand as an expert in your niche. Be clear on what kind of classes you offer, and how your audience can reach out to you to book a personal training session with no effort.

 

Talk to everyone:

 

Learn to network effectively. You never know who might be a potential client. Make yourself business cards and hand them out to everyone you meet.

 

Put out an ad:

 

Putting ads out will help you pitch yourself to an audience that you may not otherwise reach. Think about your target group, try to find as many characteristics as possible, and choose an advertising channel where your target group is the most active.

 

“I started my career as a private personal trainer back in 2015. At the very beginning, I was conducting classes for clients I met when working for a gym in the past. At some point, I realized I need to start to build my own personal brand as a personal trainer, and attract new potential customers, to run my business more efficiently. First, I started to create my personal channels on Instagram and Facebook. I was sharing backstage photos and videos from my life as a personal trainer, and providing fitness-related insights. I wanted to catch the attention of my audience who is looking for inspiration on how to stay active, and healthy. I realized my following has been growing, and many people have started to reach out to me and ask about my services. I have no doubt that social media channels have been one of the most significant sources of new clients for my business. Building own brand takes time, but it's also one of the most rewarding actions you can take if want to work independently.”  

— Marissa, a personal trainer specialized in calisthenics and bodyweight training

 

 

STEP 6: LEARN THE SALES CYCLE

 

At the end of the day, being a successful personal trainer comes down to sales. If you don’t sell programs or book sessions you won’t make any money. Learning how to sell your services effectively, and professionally, is essential. Read books, watch videos, and listen to podcasts from successful personal trainers and fitness coaches to learn their business strategies.

 

In the end, becoming a personal trainer is quite simple but becoming a successful personal trainer takes a lot of hard work and dedication. However, following the steps listed in this article can help you get started on your own personal training business and achieve success!

 

Do you work as a personal trainer? Share with us your best pieces of advice on how to be successful in your niche!

 

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