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5 Things That Will Make You Fail As A PT


Each year, thousands of men and women in the UK qualify as personal trainers. Many of them go on to have satisfying careers, some climb to the very top of the profession, some do not do as well as they would like, and some fail completely. Here we talk about the 5 main reasons personal trainers fail or don’t do very well so that you can avoid them.

5 Things That Will Make You Fail As A PT

1. Lack of persistence

The most common cause of people failing to succeed as personal trainers is the same as the most common cause of people failing to succeed at pretty much anything you can think of in life – they give up. When this happens with personal trainers, it’s usually newly qualified trainers quitting during their first year because they aren’t earning very much. The personal training industry is lucrative, but it is also competitive, and newcomers have to realize that it will take time and a lot of effort to get to the most rewarding levels of the business.

Most new personal trainers start out working for themselves but having to be based in an established fitness club in order to find clients. We advise all of our personal trainer course graduates who start out in this capacity to view their first 12-18 months as an apprenticeship period and accept the fact that they’ll probably end up making only £12 to £18k a year.

Trainers who base themselves in fitness clubs should always be looking for opportunities to move to more high-end clubs in more affluent areas with wealthier prospective clients. This is how they will earn more money. The way they open this door is by working hard and gaining experience wherever they’re currently based.

Many fitness clubs belong to chains like Fitness First or LA Fitness. New personal trainers who start out at one of the lesser clubs in a fitness chain and prove themselves to be competent and reliable will often be offered the chance to transfer to one of its more prominent clubs where there’s more money to be made.

Alternatively, sometimes trainers who work long enough in a particular club can accumulate enough regular clients that they’re able to leave the club and start working as an independent trainer, which can be much more satisfying and rewarding.

Opportunities will present themselves if you are patient and work hard. If you talk to most personal trainers currently at the top of this business, they’ll tell you it took them years to claw their way up to where they are now.

2. Lack of clients

Clients are obviously how personal trainers earn their money. Without enough of them, it can be very hard to be persistent and continue as a personal trainer.

If you’re based in a busy fitness club and still find that you aren’t able to get enough clients to earn a decent income, even after having been at it long enough to know exactly what you’re doing, then you might have fallen into a common trap for personal trainers working out of fitness clubs.

Personal trainers based in those clubs are in competition with one another for clients. The more trainers in any given club, the less clients there are to go around. Some fitness establishments will rent their facilities out to as many trainers as possible to collect the monthly fees without caring about how difficult they’re making it for the trainers to get clients.

If we had to give a good rule-of-thumb, we’d say that there should be no more than 2 or 3 trainers for every 1000 members in a fitness club. Although for more high-end clubs, this ratio can be considerably higher and there will still be plenty of clients for everyone.

If you think there is too much competition where you’re based, you should consider relocating to another club. Or perhaps enhancing your qualifications with additional fitness courses to help you stand out from the other trainers.

It’s also quite common for personal trainers who work independently of any establishment to struggle through lack of clients. This usually happens to trainers who set themselves up independently before either having enough clients already lined up, or having the means to market themselves and find new clients (more about this in reason 3).

For these reasons, we never advise any of our new personal trainer course graduates to go it alone from the very start. If you’re already working in this capacity and are suffering through lack of clients, your best bet would probably be to start operating out of a fitness club where prospective clients walk through the doors each week, and don’t try to go it alone again until you’re ready.

3. lack of business skills

The majority of people who go into business for themselves as personal trainers do so without knowing how to run a business because they either haven’t bothered to learn how, or think they already know.

They don’t know how to build their brand, how to advertise their business, how to develop a USP (unique selling proposition), how to sell themselves to clients, how to setup a business website or how to tap into additional income sources.

Self-employed trainers can survive without knowing any of this if they operate in a fitness club where their clients will walk in the doors of their own accord, but for self-employed trainers working fully independently, not knowing these things will either cause you to fail outright or prevent you from ever fulfilling your full potential.

If you have ambitious targets for your personal training career, we cannot overstate the importance of learning business and marketing skills. All the most successful independent personal trainers got to where they are by understanding business and marketing in addition to fitness and exercise.

We at Discovery have compiled a lot of information and resources to help personal trainers with their businesses and careers in our fitness resources center. On our blog you can read about how to setup a personal trainer website and how to use Google to get clients in your local area.

If you’re really serious, you should check out our business and marketing course, which will teach you all the critical skills you will need to run a business in the modern fitness industry.

4. Lack of personality

No one wants to be trained by a personal trainer who they perceive as being cold or not caring about them. And definitely not by one who they think doesn’t like them.

If you give off negative vibes to your clients, we guarantee you will not find much success in this business. But if you master the intricacies of trainer-client relationships and make your clients like you, we guarantee it will help you throughout your career.

There is always a balancing act to be done with clients. A trainer has to push his clients and challenge them to do better, but must also be patient and understanding with them. He or she must tell them honestly what they need to improve about their bodies and their fitness, but also make them feel good about themselves and maintain their confidence.

Remember, you will sometimes find yourself working with clients who lack self-confidence and are a bit sensitive, or have difficulty motivating themselves to train and improve their fitness. This is quiet common among clients with weight issues.

If you’re naturally a friendly person, the interpersonal stuff will come more easily to you than if you’re more of an introvert.

If you don’t find it coming naturally to you, try observing other personal trainers who get on well with their clients (maybe even pay for a session with them?) and try to observe everything about the words they use, their body language and their tone of voice during every stage of their training session.

We also suggest that you occasionally ask your clients for feedback about how they feel their sessions with you are going. Remember to make sure they feel emotionally comfortable at all times.

You might also be interested in our behavior change and motivational interviewing course, which teaches fitness professionals how to more effectively guide their clients to modify their behavior and attitudes to help them achieve their fitness goals.

5. Lack of professionalism

You know what this means. At some point in your lives you’ve probably experienced someone supposed to be doing a job for you who didn’t do it properly or professionally, or someone who has caused you harm or inconvenience through stupidity or carelessness.

Remember how that felt, and use that feeling as a reminder to avoid behaving the same way when you go about your business as a personal trainer. Clients don’t like trainers who don’t show up on time, say they will do things and then not do them, or get distracted and not pay full attention to them during training sessions.

If you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner, it will hold you back in your career even if you’re actually a good personal trainer. Not only will clients get annoyed with you, but fitness clubs won’t let you operate on their premises and sell your services to their members.

Always find out the appropriate etiquette in any gym or fitness club you are working in and adhere to it at all times. Don’t let the competition for clients among trainers in the same facility cause you to act unprofessionally. Read our guide on fitness club etiquette to help you with this.

If you take only one thing out of this article, let it be this: a personal trainer is just like any other self-employed professional: therapist, website designer, plumber, photographer… The people who do the best are the ones who work the hardest, take it seriously, deliver on their commitments, exhibit reliability and punctuality, and come across as being totally professional at all times.

Thanks for reading. We hope you found this helpful. We know the personal training business can seem like a rat race at times, but if you make the effort to avoid each of these common pitfalls, then you have every chance of building a great career for yourself with time and hard work.


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