I recently celebrated my first year as a freelance personal trainer and can honestly say it’s been the most thrilling, frightening, interesting year of my life. Everything I thought I knew about myself and the way I work has been challenged, changed, chewed up and spat out numerous times. For all you trainers just starting out, I hope my journey will inspire and encourage you as well as give you a realistic and honest view about what may lie ahead, and for all you old-timers, just a solid reminisce about the good ole’ days!
In my humble opinion, the key to this and indeed many new experiences is actually to keep expectations to a minimum. You never know what or who may be around the corner and how you management of each situation will change and in fact the further down the line you travel, the greater your ability to handle whatever life throws at you will become. Whatever happens, it’s of the utmost importance to remain positive and focused.
As mentioned, a realistic outlook is a good way to handle disappointment – but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim high. You probably won’t get 10 clients within your first week qualified, but give it a month and who knows? Remember, only you have the power to obtain what you want, it won’t fall into your lap. A friend gave me an invaluable piece of advice, which has stuck with me ever since – ‘ be proactive, not reactive’. Preparation is really just another form of expectation and without it it’s likely you won’t be successful in your venture. Make lists, plan every session and draft emails to clients.
Your clients and their behaviour and attitude are two huge aspects of your job that are out of your control. One of the overriding changes I’ve noticed in myself since I qualified is how much more patient and open-minded I’ve become about other people and I’d be very surprised if the same didn’t happen to you. There will be times when clients turn up unhappy, sad, impatient or disappointed and it’s your job not only to train them, but to support them and take on board why they are feeling the way they are feeling, without asking too many questions. Unfortunately, we can’t make people act a certain way and your transition from a good trainer into a GREAT trainer will hinge on how you adapt to each and every person you encounter.
Sophie Kay, owner and trainer at Fitology says, ‘I remember being worried about over-selling myself and sounding big-headed or boastful, but you soon realise self-belief is imperative to obtaining business. Develop your own style, be proud of it, and be ready to adapt ’.
Now for the less theoretical part – or ‘boring bit’ if you will, and you may have already guessed that this is the part where I need to talk about money. Like any vocational job, this definitely isn’t one you should undertake for the money and you may well be working at a loss for a few months, once you’ve got your equipment, your park license if you’re freelance or rent if you work for a gym and your insurance. I had to save most of what I earned my first year to pay a big tax bill + accountant fees – the glamour!
Just because you have become your own boss doesn’t mean you need to feel funny or awkward discussing fees. Deciding what your hourly rate is may depend on where you live or your skill-set but once you know what your price range is, stick with it. You many want to offer people a trial session before they commit to a block so they can see how you both work together; never forget that hiring a PT is for many a big financial commitment and, within reason of course, you need to take steps to reassure them that your service is worth the price.
Once the sessions are booked, write them down and towards each session you might find you need to remind the client of the time and location. Your cancellation policy is completely up to you to decide; be flexible, but not to the extent that it affects the rest of your business. Although I’ve spoken a lot about what you do for your clients, ultimately you are the most important part of your brand. Your personality and your ability to work with others is your USP as a personal trainer; never copy anyone else’s style.
I’d like to wish everyone either recently or soon to be qualified a huge good luck during your first year as a PT and beyond – if in doubt, remember the 3 P’s – Positivity, Preparation and Proactivity. And most important of all – believe in yourself. You got this!