Why Some of the Best Personal Trainers Don’t Make It

best personal trainers marketing practices

Some of the Best Personal Trainers Don’t Make It

It’s a hard truth that some of the best personal trainers can’t actually succeed at making a living. Some of the personal trainers who are “celebrity” trainers, and industry award winners are not as good or as well intentioned as those we lose in this industry. If you can tap into both the knowledge, skill, desire to help AND the willingness to work, stay consistent, have failures along the way, take “no” and keep doing the things that work, you can have a very successful career as a personal trainer.

It’s no secret that smoke and mirrors exist in the fitness industry. If you are a trainer watching trainers online it may seem like you’ve got to be the most beautiful, have the best body, or you’ve got to be sharing pictures of your food or take your shirt off and reveal six-pack abs to stand out.

The reality is on every platform you can buy fans and followers. You can make hundreds of thousands love you or idolize you if all you show is shiny perfection. The sheer number doesn’t equate to a thick purse nor to a rich life. Fewer, but the right 500 people on your email list who buy your products – even if they each spend just $100, can create a lucrative business.

Less Popularity and More Stability?

Sounds easy enough right? Could you find 1000 people? Could you sell them something for $100? And isn’t spending $100 almost mandatory to buy most programs, products (or a single training session)? That alone would create a six-figure income. Listen to the recent podcast with Dave Smith to learn more about how simple it is to ditch the feeling you need millions of followers.

If you want to be one of the survivors, who don’t just earn a living but live comfortably, then you should be aware of these things on your business. The best personal trainers, defined in this post by those who have the knowledge and the skills and desire to help and are able to make a (nice, thank you very much) living doing what they love, have a lot in common.

The most successful personal trainers do these things:


It is not that hard to start. But it’s harder to keep going. Trainers who have been in business for 10 or 20 years consistently make the phone calls, follow up with prior clients to get them back in, return inquiry phone calls, and avoid lose ends. They don’t one day decide they are so smart and so good that their reputation should bring them clients. They didn’t start at that point and they never get to that point. They’re always aware that they have to reach out to keep business flowing in.

They are always looking for ways to grow and learn, as much or more in business as they mature in their career, as in the science of fitness. They never settle or think they’re smarter than someone else. They retain confidence and humility both.

Above all they move. They take imperfect action over perfect inaction. They either lose the fear of making a mistake or they charge through in spite of it. As one health professional I interviewed yesterday said, she is constantly rerouting as she goes and you can’t do that while you’re parked.

Understanding marketing.

Regular, consistent marketing is a must. If you don’t ask you don’t get a yes. At least 85% of target customers are not going to come and find you ready to start. If you’re still thinking you “want to work with motivated people,”you’re going to have access to 15% of the people and a lot of competition for their business.

Great trainers who get found are creating content in blogs, podcasts, videos and articles targeted at a depth (not a width) of content that their ideal customer is looking for.

Trainers who succeed have something set up to get themselves in front of that ideal customer 10 times before the customer will start. It used to be seven! But now there is so much distraction we each deal with every day that it’s 10! You have to work for it and you can’t have a random hap-hazard email letter on Sunday do that for you.

Marketing is never-ending. You may start thinking, “I have to get my name out there,” be sure that you embrace the fact that you will always be doing that as long as you’re in business. It is not just a matter of doing marketing. It’s doing in a way that resonates with your ideal customer in a way they want to take action and take it with you. Good marketing gets your name out there. Great marketing makes a customer want to take the next step with you.

Working smarter.

At some point you have to be able to either continue charging more and more for your time, add complimentary streams of revenue for products that you or someone else makes that you profit on when you sell to your customers, or you have to add some other source of passive revenue to your business.

No one can train around the clock. You’ll run out of hours and be forced to raise rates. You can’t do that forever either.

You can create things that sell themselves or that offer programs and services you make once and then exist to be sold and consumed while you sleep. That’s just an option. You can find many ways to work smarter than exchanging a $ per hour. You may love that part of your job most, and you can always continue it, but when you’re sick, want to be on vacation, you want to know you have revenue coming in.

Offer programs customers want.

Great trainers listen to what their customers, and the customers who got away, say. Their statements leave clues about the greatest desire a customer has. As trainers it’s easy to see what they need. But a program created based on that alone won’t attract them.

You have to dance the dance of what they want with what they need and be sure you truly know the biggest obstacle. That takes listening. It takes time to do the homework reviewing statements. That’s where you come up with lines like, “Lose weight without dieting.”Because when you listen isn’t that the limiting belief most customers have, that you have to diet and deprive yourself in order to lose weight? So building a program for weight loss, but with the premise of it NOT being what they hate most, fear most, and avoid could help you attract them. Because that is exactly what people want!

That is both good programming and good marketing. The key is if you build the right program, your marketing is 80% done. If you find yourself with a program you can’t seem to launch, get or keep full, you may need to tweak the program.

Test things.

Even if you’ve interviewed, listened, wrote down the very things your customers say, after best personal trainers create a program or a headline or image for an ad, they test it. They don’t fall in love with it and think they’re done. They let their customer decide if it’s good or not. Keep tweaking until you have the best headline, the best image, and the best text. Then – and only then – dial up the advertising and marketing budget.

Value long-term business over a short-term sale.

If you meet with a prospective customer and you make a sale it can make you giddy short term. That happens day one or day 10,000. What’s the lifetime value of that customer, though? What’s the cost of having that client in real time? Programming, commuting, serving –if they’re all added up?

What if you earned nothing for half a day a week while you built a program that could earn you passive income for the rest of your life? Best personal trainers see the value in the long game. Could you build an app, create a program, write a book, that adds value for customers and grows your business faster once it’s done with minimal investment of time or loss of revenue while you’re building it?

This one takes time. At the start, every trainer wants to get a list of stable customers and some security. The difference between the best personal trainers and the rest is that some are comfortable with being busy and settle there.

Avoid doing the same thing over and over again.

If there are things you do frequently, whether daily, weekly, monthly or when you’ve been in business for a while quarterly or annually, you need systems.

If you use a waiver or health history for clients you don’t type up a new one every time, right? Similarly, if you monitor your social media, create a template to record key performance indicators (KPIs).

If you write blogs, create a system for doing it. Is there a format for headline, bullet points, and resources that you create each time? Are there steps you use to research, then make notes, outline, create the final draft? Is there a posting strategy (see Social Media Marketing for Health and Fitness Professionals). Is there a handoff from you to your web person to your social media person? Make it a system. Follow it. You stop having to remember so much and just go into action in a far more productive way.

Becoming one of the best personal trainers

… doesn’t happen by accident. There’s nothing random about being one of the best personal trainers. Success leaves clues. Trainers and anyone else in business do things with mindfulness not just about today but about the future. You learn when to say yes, and when to say no. Early in your career these are different than later, but these habits included here are true all the way through.

One of the best things you can do to become the best personal trainer you can be is define that. What does success look like for you? What kind of lifestyle do you want your career to provide? What do you value that you won’t compromise that you’re working to get to? (realizing that almost no one gets to make their own rules early on unless this is a hobby – and in that case I’m not talking to you). You’ll say yes to a lot of things at first you’ll say no to later in order to grow your business, keep your boundaries, and enjoy a career. You have to do the first layer to reach your best life. When you see the value of a short term step to get to a long term solution, it’s worth it.

Like this post?

You’ll enjoy the opener to the Fitness Career Success podcast series. Click here to listen.

The series features an interview with seven trainers and business owners known to be best personal trainers themselves or who coach, train, and hire them offering their tips for how to grow a successful career.

It’s NEW!

Just published by Healthy Learning last week! If you’re looking for a way to grow your social media presence without spending more time, read this!

best personal trainers marketing practices

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