From Hot Sweat to Cold Cash: How to Become a Personal Trainer

man and women showing off their bodies holding dumbells

Somehow or another you have managed to muster up enough effort to hit the gym almost every day; enough to transform what once was a tedious chore into a labor of love. Your passion has driven you to your fitness plateau and beyond, leaving a trail of ripped muscle in its wake. You’ve mastered practically every exercise maneuver imaginable, as well as every piece of equipment and machinery and equipment in the gym. So what do you now?

For some, fitness doesn’t stop when they reach their physical peaks. An entrepreneurial spirt coupled with pure ambition has many turning their affinity for exercise into a successful career as a personal trainer. This career path in particular not only stokes the fitness fire, but also presents a virtually limitless opportunity to grow.
However, saying you’re going to become a personal trainer and actually doing so are two totally different things. As with any business venture, success doesn’t come overnight. A great deal of time, money, and sweat (literally!) are all prominent sacrifices that are typically made to get a career in personal training off the ground—and even then nothing is guaranteed.

Hopefully, I can help you though by sharing a few tips on how to simplify the process below:

The Nuts n’ Bolts

Before anyone can become a personal trainer, the proper certification must be obtained. Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few certifications to choose from such as: ACE, NSCA, NASM and ACSM, among others. Now I’m not going to go through and explain them all, but a quick Google search should help clarify. Most gyms accept various types of certifications, so if you already know which gym you plan on working at, then you should call ahead to see if they only accept certain types of certifications.

You will also need to start thinking about a particular area of fitness that you would like to specialize in. For instance, some personal trainers may prefer to work personally with individual clients, while others might want to lead an entire spinning class. Those working with just one client at a time are considered certified personal trainers. Those leading a group are certified group fitness instructors. You can certify in both, but for the time being you should choose one specialty to focus on. You can get the other certification later on.

It is important to keep in mind that most certification programs require participants to have a high school diploma (or GED) before being accepted. Moreover, these programs are not cheap. Some programs can be a couple hundred bucks, whole others can breeze past the $1,000 mark with ease. The cost can increase based upon the supplies—textbooks, study aids, tests, etc.—you need. From there, it’s all a matter of studying hard and actually comprehending what you’re being taught in preparation for the big test.

Objective Complete

We’re jumping forward now in the assumption that you are now a certified personal trainer (or group fitness instructor). Congratulations! The next step is finding a suitable place to work. If you already have a gym lined up then you’re ahead of the pack. However, if you’re like most novice trainers, you were waiting until you were certified to start looking for a decent gym to work at.

For the most part, you have three options. The first option is to work for a large fitness-oriented corporation (ex: LA Fitness, Gold’s Gym, etc.). The second option is to go freelance by becoming an independent contractor. By becoming an independent contractor, you essentially work for yourself by working with clients at different gyms. The third option is to build your own gym, which is usually not feasible financially for new personal trainers.
After finding a gym and establishing how you’re going to work, the next step is insurance. From a legal perspective, you cannot start working with clients until you are adequately insured. Having insurance provides a safety bubble, shielding you from any liabilities or potential claims that may pop up. In many cases, the gym itself will provide some type of insurance coverage for personal trainers. However, you always have the option of finding insurance that is cheaper, offers better coverage, etc.

Let the Work Begin!

You’re certified, insured, and employed! Now the real work begins. The first step is to attract your very first clients. While your lean-and-mean physique shows you that you obviously know what you’re doing in the gym, the truth of the matter is that most clients are not going to come to you on their own. Trust me, you need more than a few empathetic friends and family members to keep your bank account happy.

This is when you have to conjure up the hidden marketer deep down inside you. You need the masses to see what you have to offer, or even know that you exist. One of the best tactics is to “accidentally” leave brochures in different places, or simply giving away gym-relevant promotional items such as tank tops or hand sanitizers, all branded with your contact information. You can also take your advertising to the web, using popular social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Old school methods—mail inserts, bulletin boards, classified ads, etc.—are also quite effective too.

Some Parting Words . . .

The ultimate goal of every personal trainer is to establish a successful, lucrative career that not only offers financial security, but also presents an outlet for you to enjoy your passion. Not all personal trainers get to enjoy that, but many do!

One of the best pieces of advice that was ever given to me as a new personal trainer is to always be willing to learn. In other words, you’re a rookie; act like it! There is still a lot left to learn and a cocky macho egotism will only prevent that. Gym owners, coaches, other trainers, and even everyday gym-goers can be a wealth of knowledge.