With everything we have had to deal with in group ex over the last 15 months, it’s no wonder lots of instructors are adding personal training to their skill set. It can be used to target the same people who come to our classes, it can be done online or in-person with minimal hassle and has probably been the one part of the fitness industry that has stayed relatively consistent in recent months. It also gives our body a rest… which is handy when we do what we do.
PT compliments group exercise pretty well. I use it to add on an extra layer of technique, form & training to my weight-lifting clients. Helping your ‘average’ woman, with all the pressures of life, to love her body via the mode of picking up heavy stuff is my niche. But it wasn’t always.
When I first started personal training 10 years ago, I made a lot of mistakes. Mistakes that led me to leave it completely and only focus on group exercise. I only came back to it about 3 years ago because I realised I was doing myself a disservice by passing my weightlifting clients on to someone else. Someone who was fantastic at their job but who had a different method and end game for my clients than I would have preferred, and whilst I admired their skill, I knew I could get my clients to where they wanted to be.
This time around I was strict with myself. I made decisions on how things were going to be, and I followed them. It made me uncomfortable & nervous at first, but I stuck to my guns, and now, I have found a love for personal training that is just as intense as the way I feel about my group ex classes. I love it because this time around it is a direct reflection of my values both as a person and as a business owner.
Here are my top tips for getting it right from day one, straight from someone who didn't have anyone to ask if they were making the right choice. Every PT is different but these have made such a difference to me and allowed me to be invested and to enjoy every session fully without worrying about every awkward conversation I might need to have at the end.
1. If you are brand new, it’s common practice to offer discounted sessions so you can get experience, results and recommendations without having any social proof. It’s a good idea. Personal training is an investment for most people, they want to know you are awesome before they hand over large amounts of money. The key with this is to make sure you communicate the end date of the discounted sessions, that way no one can get the hump with you when your ‘practicing’ comes to an end and your prices go up.
2. Write a template contract containing terms & conditions including your cancellation policy, your invoice terms and anything else you need them to know. Get it e-signed and store it yourself as well as somewhere your client has easy access. Know your T&Cs and decide in your head, the type of circumstances where you might allow your client to roll over the session. You are communicating the value of your session, when you feel undervalued it will erode your confidence & your enjoyment. Some of the responsibility for that lies with you to set the standard for what you expect.
3. If you’ve been teaching a while, you will have developed a niche of some kind whether you realise it or not. It could be something obvious like pre/post-natal women, strength athletes, older clients. But it could be something you can’t quite put into words. Think about who you want to train and where you want to take them, this will show you how to word your marketing copy…. And who to say yes to. Which brings me on to my next point.
4. Do not say yes to everyone. At the beginning, sure, you might have to. You’re not certain who you even want to train right now, and you need to work that out. But after a few months it will start to become apparent, maybe you prefer training folk who are into high rep, high intensity CrossFit style sessions, maybe it’s amateur athletes, maybe it’s physiques, maybe it’s mobility, maybe it’s post rehab clients. It might not even be so obvious as that. For example, I like to train women who come from a dance fitness background, who have fallen in love with exercise. They plucked up the courage to start doing my resistance classes a while ago and now they’re ready to take it to the next level. When I first started out, I said yes to everyone. I trained a lot of business people who had plenty of spare cash but did not see the need to commit to the process in the way that I wanted them to. It made me feel crap at my job. Even though I loved them all as people, I frequently wished that I didn't have to go that day. They were just not my market. They would be someone else’s DREAM to train! Listen to your gut, if someone doesn’t sound like your kind of client then chances are they are not. I'm not afraid to say no now, in a nice way, especially if they want me to train them in cardio (my worst nightmare one on one) – they are someone else’s ideal client. I refer them on to a colleague who will do a much better job than me, I get to work within my happy place whilst the client gets to train in theirs with a PT who loves it too.
5. Choose the hours you want to PT in and stick to them. If you have to constantly roll a client over into a timeslot that you needed to do something else, you will be resentful and you won't be fully invested in their journey. Being mostly strict (with a teenie bit of flexibility) means that everyone know where they stand and that you are getting enough time to do your other work.
6. Don’t be afraid not to work the same hours as everyone else. I used to PT someone at 6am because it was the done thing. Sometimes, I used to cry the night before because obviously group ex is such a late finish, I was so tired and I couldn’t handle getting up at 5am, so now the earliest I will do is 7:15am and I stick to it religiously. Your wants and needs matter too!
7. It’s completely possible to create workout programs for your PT clients around your class plans…. That way both services complement one another and help your clients move closer toward their goals. It also means they are getting a complete solution to their problems because everything feels tailored around what they need and want from you. Don’t forget about your On Demand content. Your clients might need extra cardio to do at home or some home workouts…. You can easily create new OD workouts especially for them but release it out to everyone or simply use stuff you have already filmed to bolster the service to your new PT clients.
8. Money. Avoiding taking cash on the day changed my life. What happens if they cancel? What happens if they forget their money? Do I really have the balls to insist they transfer it then and there? What if they promise they would do 10 sessions at a discounted rate but then decide of their own accord to pay weekly…. That’s not the point of giving a discount. The easiest way to manage expectations over money is to make it clear in the contract. I always sign-up new clients on a package now, so I know that the 3 hours it will take me to onboard them with nutrition, workouts and extras is covered. They pay via invoice a minimum of 6 days before the start of their first session. That means I have 6 days to onboard them and ensure they have everything that they need. You do most of the work BEFORE the client even starts, that means you should be paid before you start doing that work. Take it from someone who knows how frustrating it is to turn up to a session at 6am, with their plans all done and the client message to say they’re not coming, and neither is your money. Use cheap invoicing software like QuickBooks or similar, to manage your PT client income and stay on top of your payments. It will look more professional, and you can ask it to send reminders which will look automated even when they are not (handy when you hate chasing up). Remind yourself that money is not a dirty word. Your client is getting a service and has signed a contract on how that service will be delivered…. It is absolutely fine for you to want to be paid for that service. Domino’s don’t hand over the pizza without the money and neither should we.
9. The way you plan a session today will not be the way you plan it in 6 month’s time. That will continue throughout your career. The more you learn, the more you will change your methods. That is OK. That is what learning is about. Never feel that you should wait until you know more. Just do what you can with what you know and carry on being a giant geek and gaining as much knowledge as possible. Everyone is in the same boat. No-one popped out of the womb with a Masters in Biomechanics.
PT is probably one of the most rewarding experiences. It is something quite magical to create a program, plan and method to help someone whose goals you feel an affinity with, and to be there at the finish line when they achieve what they set out to. It’s different to group exercise but it can be good different, and can frequently create some balance around always being the entertainer and instead bring a focus to the less ‘exciting’ but physically important parts of the type of fitness that you are skilled in.
I LOVE dance fitness. I love music. I love showing off. I love helping other people show off. But I also love lifting weights and I really love helping women love it too, watching their confidence soar and their leggings turn into shorts and their oversized jumpers turn into vests purely because they have learned to love and be proud of their bodies & their skill. Exactly the way that they are. Being a militant contract writer and T&Cs geek just means I get to do this with no hassle, without feeling uncomfortable and with all the joy at helping someone feel amazing, the way that personal training was supposed to be.
Don't forget, we have all the choreography & teaching support that you need! #amfworld