Whether you’re a “trainer to be” or already working with a full book of clients, it’s never too early or late to formulate a clear vision of the ideal direction of your career. When I ask, “What kind of trainer do you want to be?” you probably make the assumption that I am referring to the “kind of training” you do with clients such as Weight Training, Yoga or Boot Camps. If that’s not where your mind goes, then I would bet that you imagine I am talking about what “kind of personality” you take on when training your clients such as the drill sergeant or motivational best friend. Though these are important facets to developing as a successful trainer, they are not the focus of today.
Today, let’s take a moment to look not at the product you are delivering, but rather the business structure in which the product is being delivered. There are a few common PT business models that trainers find themselves working out of and each has their own unique set of pros and cons.
Corporate Employee Trainer
Many trainers that are just starting out find themselves in this position. This is the kind of training job you can expect at the big name gyms. Typically the financial compensation for the trainer is a low-moderate amount per session. Additionally, these types of positions often have an obligatory number of “floor hours” to put in at an even lower pay rate. The good news is that in many cases the gyms increase the trainer’s pay as they gain experience and as they increase their client load. One of the great advantages of this type of training situation is that the gyms will often put the trainer in direct contact with potential clients for their “free introductory session.” You know how this works. The new gym member signs up and they are given a couple free sessions. This is the trainers chance to shine and win over a new client. The longer you’re in the business, the more you will understand that closing the sale isn’t really the hard part. The hard part is getting the client in the door. That said, you can clearly see the value in the gym providing a stream of potential clients. Another advantage to being an employee trainer is that they often have in-house training which can be very valuable to newbie trainers. Before deciding if this is for you, take a moment to examine the full earning potential and also know that some companies “promote” their top trainers to managerial positions. This may be a dream come true for you. This type of training model is worth consideration for those that love structure and appreciate an outside force helping them to stay motivated and on task.
I started out as an independent trainer so I am admittedly partial to this type of arrangement. Before I share some of the pros, allow me a moment to share the main cons. The most difficult part of being an independent trainer is getting potential clients in front of you to sell sessions. The other major downside is that if you take time off you don’t make any money. If you can stomach these cons and are willing to take the plunge, once you find your own way to get potential clients through your doors and make some sales, you’ll see quickly how lucrative being an independent trainer can be. As an independent trainer, you can set your own training rate, choose your working schedule, and negotiate rental rates with gyms that allow independent trainers. Some gyms allow “per session” rental, some charge a percentage of sales while others simply charge a flat monthly rate. In most situations, once you have four or five solid clients, a flat monthly rate is ideal. There are also potential tax advantages to becoming an independent trainer. This is a discussion to have with a qualified CPA to help you fully grasp what this can mean to your bottom line. Being an independent trainer is a solid option for self-driven individuals that are “people-persons” and have a strong personality.
As an in-home trainer, you are the epitome of the independent trainer. On the plus side, overhead costs are very low since the split is 100% you and the rent is ZERO. In-home training is also a major convenience for the client meaning the trainer can charge a premium. On the downside, however, there is a large amount of travel involved and you will often have to lug around equipment. You will need a reliable car with suitable storage capacity and some basic training equipment. Also, depending on your location, you may need to come to grips with the fact that you may just be spending more time behind the wheel of your auto than in the living room of your clients. For a person with a go-getter attitude and the ability to train with minimal equipment, this could be a great fit.
Online training is becoming more and more popular and with the advent of social media, drumming up business is easier than ever. Even though this isn’t in-person training, you can still provide a valuable service comprised of guidance and motivation to clients all over the world. This can be an excellent globally supplied stream of income to help push through potential hiccups in the local economic environment. Additionally, it has the possibility of being a lucrative “add-on” service for in-person clients or for locals that want to work with you but can’t afford to do so on a regular basis. The kind of business you can build via online training is limited only by your imagination! The online training model is ideal for people that don’t want to be tied down by geography or the typical training hours that an in-person trainer must deal with to be successful.
These are just a few of the paths on which you may tread while navigating your way through a successful personal training career. This list is not an all-inclusive collection nor is it meant to say that one way is better than the other. It is meant simply to spark your imagination and help you to see how your strengths and long-term career desires match up with a few of the different potential personal training business models. If you’re like many successful trainers, your ideal career path will likely end up winding its way through more than one of these options. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself working across these and other training models simultaneously as your career evolves.
So, “what kind of a trainer do you want to be?”