01 Feb How to become a Personal Trainer
So fitness is your thing. You’ve decided you want to make a change and start to help others get in shape and change their life by becoming a PT.
Where do you start?
Let me firstly explain how I managed to make the switch before I discuss options. I was an engineer for 8 years in Glasgow and decided that I wanted to change my life. Exercising was always a big part of my life and I was quickly falling out of love with engineering. I started a website, almost like a blog, with a few videos to get myself out there. After a little while it seemed like the logical next step to get qualified as a PT so I could think about helping others 1-2-1.
It was simple really, once you know what you want to do, you just find a way. I completed a distance learning course with some face-to-face classroom days over a period of 3-6 months. After I was qualified it was either part time PT in Glasgow, full time PT in Glasgow or take the jump and go to London. For me, plan B takes away form plan A so felt that the London option was the best. I’ll explain my start soon.
What can you do when you’ve decided to make the jump?
It depends on your current situation of course. If you want to fast track it, you can do 4-8 week courses to get you qualified. If you have no qualifications then you have to get your level 2 certification to be qualified as a fitness coach, then level 3 to be qualified as a PT. There are various options which I’ll list at the end of this. If you have a job at the moment there are online courses that you can do. These mean you can study at your own leisure and you would just show up for assessments with a tutor and instructor.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Think of it as like you’re passing your driving test. Just because you pass the test, it doesn’t mean you are a good driver. The learning happens after you pass. I’d recommend completing the course in a maximum of 6 months if not sooner. Get plenty of experience in the middle. Ask friends for help, train them for free, and get feedback. The more you can learn the better. It’s always easier if you practice what your preach. It’s very difficult to tell someone how to lose weight, get flexible, or get fitter or stronger if you haven’t achieved anything yourself. You don’t have to be a world champion at anything, you just have to be a bit involved in what you’re teaching. There’s something about actually doing what you’ve learned.
First hand experience
Nothing beats first hand experience. You could read all the best books in the world but until you’ve experienced what it feels like, you can’t describe the activity to your client in real world detail. The course you choose is really just a formality. You can take your time or you can fast track it, it’s up to you. The learning happens after.
What happens after you qualify?
You have a few different options and it depends on your situation.
Main options for working in a gym:
1 – Employed
You can be employed. The client pays the gym and you get a percentage of that, depending on the gyms model and payment structure. Usually the more sessions your deliver, the bigger percentage of the session price you will see. Some gyms will even pay you holiday pay, which is nice because PT’s taking holiday is usually a financial nightmare.
2 – Free hours
You can work part time fitness hours for the gym for “free” rent and you get what the client pays you. This can be up to 15-20 hours per week without you earning much, or anything at all. Meaning you get everything the client pays you at the expense of the other hours in the gym.
3 – Rent
You pay the gym a rent. Anything from a couple of hundred pounds up to £1500 a month in some London gyms. This gives you the freedom to run your business as and when you want as long as you pay rent. It’s the biggest risk if you have no clients to start with. Some commercial gyms will give you rent reduction for your first 6 weeks to get some clients in the book.
4 – Your own studio (RISKY!)
You can open your own studio but that isn’t recommended until you have a few years experience as the financial overheads are huge and you need to know how to run a gym/studio.
As you can see, there’s a few options out there and it depends on your financial situation. If you have some money saved, then option 3 might be your best bet as you can make a lot more money. If you want to learn as you build with less financial pressure, then option 2 could be your best bet as you are working fitness hours, helping others, and there’s no gym rent.
There’s really no right or wrong.
Be warned though, if you really want to have great business then you will have to spend a lot of time in the gym to build your business. In the gym at 6:30 and sometimes not leaving until 8 or 9 at night for your first few months. This doesn’t have to be the case, it really depends on your situation. The harder you work, the luckier you get. Sometimes it seems like you can’t get clients and other times they all come at once. Without putting the work in, speaking to people and being there, you won’t be available and the next PT might get that client instead of you. If you put in the work, help people without pressuring them, introduce yourself, ask their name, and just be friendly and helpful in general, it will be the best thing you can do for your business.
Another way you can help people is to give free “taster sessions”. This is a personal choice, some people won’t do this as their time is very valuable. But with no business, it’s very difficult to make that decision. If you do the above, talk to people, be open, helpful and friendly then you will find your business will quickly grow. Once you hit your target sessions per week, then you can always start to be a bit more strict with your diary. One bit of advice I would give you is to be strict with your times when you finally start. Eventually you will have people wanting to train morning, lunch and evening, Monday to Friday and even at weekends. Your life can quickly be consumed by PT. It’s a very rewarding career but also very energetically demanding. Often PTs will go through burn out 1 to 2 times before they realise that it’s unsustainable and they have to develop certain rules on when they work. For example, no clients after 5pm or no weekends.
That’s pretty much it. If I were to go into detail on everything you had to do to start a business, then this blog would be 4 times the length it already is.
Your business is an actual business so make sure you register with HMRC and the tax man to keep it legal. Put aside 20-30% of your income to pay your tax. Chances are, after expenses, you wont need it but rather be safe than sorry.
If you want to know more about distance or 1-2-1 courses, I mentor online and/or in London. You can get instructors all over the UK so just ask if that’s something you’re interested in by contacting me.
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Fabio Bonanno is a hugely popular Lifestyle, Health and Wellness Coach. As a 100% Natural Athlete, Fabio’s aim is to give people as much motivation, inspiration and information on all to do with fitness, lifestyle and nutrition as possible. Fitness and staying healthy can be hard at times so he would love to help others as many have helped him in the past. He is ranked Top 5 European WBFF and Top 3 Scotland BNBF.