What I learned from starting a personal training business

I thought I was ready… but I learned fast that starting your own personal training business is no easy task.

The moment I started working in a gym setting as a Certified Personal Trainer I felt as though starting my own business was my destiny. It was so evident to me: my clients really liked me, I got them results, I was fun to hang with (during that hour), I took care of them not just as clients but as real people and I was easy to talk to.

My clients always told me “if you ever started your own gym we’d come with you.” My managers loved my zeal to learn and work ethic. Within eight months I was promoted to be the manager of an interval training program which was a huge deal not only because I was promoted in such a short amount of time but because I was also the first female manager for this program!

I was ecstatic to have that title and it grew my drive to succeed even more! I smashed all the sales goals I was given and became one of the most esteemed managers in the company because of the relationships I had with my clients. Again, I kept hearing the ever so famous “if you ever started your own gym we’ll be there.”

As a feeler for their loyalty, I started blogging on fitness. It allowed me to see if they truly meant what they were saying and it also allowed me to determine if my network was strong enough to support a business if I chose to start it.

I won’t lie, my following didn’t grow astronomically over night but I did have the support of my faithful clients and they were true to their habits and patterns referring people to me and support my blog.

A year later, I left this particular fitness company and ventured to another one. Much like last time, I had the same success. People loved me, supposedly only wanted to train with me and I continued to smash my goals.

Growing restless, and looking to learn more, I walked away from it all.

After two years of working in the fitness industry and much success, here it was – December 2015. Then and there, I made the decision to leave corporate fitness and go into business for myself.

The first thing I did was what any person in their right mind would do… I contacted my old “faithful” clients! I got so many “yes keep me posted“, “sure I’ll train with you“,”I’m so proud of you, can’t wait to get back to working out with you” responses. In my mind it was perfect. I wouldn’t need to do too much recruiting of new clients because my old clients loved me and always did a good job of recruiting for me. This won’t be as hard because I’m going into it with a strong network.

Boy was I WRONG!!

Months passed, the newsletters went out, the offers expired, the events came and passed and to my surprise, none of my old clients ever showed. In fact none of my old clients patronize my business to this day.

Nine months later after the “the soft launch” of my personal training business I’ve learned some pretty hard, but valuable lessons:

starting a personal training business - woman with ropes

1. Convenience doesn’t mean loyalty

In the case of my old clients, I was convenient. I was a personal trainer in the gym where they were already members. Realistically they weren’t loyal to the gym either, it was just the best deal that happened to be closest to their homes. If in fact they were loyal they would’ve taken the journey into entrepreneurship with me. Regardless of my location, they would’ve trusted me to continue servicing them.

Like-ability also doesn’t mean loyalty… yup, just because people like you doesn’t mean they’ll be loyal to you. I have old clients that genuinely like me as a person, they contact me to “check” on me, however they don’t patronize my business. This pill was a tad harder for me to swallow. How is it that people like and care about me but won’t patronize my business? I realized that more than likely I lacked in “adding/building value”.

2. Don’t get discouraged because your business doesn’t live up to the expectations you had for it during the first year.

It’s true that the first three years are the hardest! When I first started my business, I was down on myself about every goal I didn’t hit. I’m (if there’s such a thing) an A++ personality, so things should be accomplished and perfect as soon as I soon as I deem it a goal. It’s a habit that will drive any entrepreneur nuts (how I’ve learned to control this is an entirely different story). With the help of my amazing support system, I’ve learned that nothing happens overnight and everything, be it failure or success, is a lesson. I’ve learned so much in the last few months, I’ve already started making changes and I’m certain I’ll make a million more… it’s called progress and evolution.

3. Don’t change your niche just to get clients!

Even in the planning phase of my business I had a certain niche I wanted to reach and work with. However, once I launched my business, I was alright with the idea of training anyone just to get publicity. I was like a dog chasing my own tail. After launching, my main focus soon became money. I was willing to train anyone to see a profit and to gain publicity. After realizing that I had gotten away from my niche, I began to rebrand and focus solely on reaching and helping my chosen niche. This in turn saved me time and kept me focused on building my brand.

In conclusion, if you had to choose a takeaway from this piece, take three simple points:

– distinguish your clientele from those who use your service because it’s convenient versus because they are loyal

– add value to your service – you can never have enough value.

– be patient with yourself and keep learning – stay true to your niche!