How To Become a Full-Time Personal Trainer » The Exceed Masterclass

How To Become a Full-Time Personal Trainer

This week, as part of my brand new coaching series, I'm chatting to Bobby. I help him with making the big leap from full-time employment to full-time personal trainer.

If you're not already working full-time as a fitness professional but want to make that happen then be sure to tune into this episode. We chat about how I made the leap into the fitness industry, what it was like and the lessons I learnt as a result.


Can't listen right now? Then read the transcript below!

Episode Highlights:

Meet Bobby

​The goal of working in the fitness industry

Transitioning from full-time employment to a personal trainer career

​Setting time frames for the big leap

How to get started - online or offline?

Which gym to choose for your first personal trainer job?

Transitioning to online coaching

Taking offline clients onto ​your online program

Using offline client testimonials for your online services

Building your first audience and email list

Building an email list with your offline clients

Going from a free give-away to a paying clients

Links and Resources Mentioned:

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Ru: What are you up to? What's a day in a life look like for you, what are you doing?

Bobby: I work full time, I do sales and event coordination at a casino. And so that's my full time job. A day in a life...right now first thing in the morning I'm usually up at the gym. There's my gym right over there, I just came from it actually. Then I head to work and from there, after work I'm either working on the Masterclass stuff or reading books. Now just recently I'm trying to see if I can get a position as a personal trainer at a gym, just to kind of get my feet wet.

Ru: Cool. OK. So the goal then is to transition from employment in a different industry and get into the fitness industry full-time.

Bobby: Yeah exactly. 

Ru: I know you're going to do the the personal training in the gym, is the goal long-term offline or is it the come online and predominately do that, or is it a mix and match? What's the goal for maybe the next year or two, where would you like to be?

Bobby: The goal like would ultimately be to go online in the next year or two. The problem I have is I guess making that transition, it's tough obviously and I want to just like I said get my feet wet, build a little bit of credibility, have people under me that I can use as testimonials. And just learn what it's like to work with clients. That's definitely something I don't have any experience in so that's kind of what I'm trying to do.

That's the reason I'm thinking about trying personal training on the side. I'm still going to keep my full time job and then do two-three days a week personal training at a gym, which is about three minute drive from where I work currently. But ultimately I would like to go online, I'd like to have that freedom to travel, set my own hours all those sort of things.

Ru: Yeah for sure. I totally agree and I think you're doing the right route. If you've never stepped into the fitness industry, then getting some one to one experience is a good idea. You are chatting to people in person and working with people in person is really good.

If you told me, 'Ru I really want to just go straight in online' - yeah that's also doable. You don't need to rack up huge amounts of experience, you can still work with people one to one online. But again if you're missing that human interaction sometimes then that seems like a good way to go. And certainly I did as well.

Have you got any specific questions or thoughts you'd like to throw at me to help you with this journey that you're on? Because I've been on a very similar one.

Bobby: Right. Yeah, I guess right now the the question I have is, how did you transition into full-time personal training, and since you have gone through it what recommendations would you make?

Ru: OK, this is a good question here. I haven't had this one this week. So what was the transition?

Bobby: I went to school and I took a business degree and I got a job at the casino here. The casino here in Canada is actually owned by the government, so they're are good job to have but it's not my passion. I'm trying to make my passion my career,  like a lot of people are trying to do so.

Since you had that thing where you went from something completely unrelated, how did that transition go? The hardest part is starting right?

Ru: Yeah, it really is. You've got to essentially build that bridge between what you have now and where you want to go with the different career. You got to build that bridge so you can just get over that, I call it the leap the big leap and that bridge is going to get you over there.

I went in with two feet, but it was a bit of a personal thing for me because I had a very low point in my life, after doing some bodybuilding competitions and things like that. I realized it was now or never for me. I've been talking about making changes for many years and getting qualified.  I kind of just burnt down and everything I had existing, I quit it all, changed cities and sold all my stuff. I then literally just had my laptop to my name at the time. It's not something that I recommend people to do because we've got commitments and family and things like that. But it was certainly a big way of getting myself to make shit happen.

I didn't have the income coming in anymore, I no longer had a nice flat, I had no car. I was living in a small flat share with my laptop or my on my knees in my rented bedroom, online trying to put some of these components together. That was a huge learning curve.

I didn't have any support, mentorship or advice around this. I hadn't been able to connect with anyone who had done that so far. So I can see why maybe you and I connected here and we can chat about this because I've been there. I myself hadn't been able to find someone like that who went to that extreme and successfully made the changes. I think that would have been very beneficial for me to have had someone who done that previously and I could maybe say, is this right or what do you think about that. I was just kind of kicked out into the deep end.

I think sometimes that's a pro in that I had to learn how to swim. I had to learn how to swim very very quickly and in my opinion it's one of the pros of making a big leap and really going for it, I had to make it work. I wasn't just dabbling, I wasn't recreational I was all in or else if it failed I wasn't going be able to afford this little room that I was renting and I was back out with no job, no career, nothing. 

So I think looking back on that you want to get some accountability around that and I can certainly help you more with this transition. That's something you and I can chat about more in the Masterclass over the next coming weeks and months. That support of someone who's done it is definitely beneficial. So make sure you reach out to me, tell me what you're doing and what you're up to and what little milestones you're making along the way.

I also think you want to put something in place that's going to hold you accountable to finally making those changes, like deadlines. Because I went for years saying I'm going to leave the engineering industry, I'm going to be a personal trainer, I'm going to get into the fitness industry. And I said that for many years and it wasn't until I personally had a very low point could I make the changes. But had I maybe have set some very big goals for myself and being a bit more accountable to setting deadlines and times where I was going to make those changes, I probably would have done it a lot sooner.

I also wouldn't have had to go through such a rapid change. So I think for someone like yourself who's making these changes on a slightly slower basis is perfectly cool. It's perfectly fine you do so.

I think you still want to set some time frames like, by now I want to quit this job, by now I want to be to have 10 or 20 hours of personal training work, to be able to replace that income. And it's going to make you get whatever you need done to make that happen. Have you got any time frame set in stone about when you're going to leave your employed job?

Bobby: No, I'm really unsure about that and it's kind of tough for me as I'm at this point now where I still live at home, and I'm probably pretty close to moving out. And me my girlfriend have been going out for a long time too, so we're thinking about living together probably getting married soon. So I got to make sure I have money coming in because right now it's OK cause I live at home but as soon as I move out then the pressure is on.

I haven't thought about too much when I would leave my job. I'm kind of just wanting to start something, that's the whole idea of me getting into personal training. just so I can start and then I think from there I would have a better gauge of when I could do that.

I guess another question I'd have for you is, did you start off doing personal training or did you go straight into online coaching?

Ru: That's good question. I basically left my full-time employment with the bases that I was going to create Exceed Nutrition, my online coaching program and my website. That was the goal.

I was in a very similar situation to you, I know you need the cash, you can't just quit your nice salary and go from  being able to support yourself and your family or girlfriend to nothing. Because that's what you'd be doing really when you're starting a personal trainer career. You don't walk into any gym and they go 'here's ten clients' - awesome. We wish they did that, but they don't. So I actually did my personal trainer qualification while I was still employed, that took me a few months to do. I used to actually call in sick to work and say I was ill for a few days, then I would nip off to the city in Manchester where I was living and do my exams. Hopefully my boss never hears that one or my old boss.

But you know I also realized that the online stuff would likely take longer to get a bit of momentum, to support myself, than the personal training. I do think it's easier to step into a busy gym with thousands of members with a big t-shirt saying personal trainer. It's going to be a lot easier to get a few clients initially plus that face to face contact is fantastic for quickly building 'know, like and trust' and getting clients so you can quickly support yourself with some personal training. And that's what I did.

I decided to go with something that had very little strings attached. So, I don't know if you guys have them over there but we have gyms that the personal trainer don't need a contract. You don't actually have to pay any fees for being a personal trainer there, as long as you give in exchange some hours to the gym. Do you guys have anything like that, have you looked at different gyms and what they are offering personal trainers?

Bobby: Yeah I have. We have Goodlife, which is big in Canada.That one's more like just a job you get paid per hour on the clients you have. The one I'm considering a little bit more it's called Snap fitness. I like that one because they let you run it like it's your own business. You can set your hours, you make up your marketing pieces and then they take, I believe it's 40 percent of whatever it is that you're charging. So you get a little bit more. The average training session is about $50 so you'd get about 30 odd dollars, whereas Goodlife they only pay about 20 dollars for a training session. But there you're more of an employee of the gym, if that makes sense.

Ru: Yeah. They are very different in terms of what they offer. And it's something I've spent a lot of time looking into before I actually decided on one. And I decided I didn't want to become an employee per say or get tied into 12 months or anything like that. I wanted to be able to leave whenever I wanted to leave. So I quite like that freedom aspect. Because I was starting with zero clients I also did't want to go into somewhere where they wanted me to pay a ground fee for operating as a personal trainer in the gym. So you would pay anything between three, four, five hundred pounds a month to actually just operate in that gym.

I went to Pure Gym, which you work for them for like 10-15 hours a week, for free in exchange of not paying anything to the gym. And everything that you make as a personal trainer,  you keep. You then get set to do some cleaning and some classes and stuff like that. To me, at the time that was my best option. that was my most preferrable option. I didn't have money but I had time, so I gave some of my time. And at that stage I would rather give someone my time with very little commitments, than them taking a slice of the pie out of what I was making or giving them a set fee.

So paying per client that, doesn't sound too bad to get going if it's not your long term vision. You don't want someone taking what was it, did you say 40 percent, off every client you earn. That's like a tax on a tax. You're going to get taxed after the gym is taxed you as well, for the pleasure. So I really think it's another reason why I'm not a huge fan of personal training and offline coaching per say, because of those gyms and the rates that they do you for. So yeah that was kind of my way of getting started.

I did that for about a year before I got to a level of online income that was sustainable for me. One of the key ways of doing that was not selling one-off products or services, like nutrition plans. I got straight to the heart of the matter of getting clients onto recurring income models.

I would coach clients for a minimum of 12 months. So if client came to me online I said, look I can coach you but for a 12 month period, however I did start my prices very low. So although the time commitment was there for them the price wasn't a huge burning factor. In fact I only started off with a very low fee of around about 20 pounds per month. So that was pretty cheap. I offered them a lot of value in coaching for that in return. Once I had enough clients and I knew that my income was secure, because all of these clients were going to pay me for at least a year, I felt I could give up the personal training side of things.

A tip for you there, if the goal is to try and build up the online platform, but you're doing the offline stuff too, like I did, is you need to be pretty relentless with your time around the personal training clients. It's easy when you're doing the PT offline to you know, 'oh you want to train at this time no problem', 'you want to come in at this time no problem', 'you want to move, OK'. When I was doing the personal training my focus was building the online platform and I set certain periods of time where I would work on my online business every single day. So if a wanted to train with me during one of those time blocks that I've set myself for the online stuff, I said no. And yes it maybe cost me some clients and even new clients who could only do those times and I said I can't. So I think it's about weighing up your priorities as well particularly when you're getting going online.

Bobby: And did you find that your PT clients then transitioned to online or are they just completely different?

Ru: That's a great question. No. I've had people in the past ask me 'should I build up my offline personal training to get online clients. I'm like no, no. These are very different people in my opinion. The offline clients do like that personal interaction and engagement particularly when it comes to the training side of things. They like that at 6 o'clock you're going to be at the door waiting for them to come through. It's their accountability to get their ass to the gym. I think with offline training, exercise is what people are paying for.

Online I realized that that wasn't really the case. I also realized that with online clients nutrition was going to be more important to me than say the exercise, because it's not about just holding them accountable to getting through a training program that night or showing up at 6 o'clock for a session. So I do think they're very different types of people in terms of what they're looking for from a coach and the training that they need. I don't think you're going to see a huge amount of transition. 

When leaving my PT clients, notified them, said look my online business is doing well so I'm going to be stopping the offline training soon. None of them said 'oh great, I'll take up online instead'. They used to ask if there's any personal trainers here that I would recommend. That's what they said. So yeah very different.

Bobby: Ok. So did you use any of those offline clients to help your online coaching, like testimonials? That's what I was thinking. Or did you start from scratch on the online side.

Ru: I did use the success I had with the offline coaching initially to put back into the online side of things and I don't see any problem with doing that at all. We know that our fitness industry is driven by testimonials. In particular the weight management, body composition space, the before and after photos are a huge thing. So I was very conscious early on with my offline clients that they were going to be the foundation of my success in the industry really. These are the first clients I am working with. I was very keen to get them great results and I looked after them very well. I also made sure that I was  on top of getting there before and after photos because they would serve me very well when transitioning online and building out some of my websites, as well as showcasing the results on social media. 

Now, I wasn't tricking people and saying, look what my online program produces. I was saying here is so-and-so who has been working with me for the last 12 weeks, six months, whatever those are the results. So it wasn't trying to false advertise around the online program but I was using them say this is what I can do.

Bobby: OK. Yeah. I've only gone through the business portion a little bit, then I decide to go back to do and nutrition so I could build my knowledge. I figured I'm the product, so let's make the product as good as it can be. But I'm wondering how did you first start to build an audience? Did you use social media or was it Facebook targeting ads? Because that's the thing, getting those people to hear about you, right?

Ru: Yeah definitely like you need to command some attention and build up an audience. One of the best things I ever did for my online business from the start, which I got right, was to start to build an email list. That was my focus.

And yes, I was trying to play around a lot on social media at the time because I was watching others and I could see them doing that. And so you kind of think, oh well they're doing well so I'm going to mimic that. But that's the only side of the business that you can see, the social media and the updates. But I was also lucky enough to start collecting e-mail addresses from my social media followers and people connecting with me.

If someone asked me for a bit more information I was like sure, here's my e-book to learn more, but it was always in exchange for the e-mail address. That served me time and time again pretty much ever since getting started online. I've always promoted my programs and services through email marketing. Very little is done through the social media platforms except for creating the audience, bringing people into your world,  giving away the free stuff like the e-books or a webinar. But ultimately the goal was to build e-mail subscriber base.

For someone like yourself, in terms of getting started with the business, it works perfectly well with the offline as well. As an offline personal trainer - build an email list, as an online trainer - build an email list, because they're the only assets that you genuinely own. Facebook could get shut down tomorrow and you lose your likes, you lose all your followers, but with an email list you don't.

So what I would recommend for you, and of course we've got all the training in the Masterclass for this, is to create something very simple that you feel the type of clients that you would enjoy working with would like, in exchange for an email address. It could be one of the resources that we've got in the Masterclass, which you know there's plenty of them. If it's something that you can rebrand as your own, use that from the Masterclass or if it's not, then take inspiration from it and create my own version. And what I would suggest to you then is to set up a simple process, which we've also got the training on in the Masterclass, to say here's my free thing in exchange for your email address. That little process there is incredibly important to any business in my opinion, particularly now as online personal trainers.

Bobby: Right, and that's also something you did for your offline clients as well? You had told them you had this ebook or something like that, do you want me to email it to you, is that what you did to build that?

Ru: Yes, I did that as well. If a client came up to me or sorry not a client a potential client in the gym said, hey how can I find out more about what you do or can I have some information about services or anything like that, I always got their email.

I think that's a great way of being able to contact people and follow up with them. And offline doesn't change much, you could use some paid marketing. Online I would promote that worldwide - that's a benefit of being online. But offline that would change in terms of you would target your local area. So you give away the free thing to people in your target area because you know they're the most likely to come to the gym and meet you.

You could also do the very same to all the members of the gym that you're going to go and work in. I would have to think about it a little bit more about the strategy, but imagine if you were able to hand out something that they can download. A lot of them will take the flyer or whatever it is you've decided to use as the promotion tool to get that email in exchange. They'd go home and be like oh yeah this PT gave me this in the gym earlier, I'm going to go onto the site. Then it could be the  like an opt in form, where they put in their name and email address and now you're collecting the database for all the members, that would be powerful.

I think I even asked our old gym manager if I could have the emails of all the gym members. She kind of laughed at me and said no chance. Can you imagine her giving me 5000 email addresses saying these are all the members here. I would have been emailing them saying 'hey do you want some PT'. 

So if you can do that at any level whether it's online, whether it's offline in your local area or simply just going straight to your members of that gym. Getting the e-mails while providing some value and not just saying buy my stuff, buy my stuff. Give some value, whether a free thing or a free consultation something like that, get people chatting and I think you will see a lot of success from following that.

Bobby: Right. And did you just have that one piece you would give them or would you follow up with something else to kind of keep in contact with them? Or are you hoping that one piece turns into a client?

Ru: Yes. Good question again. A lot of personal trainers set up the e-book. I'm not the only one saying you should set up an e-book or a download. A lot of PT's are doing this and they think OK well I've given this away now, why haven't I got clients lining up at the door. It doesn't stop there. It's the very first part of the funnel.

The easiest thing to do from there is, once you've got that e-mail address in exchange for providing some value, the best thing to do is use some follow up e-mails to invite someone to a free consultation for example. So if you're doing that offline you could use an email service provider that would automatically send a few e-mails to say' hey, I hope you enjoy the ebook, would you like to book in a 30 minute consultation with me in the gym tomorrow or this week'. The same would happen online, you'd book in a call with me, we can Skype like we are now and I'll help you sort out what your biggest struggle is right now and I'll tell you about my coaching program that's going on. So I think you want to get the email and then try and get some personal conversation going whether that's in person in the gym or online via Skype, either can work.

Bobby: OK. Yeah that makes sense. I think that gives me a good idea of where to go. I'm going to try to see how this whole PT thing goes and then see how I can build it up from there. And like you said, I think what's important too is I'm going to start setting some deadlines for myself and hopefully they'll give me the accountability to get things done in time.

Ru: Yes, I think it will be. And keep reaching out to me in the Masterclass. Have you got your own thread up and running about things you're getting up to, things you're doing?

Bobby: Yeah, I have set one up. I have been getting things done but I haven't been updating the accountability side of it so I guess I need to start doing that.

Ru: If you need it, it's there, that's what it's there for, but if you're getting shit done that's perfectly cool as well, just keep cracking on. But I'm there if you need to reach out and ask me a question. All right cool stuff. Well I suppose we can wrap it up. Keep reaching out to me and I hope this is helped.

Bobby: Yeah this is, I appreciate you doing this. Thank you. 

Let's build your online fitness business together

If you're a health and fitness pro who would like to learn more about creating a successful, meaningful online fitness business, check out The Exceed Masterclass

The Exceed Masterclass is your essential resource for the training, advice and support you need on how to become an online personal trainer.

You'll receive proven, practical training to help you reach more people and create more impact online.

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