Posted 1 month ago
How to Become a Personal Trainer
Personal training can be amongst the best jobs going. It is a socially engaging profession in which you will meet with, and encourage, dozens of clients every week. The relationships you form can also be quite intimate, as you meet a client several times per week and take them through one of the hardest, most intense journeys they will ever embark upon. The financial rewards can also be good, with top trainers able to charge sometimes hundreds of pounds per hour.
However, in order to succeed, you need to lay a strong set of foundations. You need a set of qualifications in order to both call yourself a personal trainer and to be able to practice your craft in any gym or leisure centre. You also need to know a whole host of soft skills, such as how to interact well with clients, how to promote yourself, and how to run a business.
Personal trainers need to be a master of all trades, in effect. You have to be a good trainer, first and foremost. You also need a solid amount of nutritional and dietary knowledge. You need business savvy, including advertising and financial skills. You need to be able to connect with people and inspire them.
And you need to be driven. For all the rewards available, personal training is a hard job. You will be self-employed, with no safety net, the hours can be punishing, and clients can be difficult. If you are to succeed, you will really need to want it.
If this sounds like you, you will probably make a good personal trainer. Follow the advice in this article and you will have a very solid foundation on which to build your own fitness empire.
Personal trainer qualifications: What do I need to do to become a personal trainer?
There are hard and soft qualifications needed in order to become a successful personal trainer. We’ll get onto the hard qualifications shortly – the certifications needed to become a licensed personal trainer. However, this is just part of the story.
The soft qualifications – or, rather, the qualities – needed to become a successful personal trainer are many and varied, and they are well worth looking into before we carry on much further.
First off, what does a personal trainer do? What is their job?
A program with a personal trainer will be tailor made for an individual client, crafted using the trainer’s expertise and their knowledge of a client’s goals and history. A personal trainer can help somebody to achieve their fitness goals more efficiently than that person could manage without their help. Personal training sessions, with a certified personal trainer, will target exactly what is needed to suit a person’s goals, and the programming and dietary protocol the trainer provides will get them where they need to be in the shortest amount of time.
With an average client, whom you are meeting and training for the first time, as a personal trainer you will need to:
- Probe them, finding out everything you need to know about their fitness level and health history.
- Then you need to set them up for training towards success. This means setting realistic short-term and long-term goals and planning programmes for reaching them.
- Over the course of your training with an individual, you will need to be a teacher. You will need to educate and coach clients on how to follow their programmes safely and effectively. You will need to give clients advice on health, nutrition and lifestyle changes, among other things.
- You also need to motivate them and keep them motivated as they form healthy lifestyle habits. Accountability is a big deal in personal training – ultimately, you will be the one holding a client to account as they try to reach their goals.
- As part of this, you need to know several techniques for collecting data, and be comfortable using them. This data will be crucial in measuring success and determining goals. Techniques include things like measuring heart rate and body fat levels, using tools such as heart rate monitors and skinfold callipers, for example. (Most PT qualification courses will cover the basics with you – see below).
- You need to be able to work all hours. Most clients will have 9-5 jobs, which means that your busy periods will be antisocial hours – before 9am and after 5pm during the week, and during the day on weekends. You need to make sure that your lifestyle can accommodate this.
- Finally, think of yourself like a bartender. You are a neutral person in most clients’ lives – neither a close friend or family member, nor a complete stranger. They will hopefully trust you, but will also know that you are outside of their usual circle – much like a bartender. This means that a large part of your job may be to listen to them offload about anything and everything, even as you try to keep them on track with any individual training session. It’s not a vital skill – it’s not what they’re paying you for. But it is useful – it will set you above the competition and will help you to maintain long-term relationships with clients.
Personal trainer certification
You need to work through the REPs levels (2-3, possibly 4) to become a personal trainer. To start, you would normally be an experienced fitness instructor with a recognised qualification, such as:
- Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym
- Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
- Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness
These are basic necessities. They will not qualify you to become a personal trainer but will form the first step in your fitness education. With these, you can work on the gym floor as a gym employee, which may be a good idea as you start out. It will help you to familiarise yourself with your client base, get useful experience, strike up beneficial relationships, and will give you a bit of an income.
Then, to become a personal trainer, you need to study to Level 3. This includes certifications such as:
- Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training
- Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training
Fitness instructor and personal trainer courses are widely available through colleges and private training providers. There are plenty of in-person, online, and a mixture of both, available, with a range of financing options. Getting to Level 2 will generally cost a few hundred pounds and will consist of a few training days. Level 3 will generally be a couple of thousand pounds and will include either protracted part-time study, or intensive study over a few weeks.
You will need membership of a professional organisation, such as the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). This will be a necessity for working as a personal trainer in any gym or leisure centre and will enable you to take out the proper insurance needed.
To work as a personal trainer, you must also have public liability insurance and a first aid award. This must include a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation certificate (CPR).
If you are already a qualified fitness instructor, you could take the Level 3 Award in Conversion of Advanced Fitness Instructor to Personal Trainer Status. This allows you to change your membership status on the REPs to Personal Trainer.
Career and professional development (CPD) is also obligatory as a personal trainer. You need to perform a certain amount – earning a certain number of credits – per year to maintain your REPs membership. This can be in things like:
- Exercise referral specialisation
- Yoga instruction
- Sports massage therapy
- Circuit training
- Strength and conditioning
- Nutrition for sports and exercise
Personal trainer salary
You cannot expect to earn a wage as a personal trainer – you cannot expect to find an employer. The only viable route is to work for yourself, either as a sole freelancer or as the head of a team. Therefore, you should be thinking in terms of hourly rates and average profits, not salary.
So, how much does a personal trainer cost, on average, and, when you are charging this, how much will you make?
Let’s answer the first question:
How much does it cost to hire a personal trainer?
Usually somewhere in the region of £30-60 per hour, though rates can vary according to geographical location, facilities offered, experience level and many other factors.
Geography plays a large part, as does your reputation, as does the kind of crowd you can get yourself into.
You can expect to charge more if you live in a large, rich city. Somewhere like London, New York or Dubai, for example, will be a prime spot for personal trainers. However, not all large cities are the same. In the UK, you can charge a lot more in London than you can in Edinburgh or Glasgow, for example. You will need to research competition to see what other personal trainers in your area are charging.
Then you have your reputation. If you have a good reputation, you will have people queueing up to train with you. Demand will be higher, supply limited (you can only work so many hours in a day!) so basic economic theory will have you put your prices up. If you’re just starting out, or have developed a poor reputation, there is a good chance that demand will be low, so you won’t be able to charge so much.
Building up a good reputation takes time, but you should be able to have a large network with a steady stream of new clients and a solid foundation of longer term clients in about eighteen months or so.
Locale is important, too. For example, if you’re working at a local council gym, training people used to paying £20 / month for their gym memberships, it will be unlikely that you will be able to find many people either willing or able to spend £50-100 per session on a personal trainer. If you’re working in a luxury facility in a city’s financial district, on the other hand, people will want you to charge them more, to a certain extent, as a bit of a status symbol. Expect to charge anything upwards of £100. If you can make any connections in the entertainment industry, you will be able to charge top-rate prices – many celebrities and studios will be willing to basically write blank cheques.
This is how much you will bring in. You also need to consider outgoings.
The main overheads you will have to deal with will be ground rent – paying to use a gym or leisure centre.
There are a couple of routes to payment.
Firstly, many gyms will simply charge you a monthly amount. This can be ruinous at first but gives you complete autonomy. Typically, you can consider £300 / month to be cheap. This will be the trade off of using a luxury, well-placed facility over a budget council gym – you can easily end up paying over a thousand pounds per month (but only really if you’re somewhere where you can charge over a hundred per hour, so it works out well enough if you’re busy).
Other than this, many gyms will have you work for them on the gym floor, or taking exercise classes, for free, for a set number of hours per week (usually around 10-20). This is great when you’re first starting out, when you’re time rich but cash poor. However, it limits the amount of available time you have in which to meet paying clients and can be pretty disheartening – that £50 per hour looks a lot less when you’re working half your time for free!
The other option is to set up your own space. This can be as fancy as you like, as professional as you like, or can simply be an open, outside space. The latter is a good option as it will be free, but you will obviously have limited access to equipment and will be reliant on the weather – it’s only really viable if you live in a warm, sunny place.
However, don’t despair over the large overheads. In most countries, this is all tax deductible. This means that you will be able to offset it against your tax, so in real terms won’t see your overall take-home overly affected by paying rents and so on.
Other than rent, you need to take regular courses, hold good insurance, maintain branded clothes etc, and pay for the membership of whatever governing body you’re with (REPs and so on). This should be minimal. A good CPD course will be a couple of hundred pounds. Membership and insurance shouldn’t add up to another £150 or so per year. Branded clothes and business cards should set you back a similar amount, unless you want to give out branded t-shirt and hoodies to clients (always a good idea).
After this, you may want to budget for advertising. This needn’t be much. A few flyers in your gym, a couple of Gumtree ads, maybe maintaining a good online presence. Most advertising will be free, via word of mouth, as you build up your reputation.
How this adds up
As you can imagine, adding up your hourly intake and deducting your expenses can leave a lot of room for variation. Somebody charging £30 / hour and working 15 hours per week for themselves, and 10 for free at a gym, should average £1800 / month, minus a few small overheads.
This is a good amount for a fifteen-hour work week but can be greatly improved upon.
For example, somebody able to charge £120 / hour, working 25 hours per week, and paying £1200 in rent to a luxury leisure centre, will make on average £10,800 per month – a lot better.
These two positions mark the extremes – few will bring in much less or much more, and most will lie somewhere around the lower end of the middle (call it £30,000 per year as you get going, or thereabouts).
Don’t forget, either, that you won’t be working a full 52-week year. Employees get holiday leave, so they are generally paid five days a week, no matter what. When you take holiday time, you don’t get paid. Work it out to more like a 48 week year – so our top personal trainer above would bring in around £129,600 per annum, on a 52 week basis, but would only take home about £119, 600.
Do you think you have what it takes to become a personal trainer? Do you think that running your own business as a personal trainer would bring the satisfaction – both financial and emotional – that you are looking for? If so, fantastic – follow the above advice and you should find your route to success.
You’ll be a personal trainer in no time, and when you are, remember Arena 100 is here to support your business and help you grow! Our turnkey solution for Personal Trainers and Wellness Professionals has been designed to make your life easier.
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