Tricks of the Trade
How do you increase your income once your client base is full?
Reaching a full client training schedule
can be a mixed blessing for a personal
trainer. It’s great that you are full,
but if you can’t physically work any more
client hours, how do you continue to
boost your bottom line?
I struggled with this concept for a time.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, I looked
at what successful colleagues were doing,
to see whether any of their strategies could
fit my business. Happily I found a handful
of strategies that have worked.
Strategy A. In my schedule I save room
for group training classes and seminars.
The group classes not only draw in new
people who cannot afford personalized
fitness coaching; they also can be an extra
workout for my existing clientele. The
monthly seminars are driven by information
requests from my regulars. Besides
earning me extra income, these seminars
are in a sense timesavers, as I can answer
everyone’s questions on a popular topic in
one fell swoop. As the topics have a broad
appeal, I also have an opportunity to meet
and educate the new people who attend.
Strategy B. This past year I added a
group online training program to my
schedule. It was born out of a need to reenergize
a running program designed to
get people ready for a local 10K fun run.
The new format proved to be a huge success!
Besides being able to access all the
necessary training information and tools
on a secure website, runners could also
participate in monthly teleseminars and
additional live runs when the snow
melted. Clients enjoyed the convenience
of everything being online, while I relished
the ease of administering the program and the ability to deliver quality information
from my home office.
Admittedly, I did a lot of startup work on
the website, but I didn’t find it any more
time-consuming than preparing for
weekly live training sessions. Now that the
groundwork is done, the program will be
even easier to manage next year.
Strategy C. I created and sold informational
CDs and DVDs from seminars
and classes. These products are proving
to be better-than-expected moneymakers.
Participants registered in any seminar
of mine automatically receive a CD
that includes the presentation plus
bonus resources. Many people also buy
additional CDs as gifts for friends and
family. As news of the products has
spread, I have received numerous purchase
Strategy D. While some fitness professionals
earn extra money by selling supplements
or other nutrition programs, I
have chosen a different approach. As a
member of the Slow Food organization, I
encourage my clients to eat locally. We are
fortunate in Whistler to live close to farming
communities that provide quality
vegetables, fruits, grains, honey, meat,
wild salmon and eggs. I work with a local
farm to provide a co-op opportunity for
clients and others to purchase these local
food products. At the beginning of
each week, people place their orders for
delivery at the end of the week. The farm
makes extra money with this service, and
I make a commission for my organizational
and promotional work. While this
approach may not rake in the same dollars
as selling traditional supplements, I
like connecting people to an important
institution in our community and providing
them with an additional opportunity
to support healthy-lifestyle concepts.
Diana Rochon, CSCS
Director, Dynamic Core Fitness
Whistler, British Columbia
Most trainers dream of having a full
client load. However, being in this situation
can be stifling if you are trying to
expand your business. When you spend
all of your day seeing clients, you do not
have enough time for yourself, let alone
have time to expand your business and
create extra revenue streams.
I suggest that raising your rates
should be your first strategy for increasing
your income. However, as your rates
go up, you should reduce the number of
clients you train each week, to create time
to work on future revenue possibilities.
For example, if you currently charge $60
per hour and train 35 clients per week,
this equals $2,100 per week. Now, if you
raise rates to $75 per session and reduce
the number of sessions to 28 per week,
you still make the same amount of
money. However, you now have an additional
7 hours per week to develop additional
Once you have this extra time, perhaps
you can work on hiring a trainer to take
care of the extra client hours that you
have dropped. If you make a commission
from each client that the new employee or
independent contractor trains, then this
will increase your income.
Moreover, with your additional time
each week you can also educate yourself
further to improve your skills. This will
enable you to raise your rates again and
create even more time to work on other
projects. Other projects that will increase
your income in the long run are writing
articles, presenting, developing products
(like your own DVDs or equipment) or
expanding your facility size to hire more
trainers (so you receive a commission off
many client sessions).
The possibilities are limitless. The key
is to find time to focus on creating new
revenue streams. As a personal trainer
you control your schedule; nobody else
does. So plan your time accordingly and
you will be able to focus on strategies that
can increase your income.
Justin Price, MA
Owner, The BioMechanics
2006 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year
San Diego, California
To increase your income without
increasing your work hours, you can
use one of these methods:
Group Training. Some clients prefer
training in groups. Many times a group
consists of people who know each other,
and it becomes a great support network for
the participants. The cost to clients is less
than a one-on-one training session, but you
actually make more money per hour than
if you were training only one client. You can
either convert some of your current clients
to group training or suggest the group format
to new clients in your overflow.
Additional Staff. Hiring an extra
trainer will let you earn more income without
increasing your hours. Spend the time
to find a trainer who will represent your
business the way you want it represented.
Phone Coaching. Bring on new clients
for phone coaching. A phone session
could be a 15-minute call with a client
each week to keep him or her on track.
You can fit four client calls in 1 hour and
make slightly more than your hourly rate
because each client is paying for only 15
minutes’ worth each time. I suggest you
get paid in advance for a minimum of
Internet Coaching. Coaching existing or
new clients through e-mail is an easy way to
connect with people, no matter what time
of day it is. You can fit these client communications
into slow times when you are not
seeing clients. E-mail coaching helps fill up
the early-afternoon hours, which tend to be
hard to fill with training sessions. This service
should also be prepaid on a monthly basis.
Ideally you want to be able to accept
payment on your website.
Writing Articles. Pitch article ideas to
editors of fitness industry magazines or
websites that publish fitness information.
An article pitch should outline what the
article will contain and what the readers
will learn from it. Have several pitches
ready and start e-mailing them to editors.
You may be able to get a writing opportunity
on a regular basis.
Passive Income. Passive income is
money you make without active participation.
For example, you might choose to
sell products or equipment either in your
studio or on your website. It is best to
stick to products related to your business.
You could also make your own products
(e.g., create your own exercise DVD,
videotape one of your lectures or write a
book or e-book). Sell only products you
believe in. The items you sell reflect on
you and your business. Make sure they
represent your business well.
Pick a plan you feel comfortable with,
and go for it!
President, Fitting Fitness In and Holly
I was once one of those “50-sessions-a-week-and-still-happy” trainers.
When my first daughter was born, however,
I chose to work from 9:00 to 5:00
(not even), like “normal” people. I realized
that the only way to make the same,
or even more, money in less time was to
figure out how I could leverage my time
and make money when I wasn’t working.
“Trading dollars for time” will take you
only so far.
You know your clients’ medical histories,
eating habits, exercise routines,
family issues, even their personal goals.
They’re constantly telling you—directly
or indirectly—what their needs and
wants are. They mention how they are
planning to build a home gym (translation:
they need consulting and equipment),
how much they like myofascial
release with foam rollers (translation:
they need rollers at home), how their
hands hurt when they lift (translation:
they need gloves) or how their old workout
clothes don’t fit any more (translation: you’ve done a great job and they
need new athletic clothing).
Help them—and get paid for it. If you
offer a product that a client is going to
buy anyway from some faceless stranger,
you have a duty to tell the client. Creating
multiple streams of income by offering a
wide variety of products and services to
your clients is your duty. And not helping
your clients to the full extent of your
capabilities is irresponsible.
Marketing expert Jay Abraham helped
popularize the “Three Ways to Grow a
Increase the number of clients you serve.
Increase the size of each transaction.
Increase the frequency of transactions.
If your sole source of revenue is one-on-one training, increasing the number of clients you serve means increasing
your hours at work. No thanks. Increasing
the size of transaction means increasing
your rates and implies you’ll
work at least the same amount of hours.
Okay, but not optimal. Increasing the frequency of transactions means, again, increasing
the number of hours you work.
Again, no thanks.
But consider this business model:
Increase the number of customers you
serve by selling tips booklets, e-books
or equipment to people who would
never pay for personal training.
Increase the size of transactions by offering
heart rate monitors, T-shirts or
other one-time purchases to your existing
Increase the frequency of transactions
with a continuity program like a
membership website, supplements
with automatic shipment, or even skin
You can increase all three factors with
little to no additional investment of your
time after the initial setup.
Fitness marketing expert Eric Ruth
once told me the most profitable change
he made in his business was changing
from having services as his front end and
products as his back end, to the reverse.
If you truly want to maximize both your
income and your market reach, you
should consider a similar model. Focus
on selling products and other ways to
generate revenue with little to no additional
input of your time.
Your clients are counting on you to be
the expert on everything even remotely
related to fitness. Make sure you remain
their main source of reliable information
and recommendations. Above all, focus
on giving the greatest quality of service to
the greatest number of people, and you
can’t go wrong.
This great industry offers so many
ethical ways to increase your livelihood,
and I certainly don’t claim to
know them all. My advice is, first develop
your niche and determine where
your passion lies in personal training.
Once you have determined your niche,
gain as much knowledge and experience
as you can in that arena. Many opportunities
can arise within your given area of
expertise. For example, we offer many in-home personal training services and have
focused a lot of time and energy on making
them the best they can be. Recently,
2nd Wind Fitness Equipment opened in
St. Louis, and we developed a referral relationship
with them that has increased
our personal training revenues by 30% in
only 5 months.
In addition, one of our conditioning
specialists, Tim Bradley, CSCS, is an
avid distance runner who possesses
tremendous passion and knowledge
and has many contacts in the running
community. Together we have started
an endurance coaching company offering
Web-based endurance coaching
and VO2 testing. We have developed relationships
with a local running store
that gives their higher-end purchasers
a free month of endurance coaching
with Tim. We are able to showcase our
talents to great potential clients, and
Tim earns additional income doing
what he loves!
I believe that increasing your income
lies in managing your brand, having
the motivation and desire to seek
out opportunities for yourself and
knowing where you can be successful
and feel good about what you are
doing. If you are doing something just
to make more money and don’t believe
in what you are doing, you won’t succeed
and you will probably tarnish your
A commitment to continuous learning
and being active in our industry has
also opened many doors for us. By attending
conventions, my business partner
and wife, Ellie, has been able to
write for IDEA, lecture nationally for
IDEA and Life Fitness and learn about
new products or services. While at an
American Dietetic Association conference
on sports nutrition, we learned
about a new service (at the time) analyzing
resting metabolic rates. This has
become the core of the nutrition services
we offer through our registered
Last, I suggest learning the best
ways to sell yourself—and potentially
other services. Many personal trainers
are fearful of the word sell. To succeed,
we need to learn how to sell ourselves
every day. A book that I review
about once a year is Selling the Invisible:
A Field Guide to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith. It teaches you how
to get comfortable selling. I believe if
you can sell, refine and develop your
niche, manage your brand and possess
the motivation and desire to succeed,
then our awesome industry
gives you unlimited opportunities for
advanced income and professional
Dale Huff, CSCS
Co-owner, NutriFormance Fitness,
Therapy and Performance
St. Louis, Missouri
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