When I first got started as a Personal Trainer, I was excited as hell. I heard the stories of trainers earning high incomes, charging $100 an hour, looking in shape, and doing what came easy and was fun to them. Could you imagine something more appealing than that?
And call me naive, but through the all of the many hard times and months of very little money, I still kept my eyes on that prize until it became a reality. Since then, I’ve helped more trainers than I can count shave years of their growth track and earn outstanding incomes from training on their own terms.
So it wasn’t until I actually got into blogging and leading this “dump the gym” movement that I found out what the real figures were for trainers and their salaries. When you take a look, you might be a little shocked too:
According to one broad set of figures, the median annual earnings of Personal Trainers and group exercise instructors in May 2004 was $25,470. The middle 50 percent earned between $17,380 and $40,030. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $14,530 while the top 10 percent earned $55,560 or more.
As you can see from those figures, those are hardly respectable numbers. The only bright side I see to it is that I think the public still has a very positive view of the training profession through the glamorous “celebrity trainers” that dominate television. If they only knew the real figures out, they would realize that this field is really far from glamorous in actuality.
What are some of the reasons for this big disconnect between potential and real world earnings?
First off, it’s an issue of location: most trainers work in health clubs. On a side note, one of the funniest things about success is that a simple change of location is all it takes for things to click and someone’s potential to take off.
That being said, earning a decent, stable income in a healthclub environment is difficult to say the least. Making over 50K IS possible in this environment, but you have to work your ass of to do it (that bad kind of work, not the fun kind). Putting in non-stop hours is encouraged. There’s a very low ceiling on your hourly rates. And there are way too many trainers, many of whom set a negative example.
Being independent has the potential to be significantly higher paying. The problem is many of these trainers don’t have the discipline to command those high rates. They don’t put their professionalism first.
If your clients don’t trust your professionalism and credibility they are less likely to buy in to your high rates, they won’t agree to do group sessions where they are still paying full price, they are less likely to accept the fact that you require session minimums per month, or accept that fact they are charged regardless of whether they attend or not. You also will never be able to EARN the respect of assistants and employees that you’ll eventually need the help of to gain more leverage in your business.
And professionalism and credibility is based on what you do and how you act. It’s not based on your certifications. It’s not based on you bad-mouthing other trainers. It’s about the positivity and experience you bring to the table. You want to make six figures, ie. what a graduate school educated individual makes after more than ten years of 50+ hours/week in the workforce? You’re going to have to bring more of yourself to the table.
THE IRONY OF CHARGING LOW RATES
A Personal Trainer that’s earning at least $50 an hour should be able to earn 50K with just 20 contact hours a week – why doesn’t that happen either?
Here’s the irony – if you aim low and go for low rates, you end up selling yourself short. $50 is below the industry average for training rates. If you’re below average, you can hardly have the self-esteem it takes to fill up your schedule, earn a high income, and move up in the training industry.
When you’re selling yourself short like this, everyone knows it – your clients know it, you know it, and everyone watching knows it – everyone gets the feeling that you’re second rate.
Charge more and don’t make any excuses for it. Train clients fewer times, once per week if necessary, but do not compromise on your rates.
Slowly IMPROVE the level of clients you actively market to.
Pursue JOINT VENTURES. Teaming up with other businesses is the fastest way you can get ahead out there.
Greg Justice’s multi-million dollar CORPORATE FITNESS business model is based on this. So is Bedros Keuilian and Steve Hochman’s Fit Body BootCamp Business model, where they encourage you to make deals with gymnastics centers.
Beyond gymnastics centers, there are many other types of businesses and facilities that you can arrange deals and partnerships, among them are luxury condominiums, private gyms, local newspapers, tanning salons, nutrition centers, physical therapy clinics – the list is endless and dependent on the logistics of your area. Just always make sure that in whatever JV you pursue, you look to make it a win for the other party, while still making it a win for yourself.
Despite the potential definitely being there, trainers are earning very low incomes in the world today. The good news is the money is out there – just bring more of yourself to the table. Not more hours, not more work, just more YOU.
For more articles on earnings and personal training, check these out:
5/16/08 Article On Personal Training Salary Article
1/17/09 How To Charge $100 Per Personal Training Session | Part 1
1/29/09 How To Charge $100 Per Personal Training Session | Part 2
Do you have anything to add? Leave your comments below:
give back to your community and your community will give back to you!
Great post – You pretty much become what you charge in this industry!
Listen to Michael Seril he has a point- and that sends you in the direction of going beyond the typical. Most trainers come from a mold- they are stamped polished, and sent on their way. Like a wind-up toy they continually need guidance or they fall off the table!!!
“ALWAYS GIVE YOUR CLIENTS MORE THAN THEY EXPECT TO GET… AND IT WILL RETURN TENFOLD!”
***Think Beyond Boundaries!***
Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.
The more goals you set, the more goals you get!
The proper way to change people is through genuine kindness and concern.
Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal—commitment to excellence—that will enable you to attain the success you seek.
It doesn’t matter how many say it cannot be done or how many people have tried it before; it’s important to realize that whatever you’re doing, it is your first attempt at it.
Remember, your attitude determines your altitude!
Go beyond your typical training session. If you give a bit more…it will be noted and return ten fold!
I never dreamed of making over six figures personally, with just 6 clients per week. (20 sessions)
Its a full time job to follow-up and be there at every given moment…the next level for personal trainers is to give more…not just a great workout..
Thanks for the motivation Dave!
I’m trying to weave myself around the obsticles and past the negative attitudes towards my vision of what I think can happen.
Also I want the best clients and the best clients want the best trainer , so be your best and they will pay the rate you require.
What are you thoughts concerning someone that is older and just getting started in personal training. I am studying for my ACSM cert and should have it in November. I am in the Midwest right now (Indiana) but want to move back to the east coast to get started. As far as age I am 49 now and by consistently living fit look 40. Any thoughts not only from Kaiser but from anyone else?
I’m also 49 years old, so I can relate to the age thing. All you need to do is read Dave’s remarks above and it’ll give you all the direction you need to follow your dreams.
Everything you said is spot on. We, as individuals, have a responsibility to elevate the professional and ethical standards of the personal training industry, above what reality television portrays our profession to be. If we start taking our industry more seriously, the general population will follow suit.
Thanks Greg. I am just so damned excited right now I cannot wait to get out there!!
Great post Kaiser! I have been training for 3 years. This past spring I went solo. It seems like most clients are more willing to train and spend more with independent trainers.
Glad this post hit home with everyone – to get that income up, it takes a balanced approach as everyone pointed out in this post – balancing the value you give to your client with what you ask for back in return; balancing the business and service side; and balancing your boundaries and needs with the knowledge and information you provide – getting this mix right is the key to moving up in training – and it’s always a work in progress –
Richard – your age will help you – people will take you more seriously and view you as more of a professional – a lot of the 21 year olds that purchase the manual and look to get started full steam have that credibility issue to deal with but you won’t – just learn from the best, head to the next Pat Rigsby conference and talk to Greg personally, and you’ll soak up the smarts to help you jump in at the top level from the get go – as James pointed out, it’s actually easier to command top dollar when you’re solo – and very funny but true, it’s actually MUCH easier to get clients when you’re independent – you don’t realize that until you actually get out, start applying some client getting and retaining strategies, and make things happen –
Great Post Kaiser, we have 2 companies a training studio with 17 trainers in it and a software company that sells the software that we designed to allow us to grow our business. Don’t undersell yourself it will end up costing you way more than you think
That’s a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.
The industry and economic climate have changed a lot in more than a decade that I’ve been a personal trainer. I’m 54 years old and changed careers 12 years ago to do this. Two years into it I was so busy with private clients I could not take on any new ones. Cash was flowing and life was good. Now it’s a big struggle, there are too many new young trainers, it’s not a unique thing anymore. This fact plus our economic times in which there is far less disposable income for people to spend on a trainer makes things pretty tough. Working for a club you’ll never make much money. This from a wise old and much respected trainer.