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
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