If I could start my PT career again - Part 2
In the second part of a three part series, I explain the biggest lessons I learned as a PT and how they improved my business.
Selling a single PT session
On my very first day as a self-employed personal trainer I headed out onto the gym floor, somewhat hesitantly having had minimal business and marketing training, to find some clients. After a couple of polite conversations with members which ultimately ended in what I saw as rejection ("no thanks, I'm not interested in personal training") imagine my delight when only the third lady I spoke to, Debbie, told me she had been thinking about having a programme written as she needed some guidance. 'Great!' I thought, and quickly booked her in for a consultation the next day.
"How much is it?" she asked, to which I nervously replied "the consultation is free then it's £25 for an hour's session where we'll go through the programme I put together for you, is that okay?"
£25. That was more than double my hourly rate as a gym instructor; would someone really pay me that to wrote a programme? I was so unsure I even rang the lady that evening to check she understood what I'd said!
My first pay day
Following the consultation the next day, in which I also performed a series of fitness tests to get the info I needed, Debbie handed me my first ever cheque which I would have framed were it not much needed in my bank account.
I duly spent a good couple of hours writing a programme (or what I thought was a programme - more on that below) for my very first client. I reviewed it and tweaked it until I was happy, writing the exercises out onto the pre-printed programme cards provided by my gym.
A few days later I went through the card with Debbie, and in fact spent about 15 minutes longer than the hour but hey, it gave Debbie some extra value and I had no one else booked in anyway.
Debbie was chuffed with her programme and really enjoyed the session, which made me feel great too - a solid start to my PT career I thought.
Next time Debbie was in the gym I caught up with her to see how she was getting on, and she told me she felt motivated and could already feel the benefits. Another ego boost for me, I felt even more confident about being a PT.
I never saw Debbie again.
I don't know if she left the gym or just lost motivation, but despite a few telephone calls to try and book her in for a programme update, I had no more contact with my first client.
An hour's consultation, 2 hours of programme writing, over an hour of one-to-one training, and I earned just £25. That actually works out LESS than my gym instructor hourly rate.
What did I learn from this experience?
You can't produce and coach an effective programme in a single PT session.
A set of exercises written out on a programme card, even with suggested progressions, is the bare minimum a PT should provide, and in most cases really isn't enough. I would argue it's not really a programme at all, it's a single workout which you could probably repeat for a few sessions at best before you reach a physical or mental plateau and need a change.
What clients want is a result which requires a progressive exercise plan with regular reviews and adjustments, plus a complete package of support addressing all aspects of their lifestyle, including the skills to facilitate positive behaviour changes.
That's a programme.
Not only does it take time to develop this (which you need to factor into your work schedule and pricing), it's highly unlikely someone will be fully competent at all elements of the programme after just an hour's training. It takes repetition to master anything more than basic exercises so regular and ongoing coaching is vital to maximise success.
You can't offer all for this for £25 and expect to grow a successful business. Indeed, as a client I'd be concerned about the quality of something that claimed to do so much for so little. Often in my career I found that when I put my prices up, many people were more motivated to work with me as they associated the higher cost with higher value.
Following my experience with Debbie, I encouraged clients to sign up to regular training of at least once a week and very soon I didn't offer one-off programme design at all, as I realised I couldn't offer the ongoing coaching support that was fundamental to my clients' progress.
Written by Paul Swainson