Monday, August 27, 2012

Why I Haven't Trained Clients Before 7am in Over 10 Years

There are a multitude of books available on making your time more productive, scaling back your schedule, and making your life easier nowadays. Self-help, 4-day work-weeks, improving sex life, marriage, finances, etc, etc, etc...the books are churned out weekly by publishers trying to cash in on the public's perception that they have no control over their lives. And there are those that believe it too. 

Believe what?

Believe that they have no control over their lives. Or careers. Or future.

Personal trainers are susceptible to the perception that they have no control over their career direction. In the beginning of their career, I can understand how they lack a sense of control, direction, and business plan. In the midst of getting your feet wet, you are virtually a leaf in the wind blown in all directions by your new surroundings--boss, clients, peers, and fellow exercisers. 

In the beginning of your personal training career, you basically take what you can. If you start your own business, you accept any client that you can because you need to make money. This entails doing things outside your comfort zone, or doing things at times that you don't feel at your best.

Personally speaking for me, training clients at the crack of dawn has never been my strong suite. Trust me, I have done it. And I have done it because I had to. I had a monthly quota, I had a boss, and I had to make a decent paycheck. But I hated getting up at 4:45am; driving to the gym half-asleep, and meeting up a grouchy 53-year-old that wanted to waste my time before he head to the office for the day. There were days I wanted to crawl back into bed, but I toughed it out. I knew it was the right thing for me to do because it was helping me develop responsibility, accountability, and customer service skills. 

That was then.

Over the years, I have realized that I am not at my sharpest, clearest, or best...when I am not physically or mentally well-rested. I firmly believe that if I am not at my best, I cannot provide my best to a paying client. Therefore, I have not trained a client before 7am in over 10 years.

In conversing with fellow trainers, and I expose my dirty little secret, they are astonished and bedazzled that I get to "sleep in". I am never sure by what they interpret "sleeping in" to be, as I picture someone rolling out a of bed with empty cans of beer on the floor and a cold pizza on dresser.

My "sleeping in" starts at 7am with writing blog posts, answering emails, and checking news topics. That doesn't include letting the dog out, feeding the kids, and assembling my errands for the day.  I review my business plan for the week...look at my monthly income versus expenditures; and check out what other trainers are doing. However, let's get back to controlling your schedule.

In the beginning of your training career, you will have to set up a schedule that is congruent with your personal life. That schedule should be flexible at meeting your needs, and meeting the needs of your clients. If you want to get your foot in the door of personal training, waking up at 5am for Jeanie or Fred will be a task worth your while as it will pay you back 2-fold [in the future]. Pay your dues and you will be more in control of your schedule as grow into your role. 

If training clients at 5:30am is not your thing because of the early hours, lack of sleep or the drive, here are a few pointers:

1.) Don't be stingy with your schedule if you are new to the job/facility. No hiring manager likes a recruit that can't be flexible. These days, jobs are difficult to find and most positions that are available are the challenging ones (grave yard or opening shifts). Express your flexibility and willingness to help out at these times, but make a note that you'd like to change your schedule in the future when it is convenient for the facility. If you state to your boss that you'd be willing to work these special times to "help out the team", but would like to change your hours in the future...he may budge. Like I said...budge.

2.) Dictate what schedule you want to keep. I create my schedule around my life. Figure out what hours work for you when it comes to training clients and keep it. If someone wants a time that is not in your schedule, make them choose a different time. What if they can't and need to find another trainer? Sure, you risk losing a customer and monthly income, but you can make up for it by marketing strong and filling in your time slots with other clients that can meet your times. 

3.) Establish a concrete client roster. Fill yourself up. Sounds easier said than done. I understand this. You must create a "velvet rope" to your services. Just like getting into a nightclub entails standing outside on a freezing night behind a velvet rope--that stands between you the door and the bouncer--you must create a sense of professionalism and unique service. For instance, I am great at what I provide. Customers know this coming in. My bio and accomplishments are made public and I direct anyone that contacts me to my website. There they get an understanding of my skills, experience, and qualifications. Nowadays, people research doctors on websites such as There shouldn't be an issue with clients researching trainers before they hire them for training services. Once potential clients see that I qualified to help them, they will presume that I am booked solid or my availability is scarce. The more scarce your availability is, the more likely they will meet with you at the times that YOU dictate. 

4.) Fill in your gaps. Possibly the biggest pain-in-the-ass for trainers is working "split shifts" (This entails working in the morning and then have off a few hours. Then resume your training in the evening). I always hated this. I like to get my training done and dedicate a portion of the day to myself. Working split shifts is like "being on-call". If you ever talk to anyone who works on-call, they can't stand it. Your life doesn't belong to you when you are on-call. If you have any gaps in your schedule (like the 1pm or 2pm slots), you can market them to potential clients. If they refuse those time slots, you can offer them at a discount. I know it sounds absurd, but it will fill up your day so that you can end it sooner. 

5.) Work with groups at times you want. When all else fails, look to group training. Group training allows you to work with a group of people--upwards to 10--at one time. Personally, I have had "bootcamp" classes at my facility that allowed me to work with 5 ladies at a time. This really freed up my schedule because I was able to make money; make friends; and make rent. I held classes at a time/day I determined; and the ladies loved it. Make a class or training session enjoyable and effective (at the same time) and clients will be putty in your hand.

My facility is small compared to the competition in my area, but I made it work. Set up your group training in a circuit style fashion, or blow it up with calisthenics. If your client receives a great workout,  they will achieve the results they want...they will spread the word...and you can work the schedule you want! Hope this helped!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't worked before 9AM in 10 years, since my first daughter was born. I've had clients who were never saw their kids until after work, and I was determined never to be like that.

    I ended up earning more money while working fewer hours. It's amazing how things work out when you make a plan!


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