Grow your Personal Training Client Base

grow your personal training business

The business of personal training – How to grow your client base and your business

As a business consultant outside of the fitness industry I can say with confidence that the fundamentals of business are all the same. The needs, environments, scope and demand might change, but ultimately all business basics are the same.

To be successful every business, from the entrepreneur to the enterprise, requires a sound strategy, intricate planning and effective implementation, all executed with discipline.

Every business has three stages it needs to go through:

Stage 1: Start-up

Stage 2: Scale

Stage 3: Growth

The problem is that most startups remain exactly that, failing to advance to successful, sustainable businesses. They are unable to move into the scaling stage, not because they don’t want to but rather because they lack the ‘how’.

In order to grow your business you need to be extremely honest with yourself. I had to go through this experience to be able to create multiply streams of income. If I was not prepared to change me, the chances are my business would not have changed.

It’s called emotional maturity and it is a vital attribute of successful business owners who wish to bring about a paradigm shift in their thinking and energy. Ego, arrogance and pride are going to give you short-lived success, if any at all. You need to be grounded, behave with humility, and always choose to see the good in people on first impression. Going through this process will bring about a positive attitude and meaningful existence which attracts people and clients. Ask yourself “how do I make people feel when they are around me?” If you don’t start your business acumen at this point the rest will be ineffective and unfulfilling in my view.

I have found through my mentoring of some personal trainers that most businesses stagnate, which means that five to 10 years down the line they are still working with between 4-8 clients per day with no scope or potential to scale or grow. Some are happy with this and that’s fine. However, more often than not they eventually get restless and then need to expand, but many don’t know how.

To find the ‘how’ you first need to determine your ‘why’. You need to know ‘why’ you are in business. You need to know what is your purpose and passion. With that established you then need to work on your business’s economic engine – where and how do you make your money or intend to make your money.

Once you have answered these questions you can start to explore your vision. How big is your thinking? As an example, Once Active’s 2016 vision is based on what the working cells in the human body represent. These are:

  1. Contribution

  2. Sustainability

  3. Growth.

All of these worlds have significant meaning in terms of how we intend to achieve our goals and what is needed to execute our strategy.

motivation: your dreams don't work unless you doHaving a mission statement is essential to understanding your business. It is your written declaration of your purpose and focus, and outlines what you going to do for your customers. Try capture this in a few sentences. You could be reading this and saying, but I am a one man show! Just remember that the fundamentals of every business are the same. As such, you need to act big to be big.

Finally, you need to understand the equation to wealth, which is: Wealth = value x leverage. Value can be seen as the service you are providing on a one-on-one basis or class environment. Leverage would be selling anything off that line like becoming a supplement retailer for your clients whom you are already training and billing. In this way you are leveraging your value to create wealth.

Strategy, planning and implementation

To put this theory into practice I am going to share my professional trainer’s strategy with you.

What makes up the economic engine?

  • 1 on 1 / 1 on 2 / or group or squad training.
  • OLC (on-line coach)
  • Supplements for retail

So, let’s have a look at how I have analysed the three components of the economic engine and the thought process behind my decision to choose the operating platforms that can make a personal trainer business a global player.

A report released in 2015 by ACE (American Council of Exercise) showed a significant drop in commercial club one-on-one training and an increase in smaller private clubs. The report also noted that group classes were on the increase in the commercial environment. This does not suggest a PT business will not work or survive in a commercial club, so keep an open mind. If group classes increase so the need for one-on-one training will decrease. I therefore recommend smaller, more private and personalised facilities.

In terms of OLC, this is a great extension of your business and allows you to leverage your value. There are many platforms been used but I feel they are not streamlined enough by incorporating your point of sale (the dashboard you invoice from), your CRM (client relationship manager), your OLC portal and, most importantly, the collection of payments. I do have great news though because I have been working with the UK, USA and Australia to release an online management system that ticks all these boxes called membr (www.membr.com). Your client can download the membr APP once you have the dashboard, and the simple sign-on process for your client is to accept the terms and conditions on their phone to activate their contract and debit order with you. That means your billing, CRM, online coaching, and bookings run off one site.

In terms of supplement sales, I am sell a global supplement brand through my business. I chose to promote this company’s products because it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a turnover of $7 billion per annum, is sold in over 80 countries around the world (laws apply per country), and there is a mere R450 start-up fee which includes your online business management site with zero monthly running costs. I also get a 50% discount on supervisor level. This allows and accommodates growth for an individual businessperson like me to grow my revenue.

To put that all into perspective, a personal trainer can distribute supplements in over 80 countries and coach online.

That’s right, coach a client in another country and sell them supplements which you have delivered. The personal training business has gone global. Furthermore, both platforms allow the PT to start taking on other staff and building their brand. This business would normally cost millions of dollars to start up, scale and grow.

In closing, there are a few more tips I have picked up throughout my career that can help to build your business as a respected and successful PT. These include:

Assess your clients:

Find a reputable assessment centre and have your clients assessed on a regular basis. If you are not assessing you’re guessing. This part of your strategy must have a zero tolerance policy. If a client does not wish to be assessed don’t train them. Once Active Parkmore gym has a fully equipped assessment centre with a biokineticist, dietitian and chiropractor doing comprehensive assessments for the personal trainer’s clients. You can be a PT from another gym and still have your clients assessed at our centre.

Don’t write off giving eating advice:

If you are not qualified to do so outsource and develop a relationship with a nutritionist or dietitian. This will expand your network which aids in referral business, will also enhancing your professionalism in the industry which plays a massive role in client retention.

Offer complimentary sessions:

My philosophy on this is simple: If your goal is to train eight clients a day and you are up to five then and additional three needed to make it to eight should be offered complimentary sessions to attract and secure the additional business. Work on a four session complimentary policy and ensure your first session is always a consultation. Sit down and discuss your business with the client, using the above and your own assessment results to show the path you are going to take with them. Explain the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of your business and your core values. This creates trust and shows business maturity and accountability.

Have your own trainer:

If you won’t pay for the product you’re selling, why should a client? You can swop out sessions with a trainer. This might give you insight into things you might or might not be doing well. Just don’t train together. Rather train each other and allow for feedback and constructive criticism in a 10 minute debrief after each session.


Hand out 500 business cards every six months: That’s approximately three cards per day. Also, make yourself known for the right reasons on social media by interacting on a mature level with existing and potential clients, and share constructive information.

Stay updated and relevant:

Attend a course twice year and not necessarily in the personal training space. Try something to do with personal growth or client retention.

Cover yourself:

Have a written agreement between you and your client. This agreement can run month to month and is in place to govern your relationship. This should include elements such as how you bill, when payments become due, and what happens when you skip a session, among others.


By Dorian Cabral, founder of Once Active

Author: Tanja Schmitz

Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.

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