So, you’ve chosen a personal training certification and you’ve got yourself an official piece of paper that says you’re personal trainer. You can now officially train people.

You’re ready. You’ve got a stack of training plan ideas and a closet full of crisp folded tech performance tees and pants. But then you look around the gym and realize that every other personal trainer has the same outfit and the same stack of papers. How are you ever going to stand out?

How are you going to go from a regular personal trainer to a successful personal trainer?

Because it doesn’t just happen on its own, of course. And you don’t want to just settle for the status quo for your personal training business. You want to put the methods of success into practice, right from the beginning.

Let’s explore some of the habits and skills that successful personal trainers have that make them above-average.

Success for personal trainers means more than just training effectively and being polite. Those things are important, of course, but they are just the starting point for much more important things.

To create the results of the most successful personal training business, you must practice the same methods as the most successful. Let’s explore those now:

Personality matters

Regular trainers go through the motions and treat everyone just about the same. Successful trainers make an effort to figure their clients out and tweak their approach accordingly. They of course give the same level of respect to everyone, but their approach is different based on each client’s needs.

Some people want a drill sergeant, some want a father figure. You need to get a feel for people’s personalities and adjust your approach for them. To figure out what makes people tick, you can even add a question about people’s preferences to your client questionnaire:

  • How do you like to be motivated?
  • What’s the best way for me to approach you when you could be pushing harder?
  • What type of trainer do you need? Someone who pats you on the back and tells you you’re doing a good job, someone who gets a little in-your-face when training, or something else? Please explain.

No matter what, your personality should always be professional. You should demonstrate uncompromised ethics, you should always be attentive, you must be punctual, you should always show empathy, and you should always be focused on your client’s’ desired results.

But successful fitness trainers have magnetic personalities. They could be the nicest person you know, they could be hilarious, or they may just possess that “something” that draws people to them. The last thing you want to do is come across as uninterested, inauthentic or reserved. Figure out what your personality strengths are and let them come out fully.

Charisma, persuasiveness, and friendliness are important as well. But most of all, people just want to know you’re human too and that they’re not just a paying client to you.

Work on yourself

Regular trainers believe their certifications qualify them as adequate trainers. Successful personal trainers know that they’re always going to be a work in progress.

You should make sure you’re always trying to work on yourself and your skills.

I am a big believer in personal development. There’s always a way to be better at communicating, at having difficult conversations, at influencing people, and at understanding success. It’s amazing how much people change just by working on personal development a little every day.

So, your homework is to work some personal development reading or podcasts into your daily routine. You can even combine your personal development with other tasks, such as listening to podcasts while you’re working out.

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy is a great place to start. This book explains how small changes every day like this build exponential potential over time. It will put this whole personal development idea into perspective.

Get results

Regular trainers focus on basic weight loss and muscle training. Successful trainers focus on those things, but also the psychology underlying weight loss and motivational techniques. They know the transformation must come from inside as much as it does outside.

Part of your personal development reading should include motivational techniques, particularly as they pertain to exercise. Once you can solve the motivational problems of your clients, you can turbocharge their results.

And once you have some quantifiable results to share with prospects, you’ll have a much easier time selling your services. Heartfelt testimonials and stories from the clients that you’ve helped speak louder than anything you could possibly say. They’re one of the tickets to your success.

Just a side note: Your desire to help people should always come from a place of wanting to help people, not from money. People can smell a “salesperson” from across the room, and it makes them bristle. Don’t be that person.

Care about clients after hours

Regular personal trainers don’t think about their clients after they leave their weekly sessions. Successful trainers make themselves an integral part of their clients’ lives and care about their lives outside their weekly sessions.

What this means is helping your clients even when they’re not in the gym with you for their weekly session. One way you can show your concern is to send the occasional motivational text messages to your clients.

Say a client tells you they’re going to a big work party on Friday night. Text them late Friday afternoon reminding them about how hard they worked and offering some kind words about keeping that momentum going. This one simple act could make all the difference about how they eat at that party.

You might also forward a helpful article about HIIT training to a client after they expressed interest in it during your weekly session. This shows your clients that you’re thinking about them, that you listened to them, and that you cared enough to forward an article to them. This act is so simple, yet it has a profound impact on your clients.

Create a community feeling amongst your clients

Regular trainers keep their clients separate from each other, just by default. Successful clients try to bring their clients together in a meaningful way.

Making your clients feel like they’re part of something bigger will not only be a superior motivational tool for them, but it will also increase their loyalty and involvement. How can you do that? By introducing your clients to one another and giving them a place to congregate.

You could very easily start a Facebook or Slacker group for all of your clients, making them feel like part of an exclusive club. People can meet and chat with each other in these groups and ask questions. The unifying factor of the group is your client’s’ relationship to you, establishing you as a leader.

Another way to bring people together is to have group meetups, open houses, or workout parties, where clients can bring others that might be interested and mingle. This not only solidifies your clients identification with you and your inner circle, but it also introduces new people into your circle.

Rethink the standard income model

Regular trainers think the only way to earn more money is to work more hours. Successful personal trainers look beyond the dollars-for-hours compensation model.

Successful personal trainers are always figuring out ways to leverage their time, create passive income streams and create alternate income streams.

Ways to leverage time

  • Train small groups or hold boot camps where you train more people per hour than the standard one-on-one.
  • Be very punctual and clear-cut on your training times, not going over sessions by a minute or continually forgiving the client that is always 15 minutes late. Your client contract is a great place to introduce these clear boundaries, right from the beginning.
  • Stream workouts online for a monthly cost to train more people, anywhere in the world.

Passive income streams

  • Build an online membership program where clients can get additional resources and video trainings from you.
  • Sell ebooks on different health and fitness subjects that interest you.
  • Create and sell online workout programs or recipe guides.
  • Sell affiliate products on your website that are in alignment with your business values.

Alternate income streams

  • Write articles for different personal training or fitness publications.
  • Sell branded gear such as workout towels, water bottles, and tank tops on your website.
  • Promote yourself as a motivational speaker for local organizations.
  • Become a wellness program consultant for large corporations.

Buff up your sales skills

Regular personal trainers figure people will buy when they’re ready. Successful trainers know how to be assertive about finding clients and influencing more signups.

This relates back to the point we made about self-development, but you should always be learning friendly ways to be a better salesperson without seeming salesy.

Now, we will caution that sales techniques that manipulate or push people should never be used. People never appreciate those approaches and most teeter on unethical.

However, there are some really effective ways to get to the bottom of people’s hesitations and objections to help them make decisions. There’s a lot of psychology behind the subject of weight loss that you must understand before you try to sell your personal training services to certain people. It’s a constant learning process.

Another great way to learn effective sales techniques is to find a mentor in another successful personal trainer. Learning from someone who’s actually doing it is the best way to learn it. You can actually witness the techniques in action to get a better idea for how they work instead of just thinking about them hypothetically.

Become known for something

Regular trainers are interchangeable. Successful trainers are irreplaceable.

Finding a way to set yourself apart, developing a unique selling proposition (USP), choosing a niche, or developing a really strong brand for yourself are some ways to make a distinctive name for yourself. You need to be “known for something.”

Some ideas to brainstorm:

  • Is there a technique you created that you could use for your clients?
  • Is there a unique ritual you do before all of your personal training sessions?
  • Do you have a niche you have a knack for, such as prenatal exercise, water exercise, strength training for runners, or fitness competition prep?
  • Are you the trainer that’s always smiling and has seemingly endless energy?
  • Are you the guy who knows everyone in the gym by name?
  • Are you the lady who comes across as sweet but turns into a relentless beast during training sessions?
  • Do you have tattooed sleeves with designs you use for all your marketing materials, designating yourself as the rebel trainer?

Using these ideas as a starting point to get you thinking, come up with some ways that you can set yourself apart, to help you stand out in a sea of personal trainers.


Regular trainers train in a regular way. Successful trainers give clients more than they paid for.

You can always provide a little something more. You can send a handwritten “just checking in” note on personal stationery to your new clients or send them birthday and special occasion cards. You can give a client a sheet with your personal recommendations for grocery shopping with a $5 gift card when you know it’s something they’re struggling with. You could give a client that’s a struggling single parent free access to your online membership program because you recognize their drive.

These little acts of kindness don’t mean giving everything away, but simply offering a little extra value here and there. Personal trainers that go above and beyond will get back far more returns than they give in the form of pride, loyalty, admiration, referrals, and much more.

Over-delivering is a great way to show clients how much they mean to you on a personal level. The more value you give them, the more loyalty you build.

Listen closely…

Regular trainers might hear what their clients are saying but don’t really engage on a personal level, or they may talk more about themselves during training sessions. Successful trainers really listen, engage their clients, and understand that it’s more important to pay attention to their clients than themselves.

It’s so important to connect with your clients on a personal level. In fact, this article mentions this in multiple places, it’s that important. The trainer-client relationship is vital to your success. This doesn’t mean being intimately acquainted with your clients’ home lives, but learning enough about them to make a genuine connection.

It’s also important to understand that to be successful, your clients’ training sessions should be about them, not you. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and you can make your clients feel more interested and engaged by making it about them.

Another important approach to take is to make sure there’s open communication between you and your clients. Let your clients know that they can tell you if you’re going to hard or not hard enough, if they’re hating their workouts or loving them, if they want more diversity or less. They shouldn’t feel ashamed to tell you anything about your training. It helps them to know that you can be objective and you won’t be defensive or take it personally.

Stay on top of industry trends

Regular personal trainers are vaguely aware of what’s happening in the worlds of science and personal training. Successful trainers voraciously seek any information they can find about health and fitness.

You may think you’re up-to-date on your personal training knowledge, but new studies and research get published every day. It’s not only important to stay on top of the science, but also popular culture and the trends that your clients are seeing.

This is completely hypothetical, but if you’re seeing a lot of info about a new seaweed diet on social media and in magazines, educate yourself on the subject so you can have an answer ready when your clients start asking you questions about it.

Personal trainers often become a prime information source for their clients, so it helps to stay informed. By answering their questions, your clients will also notice that you’re always up-to-date on things, therefore establishing yourself as a great reliable resource.

Get inside their heads even when you’re not around

Regular personal trainers are forgotten as soon as their clients hit the shower. Successful personal trainers can clearly be heard in their clients’ heads in between every session.

Develop a sense of fitness independence versus co-dependence in your clients. What I mean by that is, make them want to pursue fitness from their own internal drive, not from yours. This is sort of an esoteric subject, but there are some concrete ways to get inside your clients’ heads to drive them.

Start by helping clients change their belief systems. So, for example, if you want a particular client’s fitness routine to come from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing, start by giving them homework. Tell them to take note of how magazines and advertisements make people feel inadequate. Give them a few examples to start with. All week, your client is going to be thinking about and noticing that.

So with that example, you can see how you might be able to get in their heads, right?

Another example is by using a motto or key phrase during all your training sessions. Then, your client will start to hear that phrase inside their heads outside of your sessions, which may help them get through tough workouts on their own.

You can also make sure that you keep in touch outside of class. Use the Facebook or Slacker groups that we mentioned above to touch base outside of class. Or text your clients in between sessions to see how they’re doing. They’ll know you’re watching out for them and that you’re holding them accountable, which will motivate them to continue.

Learn how to fire clients

Regular personal trainers will train anyone they can get their hands on. Successful personal trainers know that they need to be selective about whom they choose to train.

There are two types of exercisers, and you’ll be able to pick them out right away. There are those that will complain and use excuses every chance they get and then there are those that will consistently do the work without complaining.

It’s that same victim mentality that pervades all facets of certain people’s lives that you want to avoid whenever possible.

Sure, some people are willing to change and you can give your clients the benefit of the doubt. But if they’ve shown no progress after, say, six months, and they’ve had avoidable excuses the entire time, it might be time to refer them to someone else.

Know who your ideal client is and focus your efforts on finding them. Those are the people who want to work out. The people who keep working out anyway, even when their lives are in chaos. The people who never cancel and always show up on time. The people who are receptive to what you tell them.

Finding your ideal clients and drawing them in will help you enjoy your job. You’ll feel much more thrill in helping them and they will do you proud. It will make your whole career better to be surrounded by people like that.


Regular personal trainers don’t make much of an effort outside their inner circle. Successful personal trainers are constantly looking at ways to expand their network.

One of the best things you can do for your career is to make friends with professionals in other fields such as city workers, teachers, physical therapists, massage therapists, doctors and the like. If you plant the bug in their ears about your services, they might just send business your way. And vice versa.

It helps to make yourself known in your local community as well as the online fitness community. The more known you make yourself, the more likely you’ll be the first person people think of.

Help clients find true love

Now, we’re not suggesting you become a dating match-maker. We’re talking about finding people’s true-love workouts.

You see, regular personal trainers train their clients with the same machines and equipment every day. Successful personal trainers make an effort to bring what clients love to them.

If a client expresses their love of the trampoline, you should request your gym to add one or bring one in yourself. If your client loves kickboxing, you should find an open spot where you can practice punching and kicking drills with them. The last thing you want to do if they mention they love kickboxing is to continue training them on the treadmill. Find what type of workouts they love, what they have fun with, and bring it to them!

This is also another aspect you can explore in your client questionnaire by asking:

  • What forms of exercise do you love to do, or at least not hate?
  • What activities have you enjoyed doing in the past?
  • What exercises would you absolutely not return for if I made you do them?

Put several of these success strategies into practice at a time, and you’ll be on your way to thriving as a top-notch personal trainer.

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